Sammy Mack

Sammy Mack loves public radio and public policy.

Mack is the Miami-based education reporter for StateImpact Florida. She is a St. Petersburg native and a product of Florida public schools. She even took the first FCAT.

Mack previously was a digital editor and health care policy reporter for WLRN - Miami Herald News, where she covered the public health and health policy beat. For two years, her health reporting with WLRN was supported by the grant-funded HealthyState.org project. She was selected as a 2012 fellow with the Kaiser Health News and NPR Health Care Reporting in the States project.

Her stories have also appeared on NPR, Monocle 24, the Miami Herald, Global Health, HealthNewsFlorida.org, Gambit Weekly, MAP Magazine, Gulfshore Life, Philadelphia Weekly, the St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times) and other outlets.

Mack’s work has been honored with Florida AP Broadcaster and SPJ Sunshine State awards. She’s collaborated on projects that have won an Emmy, regional Edward R. Murrow awards, a Wilbur Award and a Dart Award. Mack was a writing fellow during the 2008 Poynter Summer Fellowship for Young Journalists.

She was recognized by her colleagues as the 2011 Herald Top Chef. She’s happy to share her recipe for garam masala macarons with lemongrass filling.

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Medicare Fraud
2:28 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Unusual Medicare Billing Patterns Are A Red Flag For Fraud

Unusual Medicare billing patterns can tip off fraud investigators.
Credit Patrisyu / freedigitalphotos.net

 

A ProPublica investigation earlier this month looked at how Medicare providers charged for their services in 2012 and found unusual billing patterns among a number of Florida care providers.

On average, most providers only charged for the most complex, expensive level of care during office visits about 4 percent of the time. But in Florida, nearly 100 Medicare providers with relatively high volume billed at the most expensive rate 100 percent of the time.

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Soccer In Miami
5:01 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

See The Newest Beckham Stadium Drawings

A drawing of what the proposed space would look like from the bay.
Credit Beckham/Miami

David Beckham’s group unveiled new drawings Thursday for the proposed soccer stadium in Downtown Miami. 

The plan would fill in the boat slip between the AmericanAirlines Arena and Museum Park. The renderings included a public park with retail space that would be open all year. 

“This is what Museum Park can never be without this intervention: a grand sweep of abundant acreage along a great bay,” said John Alschuler, Beckham’s real-estate advisor. 

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Medicare Investigation
9:32 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

Florida's Unusual Medicare Charges, And Why They Matter To Patients

ProPublica found unusual Medicare billing patterns in Florida and elsewhere.
Credit cooldesign / freedigitalphotos.net

A group of Florida doctors has been charging Medicare at a surprisingly high rate.

A ProPublica investigation analyzed a recently released Medicare database and found unusual billing patterns in Florida and elsewhere. ProPublica used that same data to create an online tool that lets patients see how individual doctors compare to their peers when it comes to procedures and billing patterns.

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Education
9:19 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Activists Protest Florida's Race-Based Education Goals

Florida's education goals in math and reading currently vary by race.
Credit stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

Students and civil rights activists have asked Gov. Rick Scott to hold black and Hispanic students to a higher standard. The Southern Poverty Law Center and Dream Defenders were in Tallahassee this week to deliver a petition — with 5,800 signatures — protesting Florida’s race-based academic goals.

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Brown v. Board of Education
2:34 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Hear Floridians Talk About Their Desegregation Experiences

Mamie Pinder holds a photograph of herself as a young teaching student. Pinder, a retired Miami-Dade school teacher, began teaching in 1963, the year the school district began merging black and white students bodies and faculty.
Credit Emily Michot / Miami Herald

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education — the Supreme Court decision declaring segregated schools were inherently unequal.

A recent ProPublica investigation found at least 300 school districts that are still under court-ordered desegregation. Eleven of those districts are in Florida.

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Politics
8:34 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Miami-Dade Panel Addresses Politics Of Race And Inclusion

Miami-Dade County commissioners argued over who built Miami. Now a different group is addressing those tensions.
Credit Ambro / freedigitalphotos.net

Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Board and Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board spent four hours talking race, diversity and inclusion yesterday.

The discourse was a response to a racially charged commission debate over a county contract last February.

Over the course of three panels, it was made clear that the February venom was just the most recent episode in a long history of unease between Miami’s black and Hispanic communities.

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Education
8:40 pm
Sun May 4, 2014

WATCH: Sir Patrick Stewart Talks Arts Education, Shakespeare

Sir Patrick Stewart is the chancellor of a university.
Credit Maria Murriel / WLRN

The actor Sir Patrick Stewart is best known in the United States for his roles on stage and on screen. But you might be surprised to learn that the man who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard is chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, a 20,000-student university in England.

Stewart was in South Florida this past week for Going Global, an international higher education conference sponsored by the British Council.

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Obituary
7:56 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Remembering FCAT, 1995-2014

Florida students sit through their last FCAT this year.
Credit Photo by Norm Robbie (Flickr) / Illustration by Sammy Mack

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test is dying, say Florida education officials. By this time next year, the FCAT will be replaced with a new, Common Core-aligned assessment.

FCAT was born in 1995 in the humid June of a Tallahassee summer.

The Florida Commission on Education Reform and Accountability under Gov. Lawton Chiles gave birth to the test. It was part of a series of recommendations that were meant to give local districts more control and a better sense of how their schools were doing.

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StateImpact Florida
9:26 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Checking In On Education Bills As Florida Legislature Reaches Halfway Point

The 2014 Florida legislative session has reached the halfway point.
Credit STEVENM_61 / Flickr.com

The 2014 Florida legislative session reached the halfway point last week, so we thought we’d check in on some of the big education bills.

THE BUDGET

The House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott mostly agree on education spending based on their proposed budgets.

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StateImpact Florida
4:46 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Why Police Support Common Core Standards In Florida

Chief Ian Moffett of Miami-Dade County Public Schools supports the state's new standards.

National anti-crime group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids released a position paper last week in favor of Florida’s new standards for English language arts and math. The group argues assessments and higher standards can prevent crime.

Here’s the paper’s summary of the connection:

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Education
6:09 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott Talks Preschool Budgets, Preschoolers Respond

Rick Scott talked preschool budgets with preschoolers.
Credit @FLGovScott / Twitter

Gov. Rick Scott visited the Miami Children’s Museum Monday to promote the state’s preschool program.

The governor stood against a backdrop of finger paint and glitter and talked about increasing funding for early learning.

StateImpact Florida was there. You can listen to the full report:

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StateImpact Florida
9:37 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Mining Student Data To Keep Kids From Dropping Out

Natasha Santana-Viera and Mack Godbee talk grades and goals at Miami Carol City Senior High.
Credit Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

It’s report card day at Miami Carol City Senior High, and sophomore Mack Godbee is reviewing his grades with his mentor, Natasha Santana-Viera.

The first quarter on Godbee’s report card is littered with Ds and Fs. This quarter, there are more Cs and Bs. He’s got an A in English.

“Congratulations on that,” says Santana-Viera. “When you need help, do you know where to go?”

“Straight to y’all,” says Godbee.

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Health Care
5:01 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Florida's Insurers Push To Sell Health Coverage To Latinos

Yolanda Madrid of Miami (left) talks with navigator Daniela Campos while signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in January.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Fri March 7, 2014 7:59 am

For all of California's troubles advertising health care to Latinos, that state has embraced the Affordable Care Act and is spending millions of dollars to get people to sign up. Florida is a different story.

Florida has a high rate of uninsured Latinos - almost 10 percent of all the country's uninsured Hispanics who are eligible for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act live in the state.

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Session 2014
12:24 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

What The Florida Education Association Is Looking For During The Legislative Session

FEA President Andy Ford
Credit NEA Public Relations

In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott promoted his $18.8 billion budget for education.

But if it were up to Florida Education Association president Andy Ford, there would be even more money going to Florida’s public schools.

The Florida Education Association is the state umbrella group for Florida teachers’ unions. Before the legislative session began, Ford sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about policy priorities this year.

Q: Where is FEA on the Common Core State Standards now?

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Glitz And Grit
11:33 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Students Keep The Show Going At The South Beach Wine And Food Festival

Octavio Araujo is one of the FIU students keeping things under control at SOBEWFF
Credit Sammy Mack / WLRN

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival has a reputation for celebrity chef sightings and swanky food tastings.

But at its core, it’s a fundraising event.

SoBeWFF has raised more than $18 million over the last 13 years for Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. It’s also given thousands of student volunteers a chance to work behind the scenes.

We hopped on a golf cart with one of the student volunteers staffing the festival and have this audio postcard: 

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