The winter before Walt Whitman High School opened in 1962, Daryl W. Shaw was on a leave of absence from his duties as principal of Montgomery Blair High School to finish his doctoral thesis on the role of the assistant principal in secondary school management.

Then-superintendent C. Taylor Whittier telephoned Shaw and asked him to to take the job as principal of the new high school.

"But I'm on leave," protested Shaw. "Can't you find someone else?"

"You'll be doing me a favor," Shaw recalls Whittier saying. "I can't find anyone else they'll accept."

The 700 parents who had formed a PTSA and began meeting regularly even before the school opened knew who they wanted as principal.

Shaw's reputation as administrator and educator had been growing since he came to Montgomery County in 1938 to be principal at the kindergarten through 12th grade school in Damascus. Thirty-eight years and four principalships later, he was elected to the school board, served as its president in the 1979-80, and last week bowed out of school affairs as the newly elected board took office.

"I don't think it wise at my age to mortgage four more years," said Shaw, 68, who decided not to run for reelection to the board.

Being on the board of education seemed to Shaw a natural encore to his long career -- "from baby to adult" -- in a county school system.

He has been a principal during war years when the county was so desperate for teachers that it hired college students and during years of school desegregation, rapid school construction, student protests, teacher strikes and school closures.

From Damascus he went to Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, where he met his wife Betty, then a teacher at the Rockville Elementary School across the field. After a stint in the Navy in 1945 Shaw went to Montgomery Blair to begin his longest single tenure as principal. Sixteen years later he helped opened Whitman.

Shaw, born and raised in Mansfield, Pa., the eldest of 13 children and the son of the town's assistant postmaster, remembers the '50s at Blair as among his most enjoyable years as a principal and the '60s at Whitman as among the most challenging. The political activism of the college campuses found a sympathetic audience in the high schools. Violation of dress codes was but one form of protest, and one of Shaw's students took the school to court for dismissing the student from school until he cut his hair. Shaw and the student compromised with a trim.

"Those kids had a cause. They became anti-institutional but they also became individuals. The pendulum is swinging back now toward more conformity. bIt bothers me in a way," said Shaw, who lost two of his own three children in accidents, one in elementary school and the other while working as a fireman.

"He [Shaw] did an unusually good job of recognizing the changing scene of giving students a chance to express their views within the framework of the school structure," said former school superintendent Homer Elseroad.

Elseroad appointed Shaw to head a committee to organize workshops that would help educators adjust to the changes. Out of those training sessions came a paper on student rights and responsibilities that eventually was adopted as policy by the school board.

Shaw modestly attributes his adaptability to the students: "You stay flexible and young by being with them -- they're a real tonic."

The last two of Shaw's four years on the school board were marked by decisions of the board's conservative members. Shaw was not a part of that majority, considers himself a middle-of-the-roader, and believes that not many of the conservative policies will benefit the school system.

"Teachers need room to breathe. Principals need autonomy. You don't deal with kids by edicts," he said, referring to the efforts by the board to exercise greater control over curriculum, testing, homework and attendance.

But he says the school system's nationwide reutation, earned long ago, still holds true.

"I don't think it's the buildings or the staff, but basically the student body and the nature of support parents give," he said.

Shaw's not sure what he's going to do now. He had thought his wife Betty would retire from teaching after 38 years in the county school system, but she's not quite ready to leave PleasantView Elementary School. So Shaw said he would wait and see, certain only of one thing -- "I'll miss the scene." CAPTION:

Picture 1, Daryl W. Shaw bowed out of Montgomery school affairs last week after 42 years with the school system. For the last 4 years he has been on the school board, but before that he was principal of several schools, including Montgomery Blair High School. By Craig Herndon -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, In 1957 Shaw met with Montgomery Blair students Pat Fallon, Dick Niner and Herb Wilkinson. BY RICHARD DARCEY -- THE WASHINGTON POST