The Council for School Safety Leadership Launches to Help School Governance Teams Nationwide Prepare for and Respond to Critical Incidents In Schools

The new school-owned organization delivers unbiased research and experience-based critical incident response services and training to school leaders.

Columbia, Missouri – The Council for School Safety Leadership (CSSL) is a new school-owned organization uniquely positioned to help pre-K through 12 school governance teams confidently lead through crises with research and experience-based support. CSSL delivers crisis management training and response services designed to support those in leadership positions ultimately responsible for the safety of students and staff. 

CSSL is the only national organization that focuses specifically on school governance teams who are responsible for and play a critical role in keeping schools safe. These governance teams can include school boards, superintendents, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, directors, school business officials, and legal counsel. 

School-owned and Impartial 

The new nonprofit organization is founded under the umbrella of the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA), a well-known leader in school safety. For the past 13 years, MSBA has operated the Missouri Center for Education Safety, the only association-owned school safety resource center in the country. Recognizing the need for a national nonprofit organization to support school governance teams in crisis preparedness and response efforts, MSBA decided to take its expertise and learnings in the school safety space and stand up CSSL. The vision for CSSL is to operate as a trusted, unbiased, and nonpartisan centralized hub of crisis response services and resources for school districts and leaders nationwide.    

Experienced and Expert Leadership

CSSL was conceived of and championed by MSBA, with Melissa Randol, who serves as executive director, leading the effort. Randol has more than 20 years of experience with MSBA as general counsel, deputy executive director, and a state and federal lobbyist. Randol also previously served as a member of Governor Mike Parson’s K-12 Council on COVID-19 and is a current member of the Governor’s School Safety Task Force. 

John McDonald, one of the leading national experts in the school safety space, co-founded CSSL with Randol and today serves as the organization’s chief operating officer. Prior to leading CSSL, McDonald was executive director of school safety for Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado for 14 years and is known internationally as the architect of the Columbine High School post-tragedy security and emergency management plan. McDonald has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a subject matter expert on active shooter preparedness, emergency plan development, and school/law enforcement collaboration. During the past 14 years, McDonald has responded to school crisis or recovery efforts across the country, including in the aftermath of seven school shootings. Following the Sandy Hook tragedy, McDonald was invited to speak at the White House about active shooter preparedness, response, and recovery programs. Among many accolades, McDonald received the prestigious ASTORS Homeland Security Award for excellence in public safety and community resilience in 2022.

“CSSL was developed to support executive school leaders whose decisions have long term impact for students, educators, and communities,” said Randol. “With the launch of this new organization, school governance teams now have access to a resource that can help them prepare for and lead in times of crises with bias-free, research-based services delivered with years of hard-earned experience.” 

Critical Areas of Service

CSSL helps school governance teams prepare for and react to significant crises in five critical areas of service:

  • Crisis Management Support Services: Assisting with active and post-event services, from critical incident support to “return to learn” planning following a crisis.
  • Crisis Communication and Media Relations: Supporting post-event narratives and message development, and effectively responding to inquiries. 
  • Crisis Management Training: Providing executive leader and board member strategies and tools to lead through crises.
  • School Safety Expert Witnesses: Connecting school attorneys and school insurance carriers with nationally recognized expert witnesses experienced in school safety and education. 
  • Confidential District Investigative Services: Conducting independent investigations in cooperation with school boards or district legal counsel to identify potential concerns. 

“Effective crisis management during and in the aftermath of a tragedy is a required skill set for  every educational leader in today’s environment,” said McDonald. “Students, parents, and educators deserve our very best efforts on both the best and worst of days. Ensuring continued trust begins with a commitment to safe learning. Our mission at CSSL is to help schools thrive, and this is achieved by ensuring school leadership is prepared and supported in creating safe and focused learning environments.” 

School governance teams interested in learning more about CSSL can visit the website or contact CSSL at 573-445-2562.

About the Council for School Safety Leadership 

School governance teams – school boards, superintendents, CEOs/directors, CFOs/school business officials, and legal counsel – play a critical role in keeping schools safe and in crisis response efforts. The Council for School Safety Leadership serves this need as a mission-driven, school-owned organization led by some of the nation’s most experienced school safety experts. We deliver pre-event preparedness guidance and post-event response services so that pre-K through 12 school districts – and their students and families – operate assured that their executive teams are proactively working for them and their safety.

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