Sammy Mack


Public radio. Public health. Public policy.

Most days, Mack covers health care policy for WLRN – Miami Herald News. 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, 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 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, 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

Florida Department of Education /

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:


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.

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.

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.

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.

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:


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.

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.

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.

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."