Selmer O. Wake

Director of Adult Education, Santa Barbara City College, 1958-72
Director of Adult Education, Santa Barbara HSD, 1947-58
Teacher, Santa Barbara High School District, 1939-47

Community colleges as providers of adult education.
Excerpt from an interview with:
May 6, 1995
Santa Barbara, California

In Santa Barbara, the adult education program is a part of the community college district, but that has not always been true. What can you tell me about the changes in governance of the adult education program?


Yes, I'd like to clear up something about that. Many of my colleagues up and down the state, when they discovered that the program was switched from the high school district to the college district, they were quite angry about it because the program was rather prominent in the state and they thought well of it. But the situation is different in Santa Barbara. There are only two school districts, I believe, in the state of California that have our kind of administrative structure. That is, at the high school district, the board of education which governs the high school district and the elementary district, they'll do all the work for the high school district and then adjourn and reorganize as a group to govern the elementary district.

So the adult education program was in the high school district for twelve years under my administration, and the high school at that time could organize community colleges they called them junior college at that time. So the high school wanted to develop a junior college in Santa Barbara again, and that gave them the opportunity to assess 35 cents on the tax rate. They needed the money. So one of the real reasons they developed the junior college to begin with was it was a revenue source for them. So they organized the junior college in 1946, and I was hired in the spring of 1947 as the first administrator in the new college, the first one to be employed, and [it] was a part of a community institute. When they organized the junior college, they had the big adult education program, they had the university extension of UCSB [University of California, Santa Barbara], and they had the [small] junior college.

The junior college was very small, and so they said, "Well, gee, to justify some of this tax money, we'd better move that [apprenticeship] program over to the junior college to give it some base." So the largest program of the junior college the first couple years was the big apprenticeship program because of all the soldiers coming back from the war [World War II] joining the apprenticeship programs. And I was administering that. And when they wanted to transfer the entire apprenticeship program to the junior college to boost its enrollment, I felt sorry for the lady that was in charge of the program, Grace Ruth Southwick, because she had subsidized real small [apprenticeship] classes for all these years, and now that it had built up, then they wanted to take it away from adult education and put it in the junior college. So that happened for a few years, and then they decided that…. They hired their first new president of the college after a couple of years, and he thought that he'd like to have the total adult education program in the junior college.

Now, remember the junior college was still in the high school district, and that's the way it was according to state law at that time. And I opposed it, the Advisory Council opposed it, but we were under the direction of the board of education and the superintendent and the president of the college. So I invited the superintendent to address the Advisory Council. He was quite nervous about it because he knew the opposition, but he promised that the adult education program would take over the evening college program for adults and that there would be absolutely no change in what we had been doing in past years. So the Advisory Council pretty much relaxed, I agreed to do it, and then they brought me in and made me the administrative dean of the adult education [and evening college] program.