Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Looking for Balance Parents Want Male Principal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Looking for Balance Parents Want Male Principal

Article excerpt

It was nothing personal, Mary Young said, when she told Matthew

Gilbert Middle School's new principal she didn't want her there.

Principal Patricia Willis' job performance was fine, Young

said, "but you're not a man."

Young and others have circulated a petition seeking the return

of the school's principal, Quentin Messer, because they say

Matthew Gilbert's African-American male students need a role

model who resembles them.

Willis, the former principal at Susie E. Tolbert Elementary

School, replaced Messer this year as part of a package of

principal reassignments in Duval County public schools. Messer

is now principal at both Mattie V. Rutherford and Lackawanna

alternative schools.

The reassignments were decided by former interim Superintendent

Donald Van Fleet and his top administrators and approved by the

School Board.

The petition for Messer's return, which has more than 200

signatures, states that young black males need adult black male

role models. Some boys at the school leave a single mother at

home, greet a female teacher at school and then are sent to a

female principal when disruptive, said Young, who lives within

walking distance of Matthew Gilbert and is the grandmother of a

former student there.

"Most of the men they see are men on the street," such as drug

dealers, Young said. "That's the only image they see. They

think, `That's me.' With a male principal, that would be another

alternative."

Ed Pratt-Dannals, regional superintendent for the area that

includes Matthew Gilbert, said officials chose a black man as

Matthew Gilbert's assistant principal of student services to

fill any void left by Messer.

"We try to balance schools racially and with men and women,"

Pratt-Dannals said. …

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