September 01, 1989 2 min read

Twenty-one years ago, Ann Lynch’s son asked her three times to join the local Parent-Teacher Association so he could get his name on a balloon. At that time, she was the only parent in his class who had not joined. One year later, Lynch was the school’s PTA president.

This summer, she was elected president of the 6.6-million-member National PTA. She is the first person with a full-time job to hold the two-year office.

Lynch, director of marketing and community relations at Humana Hospital-Sunrise in Las Vegas, Nev., says she will strive to recruit more men, minorities, and working parents of both sexes into the parent-teacher organization. Many people, she says, are not “aware of how very white, how very middle-class, how very suburban, and how very female” the organization has been. “The PTA is not an organization just for homemakers,” she adds. “It is for parents and others who care about young people.”

When Richmond (Mass.) Consolidated School found itself in need of slicing $150,000 from its school budget, principal Norman Najimy began by cutting office expenses. Then he cut textbooks and supplies. Next, he cut programs he considered “essential,” such as art, music, and physical education. Finally, he cut a basic skills program by 50 percent.

At the end of his pruning, only $95,000 of the $150,000 had been cut.

So on June 27, Najimy suggested that his school committee balance the budget by abolishing his job. By dismissing him and paying a teacher an extra $3,000 to handle administrative tasks, the school could save roughly $40,000, he figured. “The alternatives were to cut more teachers or cut the principal,” Najimy says. “If you start cutting teachers, what are you going to do with the children?”

On July 13, the committee took Najimy’s advice and dismissed him.

The incident made the principal an overnight celebrity. It even prompted a call from Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Najimy is currently looking for work in the education field.

A $355,000 “genius” award won’t lure teacher Vivian Gussin Paley away from the classroom. “I’m going back to kindergarten,” the teacher says.

Paley, who has taught for 32 years, the last 18 at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools, was one of three people who work with children to receive the coveted award given each year by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

A total of 29 men and women were cited by the foundation this year for their work in the arts, sciences, or community affairs.

Paley has gained recognition through her development of a teaching technique she calls “story-playing,” in which students make up, dictate, and act out stories. “It’s like a constant actors’ studio in the classroom,” says Paley, the author of six books on early childhood education.

The two other winners cited for their work with children are:

  • Keith Hefner, the founder of Youth Communication, which publishes a newspaper written by and for New York City high school students. Hefner established New Youth Connections in 1980 to inspire minority youths to pursue journalism careers.
  • Eliot Wigginton, an English teacher from Rabun Gap, Ga., who has parlayed Foxfire magazine, a student-produced quarterly about Appalachian history and culture, into the successful Foxfire book series and a fund the oversees a teacher outreach program.
  • Hefner and Wigginton received $225,000 and $245,000, respectively.

    A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 1989 edition of Teacher as People