CUSD's new Executive Director of Safety and Student Services, Darrin Jindra, attends the Safe Schools Conference from July 12 to 14 at the Delta Hotel in Garden Grove. Photo by Lou Ponsi/for CUSD Insider

CUSD safety director prepares for new school year

By Lou Ponsi

As the new Executive Director of Safety and Student Services for Capistrano Unified School District, Darrin Jindra is responsible for the well-being of 42,000 students and 4,000 employees within the district’s 63 campuses.

Jindra and his staff oversee child welfare, moderating student attendance, truancy expulsions, and disciplinary matters. They also conduct safety assessments and develop safety plans at school sites.

Jindra has worked in the district for 21 years, and recently became director of safety and student services after the previous director, Mike Beekman, retired.

Attending the Safe Schools Conference held July 12 to 14 at the Delta Hotel in Garden Grove gave Jindra the opportunity to learn from experts about the most effective strategies and methods for bolstering school safety, and also to network with representatives from law enforcement, education and the field of mental health. Workshops covered active shooter training, threat assessment, restorative approaches to student discipline, bullying, drug use and social media.

“This conference covers all of the components involved in creating safe school environments,” Jindra said. “It has the safety component from disaster plan building to active shooter training to identifying threats and threat assessment. It also teaches preventative measures, like the restorative practices approach to our student discipline, the student wellness component and how the brain works.”

With more than 600 attendees from 14 states and Canada, this year’s conference was the largest in the event’s 14-year history, said Phillip Falcetti, CEO of Partners4Wellness and a member of the Safe Schools Conference Planning Board.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for not only school-based individuals but for community-based folks to work with law enforcement to work at the school setting, to work with families and communities to create a triage of safe schools throughout our country,” Falcetti said.

CUSD’s new Executive Director of Safety and Student Services, Darrin Jindra, attends the Safe Schools Conference from July 12 to 14 at the Delta Hotel in Garden Grove.
Photo by Lou Ponsi/for CUSD Insider

Several breakout sessions over the three days covered topics such as substance abuse issues, active shooter preparedness, emergency operation plans, mental health and gang culture.

A workshop titled “Deconstructing the Culture of Bullying: Balancing Emotional, Mental, and Behavioral Health” covered strategies and tools that can be used to “Identify and replace malicious and unwanted behaviors by shifting distorted perspectives and by changing self-limiting beliefs.”

Jindra said he was impacted by a session titled “School Safety: It’s all about Relationships,” where Dr. Stephen Sroka, an educator and author, talked about the importance of forging close relationships with students and the importance of resiliency and the 4 P’s: purpose, passion, pride and persistence. A key message he delivered was the fact that “kids won’t remember what you say, but you’ll remember how you made them feel.”

The workshop, “Supporting Transgender and Nonbinary Students,” offered resources to provide a deeper understanding of issues around gender, and how to apply the knowledge to support and empower trans and nonbinary students.

The general session on July 3 featured a presentation from FBI special agent Jeffery Cugno, the coordinator of Primary Behavioral Analysis Unit at the agency’s Los Angeles field office. Cugno’s presentation offered an overview of the four major threats posed to educational environments: targeted school violence, Illicit and pharmaceutical drug use, radicalization and violent extremism, and human trafficking.

CUSD already has systems in place and ready to be implemented in the event of an emergency, including an emergency operations center and a notification center, where emergency counseling and crisis response teams would be available if needed.

Based on the information he learned at the conference, Jindra said he would examine the district’s systems to make sure they are “polished and in good shape to prepare for the year.”

Beyond all the workshops and lectures, a key component of the conference is connecting people with the same purpose in mind, Falcetti said.

“The key component behind it all is just reaching everyone’s heart and building relationships and that is what this conference does for three days,” he said. “It renews that commitment that we are in this together.”

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