It’s Academic at Jones

NEW YORK – Having dressed countless teachers in classic tweeds and comfortable shoes, Jones Apparel Group is now reaching out to give them a helping hand.

The company next month will launch Jones New York in the Classroom, a multifaceted cause-marketing effort to improve the quality of education in the U.S.

“As diverse and as fragmented as women are, they stand unified in one area, and that is children,” said Stacy Lastrina, senior vice president of marketing.

Jones, purveyor of Jones New York and other brands as well as owner of Barneys New York, is using its status as one of fashion’s best-known companies to support teachers through the non-profit organizations TeachersCount, New Teacher Academy, Fund for Teachers and Adopt-A-Classroom.

“We’re hoping it starts to build momentum and takes on a life of its own,” said Lastrina.

The need for such a program is great, she said. Some 2.3 million new teachers will be needed in the U.S. by 2010, but the profession is not a top career choice and loses 30 to 50 percent of its entrants in three to five years. Additionally, teachers spend an average of $589 of their own money to ready their classrooms.

The program’s apple logo will be featured in Jones New York’s national advertising, and up to $500,000 of the brand’s sales during the first week of October will be donated to the four non-profit organizations.

Jones will also hold events, such as runway shows featuring teachers as models, to support the ongoing initiative.

The company polled its employees and consumers to come up with a cause that resonated with both groups. Education is also an area near and dear to Jones chief executive officer Peter Boneparth, who is an active guest lecturer at business schools, and who has said he might go into teaching if he should ever choose to leave fashion. On April 15, Boneparth was principal for the day at the Global Enterprise Academy in the Bronx.

To celebrate the new program, the ceo will ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange May2, the day before National Teacher Day.