College of Education Faculty Oral Histories

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Dr. Steve Permuth

LB: Were you involved in the USF Charter School being affiliated with the College of Education?

SP: That was very much directed from the president to Carolyn Lavely who headed our At-Risk Institute who did a very admirable job pulling all these loose threads together and then working with the Hillsborough County School District to really get something moving in terms of a charter school. A lot of it is due to her efforts as she really did the job. We also worked with the Professional Development Schools with Weightman Middle School and King High School and several others that I still think continue to reverberate today.

LB: During my tenure in the College of Education, early on we not only talked about it, we had a college constitution. It laid dormant for a number of years and that was something else that got started during your tenure as the dean, as I recall.

SP: There’s a significant statement in much of administration about belief in shared governance. But there are sometimes difficulties saying what does it look like and how does it work. My commentary then and my commentary now is that until you put something down on paper as to how it works and how it should work, it’s false. The agenda, by the way, lead by the faculty was to develop its own sense of a constitution with whatever strengths and weaknesses it would have and develop an operational schema where faculty input and faculty direction in lots of decisions could be made. A number of the faculty worked very diligently and very hard to do that. The real result of it is a constitution that now under our new administration will get reviewed, as all constitutions should, to take a look at better ways to implement and work with faculty input and faculty direction in determining where the College of Education should be going.

LB: Out of that grew the College Council and that functioned for a few years and is still is functioning of course. After resigning from the position as the dean and going back to the faculty, you were voted chair of that group.

SP: I think they “lowered their standards” when I became chair of the Council. It was and is an important duty and obligation. And I was deeply honored by that. Again, the meaning of shared governance is not the articulation of what you say but how you implement it. I think that is a challenge for any administrator at this University. We may as well talk about shortly is a different shift in governance of the University and the governance of the College which follows. It was very different from when I was hired.

LB: You were involved with the Faculty Senate. Are you a member at this point in time?

SP: I’m Vice President of the Faculty Senate, and again, they have no standards so I became Vice President as well and enjoyed that role very much. The combination of the Senate role and the College Council role and also being a collective bargainer for the union, advocating for faculty are things I am now doing. All three of those have been exceedingly rewarding experiences. I enjoyed them very much.

LB: Going back to the time you were hired I recall you were active in the National Urban League and you’ve had experience as a mediator. Is that correct?

SP: At the National Urban League I had the privilege of serving as the chair of the Board of Directors in Jefferson County, in Louisville, Kentucky. I ended up being one of the steering committee members of all the National Urban League boards in Washington D.C. I found that to be another valuable insight as to how things worked and we established a number of collaborative projects at the national level with schools and school districts and also started dealing with numbers of very important issues, such as should institutions representing educational constituencies accept money from alcohol and tobacco companies, which in my mind in effect hurts the very populations we are suppose to serve. Those are delicate situations, plus being at the table when the National Urban League was sitting trying to make the determination of whether to support Clarence Thomas through the Supreme Court. I was involved in a number of those things, again exceptionally rewarding, and hopefully that still plays out now when I do my teaching at the University.

LB: Now your teaching in the Department of Educational Leadership, of course school law was one of your areas of specialty and you teach primarily in the graduate program?

SP: I teach primarily in the graduate program, teaching school law or advanced law and the courses on principalship. I really like the teaching the undergraduates in the University and really participate fairly fully in the Honors College and so it would not be unusual that I have, every year or so a section of honor students that are freshman or sophomores. I thoroughly enjoy the excitement of the undergraduate experience as much as the graduate experience.

LB: Now the Department of Educational Leadership underwent a streamlining in recent years. What was the original composition when you came into the department and what does it look like now?

SP: Well, when I came to the department it was the Department of Educational Leadership. A transition was made to try and bring together several entities, higher education, adult education, and career education into one focal point. While that seemingly worked for a while, it did not work in the long term. Now we are back basically to what we had been as a department except for the fact that we are short a lot of folks. We are short a lot of positions, and yet the compelling student interest in the program is large. Yesterday, and we’re talking 2006, we met with a large number of Pinellas County administrators who are looking at the development of a doctoral cohort by working with our department. We’ll probably be doing the same things in other areas so the department has moved toward a cohort model, but again the needs for the faculty are there. The department is basically looking at leadership through the eyes of administrators. The training of principals and the training of other school leaders remains a primary focus of what we’re about.

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