LAKEWOOD — Michael Mack has been part of the Lakewood community since 2008, and is still serving as the school district’s director of Student Services and Career and Technical Education, as well as assistant principal of Lakewood Middle School. Although his new contract as superintendent doesn’t begin until July 1, Mack’s years of working on multiple levels of the Lakewood school system have allowed him to hit the ground running with ideas on how to move forward.
“We need to really look at our primary education, and make sure it’s intentional and aligned with Common Core,” Mack said. “We need to make sure our students can find the foundations for success there.
“Some things will need to be shifted around,” he added. “Education is more structured now than it used to be, so it needs to be more purposeful. We need to be using all the time that’s available to us to provide opportunities for students to succeed.”
Mack took over as interim superintendent of the Lakewood School District April 19, and less than a month later, the Lakewood School Board voted unanimously to install him in the position.
“I’m honored that the board trusted me so much,” said Mack, who stepped in to fill the vacancy left by retiring superintendent Dennis Haddock. “It was a tough decision for them, and I’m pretty sure there were times in that process when I was the long-shot candidate.”
Northwest Leadership Associates conducted the superintendent search, which included interviews, reference checks, and opportunities for staff and community feedback.
“They listened to the community before they made their decision, which is important,” said Mack, whose three children have gone through the Lakewood school system, and whose wife, Jeanne, teaches second grade at English Crossing Elementary.
Among his other priorities, Mack believes the district should provide students with better preparation for their standardized exams, not by teaching to the tests, but by preparing the students for what will be covered by the tests.
“The Smarter Balanced Assessment Curriculum is coming out next year, so our staff have already taken practice exams,” Mack said. “I took the sixth-grade math test, and it was tough. It’s not just calculation, but reading and inference, especially since so many of the answers are so close.
“I know I feel better when I do well at something, so I want our kids to have that same feeling of achievement on their tests,” he added.
For high school students, Mack believes the biggest issue is better serving those students who don’t have definite post-graduate plans.
“If you’re going into college or the military or a trade, that’s great,” Mack said. “What I’d like to do is enhance our CTE program for the students who don’t know what they want to do.
“We need to give them the tools to figure out where they want to go, so they can work backward and determine what they’ll need to know and do to get there,” he added. “Even if they wind up ruling out certain options, that still gives them some sense of direction.”
Mack pledged that he would never be satisfied until the schools’ graduation rates and levels of student fulfillment are at 100 percent, but in the meantime, he looks forward to working with the rest of the district to achieve those goals.
“I want all our kids to love to come to school every day,” Mack said. “My role is to serve as a servant leader for the district. My job is to eliminate the barriers between students, staff and success, and to do that, I’ll be soliciting honest feedback and acting on it.”