Meet Lynn Mackey, Superintendent of Schools for Contra Costa County
Q: When did you decide you wanted to become a teacher?
LM: I never thought about being a teacher before I became a teacher. I had volunteered at our county jail when I was in college. When I graduated, I needed a job, and someone at the jail let me know about a part-time job teaching Adult Basic Skills at the jail. I applied for the job, signed up for a credential program and fell in love with the work. I have been in education ever since.
Q: Tell us how you transitioned from teaching in the classroom to an administrative role?
LM: My principal, Kathy Block-Brown encouraged me to go into school administration. I was always volunteering for extra projects and getting involved with committees. I was incredulous when she first suggested it; I did not see myself as the school administrator type.
Q: What's the toughest part of your job?
LM: I don't know yet. Give me a year and then ask me again. Although I have been part of the County Office of Education for over 20 years, the role of county superintendent is very new - Right now, I don't know what I don't know. That is the hardest part. Also, that there are only 24 hours in a day. ☺
Q: It’s your belief that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed and be prepared for college, career and life. As a newly elected Superintendent, what steps will you take to see this is accomplished?
LM: In the programs that I have the honor of being directly involved with, (i.e., the schools for incarcerated youth and adults, expelled students, CTE/ROP, and special education), I will work to ensure that we have a curriculum that is relevant, rigorous and culturally appropriate so that we can engage students who haven't had a good experience in school. I will support our amazing teachers who bring heart and expertise to their work, and I will continue to hire and train the best staff possible. There is sometimes a misconception that if a student is in an alternative program that we need to lower our standards and expectations, and that they will not be successful in life. As a former student in our programs, I can serve as a role model, an example and a reminder that with the right support and education, anyone can be successful. At the same time, I will provide the best support, guidance and professional development opportunities possible for the 18 school districts in our county - they are doing the work with the vast majority of students in our county.
Q: Tell us about your role as Principal of the County’s Court and Community Schools.
LM: Being a principal at our Mt. McKinley (Court) School and our Golden Gate (Community) School was one of the most rewarding opportunities I have had. These programs have a special meaning to me since I briefly attended a court school as a youth, and Golden Gate was the last school I attended before I dropped out in middle school. Both school experiences were not positive, so as a principal I wanted to ensure that the students were getting high-quality education from caring educators. I was fortunate that my predecessor was a great principal, so there was already good work going on. I helped implement a reading program and transition services, as well as A-G courses in both schools (courses needed for entrance into the UC or CSU systems). I loved the work, the immediate urgency of the work. These students need support NOW.
Q: Can you share with our audience the work you did to be awarded Administrator of the Year in 2012 and 2018?
LM: Hard to say - I guess you would have to ask the people who nominated me ☺ I like to think that the body of work (consistently over the years) is more an indicator of an effective leader. For me, it all comes down to trust and the relationships we build with our students, our colleagues, our parents and the people we supervise.
Q: What types of program can be implemented to assure students and teachers can have a continued successful partnership?
LM: I believe the most important relationship that exists in education, is the relationship between teacher and student. While programs can help provide structure within a system, the positive relationship between teacher and student must exist in order for any program to be successful.
Q: What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
LM: OK, here is more than one… Eat right, drink lots of water and get enough sleep. Be kind. Model civility. Don't be afraid to have a hard conversation (this is a hard one). Praise people often (something that I continually work to improve). The County Office of Education has fantastic people, and I wish I could tell them that every day.
Q: Can you share with our audience one of your most memorable events your career?
LM: When I became a principal at Golden Gate Community and Mt. McKinley because the agency put its trust in me to lead these schools and make positive impacts in the lives of some of our most vulnerable youth and adults. So many memorable moments.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
LM: There are so many. My mother, Lois Mackey. My sisters, Anne and Kristin. My daughter, Emily. My friend and mentor, Toni Nestori. Evelyn Marion and Rebecca Corrigan helped me tremendously with my career - they probably don't even realize. These women have helped me persevere. There are more. Too many to list. I work with incredibly talented women at work. They all inspire me to be my best.
Q: What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
LM: There are many challenges for women today. So much important work to do. Everywhere you look there is an issue that is boiling over. Racism, sexism, economic inequality, poverty, lack of priority for early childhood education. And at the same time, so many distractions keeping us from what's important.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
LM: I need to work on this. In a perfect world, I eat right, exercise, meditate and see family and friends regularly. That is the goal. That, and some good books and a garden to work in is a perfect life for me. I have been able to spend a lot of time with my grandson lately, and he helps me feel balanced and content.
Q: Can you offer advice to parents with daughters graduating from high school?
LM: Always be there for them. Support them when they need support. Encourage them to continue their education, whether in college or a trade school. Let them know they can do anything they set their minds to if they put in the work.
Five Things About Lynn Mackey
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
I would want to talk to one of my favorite authors: Tillie Olson, Charlotte Bronte, Toni Morrison, Lucy Montgomery, Maya Angelou. I would want to thank them for writing and let each one of them know how their work touched me, changed me or saved me.
2. What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Follow the golden rule.
3. Where is your perfect vacation? It is more of a state of mind than a place.
Just being on vacation is my favorite vacation.
4. What’s your favorite TV Show? I don't really have a favorite.
I just watched the Bodyguard on NetFlix and loved it.
5. What do you like the most about living in the Bay Area?
I love that we have everything in the Bay Area. Great hiking trails, restaurants, parks…