Oswego District 308 Superintendent Matthew Wendt Monday night addressed concerns around the rumors of violence that started circulating at Oswego High School last Tuesday.
Wendt said the rumors started Dec. 11 at Oswego High School and spread quickly through the school community. The district worked with law enforcement that day and the next to find the source of the rumor that had remained contained at Oswego High School.
Two days later, however, Wendt said the situation had “mushroomed” with rumors spreading across town to Oswego East High School and several of the junior highs.
“It became something managing us instead of us managing it,” he said.
Wendt said tremendous amounts of misinformation were fed through social media networks and that the school “cannot compete” with the speed of which information travels through that forum.
And then on Friday the district received word of the shooting that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“I knew this would have a significant impact on our district in lieu of what we were living through,” said Wendt. “We were dealing with a situation where we had two major issues happening at the same time,” said Wendt, adding that the school’s response “[wasn’t] perfect.”
“This is not an opportunity to point fingers,” he said. “If anything comes out of this tragedy, it is a way for us to reflect on where we did well and where we can improve.”
The school released a statement Friday afternoon stating that there was nothing credible in any of the rumors circulating about Oswego East or the junior highs and also announced that security would be heightened over the next few days.
That announcement, along with the original posting from last week, were removed from district's website Monday of this week because the district wanted the most up-to-date message publicized, said John Sparlin, executive director of administrative services.
"We are trying to be as transparent as possible," said Sparlin. He noted that the announcements had gone out across the district and submitted to media groups as well as the Village of Oswego. "We wanted everyone to know what was happening."
Greg O’Neil, a concerned parent of two students at Traughber Junior High, spoke to the board Monday and said he felt the district could improve upon the communication to parents.
“We thought there was a credible threat to the safety of our children," he said. "I think parents and the community need to be involved to know every measure is being taken to protect the students, staff and teachers.”
Wendt said he would welcome the opportunity to bring people together and discuss ideas and suggestions on how to approach this in the future.
“We need to reflect on how open our schools are, think on what we can do now. We were slower [in our response] than we should be," he said.
An email address will be created for parents and residents to submit ideas and suggestions specific to the issue.