DATE: September 28, 2018
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
Eighth Annual John E. Baker Dinner Is Friday, October 5: Continuing the Work of the African American Teaching Fellows to Close Opportunity Gaps in Local Schools by Increasing Faculty Diversity
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – The eighth annual John E. Baker Legacy Dinner, dedicated to raising funds to increase the number of African American teachers in local public schools, will be held on October 5 this year at Farmington Country Club.
The Legacy dinner is the primary fundraiser for the African American Teaching Fellows (AATF), which, since 2004, has provided more than $315,000 in tuition support to African American college students, enabling them to earn their teaching license in local public schools. This year, more than 250 supporters will attend the dinner.
Fellows receive a scholarship of up to a $5,000 for each year they agree to teach in either the Charlottesville City or Albemarle County school divisions, up to a maximum of three years. To date, 42 Fellows have completed the program.
“Among the most significant issues in public education today are student academic achievement gaps that exist among ethnic groups. Research shows teachers are among the most powerful influences on a student’s ability to learn. Expanding the number of African American teachers in our classrooms to more closely approximate student populations can help to close these gaps. All students benefit from the broader diversity of life experiences teachers bring to the classroom, and African American students especially become more engaged in school when there are more teachers that look like them,” said Will Harvey, Chair of the Baker Dinner.
Currently, in Charlottesville City and Albemarle County, AATF says there are 10 students for every teacher, but only one of 10 teachers is an African American. The ratio of African American teachers to students in local school divisions is 122:1, according to AATF. “In our increasingly interconnected world,” the organization says, “Tomorrow’s leaders must be collaborative thinkers, global citizens who embrace diversity. They will be expected to bridge cultures and continents and believe that leaders come from all walks of life,” it adds.
Harvey said this year’s dinner has been sold out, but that contributions to support future teachers can be made through the organization’s web site at https://www.aatf.org.
The keynote speaker for this Friday’s celebration is poet and educator, Kwame Alexander. Alexander is a New York Times best-selling author who uses his writing to inspire young people to believe in their power to excel. He’s written 28 books, is a regular contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition, and he conducts writing workshops and literacy and cultural exchange programs around the world.
In addition to honoring African American Teaching Fellows, the Baker Dinner celebrates four members of the community for the impact of their leadership and public service.
The recipient of the John E. Baker Legacy Award is Mozell Booker, a former Charlottesville City Schools teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent who now is now a member of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors. The Legacy Award recognizes an individual whose life work has emphasized the importance of quality education for all children in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville.
Darrell Rose will receive the John E. Baker Community Education Award in recognition of the impact he has had in using music to explain how celebrating cultural diversity enriches the potential of an entire community for greatness. Rose has taught many thousands of children over a long career as an adjunct to a long list of public and private schools in Virginia. As a drummer, he is an Artist in Residence for the Virginia Commission for the Arts and is associated with the University of Virginia’s Center for Global Health.
Two former Baker-Butler Elementary School students are selected each year to receive leadership awards for their service to classmates during the 2017-18 school year. At next Friday’s dinner, Nadine Alexander and Milo Charles, now Sutherland Middle School students, will be honored.
John E. Baker was the first African American elected to the Albemarle County School Board. In a joint resolution by the Virginia House of Delegates, it was noted that Baker “gave his time and immense talents to numerous civic organizations, including the Red Cross, the Charlottesville/Albemarle Community Foundation Advisory Committee, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Charlottesville/ Albemarle Youth Orchestra, and the African American Teaching Fellows.” The County’s Baker-Butler Elementary School is named in his honor, as well as James Butler.
“John would be so proud of the success of the African American Teaching Fellows and the emphasis of this event on community service and education. We are so grateful for the difference that the organization is making in improving the quality of the learning environment for all. This is a dream come true for John,” said Marie Coles Baker, a founding board member of the African American Teaching Fellows.