Training of School LeadersBY Kendra HamiltonKeeping the appointment book for Dr. Dorothy S. Strickland is no task for the faint-hearted. In one whirlwind week recently, she spoke before “the father of Head Start” at Yale University, to a group called Kids Count and to another group at the Carnegie Corp.
Still to come are sessions in Miami and Detroit, presenting at the Early Childhood Academies that the Bush administration is sponsoring across the nation as part of its “No Child Left Behind” Act — and perhaps another trip down to Washington to consult with staffers drafting legislation to be co-sponsored by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the co-chairs of the Senate Education Committee.
So it’s no wonder that when Rutgers University decided to establish an endowed chair and name it after the late Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, a legendary African American professor at the graduate school of education, the selection committee chose Strickland to take the post.
After all, according to Rutgers officials, the Proctor chair was created to promote leadership training and the advancement of teachers in urban school systems, areas in which Strickland — once a fourth-grade teacher in the East Orange schools and now a scholar with an international reputation and an adviser to Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush — has more than a little expertise.
And Strickland, who joined the Rutgers faculty in 1990, vows that she will do everything in her power to “further Sam Proctor’s vision.
“We’ll be keeping our focus on literacy,” she says. “Sam and I both share a concern for children who aren’t doing well, who are underserved in terms of what their schools can offer them. But my hope is also to link the leadership which Sam was known for fostering with our literacy initiatives” in order to start nurturing the next generation of school principals and superintendents, Strickland explains.
While the national teacher shortage has long been in the headlines, it’s less well known that there’s also a dearth of school leaders that’s nearing a critical point. “No one wants to be a school principal or even a superintendent anymore. You would think (teachers) would see it as a wonderful steppingstone in their careers, but the work is so intensive and there is so much scrutiny,” in the current environment especially, Strickland says, that many promising young people appear daunted.
The Proctor endowment, however, includes a mechanism to identify that next generation of school leaders. The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Scholars Program provides funding to support two graduate students who plan to work with children in underserved New Jersey schools. And the first two students have already been chosen: Kedra Gamble, a doctoral student in literacy education, who has been given a full tuition and stipend package; and Barbara Moncada, a fifth-year student who will receive grant support during her student-teaching semester.
In addition to the Scholars Program, the Proctor endowment will support two additional programs:
• the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Collaborative Program, designed to foster collaboration between public and private organizations working toward Proctor’s favored goals of equity, excellence, diversity and leadership in education; and
• the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Colloquium Series, designed to bring world-class scholars to Rutgers in Proctor’s favored areas of equity and social justice in education.
Through these efforts, Rutgers affirms its vision of Proctor as a “great man,” as Dr. Francis L. Lawrence, the university’s president, recently described him. Proctor was the Martin Luther King Jr. professor of education at Rutgers from 1969 through 1984 and served as pastor of New York City’s Abyssinian Baptist Church for much of that period as well. An adviser to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and an associate director of the Peace Corps, he was also president of Virginia Union and North Carolina A&T State universities.
Rutgers has had other chairs named for African Americans, but the Proctor chair will be both the first endowed chair at the Graduate School of Education and the first endowed chair at Rutgers established to honor an African American. Strickland, in accepting the four-year appointment, becomes the first African American woman to hold an endowed chair at Rutgers.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com