Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Leon Burchett, August 8th, 1990

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:09 - Burchett's childhood education experiences

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Partial Transcript: Raleigh Leon Burchett.

Segment Synopsis: Burchett provides details about how he transitioned from a one-room school to the Paintsville Independent School district. He discusses the differences in teaching methods and quality between the two. He talks about the significance of home life and parenting to education. He makes the point that educational reform is less significant, in terms of impact, than parental involvement. He also gives additional details on home life and his parents professional experience in education.

Keywords: Buy-ins; City water; Dedication; Disciplinarians; Discipline; Education reform; Facilities; Graded schools; Group learning; Hot water; Involvement; One-room schools; Paintsville Independent School District; Parental involvement; Potbelly stoves; Promotions; School buildings; Television; Well water

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Johnson County (Ky.); Paintsville (Ky.); Schools; Teachers--Kentucky

00:07:28 - Burchett's higher education experience and early career in education

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Partial Transcript: It, it was expected. It was--my--our parents expected us to go on to college.

Segment Synopsis: Burchett discusses how he was expected to go on to college by his family, so he studied at the University of Kentucky. He talks more about his interest in vocational and agricultural education.

Keywords: Agriculture; Employable; Engineering; Flat Gap High School; Nepotism; Teacher certification; Vocational agriculture

Subjects: Clark County (Ky.); Education, Higher--Kentucky; University of Kentucky

00:10:40 - Johnson County school consolidation

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Partial Transcript: Why was, why was that school closed?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett discusses the struggles faced by the schools in Johnson County. Burchett provides context for how consolidation was the popular policy of the 1960s and was met with mixed emotions. The final results were mixed as well, according to Burchett.

Keywords: Community opposition; Controversy; Flat Gap; Johnson Central High School; Large high schools; Memorial High School; Oil Springs; Political motivation; Van Lear Independent

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Johnson County (Ky.)

00:13:13 - Burchett's transition from teacher to various administration positions

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Partial Transcript: What kind of--or, what caused you to, uh, move into the administration area?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett discusses how he felt he should move from teaching agriculture to administration. He held a wide array of positions ranging from student personnel to maintenance.

Keywords: Agriculture; Director of buildings and grounds; Director of student personnel; Director of transportation; General administrative certification; Routes; School administration; School buses; Truancy; Upward mobility

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; School administrators.; School management and organization.

00:17:05 - Burchett's role as director of student personnel

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Partial Transcript: Yes, uh, uh, basically these were--the people we dealt with were the--those on the lower end of the socioeconomic, uh, spectrum.

Segment Synopsis: Burchett describes his truancy work with the school system. He suggests that the system is complex and requires collaboration for school attendance to be successful.

Keywords: Discipline; Dockets; Home visits; Poor home life; Social work; Socioeconomic standing; Truancy

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; School administrators.; School attendance.; School management and organization.

00:18:51 - Role of athletics in character building / additional administrative roles

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Partial Transcript: We hear a lot about the value of, of sports in terms of building character.

Segment Synopsis: Burchett discusses the role that sports play in keeping students in school. He feels that students and the community need sports to serve as a connection to schooling.

Keywords: Connections; Essential component of public schools; Extra-curricular activities; Milieu; Personal development; Principals; Rapport; School pride; Student needs

Subjects: School attendance.; School sports.

00:23:23 - Burchett's initial challenges as principal and colleague discussions

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I felt like that, uh, keeping a lid on the discipline was my biggest challenge.

Segment Synopsis: Burchett provides context to challenges he faced when he was a newly appointed principal. He felt that the challenge of maintaining discipline was one of his chief concerns.

Keywords: Anti-nepotism; Discipline; Expansive school grounds; Johnson Central High School; Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); Strict schedules; Student population; Supervision

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; School administrators.; School management and organization.

00:25:58 - Transition to superintendent

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Partial Transcript: What, uh, what caused you to, uh, become a local superintendent yourself?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett provides a brief description of the challenges he faced when becoming superintendent of Paintsville Independent. He discusses the contrasting features of the two systems (Johnson County and Paintsville Independent).

Keywords: Allen Osborne; Computers; Construction; Facilities; Facility upgrades; Funding; Johnson Central High School; Paintsville Independent Schools; Physical plant; Resources; Service areas; Student population; Superintendents; Technology

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Johnson County (Ky.); Paintsville (Ky.); School administrators.; School management and organization.

00:29:20 - Paintsville Independent compared to Johnson County School's academic reputation

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Partial Transcript: This district has long had a reputation as one of the, one of the best school districts in Eastern Kentucky in terms of the number of children who go on to college...

Segment Synopsis: Burchett addresses the discrepancy between the performance and reputations of Paintsville Independent (as having a very good reputation) compared to Johnson County. He feels that the clientele's socioeconomic status and parental involvement play a large role. Johnson County's geography compounds their community's involvement in the educational process.

Keywords: Attitudes; Classroom management; Close-knit community; Discipline; Expected excellence; Free lunch; Inclement weather; Lower socioeconomic status; Parental involvement; Quality teachers; Reduced lunch; Responsive community; School closure; Small class size; Small schools; Standardized scores; Supportive community; Tax rates; Traditions

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Johnson County (Ky.); Paintsville (Ky.); Schools; Teachers--Kentucky

00:36:16 - Various superintendents Burchett worked with

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me about some of the superintendents you've worked with over the years in the two school systems?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett provides details about the various superintendents that he worked with and for. Burchett shared brief stories about the personalities of some of these gentlemen.

Keywords: B. P. Horn; Bill Stableton; Frank Hamilton; Herschel Conley; Johnson Central High School; Johnson County Schools; Kentucky Education Association (KEA); Leaders; Orators; Orville Hamilton; Paintsville Independent Schools; Porter Elementary; Principals; Virgil Porter; Vocational agriculture

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Johnson County (Ky.); Paintsville (Ky.); School administrators.; School management and organization.; Schools

00:39:43 - Politics in Johnson County and Paintsville Independent Schools

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Partial Transcript: What are the differences in the, in the, uh, I guess you'd say the political atmosphere of the two school systems?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett discusses his thoughts on how politics has influenced both school districts. He feels that Johnson County is becoming less political and that Paintsville Independent is nearly 'apolitical'. Burchett also talks about how KERA should address lingering political concerns in Kentucky districts.

Keywords: Apolitical; Board elections; Competing interests; Control; Intolerance of mismanagement; Involved public; Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); Local elite; Local politics; Nepotism; Political corruption; Political influence; Power struggles; Site-based management; Suggested hires

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Johnson County (Ky.); Kentucky--Politics and government; Paintsville (Ky.); School management and organization.; Schools

00:46:10 - Potential problems of site-based management

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Partial Transcript: What kinds of problems?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett discusses some of the fears that he has regarding site-based management. He states that he is supportive of this KERA component, however.

Keywords: Hidden agendas; Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); Petty; Radical; Selfish motivations

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; School management and organization.

00:48:47 - Changing role of board of education and administrators per KERA

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Partial Transcript: What about the, the changing role of, of the, uh, board of education? Do you see one?

Segment Synopsis: Burchett feels that the Board of Education will have a more diminished role in local system governance. He discusses potential obstacles that must be overcome for the KERA laws to be most effective.

Keywords: Education reform; Empowered teachers; Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA); Labor unrest; Power; Professional roles; Salary; Site-based management; Strikes

Subjects: Education--Kentucky; School administrators.; School management and organization.; Teachers--Kentucky