Emil Robert Mackey III
Candidate for School Board
Dayna, wife; Emil, two-year-old son
Career educator and state employee
Juneau Board of Equalization, 2018-present
Juneau School Board, 2015-2018
Chair, Juneau School Board Policy Committee, 2017-2018
Juneau School Board Facilities Committee, 2017-2018
Juneau Schools Representative for the Social Studies Curriculum Committee, 2015-2016
Juneau School Board Native Education Committee Representative, 2015-2016
Juneau International Airport Board, 2013-2015
Arkansas Integrated Justice Task Force, 1998-1999
Clinton School of Public Service Advisory Board, 1998-1999
Clinton Presidential Library Three Bridges Subcommittee, 1997-1999
University of Arkansas Curriculum Committee, 1997-1999
President of the Graduate Students Association, University of Arkansas Little Rock, 1997-1999
Americorps/VISTA Volunteer for Southwest Arkansas Community Development Corporation, 1996-1997
Ph.D. in public policy, University of Arkansas; M.A. in education, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Civics and U.S. Government
I have a Ph.D. in public policy with an emphasis in higher education policy. I also have a master’s in education from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in curriculum design and instruction and a Bachelor of Science in teaching. So education has been my life academically, as well as professionally. I worked in higher education for almost 15 years and previously served on the school board from 2015 to 2018, and loved it. I have a two-year-old child, and that changes perspective a little bit. I just want to run and make sure that we’re making the correct and balanced choices that the school district needs for priorities, so that we have the best education available to my child and everybody else’s child in the school district when they need it.
The biggest issue that I see is really the threat of education cuts in the future. Dunleavy, I think the tip of the spear was what he did to the university system, and I think he’s coming for K- 12 next. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I do believe that that’s what he’s going to do. When that happens, we’re going to be faced with really tough choices. And I think that’s going to be a huge issue for the next school board, ongoing.
The second thing I think is we have over $20 million worth of deferred maintenance. Marie Drake (home to Yaakoosge Daakahidi High School and Montessori Borealis School) is in severe need of a remodel, Riverbend (Elementary School) needs a new roof, Mendenhall River (Community School) needs a complete remodel. And we really need to come up with a plan and a way that we can present to the Assembly in order to prioritize these issues, rectify the deferred maintenance and pay for it.
Amid uncertain state funding for K-12 education and a downsizing of the University of Alaska system, what can the Juneau School Board do to prepare our students for the future? What advice would you have for a current Juneau high schooler about their future?
So the first thing I’d like to advise a graduating student from our school district is if you’re graduating, and there’s a degree for you in the University of Alaska system, especially here at the University of Alaska Southeast, take advantage of the in-state tuition. Stay in-state, get your education locally and cheaply. Don’t pay out-of-state tuition for a degree that’s worth just as much, with huge college debt on it. So that’s my first advice.
As far as the school district goes, I think the biggest thing that we can do to help all students is basically realize that not all children are going to go to college. We need to have a comprehensive education system that concentrates on really CTE (career and technical education) and vocational education. We also, I think, could be strong partners with the community and with the Assembly on developing pre-K, which would take pressure off of special education and really give us more bang for our buck and prepare kids for to be ready to learn once they start kindergarten.
Should the Juneau School District do more to expand and improve early education opportunities? If so, how?
I do believe that we should really partner with the Assembly and with the community to have quality pre-K for all of our children. And I want to stress pre-K — it can’t be just babysitting. We have to have curriculum that prepares kids, gets them already on a reading level, so that when they enter kindergarten, they’re ready to learn and have the skills necessary in order to learn. That’s going to take a little extra money. But it’s also going to help the affordability for all young people, or childbearing-age people in Juneau. It’s also going to help us decrease costs on the backside with decreased special education cost. It’s also going to help every individual child really self-actualize and reach their full potential, or at least give them the opportunity to. And that’s really what we do at the school district, is to really make sure that every kid reaches their full potential.
The Juneau School District recently adopted an indigenous language policy that affirms the district's commitment to supporting Tlingit language revitalization. How would you hope to see this policy put into practice?
So we already have some programs like TCL (Tlingit Culture, Language, and Literacy Program at Harborview Elementary School), that starts kids learning the Tlingit language and culture really the instant they start school. I would like to see that basically continued and possibly expanded. I’m also open to, it’s not a priority, but I would like for us to see really the feasibility of possibly even a charter school. And the reason I say that is because, if we can do a Tlingit language charter school for elementary kids, in addition to actually consolidating the TCL program and finding some efficiencies, it could actually improve the Tlingit language. It could also help really capture that population that needs that ESL-type (English as a second language) approach in order to really get them on track. I also think that culturally, it’s just responsive and responsible. And it could also bring more money, because charter schools get a little bit of extra money, and if we can do a charter school inside a school, I think that would be an interesting proposition.
First of all, yes, the kids need to be as safe as possible in schools. When I was on (the Juneau school board’s) Facilities Committee, one of the things that I championed was making sure that all the keys in all the buildings were standardized, and all the locks were standardized, so that if there was a lockdown situation, our kids would be safe. I believe that’s been implemented, and I think that’s a priority. But I also think that the parents deserve, to also kind of contextualize and understand, that their kids really are safe at school. Less than 1% of kids that are shot are shot at school. More kids are killed by suicide, by their friends, by their family members. When it happens, those things are not in the news; school shootings are. That doesn’t void us of our responsibility to make sure that mass shootings don’t happen in schools. But I also want people to not be unnecessarily fearful of a mass shooting. It is a real threat, but it’s not the biggest threat that our kids suffer. So yes, they need to be safe, but also within the context, we also need to make sure they’re safe in other ways as well.