7th Annual John E. Baker Dinner Is This Friday, Continuing Its Work to Close Opportunity Gaps in Local Schools by Increasing Faculty Diversity

Closing the opportunity gap for students who attend local public schools was the vision of a diverse group of citizens in 2004 that formed the African American Teaching Fellows (AATF). Led by John E. Baker, a prominent community leader and a former chair of the Albemarle County School Board, the new organization sought to increase the number of teachers of color in local schools.

The AATF is a 501(c)(3) organization that recruits teaching candidates of color from throughout the Commonwealth. Fellows receive up to $5,000 scholarship per year for each year they agree to teach in either the Charlottesville City or Albemarle County school division, up to a maximum of three years.

Since 2004, the organization has provided nearly $300,000 in tuition support to college students to enable them to pursue their teaching license based upon their commitment to teach in local public schools. Over 40 students have completed its program.

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 teachers of color to students in local school divisions is 122:1 according to AATF.

One of the primary sources of AATF funding, the John E. Baker Legacy Dinner, is this Friday, November 10, at the Farmington County Club.

“High achieving organizations benefit from a deep and wide talent pool,” said Will Harvey, Chair of the Baker Dinner. “The same is true of communities. Our mission is to deepen the faculty talent pool in our schools so that all students benefit from the broader diversity of life experiences that teachers bring to the classroom,” he added.

Harvey said this year’s dinner has been sold out, but that contributions to support future teachers can be made through the organization’s website at https://www.aatf.org.

The keynote speaker for this Friday’s celebration is Professor Martin N. Davidson, who is the Johnson & Higgins Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Business, the Darden School. Professor Davidson is the school’s Senior Associate Dean and its Global Chief Diversity Officer.

An advisor to businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, Professor Davidson’s expertise includes the strategic use of diversity to achieve high performance.

In addition to honoring the African American Teaching Fellows who serve in Albemarle County and Charlottesville City public schools, the Baker dinner also recognizes four members of the community for leadership excellence.

This year, Maxine Holland is receiving the John E. Baker Community Education Award for her contributions to achieving equity in learning opportunities for local students, dating back to her service a generation ago as an Albemarle High School teacher.

Toan Nyguen will receive the John E. Baker Legacy Award for his leadership in closing opportunity gaps in the marketplace through his establishment of the Community Investment Collaborative. The Collaborative supports budding entrepreneurs through a combination of mentoring, micro-lending, and networking.

Two former Baker-Butler Elementary School students are selected each year to receive leadership awards for their service to classmates during the 2016-17 school year. At Friday’s dinner, Teddy Mathews and Amaya Baker will receive awards.

“John would be so proud of the success of the African American Teaching Fellows and of everyone who has been such a valued supporter of its mission. We are so grateful for the increasing support from our community that has made our faculty stronger and continues to enrich the quality of the learning environment. This is a dream come true for John,” said Marie Coles Baker.

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.