A Piece of South Broward High School History Moves On

SBHS Faculty and Administration say goodbye to long-time teacher and Marine Magnet Coordinator Debra Hixon as she becomes newest Broward County School Board Member

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Bulldog Bark Staff

SBHS Marine Magnet Coordinator Debra Hixon is honored during a farewell celebration on Friday, Nov. 13. A SBHS graduate herself, Hixon worked at the school for 27 years and would be moving on to becoming a member of the Broward County School Board after she won a run-off election on Nov. 4.

Bulldog Bark Staff , Editor

For almost four decades, the name Debra Hixon has been synonymous with South Broward High School. Hixon, afterall, is not only a Bulldog graduate, but so are her two children. Her late husband, Chris Hixon, had been the athletic director at the school. In the 32 years of her educational carrer, 27 of them had been spent at SBHS. The list of involment, as long as your arm: classroom teacher, Red Cross swim coach, water polo coach, marine magnet coordinator, member of the faculty council and organizer of the local annual Harvest Drive, just to name a few.

On Nov. 13, after the school day ended, more than 70 members of SBHS’s faculty and administration, masked and standing six feet apart, arched aross the courtyard near the front office to say goodbye. Hixon had won her run-off election against Jeff Holness for a Broward County School Board At-Large seat on Election Day. Friday was her last day at South Broward. The following Tuesday, she would be sworn into her new role.

“I consider it to be a step up for her,” said SBHS reading teacher Jessica Stanchak. “I think she’s done great things for South Broward and I think she’s going to take all her experiences as a teacher, as a magnet coordinator, as someone who worked in athletics and pass it on to the School Board.”

Clutching a microphone hooked up to a large speaker, SBHS Principal Patricia Brown announced Hixon’s arrival. Applause and cheers resonated as she walked hand-in-hand with her son Corey, past a table laden with celebratory cupcakes and gifts, and humbly took her seat up front.

“It was a no-brainer. We had to do something to celebrate her 27 years here,” said Brown. “She impacted so many lives, definitely mine.”

Standing under a handmade banner reading “Endless Possibilities,” Brown praised Hixon for her work and dedication to education and, in an emotional turn, commended her for her strength in moving forward despite the unimaginable heartbreak of the loss of her husband, who was killed in the MSD school shooting two and a half years ago.

“It was obviously a huge impact in her life, but it didn’t and still doesn’t define her,” said Brown. “It made her charge forward and want to do more for children, for the safety of schools, and not just want to, she did it. I’m so proud of her and I pray I follow in her footsteps.”

Brown then yielded the mic to faculty and staff to come up and say what was in their hearts. Some, like baseball coach and technology teacher Darin Koch, who had attended Olsen Middle School with Hixon, had also been teaching with her at SBHS for 25 years. As well, he had worked with Chris Hixon when he was the athletic director at SBHS, and had coached the Hixon’s son Tommy.

“I feel like our families are connected somehow or another through all those years,” said Koch.

Although he feels like SBHS will be different without her, he is still please she is moving on to something she wanted to do.

“I know this is what she wanted and this will be maybe a nice change for her and a different direction,” said Koch.

Art teacher Susan Ostheim had been working with Hixon before the 700 building was built and had watched her children grow up. She calls Hixon “the hardest working person I know.”

“As many things as I’ve been involved in in my teaching career, outside of classroom work, I worked to the point where my family was telling me: ‘You work too much.’ I would tell them: ‘You don’t know Debbi Hixon,'” said Ostheim.

From the beginning, Ostheim has said that she doesn’t want Hixon to leave.

“But, I know that she really wants to do this, so you have to honor that, you know?” said Ostheim, choking back tears.

More bittersweet speeches followed as other teachers and staff members came forward to share their memories and experiences with Hixon, as she sat in a balloon adorned chair, laughing and wiping away tears.

“I’ve driven to the same building for 27 years. My life is here, so I’m very sad to leave here,” said Hixon.

Although she is sad to leave, she is also very excited for the opportunity to bring her experiences to bear as new school board member.

“I’d been working really hard in the last, almost, three years for school safety, better mental health and really just making our community safer. And it just felt right. It felt like I was the right person for this position,” said Hixon.

She said she was humbled by her victory in the general election, when over 500,000 people voted for her to become the next county-wide school board member.

“It’s very humbling, and it also kinda validates the fact that I was the right person for the job,” said Hixon.

Still, her departure not only leaves a hole at South Broward High School, but a hole in Hixon’s heart as well.

“It’s like when your first born goes off to college,” she said. “It’s so emotional. You know that the connection is still there, but it will never be like it is when you’re together every day.”