Following the Freeways to Fresno

A Brief History of the California Association Of Professors of Educational Administration
Howard B. Holt, San Diego State University 

It was with great pleasure that I attended the meeting of the California Association of Professors of Educational Administration (CAPEA) at Fresno April 14 and 15, 1989, since I was present for the very first one. It was in either 1963 or 64, a fallible memory being the only source for these reflections. Actually there had been meetings of professors in the field in earlier years held in conjunction with a state administrators annual conference, but they were later discontinued. In about 1962, a group of people decided it was time to renew them. Recollections fail to produce the names of all those involved in the decision to meet, but Orley Wilcox volunteered to host at Fresno and Stan Williams from Long Beach served as first president. We didn’t have a name for several years, but eventually we became the Association of California College Professors of Educational Administration. That produced the acronym “ACCPEA,” which some thought sounded like a skin disease, and eventually the title was adopted.

I have entitled this piece, Following the Freeways to Fresno,” both for the alliterative quality and because for those of us from San Diego the trip is something we have no problem recalling. For the San Diegans, it is a 700-mile round trip, about 12 hours of driving time. Spending that much time on the road in order to attend seven or so hours of meetings represents either professional dedication or masochism. Most faculties carpooled, providing time for free-ranging discussions on a variety of subjects, some of them professional.

The location of the meeting has been the subject of much discussion over the years. Fresno was chosen because it was more or less central in the State. We have held some sessions in the north or south, but usually these were for some special purpose. The decision was always, just as in 1989, that Fresno is about the best location and the hosts are truly magnificent.

The format for the sessions has remained remarkably consistent through the years. There is a luncheon at noon on Friday, followed by meetings lasting until about five o’clock. In the early days, there was nothing planned following that -each was free to seek food and libations wherever available. For some of us, there was another function- a poker game. (A couple of us used to claim that the folks from Los Angeles make it possible for us to have steak and eggs for breakfast.) The past several years there has usually been a planned social hour followed by a visit to a well-known local restaurant. Saturday meetings lasted until noon, with those of us who had long distances to travel trying to end matters as soon as possible.

Meeting content has also been consistent. There have been speakers from local school districts, the administrator associations, the State University Chancellor’s Office, the credentials commission, or others who had something of interest to discuss with us. There were scheduled and unscheduled discussions of matters of common interest, most often the latest credential revision or policy from “on high.” One of the best features of the meetings was the singular lack of territorial imperatives, even among those who shared constituencies. It was and is a great place to share ideas, questions, problems and aspirations.

From time to time we have attempted to wield influence on the State legislature, the State Department of Education, and Chancellor’s Office, the Commission of Teacher Aid or the State administrators’ association. We are quite powerless, but often we have been able to move people in our direction. It should be pointed out that we were originally virtually all from the State University system, hence many of our concerns were with that body. When a new credentialing regulation for administrators was proposed, we were able to get together, write some amended regulations and see them adopted with somewhat different language but with our ideas intact. In another instance, we were able to keep authorization for the then superintendent’s credential despite an effort to restrict it to universities offering the doctorate. Our victories were few, but in many cases vital.

Another commonality of the group was that we were almost all male. One or two courageous women per meeting was about the most we could claim. In contrast, there were fourteen women present at the spring meeting of 1989.

What else has changed and what has remained the same over these 25 years? The faces are obviously different—I was the only one present in 1989 who had been at the first meeting. We now see many from private institutions so that the group is much more widely representative of the profession. Steps were taken to make this more of a formal organization, rather than just a meeting. This publication, more formal bylaws and structure and the call for a more pro-active stance were all evidence of this, discussed at the spring, 1989 session. Discussion topics have not changed, other than in detail. Our concerns regarding program quality and potential changes in credential requirements have been expressed at every session. Another feature has not changed, the lack of luxury transportation. In the 1960’s we negotiated the freeways in ancient Dodge Darts which already had 75,000 hard miles on the odometer. In 1989, it was Ray Latta’s ancient VW Rabbit with 150,000 miles, since there wasn’t even an old Dart available from State sources.

As a member of dozens of professional groups and a participant in thousands of meetings, CAPEA remains at the very top of my list. As experiences which provide the support, information, comradery and renewal that are so necessary in any successful professional endeavor, the Fresno meetings have been worth every miserable freeway mile.