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Mack now mostly teaches a skill-building class called AVID, aimed at preparing students for the rigors of high school and beyond. They write, they discuss, they work on adult skills with e-mentors from Xcel Energy, and they read. Mack has an easy camaraderie with students born from mutual respect.
One of those students is eighth-grader Sadiq Mohamed, whose mentor has helped him learn to talk professionally and keep a conversation going.
After spending sixth grade in classes tailored to students learning English, he switched to mainstream classes last year and hopes to attend Roosevelt for its medical curriculum. The loss of his kidney to an infection in 2008 fired a desire to be a surgeon.
Students like Mohamed benefit from a faculty that largely has bought into an approach they describe varyingly and almost mystically as “Sanfordization,” a term Davis coined. Some describe it as a welcoming indoctrination for new faculty; others say it’s an approach where teachers leave egos at the door and pitch in together to get things done. But Davis is why many stay.
“She is 100 percent supportive and she always has the teacher’s back,” Mack said. Sparks, coming up on 20 years at Sanford, asked, “Why should I leave something that works?”
As Davis nears 65, uncertainty looms. The district is about to survey teachers and parents about what they want in a new leader before advertising the job; representatives of those groups will interview finalists. Davis also reassured a faculty she said provided her best ideas. “Hang in there. It’s going to be fine,” she told them recently. “If the United States government can survive changing leaders every four years, then Sanford can survive.”
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438 Twitter: @brandtstrib