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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StateImpact Florida
10:13 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Marco Rubio Wants To Change College

There was a protest outside the hall where Rubio spoke.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

When Sen. Marco Rubio was growing up, his parents gave him an edict:

“From a very early age they used to tell us, ‘tu tienes que estudiar,’ which means, ‘you have to study.’ So growing up I don’t ever recall not considering going to college,” Rubio told an audience at Miami Dade College on Monday.

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StateImpact Florida
7:47 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Three Questions: Jeb Bush On The State Of Common Core And Testing In Florida

Former Gov. Jeb Bush visited a Hialeah charter school for National School Choice Week.
Credit Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

Former Gov. Jeb Bush visited classrooms, observed students using their iPads, and took questions from a debate class at a high school in Hialeah this week.

His tour of the Latin Builders Association Construction & Business Management Academy high school — which is the first charter opened with a business association — was part of National School Choice Week.

Bush wrapped up the tour in the debate class by answering questions from journalists so the students could see how a press conference works.

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School Discipline
5:48 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

How A Broward County School District Is Rethinking Zero-Tolerance Policies

Some school districts are reconsidering their zero tolerance policies.
Credit Sattva / freedigitalphotos.net

In many schools, zero-tolerance discipline policies dictate harsh punishment — expulsion, suspension and arrest — for breaking rules.

But, as StateImpact Florida has been reporting, some districts are reconsidering zero tolerance after concerns about a rise in the number of children arrested on campus.

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School Grades
10:38 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Why Miami Jackson Senior High School Wants Its 'A'

Miami Jackson Senior High wants an A grade
Credit Florida Department of Education / FLDOE.org

Florida’s A-through-F system for school grades has been fraught with controversy.

Supporters say the system is a way of holding schools and districts accountable. Critics worry the formula to calculate the grades doesn’t reflect how well schools really prepare children.

Now one school in Miami-Dade County has been told it probably won’t get the A it says it earned.

StateImpact Florida’s Sammy Mack spoke with the Miami Herald’s David Smiley about why Miami Jackson Senior High doesn’t want to accept a B:

 

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StateImpact Florida
4:41 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Jacksonville School Replaces KKK-Affiliated Name

The new name, Westside, is a nod to the neighborhood.
Credit Sammy Mack

Nathan B. Forrest High — the Jacksonville school named for the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader — has a new name.

The Duval County School Board voted to rename school #241 on Tuesday. Starting in the fall it will be Westside Senior High.

From the moment it was named in 1959, there’s been controversy over Forrest High, home of the Rebels.

In 2008 the school board elected not to rename the majority African-American school.  The votes fell along color lines.

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StateImpact Florida
3:58 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Your Guide To Florida's New GED

Credit freedigitalphotos.net

Florida gets a new GED exam today. The high school equivalency test is going exclusively online.

Education advocates are greeting it with mixed feelings.

The new GED has been retooled to emphasize workplace and college skills. That’s part of why advocates say it makes sense to offer it only as a computer-based exam. Test-takers will also get their unofficial results instantly.

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StateImpact Florida
4:25 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Children's Authors On Education Policy: Michael Buckley Talks Bullying And Non-Fiction

Michael Buckley is a best-selling children's author.
Credit Abrams Books

  Children’s author Michael Buckley has spent a lot of time thinking about bullies. He’s the bestselling author of the NERDS series, which features a bunch of nerdy kids who deal with bullies during the school day and moonlight as top-secret superheroes the rest of the time.

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StateImpact Florida
12:41 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Children's Authors On Education Policy: Sheila Keenan Talks Common Core And Graphic Novels

Sheila Keenan is author of the new graphic novel, Dogs of War.
Credit Scholastic.com

Sheila Keenan, author of a new graphic novel for kids, called Dogs of War, says she tries not to think too much about classroom policies when she writes.

Her latest work is about the relationships between soldiers and dogs during World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War. It’s fiction, but she did a lot of research to make sure it was historically accurate.“Good storytelling is good storytelling,” says Keenan.

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DARPA
3:43 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Simple Tasks, Heavy Burdens: Robot Engineers Compete To 'Save Humanity'

THOR OP competes in the terrain task.
Credit Maria Murriel / WLRN

The Pentagon hosted a robotics competition at the Homestead Miami Speedway over the weekend. It’s being called the "Robot Olympics."

Teams from all over the world came to prove their robots’ agility at the Robotics Challenge trials. The teams whose robots earn the top scores would get a shot at winning $2 million in the finals next year.

But the games are about much more than the cash:

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Science
2:11 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Robots Are Invading Homestead

Yong Lin works on RoboSimian, the entry of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs, before the Robotics Challenge Trials begin at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Credit CAMMY CLARK / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The qualifying trials for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge start Friday. The robot races are sponsored by the Pentagon’s research unit.

Teams of engineers from all over the world are vying for a chance to compete for a $2 million prize. But sponsors hope much more will come of the event.

Here’s the challenge: Create a robot that can walk on rocky terrain, open doors, remove debris, close a valve. Basically, do all the things a first responder would do.

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StateImpact Florida
8:15 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Jacksonville School Board Rejects KKK-Affiliated School Name

Credit Wikimedia Commons and Sammy Mack

 

    

In 1959, Forrest High was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest — the Civil War general and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

After more than a half century of controversy, Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville is looking for a new name.

But Monday night, on the recommendation of Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to rename the high school.

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StateImpact Florida
9:54 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

After The KKK: The Future -- And History -- Of Jacksonville's Forrest High

Brothers Rodney Jones and Tremain McCreary attend the school that will no longer be named Nathan B. Forrest High School
Credit Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

When Rodney Jones and Tremain McCreary walked to school on Tuesday morning, the brothers were headed to the same classrooms, to sit next to the same students, in a building with the same façade it had on Monday.

But it was not the same school they had gone to the day before.

“It’s a relief to me to know the school name had changed. I was thinking about it: How do we have a KKK leader’s name for our school?” Jones says.

“Things are changing around this school,” says McCreary.

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StateImpact Florida
10:26 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Studying Fine Arts Benefits Students, But Educators Want To Know Which Ones

Allison Rojas is a senior at Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami
Credit Sammy Mack / StateImpact Florida

When Allison Rojas looks at a painting by Alice Neel, the high-school junior sees more than a seated woman in a purple sari.

“She uses very bold lines as you can see,” says Rojas. “Very fleshy paintings.”

Rojas has an eye that’s been trained in fine-arts classes at Miami’s Design and Architecture Senior High. DASH is an arts magnet — consistently ranked among the country’s top public schools — and every year, Rojas and her classmates take a field trip with the school to Art Basel, where she gets to see works like Neel’s "Woman."

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StateImpact Florida
11:19 pm
Sun December 1, 2013

In Immokalee, Parents Promise To Speak Spanish With Their Children

Immokalee Community School offers classes to help parents encourage bilingual children.
Credit Wilson Sayre / WLRN

To get into Florida colleges and universities you have to have studied — or be able to speak — a second language. But Florida students don’t have to take foreign language classes to graduate from high school.

So in a part of the state where most families already speak a second language, Immokalee Community School is leaning on parents to make sure their children stay bilingual. As a condition of their children attending the school, every parent has signed a contract to speak Spanish with their kids for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.

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Miami Book Fair International
8:12 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Sherman Alexie On Writing A Banned Book: “You’re Offending The Right Monsters”

Sherman Alexie returns to Miami Book Fair International on Tuesday night
Credit Chase Jarvis / Grove Atlantic

When Sherman Alexie comes to Miami Book Fair International, he enjoys the visuals.

“It’s like putting a bunch of geeky English professors in Bermuda shorts,” Alexie says. “I like the notion of all that energy surrounding books.”

Alexie is the author of award-winning novels, poetry and short-story collections about Indian characters living on and off modern-day reservations. His protagonists frequently share a deep, obsessive love of books and basketball.

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