Emily Mackey smiles for a photo at his office in the Nugget Mall. Mackey is seeking a third term on the Juneau School District Board of Education. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Emily Mackey smiles for a photo at his office in the Nugget Mall. Mackey is seeking a third term on the Juneau School District Board of Education. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)

Return of the Mackey: The school board member talks future of Juneau’s district

Mackey is back-y

Though you might know Emil Mackey as the guy who sold you your insurance, he also has an intensive background in education with many years in the field under his belt. That’s why he said he’s ready to continue his role in improving Juneau’s education.

Mackey, who holds a doctorate in higher education policy from the University of Arkansas, is for the third time seeking a spot on the Juneau School District Board of Education. He is joined by Deedie Sorensen, who is also seeking reelection on the school board. Assembly members also in the running for their current positions unopposed.

Mackey said coming into his third term, he is excited to continue his role on the school board and said he wants to continue to advocate for the school board and Juneau community to have a “serious conversation” about what the district should look like in the future given the decline in funding it has seen over time.

He said the lack of funding in the district is “seriously” beginning to disrupt the quality of education that the schools have the potential to give and said a way to fix necessitates a change in the status quo of what the schools district looks like right now, and a change in how the community thinks about what quality education looks like.

He said the district’s current plans in response to the decrease in funding involve small increments of change and cuts, which he said is not enough to make sure all students are adequately educated with the same tools and opportunities districtwide.

“Right now, we’re working on the strategic plan — I think that’s not good enough,” he said. “I think we need to start a revisioning process and look at the district as a whole.”

He said with the lack of state funding available to the school district and inflation continuing to rise, the district is already faced with the reality that “significant cuts” are needed to be made to adequately provide equal education across all ages.

“We have to be honest and proactive to have the population understand that given flat state funding and not being able to raise our own revenue, the only thing to do is to cut,” he said.

Mackey said he is interested in looking at the potential benefits of consolidating some of the schools, which he said could mean more electives and a variety of teachers to offer them to students all under one roof. He said if the school district does not have a serious conversation about consolidation proactively, it’s going to be forced upon it soon.

“There’s no question in my mind that we are going to have to close down one or two schools in the near future, but how do we do that?” he said.

Mackey said in his next term he is going to push for the board to have those conversations because there are “countless decisions” that need to be made about how the district should look in the future given its current financial dilemma.

“Ultimately education is between the teachers, the parents and the students — not what building they’re in,” he said. “We only have so many resources, and we don’t have the ability to increase them. We have to figure out the most efficient way to give the most effective education and everything should be on the table when making those choices.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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