My Venture into School Administration
A couple of weeks later I got a call at home from the Principal. He asked if I would be willing to be the Dean of Students effective Monday. The school was built for a maximum of 1,100 but housed more than 1,500 students. That was enough to merit two Dean positions. One Dean was an older heavy-drinking ex-Marine Okie. He took no sass and gave no quarter. The other was a tall strapping young Mormon fellow from rural Nevada. The inner city kids who made up about a third of the school population knew exactly how to pull his strings. He was having a very difficult year. He was the chaperone for a Valentines Day dance and had apparently ejected a couple of kids who retaliated by vandalizing his truck. It was the last straw. He quit on the spot. I agreed to replace him and just as I had begun a career in education with little training or experience, so did I venture into education administration.
By this time I had completed my masters degree in Ed. Psych and had taken additional salary-step increasing courses in educational administration at UNLV. My favorite professor was in the midst of designing the first Doctoral program at UNLV. I applied and was accepted into the initial class. Although I did not feel I had the political connections to get into the Educational Administration track (most of those slots were immediately grabbed up by active principals and District Office administrators), I chose Secondary Education. There were only two of us in that section and I was allowed to design my program to specialize in Gifted Child Education. The other student was a 52-year old Spanish teacher at Las Vegas High whose husband Charles was the general manager of the Dunes Hotel and they lived on site.
That summer the principal was transferred to another school and took me with him. As a bonus I was able to start a Gifted Ed program at that school to enhance my Doctoral studies. AS my program became more intense and I needed to be closer to UNLV for meetings and such, I took a position at Orr Jr. High School, less than a mile from the UNLV campus. The principal was another ex-patriot Pittsburgh area guy. My Doctoral degree was granted in 1978.
The Doctoral program was fun for the most part. It required lots of writing which suited me just fine. My fellow student in the program as previously mentioned was a 52-year old teacher at Las Vegas High School. She did not really want a Doctorate for the advancement, as she was just a few years from retirement (available at age 55 in Clark County Schoolk District). She just wanted it for the status. Her husband, Charles, was general manager of the Dunes, which was one of the premier hotel properties on the Strip. Its “Top of the Dunes" restaurant was one of the most elegant on the Strip. But even more so was another Dunes restaurant “Dome of the Sea,” that had a harp-playing mermaid playing for the customer’s enjoyment. The Dunes also had Sasha’s strolling violins, gorgeous young ladies who did exactly what the name implied. One of my high students was a member for years.
Behind the hotel, nestled between the property and I-15 was the Dunes golf course and a huge Sultan that welcomed Las Vegas visitors who passed.
The Dunes no longer exists. It was purchased by Steve Wynn and torn down, blown up, in an international TV display of an orgy of fireworks. The golf course disappeared and became part of the new property – Bellagio.
Ramona was a good student but had not been in an intense academic program for many years and about midway through the program she phoned me and said she was dropping out. A project that was due had simply overwhelmed her. I told her that she was too far into the program to drop out and if she did I wouldn’t have anybody to go through with. I then offered to help her on the project and she accepted. That weekend I went to their suite, a penthouse at the top of the Dunes, and we worked nearly 24 hours straight. All food was catered and Charles got me a room in the event I wanted to nap (I didn’t). By Sunday morning the project had been finished. Ramona was still in the program and I had gotten one more glimpse of how the other half lives.
I am not sure if Ramona ever graduated but it was no picnic doing a Doc program while working full time. At that time I was not working a second job so my high energy level suited me well to work on the program.
Soon the course work was completed and it was time to start on my Dissertation. Somebody told me that the longer the title is on one’s Dissertation the less scrutiny it would receive. So my Dissertation title became, “A Comparative Analysis of the Curricular Characteristics Recommended in the Writings of Twelve Authorities in the Field of Gifted Child Education Versus Curricular Characteristics Found in Programs of Gifted Child Education Programs of All United School Districts with a Student Population in Excess of 10,000 Children.”