Recapping the talk: Last week’s Conversations About Ensuring the Safety of School and the Community

 By District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love

Last Thursday, District 2 hosted “It’s Time to Talk,” Having Conversations about Ensuring the Safety of School and Community at Evans High School (AKA “Home of the Trojans”). Before we delve into some of the topics that were discussed, I would like to thank and extend my sincere appreciation to the following individuals for making this event possible: Our moderator Attorney Greg Jackson, Esq.; City of Apopka Commissioner Alexander Smith; Mr. John D. Byrnes, D. Hum-hc; our panelists; Orange County staff; Ms. Curtesa Vanderpool and her entire team at Evans High School; Dr. Randy Nelson from Bethune Cookman University; Ms. Sandra Fatmi with the United Foundation of Central Florida, Inc. and Future Leaders United (FLU at Evans High School); the Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District (NID); Mr. Rogers Beckett with the South Apopka Safe Neighborhood Partnership; Ms. Lori Erlacher with the Lee Road Safe Neighborhood Partnership; and Mr. Ken Dwyer and his wife Chris Dwyer with the Pine Hills Safe Neighborhood Partnership. Most importantly, I would like to thank all of the attendees who not only came out to the forum but engaged the panelists in asking questions.

District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love

To kick-off the conversation, Mr. John Byrnes, who is with the Center for Aggression Management, gave a presentation on Aggression Management. In his presentation, Mr. Byrnes discussed aggression management techniques to recognize aggressive behavior and to prevent violence by managing aggressive behavior. Mr. Byrnes has been interviewed on workplace violence by most major news outlets and has presented at over 100 conferences dealing with workplace, campus, church or school violence. He received an honorary doctorate of humanities in 2000 for his discovery and development of Aggression Management.

Following Mr. Byrnes’ presentation, Attorney Jackson introduced each of the panelists: Pastor Derrick L. McRae, Pastor of the Experience Christian Center (ECC); Chief Bryan Holmes, Senior Director of the Orange County Public Schools District Police (established in 2015); Mrs. Tammie Holt, Founder of Strengthening Our Sons, Inc.; Master Deputy Stanley Murray, a twenty-three year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office; and Mr. Brandan Louis, a Senior at Evans High School and future CEO for a major fortune five hundred company.

The panel discussed various topics, including mentoring for young boys, communication, the difference between what law enforcement has seen on the streets vs. in schools, positive influences, and much more.

“Kids come to school to feel safe, to be frank,” said Chief Bryan Holmes. “There is structure. There is food. Evans High School is the school were you can be served breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and there is a pantry. If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, how are you going to feel better?”

Halfway through the panel discussion, at the mention of an “anchor”, I asked Master Deputy Stanley Murray to talk about CompStat, and how it relates to funding being “anchored” in communities that need it for children and family services. Master Deputy Murray described CompStat as being used for identifying crime trends in certain areas and also anticipate where crimes will occur in the future. Through CompStat, law enforcement tries to take statistics to formulate plans to allocate resources to areas of need, many of time getting pushed somewhere else. To help rectify this, law enforcement builds a relationship as well as trust back with the community, where residents are educated on resources available through the Sheriff’s Office.

The audience also heard from Mr. Brandan Louis about what is actually happening in schools and the needs of his peers.

“I’m big on mentorship. We [young men and boys] need a positive role model and father figure,” said Brandan. “However, we often deny ourselves this need. Men who are willing to be that role model or mentor should actually come out and guide kids in the right way. We need to think about what we can do to raise good kids.”

Residents can watch the entire forum on my Facebook page at Orange County District 2 Commissioner.

Given the extensive dialogue that took place last week, please know that this is not where the conversations should end. In order to help ensure the safety of our students as well as connect them with mentors in school and in the community, we need to continue to have these conversations with our neighbors, political, faith-based and community leaders, as well as community stakeholders. Let’s talk about it!

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