John McDonald co-founded The Council for School Safety Leadership (CSSL) in 2022, and today serves as the organization’s chief operating officer. This new national school safety organization provides crisis management services for executive leaders. Within CSSL’s first two months, John assembled a network of national experts and hit the ground running by supporting executive school district leaders after a school shooting in St. Louis, which was the 7th school shooting John has responded to or provided support to during the past 14 years.
John’s work protecting kids has been featured on the front page of the Washington Post and in the Showtime documentary “Active Shooter: America Under Fire,” as well as in the FBI documentaries “Echoes of Columbine” and “In the Aftermath.” John is recognized internationally as the architect of the post-Columbine tragedy safety, security, and emergency management plan, now considered a gold standard in the industry.
For 14 years, John was responsible for protecting 86,000 students and 14,000 employees as executive director of school safety for Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado. Along the way, he made a difference by leading school safety preparedness, response, and recovery efforts not just in Colorado, but also in districts around the country following various school-related tragedies. In 2016, John created the Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety, located in in Colorado. This first of its kind, school owned active shooter training center has provided no- cost training to more than 12,000 first responders and educators.
Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the White House asked John to speak about the importance of active shooter preparedness in America’s schools and the imperative of building positive relationships between schools, students, and law enforcement. In 2022, John was awarded the prestigious Homeland Security ASTORS award for “his dedication to safeguarding our nation’s children.”
John’s work helping school districts make sense of the unimaginable so kids and teachers can get back to the business of learning goes far beyond school shootings. He led Jeffco Public Schools’ recovery efforts following kidnapping and homicide of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway in Westminster, Colorado and after the public suicide of a student who set himself on fire in front of 200 students.
Often sought out as a national presenter and by media both for his insight and his willingness to share the uncomfortable truths impacting school communities, John provides support for K-12 and higher ed institutions because he believes that every student deserves a safe learning environment free from threat, intimidation, and harassment.
John earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology from Metro State University in Colorado. His experience as a former police officer, proud Army National Guard veteran, and senior manager of U.S. investigations for a worldwide corporation have provided the foundation for a life’s work protecting the most innocent.
COO, National Council of School Safety Leadership
John McDonald: Sessions
Tuesday, November 2 | 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm | Breakout Session
Not Every Threat is a School Shooting But Every Threat Deserves Our Very Best
Schools around the country are experiencing critical incidents at a faster rate than ever before but not every tragedy is a school shooting. Learn crisis management strategies for unforeseen events as well as those critical incidents that we worry about every day. Our two presenters have learned hard lessons that have never been shared before. From the incident management perspective to the crisis mental health perspective learn how to take back your school following tragedy.
November 3, 2022 | 11:00 am – 12:00 pm | Breakout Session
Questions School Board Members Should be Asking About School Safety
More details coming soon.
- Presenters: John McDonald, Nancy Masterson, Dr. Erin Maxwell-Meyer, Jonathan Russell, Amy Roderick (moderator)
Wednesday, November 2 | 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm | Breakout Session
School Boards: The Current Climate and Culture and the Intersection With School Safety
This presentation looks at the challenging environment that exists for school boards in an era of frustration, anger and divisiveness as well effective strategies for managing during chaos. The presentation will address the important role a school board has with school safety and school board crisis management strategies following tragedy.