Interview with Lee Henderson, June 30, 1977

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Interview with Lee Henderson, June 30, 1977
Henderson, Lee ( Interviewee )
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History of Florida Education Oral History Collection ( local )


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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Interviewee: Lee Gibbons Henderson
Interviewer: Art White
June 30, 1977

Lee Henderson was born in Miami, FL, and attended Palm Beach
High School and Palm Beach Junior College. He continued his
college education at the University of Missouri, but returned to
the University of Florida to complete his bachelor's, master's,
and doctorate. After teaching in Brevard and Escambia county
high schools, Henderson was appointed in 1957 as assistant
director of Florida's Division of Community Colleges. In 1968
he was promoted to director, where he still works toward
improving Florida's junior and community colleges.

The Florida legislature was called to a special session in
1967 to deal with junior colleges. A result of that session was
funding for the development of staff and programs in community
colleges. Staff development included continuous training with
regard to their field of interest, student learning styles, and
teaching approaches. Program development included occupational
and vocational programs. It became necessary for community
colleges to develop long-range plans to deal with a changing
student body--from young, full-time students right out of high
school to older, part-time students--and the concomitant physical
needs, such as buildings and other facilities, parking, etc.
Such plans were developed by each individual college, so they
naturally differ from one school to the next.

Community colleges currently face a problem of decreasing
funding from the state. Whereas the funding has in fact
increased, it has not done so at the same rate as enrollment,
creating a net loss per student. Dollars are needed for the
colleges to upgrade and maintain programs to the point where they
can be accredited. A key reason for this shortage is the lack of
an advocacy group to convey the needs of community colleges to
Florida's political leaders. Although they did at one time,
community colleges no longer have a strong voice parallel to the
Board of Education (for elementary and secondary schools) and the
Board of Regents (for the State University System). Henderson
feels that the shortfall in the needs of Florida's community
colleges is political: they are not important enough to warrant
significant attention.



INTERVIEWEE: Lee Gibbons Henderson


June 30, 1977

W: One of the first areas that we will discuss is the innovative
program of research and development or in-service preparation of
community college teachers.

H: Community colleges in Florida do not do research and development
in the same sense as universities, which is pure research or
research applied to industry. Their research is so-called
"institutional research" that is applied to the improvement of
the quality of the educational offerings. It is for internal use
only. For example, we ask ourselves: what kinds of students do
we have? What are their objectives? How do we best serve them?
What is the preparation of our teachers? How can we help them
improve their performance?

One of the significant events in the development of Florida's
community colleges is the presence of a statewide program of
staff and program development. This came about in the special
education session of 1968. The emphasis was largely on public
schools, but the session was designed to move Florida ahead in
education. A number of people who looked at the future of
community colleges and education in general felt that education
was behind other segments of our economy because funds were not
provided out of normal operating budgets for staff development.
At that time, teachers' salaries were based on degrees and
certificates, and the obtaining of those was the responsibility
of the individual teacher. A happy confluence of an idea and a
situation enabled the legislature to pass a law which initially
provided that 3 percent, and later up to 5 percent, of the salary
allocation in the minimum foundation program should be set aside
for staff and program development. That improves the teaching
competencies of the staff. It keeps them current in their own
field, helps them change teaching fields in changing times, helps
them understand and deal with different types of students, and
learn different teaching methods. It also gives the college
funds to assign staff and provide resources for the development
of new programs to meet changing needs in the community.

This program, in my judgment, has been one of the most successful
that we have had. A study of the records since 1968 will show
that we have adapted to a whole new kind of student body: older,
part-time students, with an average age of thirty, compared to
mainly students right out of high school at that time. Dealing
with these older students requires a whole new set of knowledge
and competencies on the part of the teachers. Secondly, at that
time, the colleges were largely academic and had very limited
occupational or community service instruction. Today we have a
tremendous variety of occupational and vocational programs,
continuing education, and community service, many of which have
been developed through the use of staff and program development

This is a unique contribution of Florida. To the best of my
knowledge, we were the first state to have such a program and the
only state to have a statewide program of this nature. Staff and
program development today is an idea whose time has come, and the


people who administer these programs in Florida community
colleges have taken the leadership in selling the ideas to other
states. We currently have a national organization of staff and
program development officers. In administering the program in
Florida, the funds flow directly to the institution. It is an
earmarked part of their regular state appropriation.

When we left the minimum foundation program, the presidents
requested--and we put into rule what had previously been in law--
that 2 percent of the total state allocation be allocated to
staff and program development. The rule requires that the
college develop five-year plans for the use of these funds,
including goals and objectives for staff and program development.
Then they submit to our office annual reports of activities to be
accomplished in pursuit of theses goals and an annual evaluation
of how they feel these activities have succeeded and how
effective they have been. The plans vary significantly from
college to college. Some of them use most of the money in
program development. Some of them put considerable money into
in-service training for career employees as well as professional
staff. There is a wide variety of plans and activities and wide
variations in the way plans are developed.

In terms of planning (to go on to another item very quickly),
since the beginning of the development of community colleges, the
rules have required that the college have a development plan
showing the long-range development of the campus. We have built
buildings, with two exceptions, on a pay-as-you-go basis. The
two exceptions are the downtown center of Florida Junior College
of Jacksonville and the medical center campus of Miami-Dade,
where we built basically a complete campus at one time. Other
than these two instances, we have had funds for only one or two
single buildings per college each biennium, so we have required a
long-range development plan for each campus.

Initially, these plans generally showed simply spatial
relationships: where the first building would be and how it would
relate to future buildings, how the separation of pedestrian and
vehicular traffic would be provided, and things of that nature.
In later years, these have become more sophisticated; they now
include not only spatial relationships, but phasing in of the
campus, recommendations for utilities (including underground
utilities), and a whole variety of ideas that would need to be
accomplished in order to develop a complete campus. The size of
the campus for which the plan was made varied pretty much
depending on the size of the community to be served and the
acreage of the campus. Generally, except for the very small
colleges, campuses have been planned for about 5,000 students.

In addition, the rules require there be a facility survey showing
the facility's needs for the next five years. These are
conducted by the Department of Education and result in a project
priority list, which is the official state Board of Education
authorization to build facilities. The quality and level of
planning varies from college to college. These are two areas of


planning that are required by law. We have encouraged colleges
to do planning for their total operation, and in some colleges
there is a total plan of which these two elements are simply
aspects of the plan. In other colleges these are probably the
only plans that they have.

Recently, in developing our information system, we have tried to
plan in such a way that there would be data available for use by
the individual college--not only for planning purposes, but also
for management evaluation. We recognize that most decisions are
made on the campus level as close as possible to the scene of the
action, and any data system should provide the data necessary to
help management make decisions on that level. So our information
system takes this into account. We then attempt to aggregate
data elements needed for decision making at the college level to
get the data we need for state level or national reporting. In
so doing, we have given some encouragement to colleges to do
financial planning, personnel planning, program planning, and to
develop analyses of their management to indicate areas that they
need to observe and study in terms of staff and program

I would like to go back to two points. One concerned the varying
types and qualities of planning. If you visit the colleges in
Florida, you will find there are twenty-eight different
personalities, each reflecting the mores, expectations, and
values of their own communities. The same is true for planning
and in staff and program development--there are twenty-eight
different personalities. Each plan responds to the particular
set of circumstances of that college. While we may have some
general statewide priorities, the ways in which these are
implemented will vary from college to college. The staff and
program development plans are developed to meet the needs of that
particular college. Each school sets its own priorities,
identifies its own needs, uses different people to plan, develops
different goals, and uses different activities to accomplish
those goals. The same is generally true in the planning process.
They are twenty-eight uniquely different yet similar

A question was raised about the extent to which the division
evaluated staff and program development plans or other aspects of
the college's operation. We believe very strongly that most
decisions should be made at the scene of the action, and that the
local board is responsible for making quality decisions and then
for being accountable to the appropriate state agency for how
well they do. So rather than doing a specific evaluation of
staff and program development or other operations, we have
attempted to prescribe a management style that will enable
colleges and help boards to make good decisions. It would
encourage them to get full information prior to making their
decisions, and then later to evaluate that decision and be
accountable to the public for the decisions made. We believe
that all expertise does not reside at a higher level of
government, but that given a management system, local boards can


and will make the best possible decisions to meet the educational
needs of their communities.

The twenty-eight different personalities, I think, come through
in varying ways. On staff and program development, some of the
colleges have developed rather sophisticated evaluation
procedures to make sure that what they do is effective. Others
have simply done some rather informal subjective evaluation. I
think it is fair to say that some of the planning and evaluation
is simply done to meet the requirements of the rule. Others have
internalized this activity into a management system and have very
sincerely looked for ways of planning, implementing, and
evaluating in order to have the most efficient college they can.
There is a wide variety of ways in which the colleges implement
these things, and I think it is our role as a state agency to
recognize these different levels of expectancies and help the
colleges move ahead in terms of management efficiency and
planning so they can better meet the needs of the students in
their communities.

One of the limitations of our staff and program development plan
was that at the beginning some persons really felt this was a
faculty benefit plan instead of a staff development plan. Out of
that have come some objectives such as sabbaticals and so forth,
which are designed more for the personal benefit of the faculty
rather than for their improved functioning as a staff member or
delivery of educational services. That is one area we continue
to work on: to make sure these funds were expended to improve the
performance of staff. Toward that end we have worked with
colleges and have put out publications dealing with selection,
retention, evaluation, and in-service training, and, if
necessary, dismissal of faculty members. We have tried jointly
to develop an organized system to improve the performance and
competence of not only faculty members, but all personnel in
college. It is designed to be a supportive and cooperative
involvement rather than a heavy-handed administrative evaluation.
In my judgment, the staff and program development fund should be
utilized in that way, and we should look to the legislature for
adequate funding of staff benefits and staff fringe benefits,
rather than utilize staff and program development funds for this

With regard to the financial aspects of the 1977 legislature,
while it looked on the surface as though community colleges fared
fairly well in comparison with other segments of education by
percentage increase in dollars, actually we took another step
backwards. Community colleges had an increase of funds from
$161.5 million to $179.3 million. The great majority of this was
based on increased enrollment, however; the increase per student
was only about 5.8 percent. The net result was that compared
with other segments of education--both public schools and
universities--we fell further behind. Our funding level per
student is less than that for comparable courses in the
university system, and in most areas is less than the secondary
schools from which we draw our students. Over the past several


years our funding in terms of real dollars has continued to
decline to the point that we are reaching a real crisis.

We are having difficulty with accreditation in some specialized
programs, and there is more and more evidence that a lack of
adequate funding is affecting the quality of the program. We did
propose a new funding process to try to make sure that the funds
available were being distributed in such a way that we received
the most bang for the buck. We had used strictly a cost-based
funding formula with cost computed for thirty-two different
categories and colleges of two sizes--large and small. We
proposed moving to a more sophisticated process that grouped
colleges into about ten categories and made the assumption that
within each of these categories the fixed cost would be the same
for all the colleges, while the variable costs would vary in
accordance with the number of students enrolled. This plan was
passed by the senate but not by the house, so we still feel we
have inequities in the way funds are distributed.

Funding of post-secondary education probably reached its highest
level in 1972. Subsequent to that time, the whole public
attitude toward post-secondary education has been declining.
This has been accelerated by severe recession in Florida. Also,
post-secondary education--and that includes universities and
community colleges--no longer had the high level of public
support that we had in the past. The opinion was neutral instead
of positive, which resulted in decreased levels of funding.

W: Why did the support go? Why did the public change their mind
about higher education, especially community colleges, which are
really beloved institutions?

H: Community colleges are still a beloved institution, but I think
several things happened. First, all education is struggling with
the loss of confidence in public schools because of disruptions
caused by desegregation efforts and other sources. In the
universities, some of the disruptions caused by Vietnam
protesters has resulted in a general lack of confidence in public
education. These ideas are not focused on community colleges per
se, but we are caught in the backlash of it. A second fact,
which goes along with this attitude, was that Florida had a very
severe recession, and when legislatures had to make priorities,
they clearly said they wanted to make priorities in improving the
quality of mandatory public education. I think a third thing
that has hurt education in general is that there are other items
that are of more concern to the public. It is clear that the
whole matter of criminal justice (look at rising crime rates) has
been of more concern to the public than good education. Also,
the spiraling cost of government and a sort of a miniature tax
revolt have indicated that the public does not want to spend more
money, and education is still one of the biggest elements of cost
of state government. So all these things have wrapped up
together to create a rather negative impact on education.


One reason that this has impacted especially hard on community
colleges, I think, is that during this time we have lacked a
strong agency to advocate community colleges. During the early
development years, there was the Community College Council, which
later became the State Junior College Board and was placed under
the Board of Education. The council was responsible for the
development plan, the starting of new colleges, and for giving
general direction, leadership, support, and interpretation of the
program to the public. This was a very effective lay board that
did emphasize the development of the entire system.

Under the Governmental Reorganization Act of 1968, the prevalent
idea was that we had to have fewer agencies and we had to
pinpoint accountability for governmental agencies. So the
Community College Board was wiped out and was made an advisory
council, and the director of the Division of Community Colleges
was assigned full responsibility to be accountable for what
happened in the community college system. We moved along for a
time on inertia, but with the events just enumerated in regard to
funding, it is becoming increasingly clear that no single
appointive individual or position can carry the same impact
publicly or can be as effective an advocate as can a board of
prominent citizens. This is especially true as we look at the
relationship of the division to the Department of Education.

I think we have suffered because of the fact that we did not have
a board like the Board of Regents, which has been a very eloquent
and effective advocate for the [State] University System. There
are organizations of elected superintendents and elected school
board members who have a substantial political base on the local
level and are very effective advocates of the public school
system. The community colleges have been caught between these
two systems. While we have made real progress in developing the
Florida Association of Community Colleges as an advocate, it is
an advocate of concerned employees and institutions, not of
prominent lay citizens who could articulate to the press and the
public the message that "these colleges are good. They are doing
a good job, and as a citizen I want to speak out for them." This
to me is probably the significant and major important issue
remaining to be resolved.

If community colleges are not given some sort of strong official
advocacy group, I think that in spite of the effectiveness of our
operation, we will continue to be less favored and at a
competitive disadvantage to other segments of education. I think
there are reasons for a reinstatement of a strong board other
than the advocacy role. If we are to continue to improve our
operation, there needs to be a lay group with the responsibility
for objectively looking at accountability standards, the way
colleges perform their functions, and, from the strong,
impartial, unbiased position of a lay board, can speak
specifically to colleges if there are areas that need to be


The current state Board of Education is not structured to do
this. The state Board of Education, which over the years has
given remarkable leadership to education in Florida, suffers from
board members, such as the governor and cabinet officials, who
have so many responsibilities that they do not have time to study
specific agendas. They simply delegate them to aides. In the
present process, there is no one at the rule-making level who is
able to evaluate at a proposal in terms of the impact on the
operation of a particular college or campus. There is nobody who
has the time or the inclination to look at accountability
standards. There has to be some type of quality control at the
state level. The responsibility is and should be placed with
local governing boards, but somebody has to review those local
boards, and if they should fall down, [some higher authority
should] be objective, strong, and impartial enough to say, "In
this area you need to improve." I think that at this particular
stage in our development what we need most is the reestablishment
of a state community college board composed of prominent citizens
who can deal with providing adequate funds, the quality of
programs, and interpreting these to the public.

In this matter of advocacy, I am part of a larger DOE [Department
of Education] team, which is part of the commissioner's team.
The commissioner must weigh the needs and desires of the state
system of public education concerning legislative dollars and on
legislative action. The commissioner always attempts to be fair
and to treat people equally. However, I think it is clear that
with the great size and the preponderance of public school
education, not only in terms of dollars, but in terms of students
and the active interest of a great number of parents and school
board members, he clearly gets more input and pressure from this
sector. [So public education has a powerful advocacy.] The
universities have a very effective Board of Regents. They also
appeal to broader statewide goals such as research, industrial
development, and the agricultural community. They have
significant input into the commissioner that twenty-eight
individual colleges with trustees appointed by a single governor
simply do not have. The commissioner has always given me full
hearing and has been fair, and I do not feel in any way that
colleges have been discriminated against. But I do feel that in
terms of competition for the state's educational dollars, other's
needs have been expressed in far more effective forums than have
the community colleges. I also feel that if we are to play an
effective role in the implementation of our accountability
standards that there must be an independent body free from any
political pressure or influence to administer such standards. We
therefore need to reestablish the state community college board
or something similar to that agency which was so effective in
providing leadership and direction to the community college
system during its developing years, from 1955 to 1968.

W: Is there some kind of law that says that division heads or state
governments related to particular areas of state government
cannot lobby on their own, cannot go to legislatures? I
mentioned that the last time I spoke.


H: I think the limitations are more practical than legal.

W: What do you mean, legal?

H: We have to register as a lobbyist; several members of the staff
and I are registered lobbyists. But the practical considerations
make it onerous because of the limited time we have available for
lobbying. It is necessary to maintain relationships with other
elements of the educational system and the legislative program of
the Department of Education.

There has been a change in the priorities of state level leaders
over the years. Tom Bailey [Florida superintendent of public
instruction, 1949-1965] gave tremendous verbal impetus, as well
as all kinds of encouragement to the development of community
colleges. That was a case of an idea whose time had come. As we
looked down the road, it was clear that more and more public
school children would be graduating with no place to continue
post-secondary education. It did not take anybody with great
wisdom to look at those figures and realize that the great
majority of our high school graduates would have no place to go.
So this was an idea whose time had come, and it was popular

It was popular with the public because people had children who
were thinking about college accessibility and college costs.
Many of these people were from families with no previous history
of college attendance, and they had high hopes that their
children could move ahead. Over the years, the majority of our
students have come from such families. So politically it was
very popular to talk about community colleges and the fact that
children could stay at home and get the first part of a
baccalaureate degree.

Once the colleges were established, however, the thrill was gone.
They were accepted; they were here; they were provided
opportunities. It is quite interesting that subsequent to 1968
or 1970, when the last college was started, enrollments in the
colleges have more than doubled without starting new colleges.
Simply because they were there they were asked to serve more and
more people, but they did not have the great public appeal that
starting a new college had. That may be one more reason why we
have had such severe financial problems. We are not talking
about starting something new; we are talking about increasing the
size of existing institutions. The addition of a new campus at
Jacksonville will serve more students than did the starting of
the first dozen community colleges, but will not generate nearly
the same public interest or support of a single new college.

Over the years there has been a gradual change. The emphases of
leadership at the state level has been different. Subsequent to
Mr. Bailey, Mr. [Floyd T.] Christian [Florida superintendent of
public instruction, 1965-1975] and Mr. [Ralph D.] Turlington
[Florida commissioner of education, 1974-1986] recognized that


the community college system is one of the most significant
components of Florida education. But politically it simply has
not had the pizzazz that it had previously, and for some very
good reasons. There are people who think that it is an area that
is being adequately cared for because we are no longer the
squeaky wheel. Public concern has been in other areas, such as
the quality of graduates from public schools and things of this
nature. Community colleges do not have that sort of dramatic,
out-front leadership that the colleges had in the early days of
their development, and for very good reasons.