Florida Governor Rick Scott announced on Tuesday that Brevard County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Desmond Blackburn is among the Governor’s five appointees to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Blackburn previously served as a teacher, principal, district trainer, director of school improvement, an area superintendent, and as the chief school performance and accountability office for the Broward County School District.
Failed Crisis Decision-Making
Blackburn was heavily criticized for failed crisis decision-making when he refused to timely close Brevard County Schools as Hurricane Matthew approached while neighboring school districts were closing to give beachside residents valuable time to secure their lives and property during the evacuation.
Many beachside and barrier island parents, who are largely ex-military and/or engineers in the space and defense industry that possess sophisticated crisis decision-making knowledge, skills, experience, and abilities, revolted against Blackburn’s decision and pulled their children from school a day early. The school district relented a week later by announcing that the day was retroactively deemed an excused absence.
Blackburn’s poor decision making was also blamed for causing last-minute evacuation traffic jams and accidents when school finally let out officially.
A year later when Hurricane Irma approached, Governor Scott stripped that piecemeal decision-making power from school superintendents and ordered the closing of schools directly from his office which resulted in what many consider as one of the most successful mass civilian evacuations in human history.
Other than Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, Blackburn has not faced any other major crises during his four-year tenure as Superintendent at Brevard Public Schools. He still resides in Broward County and commutes over 100 miles to work in Brevard County.
“I’m proud to appoint five dedicated Floridians to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission including fathers of two of the victims who were critical in helping a bill get passed quickly,” said Governor Scott.
“Since the shooting in Parkland, our number one focus has been to make our schools safer while doing everything possible to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again. I’m confident that these appointees will continue the work that has already started in our state to keep our students safe.”
Governor Scott’s other appointees are:
Sheriff Larry Ashley, of Okaloosa, is the Okaloosa County Sheriff. Sheriff Ashley has nearly thirty years of law enforcement experience and has earned numerous awards and commendations during his career. He participated in the Governor’s emergency meetings to help develop the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
Chief Kevin Lystad, of Miami Shores, is the Chief of the Miami Shores Police Department. He is the President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. Chief Lystad will serve as Vice Chair of the Commission.
Ryan Petty, of Parkland, is the father of Alaina Petty, who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He played an integral role in ensuring the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act moved through the Florida Legislature.
Andrew Pollack, of Parkland, is the father of Meadow Pollack, who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Following the shooting, Pollack met with local, state, and federal officials, including Governor Scott, to help create a plan to keep our schools safe.
In addition, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen will serve as a member of the commission, and the following members shall serve as ex officio members:
Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart
Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly
Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Justin Senior
Florida Senate President Negron’s appointees are:
State Senator Lauren Book, M.S. Ed, is an internationally respected and renowned child advocate, former classroom teacher and best-selling author. In 2016, she was elected to represent State Senate District 32, which includes portions of Broward County.
Douglas Dodd is a member of the Citrus County School Board. He served in the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office for over 26 years, retiring as a captain. During his career in law enforcement, Mr. Dodd served as a school resource officer for ten years.
James Harpring is the undersheriff for Indian River County and serves as general counsel to the Sheriff’s Department. He also works as an adjunct professor at Indian River State College and as an instructor at the Treasure Coast Law Enforcement Academy.
Melissa Larkin-Skinner, MA, LMHC, is the Chief Executive Officer at Centerstone Florida. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, she has nearly 25 years of experience in mental health and addictions treatment programs including hospital, outpatient, crisis, community based, forensic and child welfare services.
Marsha Powers is a member of the Martin County School Board. She was elected to the School Board in 2012 and re-elected subsequently.
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s appointees are:
Max Schachter is the father of Alex Schacter, who was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Schachter advocated for school safety improvements and urged members of the Florida Legislature to enact effective legislation.
Sheriff Grady Judd is the Sheriff of Polk County. Prior to becoming Sheriff in 2004, Sheriff Judd graduated from the FBI National Academy, as well as several other prestigious law enforcement academies, and taught 23 years at both the University of South Florida and Florida Southern College.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is the Sheriff of Pinellas County and has served with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office for 35 years. Sheriff Gualtieri also serves on the board of directors for the Florida Sheriff’s Association (FSA), the Major County Sheriff’s Association (MCSA) and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Suncoast.
Chief Asst. State Attorney Mr. Bruce Bartlett – Serving in the State Attorney’s Office for over 22 years, Mr. Bartlett has prosecuted or taken part in the prosecutions of some of Pinellas’ most notorious criminals. He has practiced since 1979 and is a graduate of Stetson University College of Law.
Chief Chris Nelson currently serves as the Chief of Police for the City of Auburndale, a position he has held since 2012. A graduate of Bartow High School, he started his law enforcement career as a patrol officer with the Bartow Police Department.