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April 17, 2005

Educator new Miss. School for Deaf superintendent

From: Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS - Apr 17, 2005

By Toni W. Terrett
Special to The Clarion-Ledger

JACKSON — She was only supposed to stay for a year.

Instead, Delores Mack ended up making a career out of her first real job — teaching at the Mississippi School for the Deaf in Jackson — and today finds herself the school's top administrator.

Chosen earlier this month by state Board of Education members as the residential school's first African American female superintendent, Mack has come a long way since graduating from Alcorn State University in 1973.

Her search for a teaching job led her to the School for the Deaf, where there was an opening for a teacher's assistant.

Mack took the job reluctantly, with the thought of transferring to another school when the term was over.

"I didn't know if I wanted it, because I had never met a deaf person and I couldn't sign, but I had to work and I needed something steady," she said.

She fell hard for the school and its students. "I went back to school to get my graduate degree in deaf education."

Mack has spent nearly 32 years working in various capacities on the campus. She's been a teacher, librarian, principal and has even driven the school bus. Working with the students has become a labor of love for Mack, who teasingly says she "grew up" on the school's campus.

"I love Dr. Mack," said Eva Sawin of Pearl. Sawin's son, Joshua, is a senior at the school. "She fights for the kids and their rights. I believe her being in that position will help the kids a lot," Sawin said.

About 150 students live on campus, and the school's early intervention program serves 32 families statewide.

During her lengthy career, Mack says she has seen changes in the way deaf students are educated. One change has been a return to using a total communication approach to teaching students using sign language, voice and finger spelling.

"I've also seen a change in the expectation of deaf children. We are requiring more from our deaf children as in compared to other children," Mack said.

Students at the school follow the same state curriculum used in mainstream schools. Most typically go to college or seek employment.

"We use the same avenues you use to help students obtain the knowledge they need. It is just done in a different way," she said. "The only difference is we use sign language."

By assuming the new position, Mack is doing something she was groomed to do several years ago, says former superintendent Hugh Prickett, who now lives in Iowa. Prickett was superintendent from 1993-1997.

"I think that she was ready for this job years ago," he said. "I know that she's doubly ready now, since she's gone back and gotten (advanced) degrees and certifications."

Mack went back to school mainly because she wanted to better able to assist her students, but she ended up making history. The institution always has been headed by one superintendent who historically has been a white male.

"In 150 years, I'm the only African American and the second woman to hold this position. I think this shows the strides the state of Mississippi is making in the arena of education," she said.

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