D. Bayersdorfer Interview:
This is file #63. This is Jean McMillen and I am interviewing David Bayersdorfer at my home, 41 Chatfield Drive, Lakeville, Ct. The date is October 30, 2013. He is going to talk about his time while he was director of the Salisbury summer Youth Program. We’ll start with the details.
JM:May I have your name?
DB:Yes, my name is David Bayersdorfer.
JM:Where were you born?
DB:I was born in Teaneck, New Jersey.
DB:My birthdate is May 3, 1946.
JM:Your parents’ names?
DB:My parents’ names are Frank and Beatrice Bayersdorfer
JM:Do you have siblings?
DB:I have three brothers: an older brother john and two younger brothers Frank and Roger.
JM:What is your educational background?
DB:I graduated from Bogota High School in 1964. I am a graduate of Syracuse University in 1968. I have a Master’s Degree from Central Connecticut State University and an Administration Degree from Southern Connecticut State University.
JM:Now you had a wonderful story about how you came to this area. Please tell me.
DB:Well, I was teaching in Leona, New Jersey. I thought that maybe I might be interested in becoming an administrator. I had a job interview in Contoocook, New Hampshire, and off we went to that interview. We dropped my daughter here at my in-laws on Wells Hill Road, my daughter Kara, for babysitting. We went to Contoocook and they actually offered me the job. On the way home, we started to cry because we were going to be so far away, not only from my family but from Nancy’s family. We thought this is much too much. So we stopped back here to get Kara and stay overnight. I decided to go down to the regional high school. I went to the regional high school and the first person I met was Dick Alto. I said, “I am interested in a social studies job.” He said, “How do you know about this job? We just opened it up last night.” Being a great believer of Fate, I was the first person of 75 applicants. I interviewed and got the job. I came to teach here, and met many people in Salisbury and throughout the 6 towns that really interest me.
JM:What year did you come to Region #1?
JM:And you stayed for many years.
DB:I finished my career there in 2011 as the Interim Principal.
JM:What did you teach primarily?
DB:I taught Social Studies, including U.S. History, Civics, and something called Contemporary Problems. That was a course developed by Dr. Stoddard and Andy Casale; two legends at Housatonic Valley Regional High School. Dr. Stoddard, the principal, taught Contemporary Problems. He was followed up by Andy Casale and I was lucky enough to have that assignment in 1977.
JM:You lucked out again. What did you coach?
DB:I coached initially, I was assistant football coach, and Head golf coach; then I became the Head Basketball coach and continued to be the golf coach. Later on I became the Athletic Director and during my athletic director tenure I was also the cheerleading coach for one season which was very interesting.
JM:I’ll bet. How did you get involved with the Summer Youth Program?
DB:John Mongeau who was the original director of this very unique program came to me and said that he was moving in a little bit different direction. He was going to go to work for Rescue in Litchfield which dealt with education programs as well as well as job programs. He asked me if I would be interested in taking over for him. This was in 1982. I was flattered that he asked me; I met with the first Selectman charlotte Reid; we talked about it. I became the Director of the program.
JM:Now this program was just for local or was it region wide?
DB:The unique part about the Salisbury one is that it was just for Salisbury residents. But part of that job in 1982 was to deal with the Federal program that was administered in Litchfield County, and it actually included all of the 6 towns in Region #1. So I oversaw that as well. I ran that through Rescue.
JM:How is it funded? I know how the Federal one was, but how was Salisbury funded?
DB:The local one was funded by mainly by 2 families who want to remain anonymous; they were very generous. The idea was merely to help young kids out getting started with their first job. That’s where the emphasis was. Some continued beyond that first year; public service jobs and jobs, not only in Salisbury, for the Salisbury program, but beyond as well places like the High School and places like that.
JM:What was the ages of the kids involved?
DB:Generally it was opened up to 8th graders so an 8th grader is 13 years old. Now we would have a tough time doing that today.
JM:It is still going on.
DB:Yeah, but the job market is kind of… those kids used to be hired by somebody in the neighborhood to move their lawn, deliver the newspaper, or whatever. We wanted them to get a more of a first job experience with a boss and working with other people.
JM:Were there any, other than age, other eligibility requirements? Did they have to be ”at risk” children or could anyone join this program?
DB:We were diligent in perusing the “at risk” children, but it was, as long as we had the money which we did very well in 1980’s and early 1990’s, we pretty much had jobs for anybody that was interested in it.
JM:Girls and boys?
DB:Girls and boys.
JM:How many children in the program then?
DB:Oh in the early 1980’s we ran up to as many as 50.
JM:That’s a lot!
DB:That was a lot. We had them placed in a variety of places.
JM:Name some of the work sites, please.
DB:The Salisbury Central, the town Grove, Camp Sloane, Housatonic Valley Regional High School, transfer station, and we had a great crew on the Appalachian Trail.
JM:You had a nifty little story about Camp Sloane and one of the workers.
DB:It actually came back to me this summer. I was at the transfer station; one tends to be there more once they are retired. The Camp Sloane truck pulled up and the person who head of buildings and grounds at Camp Sloane came over to me and said, ”Dave, I just wanted to let you know that you made me one of the happiest guys in the world about 17 or 18 years ago.” I said, “Oh my goodness, what did I do?” He said, “Well, you brought this young man, David Wright to get a job at Camp Sloane. He has been with us ever since; first as a summer worker and then when he graduated from high school, he started working with us full time. He is my right hand man and will be the next Director of our Buildings and Grounds.”
DB:It was a perfect story. I mean it was the perfect idea about what this whole program was all about.
JM:It actually came to fruition in the way it was supposed to.
DB:It is a great story, and I was puffed with pride.
JM:Well, you should be! How were the kids supervised? What did you actually have to do?
DB:Well my job was to make sure and I was pretty diligent in checking each job site every day. I was in charge of all the paper work. I collected the pay sheets. I dealt with any problems that were encountered. I reported any injuries, and I also set up programs that John helped me a great deal in this as well at Rescue. These programs dealt with jobs how to interview for a job; the kinds of things like what to do with your money, we were connected with the bank. Salisbury Bank was great about the concept of savings accounts and checking accounts, so it went well beyond just the 4 or 5 hours that they were working each day. We really wanted to teach them about the world of work.
JM:How many weeks did this program go on during the summer?
DB:Pretty much from the end of school mid- June to mid- August. We made sure that they were doing productive work.
JM:Oh yes, it wasn’t busy work.
DB:It was not busy work; they were an important part of the work force. They were trained in how to do certain things, and the expectations were relatively high about what the result of their work would be.
JM:Kids rise to what the expectations are.
DB:The kids were great. It is interesting because in some ways the more ”at risk” kids did better because they were given an opportunity that they could see that this was going to be a very good experience for them. We were putting money in their pockets, and we cared about them, and we often commented on their job performance. We taught them about evaluation kinds of things.
JM:Then they were evaluated?
DB:Oh yes, I evaluated them and their individual supervisors evaluated them and they evaluated themselves. So that was interesting.
JM:Peer evaluations can be pretty rough at times because they don’t pull any punches. How were they paid, and when were they paid?
DB:They were paid; I seem to recall that they were paid every week and they were paid by a town check. I believe the rate was $5.00 an hour. So they were making about $100 a week.
JM:They weren’t working a 40 hour week?
DB:No they were working a 20 hour week. In some cases a little bit more, but most of them worked a 20 hour week. At age 13 we thought that was enough. Most of the work was done in the morning like 8 to12.
JM:Were there specific rules and regulations that were formal for these students?
DB:They were not allowed to use power equipment with most of them. We suggested very strongly what they should wear in regard to where they were assigned. For example we had a young lady and a couple of young boys working in the day care center. The expectation was that they had a certain dress code that they should follow. We had regulations like that. They were supposed to be and almost all of them were at work 10 minutes ahead of time. We did not want them to be late; if they were going to be late, they had to let their supervisor know. If they had to leave early, they had to let their supervisor know well in advance. We were trying to teach them that concept. At close out time if the job ends at 12, that’s when you end and you start cleaning yourself up if you have to. You don’t stop at 11; 30. We were trying to teach them a good work ethic.
JM:In your opinion, what was the outcome? Was it productive for the kids? Did it fall by the wayside? Was it other than the David Wright story, was it generally well done?
DB:Oh yes, we rarely had complaints about the kids, and I think many of them were taught various kinds of skills. Working at the kitchen at Camp Sloane, you certainly know how to mass produce food. Kids working with horses at Fair Weather Farm, young men working with pretty good supervisors in regard in how to do carpentry or how to do laundry and things like that. I think the most positive thing that they got out of it was that the town cared about them. They gave back from that and also that they were taught to be proud of what they were doing. That was a pretty nice thing.
JM:Did you have a dropout rate?
DB:I think in the 17 years that I did it from 1982 to 1999, I think maybe we had one or two, maybe not even that. We were dealing with 70 kids in the summer. I think that we were very direct about what the parameters of the program were. We gave them a starting date and an ending date so parents could plan their vacations, maybe late August or whatever. Most of them did not want to leave in the middle of the job for a vacation because they liked the fact that they were making money.
JM:Oh yeah, and doing a productive job that was valued. It was great for self-esteem. It was great for work skills. It was great for many reasons and fortunately it is still going on.
DB:I think one of the other interesting things about it is having them work at the Grove, having them work at the schools, they understood that things like graffiti weren’t a good idea, especially after you have to clean it off. So they learned how to== let’s take care of these places. That would spill over to the friends. By the time John turned it over to me, we had almost no problems with vandalism at the town Grove. Salisbury Central has always been well maintained and taken care of and what have you.
JM:Before I go on to some personal things, do you have any thing that you want to add about the program that I haven’t asked you?
DB:I want to say about its uniqueness and its impact on the area. This was an innovative, unique program. “At risk” kids were targeted but it was inclusive to any young person in Salisbury that wanted a job. I think that that was important. I think the other part of it was that towns like North Canaan, Sharon, and I believe Kent they took the model and they applied it to some of their young people as well. Unfortunately they didn’t have the resources that we had from those two very interested families.
JM;Also that you had started the trend and with the advice and consent of the First Selectman, and she was quite influential in getting funds for this as I understand from John. It was something that she felt was important to the town.
DB:I met with one of the families on a number of occasions, but the first Selectman took care of things, the economic part of that. If we had 25 kids employed, we would make sure that we had the money to cover those 25 kids. If we had 50 kids employed, it was the same. Its trend is a little bit differently today, I mean there are some limits, but we still have it in place. That is the neat part about it too. You can see those kids down at the town Grove doing productive important work.
JM:I was fortunate enough to interview one of the students that went through the program this year at the Grove. He was delighted with what he had accomplished this summer. One of my last questions was, “Would you do the program again?” It was a very enthusiastic, “OH YES!”
JM:That really pleased me.
DB:The other part of it is we also did evaluations, and anybody that wanted to call me if the child for the program went for a job, they could use me as a recommendation. People call me all the time. My thing with those students was if I am going give you a recommendation, you’re going to uphold your part of the thing and be great at the job. If you get the job, I want my reputation to be listened to.
JM:And you want it validated.
DB:That was an ongoing part, even when I left the program in 1999, a number of kids at the college would use me as a recommendation for job and stuff like that. It was great. John Mongeau really taught that concept to me. He was in charge of the work study program at the high school for a while.
JM:He was as enthusiastic about the program as you are, and I am doing Patty Stevens this afternoon and she is just as enthusiastic.
JM:It is a wonderful program. Now that you are retired, personally what are your civic responsibilities? What do you do?
DB:Well, I do a couple of things. I am running for the Board of Education, we’ll know next week if I am on the Salisbury Board of Education. (Yes Ed.) I have been on various boards: the Salisbury Association Board, I am involved with fund raising at my church, St. John’s Episcopal, I have been on the Planning and Zoning Board, I am now involved with the Taconic Learning Center as a teacher. I am involved with something called the Civic Life Project; I am their educational consultant. This project tries to get high school students involved with their town and their community, mainly by taking a topic that interests them about the town or community, researching it, and making a video or documentary. So I have plenty to keep me busy. The name goes out there when you retire, and you have all these calls.
JM:I understand that.
DB:I am doing things that I want to do and enjoying that. I do miss the classroom but I have that opportunity with the Taconic Learning Center now. (See Marion Haeberle #134 ED.) I also truly believe that I have to give back to this community. This community has been great to Nancy and I and our two children. The two kids had a wonderful education here; we love living here. As I told my brothers who still live down in New Jersey, I live in a resort, and they live in cities.
JM:Giving back is important and I think that you as a teacher are a role model for others. This is what you did with the children as a role model; this is what you are doing now as a retired adult. The town benefits from it.
DB:It is a very special town. We have such large numbers of people that are willing to make it a community and are concerned about continuing that as a community.
JM:Before we close is there anything that you want to add on a personal level or about the…
DB:I think this is a great activity. I really appreciate you asking me to come to be interviewed. I would hope people listen to things like this to not only learn what Salisbury was but what it is. I think that is important.