JU professor is city's new education commissioner

Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette on $1 loan from Jacksonville Univeristy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mayor Alvin Brown announced Tuesday that Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette will serve as Jacksonville's next education commissioner.

Kent-Willette, a Jacksonville University professor will be on loan to the city for the two years to advocate for K-12 public education in Duval County schools.

Kent-Willette succeeded Dr. Donnie Horner, who is ending his two-year term as Brown's first education commissioner -- a senior policy adviser in the administration, reporting directly to the mayor.

As an example of the positive change possible in the position, Kent-Willette cited one of her predecessor's accomplishments.

"We have JROTC in our high schools and football in our middle schools because how successfully Dr. Donnie Horner was able to make sure they had the funding that was needed," Kent-Willette said.

Duval County School Superintendent Nikolai Vitti appreciates having someone inside City Hall looking out for the interests of school children.

"The school district and children need as many advocates as possible, and I think this partnership with the education commissioner is just another example of us working together," Vitti said.

Students who are home-schooled or enrolled in private schools are also included in the commissioner's mandate to positively effect education.

"I want a 100 percent graduation rate in our schools. I don't want any more high school dropouts," Brown said. "I want to make sure in Jacksonville we have a 50 percent of the population have a college degree. Right now it's only 25 percent."

Kent-Willette will work on making more programs like the mentoring program available to Jacksonville students.

Kent-Willette is a three-time First Coast Scholar, selected to teach seminars to K-12 teachers and academic coaches at the Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership in Duval County. She was selected as the 2008 Jacksonville University Woman of the Year, where she has taught as a professor of communications since 2001.

Kent-Willette 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, serving as a vice chair of its Faculty Senate. She began her career as a television reporter.

The Office of the Education Commissioner is funded by public-private partnerships at no cost to taxpayers. Horner, Jacksonville University's chief government and community affairs officer, served on loan to the city at the cost of a ceremonial $1 based on a partnership forged by Brown and former Jacksonville University President Kerry Romesburg.

"We at Jacksonville University are thrilled to be able to provide another highly skilled, passionate advocate for education to our city," said Jacksonville University President Cost. "Dr. Horner made tremendous inroads with the community as the city's founding education commissioner, and I have no doubt that Dr. Kent-Willette will bring the same leadership and talent to this position for our schools and residents."