Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Progress made at Mt. Tabor during Jessup's principalship

Jessup describes the advancements he made while serving as principal at Mt. Tabor. In particular, he credits the hiring of an athletic director to maintain sports equipment and the employment of walkie-talkies for administrative communication as the two major improvements to the school.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Jessup, January 11, 1991. Interview M-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Oh, that is a biggie! If you want to be fired you can be fired quicker over that than anything else. The first thing I had a tremendous advantage and then I had a lady who was probably one of the most honest people I've ever met in all my days. She used to give me strength when she felt that I was going in the wrong direction when it came to applications or policy. But if I had a million dollars I think I would trust her to carry it to the bank and deposit it and that is the truth. It's a tremendous advantage to have a person you have that much confidence in when it comes to handling finances. In addition to that she was a person who really worked hard so that to me in regard to finances that is the key thing. To have a person that you can really have confidence in. But beyond that when I came to Mt. Tabor we had fund-wise probably less than $10,000. When I left Mt. Tabor we were in much better shape. I left with about $15,000 working capital--that's in non-restricted funds that the principal can use at his discretion. But at the same time we didn't have a lot of the bills that I had when I came. It wasn't a matter of starting even. You had to take over the bills that the school had as a 9-10 school. So it was always a battle financially to try to catch up and get ahead. There were major expenditures always and I guess you could say that was one of the things that troubled me most--inability to purchase, having to watch what we had, trying to determine how we could get additional resources. So we purchased--for instance we had a football field. We had to purchase all the equipment to make sure the football field was taken care of. We had to purchase equipment for--now the school board donates to athletics about $13,000 so that really helped. There are so many other things that need to go beyond that $13,000 and we had to work on the equipment because we were starting out. We had some things left over from 9-10 but still it was not the equipment you wanted for a high school so we had to deal with that. We needed vans; we didn't have vans. We purchased two vans which put us in very good shape for a while transportation-wise and I had dreams of getting a smaller one. These were fifteen passenger vans. We had when I went there one copier for that school. At that time we probably had around 1200 students and all those teachers who went without it and of course the second year we had 1500. They only had one copier. When I left we had five copiers. I consider that progress. One of those was a high speed duplicator. You put that thing on and you just set it where you want it and whereas it would probably take your other machine an hour to do something it would do it in fifteen minutes so we bought one of those high speed duplicators. It cost $10,000. That thing was expensive. In addition to that we had to buy computers and one of the high priorities when I left was to catch up with others in regards to computers. We were not as far along as I wanted to be there but we made progress but still we were not where I wanted to be. We had gone basically in the IBM direction which was the best direction to choose. Basically we had a choice from the beginning to go IBM or go Apple but we went in the IBM direction--something that was not as popular at that time but the school system has basically gone into IBM. So that was a good decision for us. As far as management of funds, two things made the biggest difference in my life that I feel really made me successful in dealing with funds. There are those who feel otherwise because they feel in the end we should have had more. But the two things that really made the difference is that I got an athletic director the second year who kept up with the equipment and our objective established from the beginning was not to spend a lot of money in replacement of uniforms. So you can lose a lot of uniforms every year but you just replace them but we did not want a major part of our resources to go into replacement. So if we really keep up with our equipment and keep everything in good condition, then we will buy new uniforms but we will not spend every year replacing them. That made a tremendous difference because in athletics there is so much money spent in athletics. So that made the major difference. The second best thing I did I think was that I decided to bite the bullet and sacrifice. The aide who had been working basically in the office and helping teachers I decided to sacrifice and use that person as a teacher aide all the way. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Her job was to keep up with instructional equipment, run off materials for teachers, help them any way that she could, maintain equipment, keep it going, inventory to determine whenever the equipment needed to be replaced and keep up with it--don't just be letting it go to waste and people abuse it and everything else. One of the wisest decisions I ever made and the underlying objective being I was familiar with the fact that in some instances people get supplies for the year. Sometimes we did it at Reynolds High School. We tell people that we are allocating $50 for what you want. People offered the school supplies but I told them we were going to allocate the funds. We'll make materials available any time you need them. Those were the two best decisions I made. The best idea I ever had in regard to fund raising, we were unsuccessful as a whole in fund raising endeavors but there was one that I took much pride in. Two or three other schools have already caught on as well, was to work with the PTA in a fund raising endeavor and the attractive thing about our plan was to inform parents that we are not going to have a candy sale or any other fund raiser. What we are doing is asking you to make a contribution to the school. The first year we raised about $7000-$8000 for the school. We sent a letter and of course I signed, the president of the PTA signed and some other people signed. That reminds me I have to send $50 to Mt. Tabor, my contribution for this year to continue it. This year they had a telethon calling. That was one of the best ideas I've ever had and the most successful endeavor that we have ever had. So that ended our finances that was a major thing. Let me make one more comment in regard to discipline. We were the first school in the system to use walkie talkies. When we came there, started the school up going on seven years ago. We didn't have equipment where the coaches could go out on the fields and put those things on there ears and talk to one another so we decided instead of getting those ear phones and all that equipment we would get walkie talkies where they could talk to one another but we also decided that what we are going to do is let them use them in administration. So we continued buying until we got to the point where all of us had them and we also gave the maintenance person one. We had them in the office area where they could call if an emergency came up or anything else. It can really help in a wise use of time and the thing is if you came upon a crisis situation you could call for help just like that. One of the best things I ever did. They've forgotten where it started. I heard someone mention another school one day but I could tell you that it started at Mt. Tabor. And right now every school in the system has walkie talkies.
Well good, that's good. You're a Trail blazer.
Well, I wouldn't say that we did that much but we did a few things.