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School crossing guard's commitment to safety lauded

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Brandon Mitchell, crossing guard at P.W. Moore Elementary School, pretends to direct traffic with a new set of orange traffic wands he received along with the new jacket he's wearing during a surprise ceremony held in his honor at the school, Friday afternoon. P.W. Moore staff and students and members of local law enforcement honored Mitchell on Friday for his commitment to keeping students safe over the past 11 years. At left is P.W. Moore Elementary School Principal Dexter Jackson-Heard.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Moments after he was honored by P.W. Moore Elementary School students and staff for doing the job he loves, school crossing guard Brandon Mitchell went right back to work making sure both leave the school safely.

For the past 11 years, Mitchell has stood in the middle of Roanoke Avenue directing school buses and parents dropping off kids into P.W. Moore’s parking lot on school mornings and then doing the reverse in the afternoons. For five consecutive years, he’s never missed a day of work.

To honor that achievement — and Mitchell’s commitment to both P.W. Moore and its safety — school officials joined with local law enforcement officials on Friday to pay tribute to him.

When Mitchell walked into the gymnasium at the school Friday afternoon he was greeted by a standing ovation and enthusiastic cheering from the school’s students, and about two dozen officers and other employees of the Elizabeth City Police Department and Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office.

The county’s top officers were among the law enforcement contingent: Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten and Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe.

Mitchell was presented a new coat with reflective striping and two luminescent batons from the P.W. Moore Parent-Teacher Organization; cards, posters and other ‘thank you’ gifts from students; tactical pants from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office; boots, pants and gloves from the Elizabeth City Police Department; and a chief’s challenge coin from Buffaloe.

“Brandon, we appreciate your dedication and support and all your hard work,” Buffaloe said. “I’ve been here seven years and I’ve never heard anybody complain about you.”

Efforts to keep the event a secret were successful.

“I was shocked,” Mitchell said when asked about being honored Friday. “I was surprised. I didn’t know what was going on at all.”

In an interview after the assembly, Mitchell said he could only remember missing two days of work since he started 11 years ago and confirmed that he had not missed a single day in five years. He said he enjoys being a crossing guard.

Mitchell said he became a crossing guard because “my heart’s desire has always been to be in law enforcement” but he did not meet the educational requirements to be a police officer. But when he applied at the Elizabeth City Police Department he was told he could be a crossing guard once he passed the background check and completed the training for that position.

“So I had to be the next best thing” to a police officer, which is a school crossing guard, Mitchell said.

Buffaloe said he has been amazed by Mitchell’s dedication.

“Every morning, rain, snow, sleet or shine (he’s there at the school) — if it isn’t closed because of snow,” Buffaloe said.

Gabriel Lopez, co-president of the PTO at P.W. Moore Elementary, said parents appreciate Mitchell’s commitment to school safety and their children’s education.

“He takes a lot of pride in it,” Lopez said, adding Mitchell does things that aren’t even requirements of his job, such as patrolling the hallways during the school day.

“He does a lot to make sure our children are safe,” Lopez said.

During the assembly Lopez thanked Mitchell for his service.

“You stand out there in the cold and heat and you don’t complain,” Lopez said.

Mitchell thanked everyone for taking the time to express their appreciation.

P.W. Moore Elementary Principal Dexter Jackson-Heard closed the assembly by telling Mitchell, “just always remember, you are our family.”

Jackson-Heard said after the assembly that P.W. Moore students’ expressions of appreciation for Mitchell are genuine and are reflective of the way they interact with adults at the school on a daily basis.

“We’re trying to really focus on respect and also high expectations for our children,” said Jackson-Heard, who is in his first year as the school’s principal.

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