By Anne Geggis
School safety advocacy group, Stand with Parkland, is endorsing one of its own in the race for the countywide seat on the Broward County School Board.
The group, founded by the 17 families who lost loved ones in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, is bolstering the campaign of Debra “Debbi” Hixon, a 31-year public school teacher and widow of MSD’s athletic director, Chris Hixon.
While the student resource officer hid from the gunfire, Hixon’s husband was among the few adults who confronted the shooter during the rampage that killed 17 and injured 17 more. He paid the ultimate price.
“She’s turning her unimaginable pain into positive action,” said Tony Montalto, president of Stand with Parkland, said of Hixon’s tireless work on behalf of the schools.
Montalto’s daughter, daughter, Gina, was also among the victims of the shooting.
Hixon, who would take a leave from her teaching position if elected, said she was pleased to receive Stand with Parkland’s endorsement. She wants to bring an “in-the-trenches” perspective to the board’s efforts that are about more than just safety, although safety is job No. 1, she said.
“I want to bring the district together in new and positive ways,” she said.
Hixon is in the most crowded, nonpartisan, countywide race voters will see on the Aug. 18 ballot. Hixon, who is the magnet coordinator at South Broward High School, is vying with four other candidates for the seat that Robin Bartleman is leaving to run for the state Legislature.
Hixon is the third relative of a Parkland shooting victim to run for a school board seat. Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa died in the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting, was elected last year to represent District 4, which includes Tamarac. Ryan Petty ran for an at-large seat but lost to the current board chairwoman, Donna Korn. His daughter, Alaina, died in the tragedy at MSD.
One candidate must win at least 50 percent of the vote, or the two, top vote-getters will face off in the November election.
Also running: Joyce “Jersey Girl” Bryan of Margate, Narnike “Nikki” Grant of Parkland, Jeff Holness of Sunrise, and Jimmy Witherspoon of Fort Lauderdale.
Stand with Parkland has so far endorsed only one other Broward candidate, Gregory Tony, to be re-elected sheriff, Montalto said, adding, having more than one Parkland survivor on the school board means all students throughout the district will be safer.
“The more people we have promoting the safety and security of the students and staff, the better off we are,” Montalto said. “Frankly, the school board we had did not take that into account before or after” the shooting.
School Board members are paid $41,233 a year, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Stand with Parkland’s endorsement for Hixon also cited her volunteer work coordinating the annual Harvest Drive and coaching the Special Olympics. She was also part of the Stand with Parkland team that worked with the U.S. departments of Education, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services to develop SchoolSafety.gov, which offers schools concrete steps to stop bullying, improve mental health, and make schools safer all around.
Hixon “will support our teachers, push the school board to invest in better mental health programs for students and demand improved transparency and reporting of school board operations,” the group’s endorsement reads.
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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