Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Principals and Principles, I

Mr. Ray Clough, Principal, Aurora Middle School
from Jaguar Tracks, the yearbook, 1966-1967

In my long public school teaching career, I worked for only four principals.  I learned from all four--and all four I respected for varying reasons.  I'd like to devote the next few days to talking about them, in sequence.

The first (1966-1967) was Raymond (Ray) Clough (pronounced kluff), who lived, I think, up in Mentor (or was it Kirtland?).  He was the first principal for the Aurora Middle School when it began in 1965.  Prior to that, Aurora had a K-6, 7-12 arrangement, with the 7th and 8th graders in the same building with the high school kids.  I assume those grades were known as the "junior high," but I'm not sure.

Middle schools were a new thing in those days--just catching on around the country.  There were fewer than ten in all of Ohio when Aurora decided to go that direction.  The first year I taught (1966-1967) was the first year that the middle school, grades 5-8, had its own building.  Aurora High would open that fall--but not on time, so for six weeks or so we were on split sessions: the high school was there early in the morning till about noon; the middle school arrived, oh, about 12:30, I think, and went till 5 or 5:30.  I loved that schedule.  I'd always had a hard time getting up in the morning, so I had some time that first year to sort of ease into it.  In October the high school moved to the building it still occupies--though in much modified form.

He was always "Mr. Clough" to me.  I was only twenty-one (not twenty-two until November), and it was hard for me to call teachers by their first names.  Compounding the problem--two of the Aurora teachers had been my teachers back in high school.  Mrs. Nichols taught math at Aurora High, and Mrs. Dreisbach taught music in the elementary.  I never used first names with either one.  Unthinkable.  So ... no "Ray" for me with Mr. Clough.

Mr. Clough was in on my hiring, so I was grateful to him.  And he was absolutely devoted to the kids.  Always thinking of what was best for them.  The best example?  When the high school finally left (taking with them, by the way, the best of the A-V equipment and supplies--but I'm not bitter), everyone realized there was a "bus problem."  The middle school kids needed to stay in the building a half-hour longer than the schedule called for.


Mr. Clough called a faculty meeting and suggested that we use that half-hour for activities with the kids--clubs, organizations, that sort of thing.  (I've written about this more fully in an earlier posting.)  And so we did.  And because of that bus schedule, I got involved with the drama program, an activity I clung to for thirty more years.

He got mad at me once--I don't remember exactly why.  It was an after-school faculty meeting, and I (can you imagine?) was fooling around.  I think he thought I was laughing at an idea he'd just suggested (but I was really laughing at something stupid I'd just said to a colleague), and Mr. Clough boomed out: "If you don't like it, Dyer, you can just leave."

No "Dan," no "Mr. Dyer"--just "Dyer."  I shut up and sat there, humble.

Mr. Clough liked us to leave our lesson plans on our desks at the end of the day on Friday.  Sometimes he would go by and check them over the weekend.  Once he wrote "Good" on something I'd planned.  I felt as if I'd just won the Pulitzer.

Another time, Mr. Clough did something for me that would get both of us in very hot water today.  I was driving a 1965 VW Karmann-Ghia (mine was a darker blue--but the photo shows the general shape).  Anyway, my muffler went bad, and I didn't have the $50 I needed for the repair.  I mentioned this in passing to Mr. Clough, who promptly advanced me the money--from the school's petty cash account.  I paid it back, $5 per paycheck.

One more story.  I was supervising a large study hall in the middle school cafeteria, and I noticed one day that someone had written "Kluff Sucks" on one of the table tops.  My colleague Jim Wright and I were trying to figure out what to do--and I suggested we get all the kids in the study hall to write Mr. Clough's name for some kind of bogus reason.  (I shoulda been a cop.)  So, next day, we passed out 3x5 cards and had the kids write their names, their addresses, Aurora Middle School, ... and the name of the principal.  Many asked how to spell it; we said, "Doesn't matter."

Later ... only one kid (incredibly!) had spelled in Kluff.  Gotcha!

Mr. Clough took his job seriously; he put kids first; he tried to do all he could to get into the hands of his teachers the supplies and materials they needed to do the job.  He was a professional.

He left after my first year, though--back to Mentor, I think, near his home.  (Or was it Kirtland?) And I never saw him again.  I did speak with him  once, though, on the phone.  I was in grad school, working on a paper for my course in the History of American Education.  I was writing the history of the Aurora Middle School.  He talked with me for a long time that evening.  He was proud of the creation of that school in Aurora--as well he should have been.

As far as I know, though, there is not one indication of his involvement anywhere in Aurora (no sign, no plaque) .  And I would guess that not one current employee has ever heard of him.

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