Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Teacher recruitment program will put more African-American men in Florida elementary schools

Roy Jones, project director for the Call Me Mister ProgramCall Me MISTER is a program to increase the pool of teachers from a broader, more diverse background, particularly among the lowest-performing elementary schools. The program is based at Clemson University, where it was founded with an original goal of doubling the number of African-American men in South Carolina’s elementary schools.
Call Me MISTER soon will be in seven states.

In Florida, where less than 1 percent of elementary teachers are black men, the program will be housed with the North East Florida Educational Consortium (NEFEC), and initially delivered at five community colleges, mostly in the northeastern part of the state. As the participants — the Misters — finish their first two years of school, they will transfer to three senior-level colleges taking part in Call Me MISTER: the University of Florida, the University of North Florida and Bethune-Cookman University.

The Misters are largely selected from under-served, socioeconomically disadvantaged and educationally at-risk communities. After graduation, they are expected to return to critical-need schools.

“I am elated about this program that addresses the shortage of minority males in the classroom. In my 11 years of recruiting teachers, particularly minorities, there has not been any initiative that empowers, encourages and excels like Call Me MISTER,” said Ulysees L. Gilbert II, coordinator of educator recruitment at NEFEC. “We are blessed to have this program in our state and many thanks to Rep. Joe Pickens — now the next president of St. Johns River Community College — for making it happen financially.”

Pickens arranged for a presentation to Gov. Charlie Crist’s chief of staff, which, with the cooperation of Education Commissioner Eric Smith, led to a one-year $300,000 appropriation for the program.

“I am thrilled at the opportunity to bring this program to Florida,” said Pickens. “I know firsthand that we don’t have enough black male teachers to be role models for a significant segment of our student population.”

As a former school board attorney, Pickens said he observed the shortage for many years.

Call Me MISTER’s director says the program has a proven track record for recruiting and training, and that original goal of doubling the numbers in South Carolina will be exceeded with the graduation of 100 Misters currently enrolled in the program.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the state of Florida and Call Me MISTER,” said Roy Jones, who oversees the program from his office at Clemson University. “Call Me MISTER in Florida will take things to a new level. It will become a national model for teacher recruitment.”

The first cohort of Misters in Florida will begin in January with 25, five each at St. Johns Community College in Palatka, the host college for the program; Florida Community College in Jacksonville; Lake City Community College; Central Florida Community College in Ocala; and North Florida Community College in Madison.

Call Me MISTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) is licensed through Clemson University. License fees are reinvested into the management and further development of the program.

Call Me MISTER can be found in Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia, in addition to South Carolina, where it is available to young men in 13 institutions of higher education across the state. An agreement for a program in Kentucky is pending.


CONTACT: Roy Jones, 864-656-7915 CONTACT: Ulysses L. Gilbert, 386-329-3800 WRITER: Ross Norton, 864-656-4810 WEB: Clemson Home

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