Selecting an award-winning communicator and educator to provide a seamless transition in the city’s efforts to improve its schools, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown announced Tuesday, Sept. 3, that Jacksonville University Professor of Communications Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette will be his next Education Commissioner.
Dr. Kent-Willette will serve on-loan from JU for a term of two years, advocating for top-tier education and schools for the city. She succeeds Dr. Donnie Horner, JU management professor and now the University’s Chief Government and Community Affairs Officer.
“As a parent, accomplished professional and educator, Dr. Kent-Willette brings passion and insight into this important role to build partnerships and advocate for quality education throughout Jacksonville,” Brown said. “We’ve already made great progress with efforts to build mentorship, expose more young people to the possibility of college and promote financial literacy for all ages. We must continue to intensify our focus and work together. The Education Commissioner plays a key role.”
The Education Commissioner advocates for education in the community, with a focus on K-12. Special emphasis is placed on improving schools by engaging with all partners having a stake in education in the community, including individuals, the public and private sectors, non-profits, foundations, philanthropists and community activists.
"I welcome the chance to represent JU, work with Mayor Brown and continue the great work of Dr. Horner as I advocate for quality education in our city,” Dr. Kent-Willette said. “As an educator, I believe we all must work together so students have extraordinary opportunities for educational success. I thank President Cost for his support and commitment to the greater Jacksonville community."
Dr. Kent-Willette, a JU professor since 2001 who received her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of North Florida, has a strong commitment to education and scholarship. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in communications from the University of South Florida. Dr. Kent-Willette, a native of Baltimore, brings senior-level, award-winning media and communications skills to her new role with the city. She has successfully developed and managed strategic communications, public image campaigns and community partnerships, and has a strong background in qualitative research.
A former television journalist, Dr. Kent-Willette teaches a variety of communications and service-learning classes domestically and internationally. She was selected as a First Coast Scholar to teach seminars to K-12 teachers and academic coaches at the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership in Duval County. Dr. Kent-Willette has been honored for outstanding service to the community, was selected as the 2008 Jacksonville University Woman of the Year, serves as the higher education representative to the board of the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters, and has been an active leader in JU's shared governance.
“We at Jacksonville University are pleased to once again provide a highly skilled, passionate advocate for education to our city,” said JU President Tim Cost. “Dr. Kent-Willette will bring her high energy, leadership and vision to this very important position for our schools and residents.”
Accomplishments as part of Mayor Brown's education initiatives during Dr. Horner's tenure include:
· Establishing the Learn2Earn summer program through private funding to immerse well over 200 high school students in the college experience.
· Initiating College Student Aid Workshops to help aspiring college students receive financial aid.
· Starting the Mayor's Mentors program with nonprofits to pair more than 600 new mentors with students in Duval County Public Schools.
· Preserving middle school football from funding cuts and organizing efforts to raise more than $200,000 in private funds to save JROTC programs in four local high schools.
The Education Commissioner reports directly to Mayor Brown and acts as his senior policy advisor for all matters pertaining to education. The Office of the Education Commissioner operates at no cost to the taxpayers of Duval County.Dr. Horner’s term began July 8, 2011, serving on-loan at the cost of a ceremonial $1 from Jacksonville University in an agreement between the city and JU.
Contact: Phillip Milano, JU Director of News and Publications, (904) 256-7042, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Lauren Bankert, Jacksonville Mayor’s Office, (904) 630-3463, LBankert@coj.net.