By Sherrel Stewart, WBHM
Eric Mackey is Alabama’s new superintendent of education. Before this, he was a lobbyist for state school superintendents. Mackey replaces former schools superintendent Michael Sentance, who was forced out after only a year on the job. Recently, Mackey supported Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to arm school administrators at schools that don’t have a school resource officer. His conversation with WBHM’s Sherrel Wheeler Stewart begins with some of the larger issues around school safety.
Ivey in May introduced a plan called the Sentry Program that will allow administrators to use a gun to defend against an armed intruder.
We right now just don’t have the resources to put a resource officer in each school. So the Sentry program is a plan to say, if we can’t put a resource officer in the school, then how do we have a highly competent professional educator, a leader and administrator in the school, who can then also be trained in a secondary duty, so that under duress they would be able to perform as a deputy sheriff.
Addressing the top three challenges facing Alabama public schools — poverty, teachers and funding.
We can’t get away from the fact that we are a high poverty state. Poverty is not indicative of intelligence though poverty is indicative of opportunity. We have to find ways to close the opportunity gap.
We have a teacher shortage in Alabama. We are already putting some things in place and working on that. Because we have a teacher shortage, we have some teachers in the classroom that are probably not up to speed. Most of our teachers in the classroom are committed professionals. They’re doing the best they can do. Some of them are doing an unbelievably good job.
The third thing is, we do always have to deal with funding — with making sure that we have resources in our classroom and resources across the state. Those things are interwoven too.
Transitioning from being a lobbyist for school superintendents to being their leader.
There are going to be some issues where we’re not on the same page. There always have been. Over 90 percent of the time, we’re all on the same page.
Listen to the interview: