Sammy Mack

Reporter

Public radio. Public health. Public policy.

Most days, Mack covers health care policy for WLRN. Her health care journalism is supported by a fellowship with the Kaiser Health News and NPR Health Care Reporting in the States project.

Like most folks who've worked at a member station, she's worn a lot of hats: interim digital editor during the re-launch of WLRN.org, assistant producer for The Florida Roundup, morning news producer, intern coordinator, party planner. She was one half of the StateImpact Florida education reporting team. 

Her stories have appeared on NPR, Monocle 24, the Miami Herald, Global Health, Health News Florida, 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 A Green Eyeshade Award for Investigative Journalism, and Florida AP Broadcaster and SPJ Sunshine State awards. She’s collaborated on projects that have won a Third Coast International Audio Festival bronze award, an Emmy, national and 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.

Ways to Connect

Update 2:24 p.m.: Florida is looking for a new education commissioner. Tony Bennett resigned today – effective immediately – after just six months on the job.

Allegations surfaced this week that Bennett changed the school grading system in Indiana to benefit a campaign contributor while he served as that state's elected superintendent.

Bennett said the allegations were unfounded, but he decided to step down because they had become a distraction.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg says Bennett did the right thing.

Courtesy Lockheed Martin

Lauren Case already knows what she’s going to say on the first day of school when her students ask what she did over summer break:

“I saw a rocket launch; it was awesome. You want to go too? Maybe you should become an engineer,” says Case, a 10th grade science teacher at South Fork High School in Stuart, Fla.

Karelia Arauz

It’s summertime and Angela Maxey, principal of Sallye B. Mathis Elementary School, is observing a classroom of 9- and 10-year-olds draw and identify different kinds of triangles.

Nikolai Vitti knows how dissimilar Florida’s school districts can be — but as the new Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, he also recognizes common challenges.

Vitti arrived in North Florida last November, leaving behind a job as chief academic officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

It’s finals week at Park Vista Community High School and a small group of students buzzes over an assembly line of used Dell computers that lie cracked open with all their electronic guts exposed.

Many of the donated computers that Stabio refurbishes in class will be given to families who don’t have computers at home. It’s part of a Palm Beach County program aimed at closing the digital divide.

Sammy Mack

Sunrise is a special time on South Beach, but on holiday weekends, it's a magic hour.

Right around dawn, there's a brief overlap as the night owls wind down and the early birds gear up for a new day.

"It's peaceful, it's quiet. All of the chaos kind of dies down," observed Malika Everette, who woke up early on Memorial Day to take photos of the sunrise over South Beach. Everette planned to post the landscapes to Instagram before heading back home to Atlanta.

The dawn hours are for locals, too.

Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

It’s family literacy night at Holmes Elementary School in Liberty City, and first grader Adam Redding is reading a poem about plants while he absentmindedly tips dirt out of a plastic cup and onto a laptop.

photostock / freedigitalphotos.net

It was a big year for education policy in Florida.

As the spring semester winds down around the country, one teacher, Gerald Conti, is not going quietly.

Conti is retiring from Westhill High School in Syracuse, NY at the end of this school year and his resignation letter has become a manifesto for critics of the Common Core.

Jen Mertens

It had been 38 years since Don Bailey posed for his popular carpet ad – a spoof of a famous Burt Reynolds picture. In March 2010, Under the Sun reporter Sammy Mack convinced Bailey to pose again, wearing exactly the same … smile.

Jen Mertens

This story is part of WLRN's new investigative blog, What's the Story? It originally ran as part of WLRN's Under the Sun What's Up With South Florida? series, in March of 2010.

Some time ago, journalist Nicholas Spangler wrote in The Miami Herald, “He calls to mind Michelangelo’s David, with a mission from a more swinging time.” He was referring to Don Bailey, the naked carpet guy you’ve noticed on the billboard driving down I-95.

Andrea Torres / Miami Herald

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dead. Public reactions from South Florida's sizeable Venezuelan ex-pat community were jubilant on Tuesday night. In Venezuela, less so.

The big question this morning: what happens next for Venezuela and its allies?

Sammy Mack / WLRN

When Florida sued to overturn the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers targeted a piece of the law that would have forced Florida to make Medicaid available to more than a million uninsured Floridians.

The U. S. Supreme Court upheld most of the act but it made Medicaid expansion optional.

Now some Florida lawmakers who originally opposed Medicaid expansion are seriously considering that option.

John Bailly

When Richard Blanco read his inaugural poem, One Today, one of the friends cheering him from afar was South Florida painter John Bailly.

Bailly and Blanco met nearly 20 years ago and bonded over a shared interest in cultural identity. The conversations between friends led to Place of Mind, a collaboration of paintings and poems that has been on display in South Florida and is now on its way to New York.  

Bailly spoke to WLRN about culture, identity and working with Blanco to create the collection of images.

rc! / Flickr

Richard Blanco's inaugural poem, One Today, may have addressed the whole nation, but the details were full of South Florida. 

A father's hands callused by cutting sugar cane, a mother who taught Blanco to speak Spanish--these are some of the personal details that worked their way into the poem.

Blanco is the son of Cuban exiles. He was born in Spain and came to Miami as a small child. His poetry draws on images of a childhood spent in a tight-knit South Florida Cuban community.

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