The Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety is a training facility teaching first responders how to deal with mass casualty tragedies. When Norma Anderson, long-time political and community …
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The Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety is a training facility teaching first responders how to deal with mass casualty tragedies. When Norma Anderson, long-time political and community leader, stepped down from her spot on the Center’s Board of Directors, the man with his name on the building knew right away who he wanted to step up to the plate.
DeAngelis said former Jeffco Board of Education President, Ron Mitchell, was the perfect choice to fill Anderson’s seat. The two men share a history going back decades.
During Mitchell’s time as Principal of Columbine High School, he talked DeAngelis into moving from teaching and coaching into the vice principal role. When Mitchell left to become an area administrator, DeAngelis became principal of the school. Less than three years later a shocking incident reverberated around the globe, making Columbine forever synonymous with school shootings, and DeAngelis the most famous member of what he calls “a club no one wants to be in.”
On that day, the bond the men had formed was stronger than ever.
“There’s so many things that go through my mind from that horrific day,” DeAngelis said. “But one of the things that I remember was turning around and there was Ron Mitchell. I felt his hand on my shoulder. I’ll never forget that.”
DeAngelis said Mitchell was there every step of the way, and was instrumental in helping the school heal. He thinks of Mitchell’s resignation from the school board as a loss for the Jeffco community, but a win for student safety across the state. John McDonald, Executive Director, School Safety for Jeffco agrees.
“He brings credibility. He brings experience for what this is really all about, and you can’t buy that. It’s earned the hard way,” McDonald said. “Ron can speak to our mission. This place only stands because he supported it in the early days, so he has an understanding of where we came from and why we’re here today.”
DeAngelis thinks Mitchell’s lifetime of involvement in Jeffco schools and time on the Board make him uniquely qualified to serve, but his ability to communicate is something DeAngelis thinks will help the center continue doing its important work into the future.
McDonald said that future, and the work they’d like to do, is already top of mind.
“I’ve got a lot of ideas for what we can do here. And the wonderful thing is that we’re operating with grants and donations, and it’s not taking away from our kids’ funding for education,” he said. “To me that’s an opportunity to continue to let our kids be kids and keep them safe. Safety and education go hand in hand.”
“It’s probably easy for you to see why I would be drawn to sitting on this board. It’s less time consuming than the Jeffco board, but it’s something that I’m passionate about,” Mitchell said. “School safety and community safety, being prepared, those are things that have been on my agenda for a long time.”
He said one of the things he used to think about during his time on the school board was that there’s no limit to what can be done to keep school kids safe. But budgetary limits force you to draw lines and set priorities. However, he said, in Jefferson County, school safety is a critical issue you never want to ignore.
Mitchell thinks the District and the DeAngelis Center are doing a great job with response and that training of first responders is crucial. But he believes more can be done on the prevention side. Mental health is one area he’d like to see more of a focus on.
“We’d all love it if we never had another incident, but none of us believe that will happen. This is a nationwide problem that we have. I wish we could have our students be a little more mentally healthy. I hope for those brighter days to be out there somewhere.”
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