FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – It’s a path neither ever imagined they would take.
But four years after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, Debbi Hixon and Lori Alhadeff have become agents of change who channel their grief into action as members of the Broward School Board.
Alhadeff won a seat on the board late in 2018, just months after the calamity that claimed the life of her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa.
“Alyssa was shot eight times in her English class. There is pain in my heart every day but I try to turn it into action to make sure schools are safer for her two brothers and everyone in the district,” she said.
Alhadeff said it’s not enough to have safeguards in place. She said you have to make sure they are implemented and working at each and every school. A major accomplishment for was getting ‘Alyssa’s Law’ passed which requires schools to install panic alarms to instantly notify authorities when an emergency is happening.
”For me, I was an athlete so I approach things that way. Being prepared, doing my homework, arriving early. So little things can make a bigger change,” she said.
She is also concentrating on mental health initiatives to prevent violence from happening.
That is a focus for Debbi Hixon as well. Her husband Chris Hixon was the athletic director at MSD. He died trying to disarm the shooter.
Hixon said she was asked to run for the countywide school board seat in 2020.
“It’s not in my nature to be out in front. I’m the worker bee and it surprised me someone thought I had school board quality,” she said.
Hixon proved herself wrong. Entering her second full year on the board, she has demonstrated she is a voice for teachers, having spent 31 years in the classroom.
A lifelong resident of Hollywood, she attended and taught at South Broward High School where her last position was magnet coordinator.
”Most decisions that happen on the school board level directly impact teachers, so if we are not looking to them and how it translates, we are wasting money,” she said.
Hixon has made it her goal to visit all 238 public schools in the district. She said she is most proud she had money restored in the budget for tree trimming to beautify the exterior look of schools and to bolster and inform PTA’s so there is a connection between the district and communities.
Caring alone for their special needs son Corey while trying to connect with teachers and families is a daily challenge for Hixon. But, she said, she knows Chris, who was the center of her life, is with her every step of the way.
“To be able to bridge that gap is something that makes me feel I’m in the place I’m supposed to be,” she said.
Hixon intends to run again for the Broward School Board when her term is up in 2024.
Alhadeff is running for her District 4 seat this year. She has challengers.