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This Mattered to Me

"Proactive Personnel Administration: A Model for Administration as a Helping Profession," by Michael J. Bina, published in the February 1986 issue of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Volume 80, pp. 565-569.

Stuart H. Wittenstein

Print edition page number(s) 436-437

The series editor of "This Mattered to Me" is Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D., superintendent of the California School for the Blind.

As the series editor of the This Mattered to Me column, I am taking advantage of my position in a way that is similar to occurrences in team sports when the player/manager "calls his own number." In other words, I have asked myself to recommend an article for the series I coordinate. When I conceived of this series, this article was one of the first that came to my mind and I cannot wait any longer to share it with you.

When I was a teacher, I do not remember thinking much about the attributes of the principals for whom I enjoyed working. I do remember recognizing the behaviors of the ones for whom I did not want to work.

When I became a principal, I went back through my experiences and remembered two outstanding principals for whom I had worked, Joe Dan Mills of St. Elmo Elementary School in Austin, Texas, and Michael (Mike) J. Bina of the Texas School for the Blind (we worked there together before "and Visually Impaired" was added to the school's name). These two principals became my role models for how I wanted to supervise teachers. As school administrators, they both created school environments in which all parties were treated with dignity and respect--and they always remembered (and reminded those who worked for them) that we were there for the children we served.

Their greatest gift to me was to teach me how a school administrator could be fair and tough and caring and still maintain his balance and sense of humor. They each walked that tightrope better than anyone else I have met in my 35 years in this business of educating children.

Tragically, Joe Dan passed away in his early 50s from an extremely ferocious and fast-moving cancer. Some of my colleagues in Austin teach at the elementary school named for him. I never got the chance to tell him how much he had influenced my career and my thinking as an administrator.

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to continue to work with, and become friends with, Mike Bina. I hope he knows what an influence he has been on me--and if not, I expect he does now.

Today, as a superintendent with 18 years of administrative experience behind me, I continue to use the example of these fine men, as well as the article that Mike published in JVIB 22 years ago, to guide my practice--and I make sure that it is required reading for the supervisors of teachers in my school. I do not think you will find a finer blueprint for a model of humane, strategic, and common sense administration anywhere, and I wish that school administrators across all disciplines would access and use the principles outlined in Mike's writing.

I recommend this article to those of you who are school administrators, those who aspire to become school administrators, those who prepare school administrators, and those who work for and with school administrators. Whether you agree with all of it or not, it should give you much to think about, debate, and cause to re-examine your practices. I am excited to be able to revive it here as a JVIB Classic that mattered to me.

On the web
The article relating to this commentary is available free to subscribers at JVIB Online: <>. Nonsubscribers may purchase a copy of the article from the JVIB Classics area of AFB's ePublications web site: <>.

Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D., superintendent, California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536; e-mail: <>.

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The Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB)--the international, interdisciplinary journal of record on blindness and visual impairment that publishes research and practice
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