Technology helps Holy Trinity’s SRO protect his school
Brevard County Sheriff’s Cpl. Mark Spencer plays basketball with Sammy Chaffiot of Rockledge.
Courtesy of Michelle Salyer
If you’re thinking about sneaking inside Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy’s Upper School undetected, you’re going to have to get past Cpl. Mark Spencer and the latest technology installed at the school.
“The school has installed a lot of new technology to make the school safer,” said the 6-foot, 5-inch Spencer. “We have a new gunshot detection system, new cameras and sensors, new badging system, new announcement system and new phone lines.”
For example, the gunshot detection system allows Spencer and school officials to quickly detect gunshot activity; determine what type of weapon was used to fire the gunshot; greatly reduce false alarms with dual authentication, and display a floor plan of the school with shot location information.
“Anything that I have suggested to make the school and its students, staff and teachers safer, the school has implemented or is implementing,” Spencer said. “It’s a great place to work.”
Born in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Spencer graduated in 1993 from Osceola High School in Kissimmee where he excelled in basketball and track.
In 1997, Spencer received his bachelor’s degree in business management from Weber University. He began his career in law enforcement after he graduated from the Technical Education Center of Osceola (TECO) in 2011.
Shortly after completing his police academy work at TECO, Spencer was hired by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. He was assigned to road patrol duty with the department’s East Precinct, which covers Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral.
Last August, Spencer left the road patrol to become Holy Trinity’s SRO. However, he was only assigned to stay at the school for six weeks. School officials quickly recognized how valuable Spencer was and wanted him to stay on permanently.
“He (Spencer) was very personable and good in working with people,” said Michelle Salyer, the school’s communications and marketing manager.
As a result, Holy Trinity signed an agreement with the BCSO and Sheriff Wayne Ivey to provide a deputy sheriff to work full-time as a school resource officer at Holy Trinity’s Upper School.
“We were the first private school in Brevard County to sign a formal agreement to retain a full-time school resource officer to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Salyer said.
Spencer said his duties include patrolling the school, making sure gates are locked, monitoring the school’s visitors badging system and numerous cameras, advising school officials about safety upgrades and holding safety classes for juniors and seniors.
“My number one duty is to keep the kids safe,” he said. “I want to be a positive influence in the school. I want to catch things before they get out of hand. I want to take a proactive approach.”
Spencer said the hardest part of his job is keeping up with the social media outlets and vaping.
“I want to stop the foolishness that’s happening on social media,” he explained. “The bullying, posting a threat, that’s what I want to prevent. Everything is constantly changing. Kids are always one step ahead of you. I want to keep up with the technology and have a better grasp of what kids are doing with their phones.”
Spencer also said he’s held seminars on the dangers of vaping. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor that actually consists of fine particles.
Many of these particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals, which have been linked to cancer as well as respiratory and heart disease. “It’s a real problem,” he said. “Not just in Brevard County, but all across the U.S.”
When asked the difference between working at a private school compared to a public school, Spencer’s answer was quick and simple: “A private school is a smaller school but there is less red tape,” he said. “I can talk to the school president and dean and make a suggestion and it will get done. You can’t do that in a public school. Also, the kids here at Holy Trinity are more focused, and the school does a great job in preparing them for college.”
Spencer also said he approaches his job every day with thoughts about the events that happened on Feb. 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On that day, a gunman killed 17 students and staff members and injured 17 others.
“I try to do my part,” he said. “I make sure the cameras are working, the gates are locked, but more importantly I want to have that relationship with kids where they can trust me and touch base with those that know what’s happening in school.”
In addition to his SRO duties, Spencer coaches Holy Trinity’s junior high school basketball team. “Basketball gave me the avenue to work with kids,” he said. “I like being a coach, counselor and mentor.”
Spencer and his wife, Sandra, have three children, ages 20, 16 and 10. They reside in Melbourne.