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Nidiffer admits quote correct, dumb mistake

A.L. Lotts principal Fred Nidiffer proclaimed he is a smart aleck.

His sense of humor recently got him into trouble when he made a controversial comment about the Knox County School Coupon Book Campaign.

“It was entirely facetious, and I thought I made that clear,” Nidiffer said of his comment to the media that parents who love their children should help them sell coupon books.

He was quoted as saying: “We tell the kids, if your parents really love you the way they say they do, here’s a chance for them to prove it.”

Nidiffer readily admitted he was not misquoted, but insisted he has never said anything resembling the quoted remark to his students.“If I really practiced (as A.L. Lotts school principal) that way I would have been run out of this community eleven years ago . . . nobody would put up with that,” he said.

Nidiffer sent a follow-up letter of explanation and apology for publication, aimed at concerned parents. He noted that none of the complaints have come from A.L. Lotts Elementary School parents, “because they know my dumb mistakes are not for lack of love for the kids. I’m stupid, but I’m not mean.”

Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Lindsey said Nidiffer is an accomplished and respected school administrator, who “has all of the skills one expects from an accomplished and respected school administrator.”

Under Nidiffer’s decades of leadership as principal, levels of student achievement at A.L. Lotts Elementary, Blue Grass Elementary, and Cedar Bluff Intermediate Schools consistently ranked among the highest in the system locally, at the state level, and nationally.

Nidiffer said The Tennessee Department of Education measures performance for every student, including how much they gain academically from one year to the next. The State Incentive Awards are given to schools that meet or exceed the state-set goals for achievement.

A.L. Lotts Elementary School has received the State Incentive Award for student achievement every year since 1998. The program began in 1994.

Nidiffer said of all his accomplishments, he is proudest of his selection in 2000 as the Tennessee PTA’s Tennessee Outstanding Principal. Nidiffer said the recognition affirmed his belief about what his job should be, which he said is to create a school of academic excellence and love for children.

“Fred Nidiffer is the epitome of a great principal,” Lindsey said. “He understands and genuinely cares for his students and their parents. In a school with over one thousand students, Fred even manages to know all of his students by name.”

After 33 years of teaching and administration experience, Nidiffer said retirement is an option available to him anytime he decides to step down. However, he doesn’t expect to retire anytime soon.

“I still have a great passion for doing this job,” Nidiffer said of his role as principal at Lotts Elementary School. “I feel like I’ve been called to do it, and I have something to give to the kids.

This job allows me to work with one thousand of the neatest little kids in the world, and that is what motivates me to get up every morning.”

In addition, Nidiffer said the once-a-year opportunity to dress in costume as a motivational tool for the School Coupon Book Campaign has always been a highlight for him.

For 13 years, Nidiffer has celebrated the ending of the campaign by presenting himself to the student body as a variety of characters. In past years, Nidiffer has been seen as everything from Barney the purple dinosaur to Elvis Presley.

This year the Lotts Elementary School community sold a school record of 10,600 coupon books. In recognition of the accomplishment, Nidiffer dressed as Gandolf from “Lord of the Rings” movie fame.

“That was one of the best days of the year for me,” Nidiffer recalled of his time spent on the school’s rooftop as Gandolf. “It’s fun to dress up, wave at kids all day, not do any work, and still get paid for it.”

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