When Daryl Shaw walks through a Montgomery County School, he sees teachers and principals he remembers as students.
Yet Shaw -- the tall, tweedy educator who became Montgomery County's new school board president recently -- says he's not a Mr. Chips, the legendary teacher whose prep-school pupils spanned several generations.
"But it's something like that," the silver-haired Shaw says with a laugh.
He became a Montgomery County principal in 1938 at Damascus Elementary. Back then he was a thin young man in born-rimmed glasses, fresh from a succession of small towns in Pennsylvania.
What followed were 37 years as a Montgomery County school administrator. A peak was hit in 1962 when Walt Whitman High, touted as the county's showcase school opened with Shaw as principal.
"Education has been my life," Shaw said with pride as he tended to endless paperwork on sunny, cold morning in the school board's Rockville office.
Tragedies have marred Shaw's personal life -- both his sons died in separate accidents and his first marriage ended in divorce. But Shaw, like Mr. Chips took parental joy in the success of his students over the years.
"To see kids graduate and go on to college and a career is very satisfying," he said. "It's enough of a reward to see what you have done."
After guiding Whitman through the turbulent Sixties and into the Seventies, Shaw decided to retire: "I figured it was time for someone with more vim and vigor to take over. Besides I was tired of hitting the Beltway every morning."
He left the school system in 1975 to "bum around Europe," but lifelong habits are hard to kick. Within a year, Shaw was back in Montgomery County, where his wife Betty teaches second grade in Pleasant View Elementary School. He was soon a candidate for the seven-member Board of Education.
With more than three decades as a respected school administrator behind him. Shaw won easily. In December, muffled by the roars accompanying school closings, debates over standardized testing and the search for a new superintendent, Shaw was voted school board president by a rare coalition of the board's three liberals and the two conservatives, outgoing president Marian Greenblatt and Eleanor Zappone.
Shaw bridles at the tag "liberal"; That's completely erroneous. I don't think of myself as a liberal."
Yet he favors a flexible system that is anathema to strict back-to-basics advocates.
"You have to move with the times," Shaw explains. "Schools have to change with society, in curriculum and methods of teaching."
For example, Shaw believes important learning can take place outside the classroom in on-the-job internships.
"It gets kids out into the real world and makes them interesting in learning," he said.
He is also no friend of standardized tests.
"They brand kids," he said. "Teachers start teaching to the tests."
As school board president, Shaw said he hopes to end the bitter strife among school board members that frequently erupts in public. Yet Shaw does not want "a yes-yes board."
"The board shouldn't be a rubber stamp for the superintendent," said Shaw.
On the other hand, after being on the other side of the table for all those years, Shaw deplores the school board "meddling in running schools."
"We hire a professional to do the job: the superintendent of schools. He should have the ability to run the school system. The board should not get into school administration," said Shaw.
Shaw was very pleased when J. Edward Andrews, interim superintendent of schools, finally agreed to accept permanently the vacant post of country superintendent.
Shaw, who has known Andrews for more than 20 years, said "Ed had no ambition to be superintendent. He never sought the job." But during the months Andrews filled the top school post, he so impressed Shaw and others with his abilities that they implored him to stay on.
Andrews repeatedly refused the job because of the amount of time it demanded, but finally relented at a recent school board meeting.
"He (Andrews) has improved staff morale, given leadership to the board and staff and taken the intiative on a number of tough jobs," Shaw said. "We believe he is the best man for the job."
With the superintendent search happily resolved, Shaw now is directing his energies to improving teacher morale.
"If teachers feel good, then they will give their best to the children," said Shaw, who started teaching when he was 19. "Teachers are the whole ball game."
Shaw recalls a time when Montgomery teachers were the best in the state. Now starting salaries in Montgomery are the lowest in the metropolitan area. Because of the high cost of living in this well-to-do suburb, Shaw said, "teachers have to moonlight."
The teachers have just reached an agreement with the school system that provides for a 10 percent raise next year and a minimum of 7 percent the following year, or 75 percent of the increase in the cost of living.
Shaw believes that teacher salaries are the best investment a community can make. But he said he realizes declining enrollments in Montgomery County mean that many citizens no longer have a direct interest in the school system.
Montgomery County closed 30 schools recently -- schools Shaw watched as they were built. School closings, which are occurring around the Beltway, are especially bitter in education-conscious Montgomery County.
"There is no panacea," Shaw said sadly. "No matter what we do, people will say we don't do the right thing."
Montgomery school members put in an average of 35 hours a week on their jobs. As president Shaw's load will increase but he says that's okay.
"What else is there? I don't have any hobbies," Shaw said.
When he does take time off, Shaw still likes to go to the high school games he has followed for years: "It's kind of a busman's holiday isn't it? But I still like to know how kids are doing. I like to see them."