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Superintendent Addresses Rumors, Communication at District 308 Schools

“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," said Superintendent Matthew Wendt.

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.

ayar December 19, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Jen, the man is currently an Administrator, not a Teacher. He's "Management". Besides, the school board approved this, not him. really not the time to talk about this - it's about keeping the kids safe. My prayers are to the families out in Connecticut right now. I'm glad we're trying to be proactive.
Natalie Stevens (Editor) December 19, 2012 at 04:05 PM
A comment was removed from this thread due to allegations of violence, which are against our ToS. Thanks!
mom23 December 19, 2012 at 04:05 PM
While I agree that the district should improve on how to communicate with parents with situations like this, I do believe they thought they were handling it the best they could They immediately brought in the law to work with the schools to investigate to see if there was a real possible threat or just rumors and they brought in police to be at the schools and heightend security. They did send an email, phone calls & addressed some of the issues. While I believe we should have been given daily updates and more specifics to try and help ease our concerns & fears, I still think they deserve credit for much of the steps they took. This being the first time the district has been in a situation like this (including students, parents, district officials) along with the CT tragedy just was hard on EVERYONE. I respect what they did & respect that they are admitting communication could and should be better between them & the parents. Now is a time for ALL of us to come together and support each other. We need to set a good example for our children. Its pretty hypocrtical of us adults to expect the kids to follow the character counts when we don't. I'm sure the school wanted to commumicate, but didn't want to scare everyone either and they were probably conflicted on how to handle it. In a perfect wolrd this won't happen again, but of course we never know. Let's all work together in peace so that if there is a next time, we all can handle it better & make it better for our children.
Class of "92" December 19, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I am concerned as well. The schools statement Friday said," nothing credible in any rumors circulating about Oswego East or the junior highs and also announced heightened security". So, here's a few questions that should be of concern. 1.) What about OHS??? You know, the high school where it started. The place they were trying to contain it at. 2.) Why did our kids tell us this on Wednesday, and not the school when they found out on Monday/Tuesday. 3.) are they going to comment on OHS'S situation or is that still being contained? 4.) I think the school board and OPD need to address the public in a meeting with the parents of Oswego a.s.a.p. This is way more concerning than the board making a decision on taxes. I'll give them my $.02 in taxes after they give me their $.02 on how the safety of my children will be addressed. I'm sure everyone will agree, a voice mail will not suffice or answer the questions we have.
Oswego Resident December 19, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I for one, don't agree, Co92 The District response answered the questions that I had at the time. Could there have been a little more detail? Perhaps. Could there have been a little better timeliness? perhaps. All in all though, given the fact that it was a rumor gone viral, I was pleased with thier response.
Father of 2 teenagers December 19, 2012 at 05:14 PM
FYI-I had a long talk with one of the administrators yesterday afternoon and was told that none of the rumors were substantiated. Although he is not obligated to tell me, he mentioned no suspensions, and with all we discussed, I think he would've mentioned that if it were true. This is a perfect example of how rumors get started and can spread like wildfire. We might expect that from teenagers, but it's irresponsible for adults to engage in this activity. Simply inquiring about suspensions gives the perception that this is a true rumor. Let's not give this rumor anymore print.
Kelly December 19, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I think the school district acted responsibly. Were they supposed to perpetuate the rumors and give out false information before they verified it? That can be dangerous too. Really, they were damned if they did and damned if they didn't here. No action they took would be right in some people's eyes.
Rachael B. December 19, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Why is it that the district always wants to draw things out, lose valuable time, get a parent group together to chat, chat, chat about "how to approach this in the future" and then not follow through anyway. Administrators are HIRED to do the WORK -- to run the schools, protect the students and staff, to educate the kids. Get on it! Safety can't wait. Aggressively learn what other districts are doing. Learn more from law enforcement. DO something!
Henry T December 19, 2012 at 05:33 PM
<blockquote>This is not a site to bicker back and forth between parents as to what should/should not be said, but It is for us as parents to get feedback/answers from the districtm and for them to respond as they feel fit.</blockquote> Actually this is a news site, not a school district site...
gina December 19, 2012 at 05:38 PM
For the district to comment on, is what I meant!
Oswegoland Taxpayer and Parent December 19, 2012 at 05:46 PM
It would be really cool to find out from them exactly what they are doing to ensure the safety of our kids. Here's my big issue with this - it really smells like some sort of coverup and it smells like there is something we are not being told. Immediate redirection and their communication is lacking. WHO determined the threat was not credible? HOW did they come to that conclusion? IF this was just a rumor gone viral, HOW did they determine that? This magical email address they are going to release - (1) WHO will be responsible for that address/WHO will be responding? (2) will the results of parental input on that channel be available for the public to see? This is, after all, a public school which in the spirit of transparency should be, well, transparent. I agree that there is most likely no credible threat to the school(s) at this time - my issue is that I don't see this bumbling district as being fully capable of ensuring the safety of my children.
Jane Enviere December 19, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Rock and hard place, anyone? If they don't involve parents, then they are dictators who don't listen to the community. If they involve parents, people complain about wasting time. Talk about no one ever being happy.
gina December 19, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Very well said! My feelings exactly!!
Jen December 19, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I for the most part agree with "Oswegoland Taxpayer and Parent"..there was a message sent out but nothing was specific! They just expected us to be ok w/ the simple fact that the threats were not credible (without who, what, how answered) NOW..this approach works for some of us, but others of us want the details & that is what I feel was lacking!! My daughter was scared silly to be at school...how can I ask her to "trust" in a situation that I myself dont trust in?? I think all in all, no one was prepared for this type of thing..its a learning experience for all! Lets just improve & move on so we dont have to go through this again
gina December 19, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I agree. If the rumor I heard is NOT true, then the person(s) who made the threat have not been identified. So, how are we sure our kids will be safe, if they still dont know who did it? Without more answers as to knowledge of who made the threat, my children will not be in school.
Rachael B. December 19, 2012 at 07:06 PM
The administrators can invite parent and community participation, but do it quickly. How about within a week, rather than over 6-12 months?
Father of 2 teenagers December 19, 2012 at 07:24 PM
You want more? Call the school. The administrator I talked to was very forthcoming and informative. I had never spoken to him before, had no idea who he is, but he offered a lot of info. They are not going to give you names, of course, but it sounds like they did a ton of interviews and drew their conclusions. There are very few 100% guarantees in life. I think the reason they don't go into more detail in emails is probably because A: there's too much to go through and B: they would rather not use email and sites such as this to get all the details out. I know I've offered a handful of comment today, but this is rare for me. Perhaps some of us should stop using The Patch as our source for "facts". Otherwise, you have to put up with guys like me. Merry Christmas!
Walt Hines December 19, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Does anyone know if there's a percentage of kids in attendance that's required in-order for the school district to receive money for the day? I know in my daughters class that her teachers have asked the class how many of them will not be in attendance on Friday and all raise their hands but 2 she said.
J. Allen December 19, 2012 at 10:16 PM
I feel the school communicated well, it was all ruors at first we dont want it to get blown out of porprtion which it did. I feel by contacting law enforcement first that was a good choice they know better how to deal with these situations if they informed parents first i think it would have been worse parents rushing to pick up kids, etc. it would have been very caotic. I posted a few days ago to another post that I have an Oswego high student and I feel that she was perfectly safe and will be perfectly safe. I heard the rumor from her first but we all know hoe rumors go they get bigger and bigger so instead of listening to her I remained calm and waited and what do u know the Principal Mr. Wayne sent out mass emails and phone calls updating everyone. Might I add that Mr. Wayne has done a great job of keeping us informed, he has been princpak since my oldest daughter graduated, and he always does right by our children he is looking out for their welfare. So in my eyes kudos to the district, and law enforcement for making sure our children feel safe and are safe in school.
Fedup December 19, 2012 at 10:58 PM
This entire school district is utterly worthless and useless especially when it comes to informing parents. I don't care if it were a rumor, they should have sent communication earlier than the following week. Please don't defend the overpaid administration staff. They failed on MANY levels, and only after the shooting on Friday was anything conveyed to parents.
Class of "92" December 19, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Again, in their statement they only addressed the schools that are of no concern with regards to the "rumor". WHY wasn't Oswego High School mentioned in the article or statements? Seriously, rumor or not. Why?
Missy December 20, 2012 at 12:09 AM
There is an open seat on the BOE. How about one of you know it alls, complainers, whiners or arm chair quarterbacks step up to the plate? Strap your helmet on and get in the game. The seat is ripe for the taking http://oswego.patch.com/articles/candidates-running-in-the-oswego-april-elections
LSJ December 21, 2012 at 07:23 AM
My exact thoughts!!! My son goes to Fox Chase & I've seen a police car parked across from the school, very far away. I doubt they can see the front door. We need more info.
Walt Hines December 22, 2012 at 05:40 AM
My girls and I were in Church this morning and heard that students who weren't there because of the threats etc... were going to have an unexcused absence. Does this mean they must attend a Saturday school? If this is the case when does administration supersede the rights of parents? I think this district is headed for a major lawsuit if it's true.
Marcia December 22, 2012 at 01:19 PM
It should be an unexcused absence, school was in session and kids skipped. That is unacceptable. Why remove kids from school to attend a church, or the mall or the movies: where if I'm not correct shootings have happened too. You can't live in fear and you are teaching kids that it's ok to miss school because it's not important and to hide.
JimmyJ December 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Wow Marcia....so if the State ( in this case Public School) tells your kid "show up or else" even if the parent feels there is a threat....you damn well better show up. Since when did the State trump the right of the parent. I'm glad noting happened to Walts kids....of course your song would be a different one had something in fact happened. And to Walt...YES there is a specific number of hours in a day required for the school to qualify for funding for the day.
JimmyJ December 23, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Marcia....I suppose EVERY time you called your kid in sick...they actually were sick and you can document that right? You never took your kid out of school for ANYTHING, EVER right.....
Marcia December 27, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Jimmy, um yes if my kids were sick I can document that but to be honest my kids have had perfect attendance for the last two years so I guess that kills that idea that I allow my kids to miss school. We have a teacher in our house hold and as an employee he never calls off for the fun of it. School like work is a responsibility we teach our kids that it is required to attend. BTW it isn't the state telling your child to show up it is a school policy, if you call off work you will get an occurrence same if you skip school you will get a detention or whatever is policy. And no I have never taken them out of school for anything fun. The only time my child missed was for medical testing for an IEP and guess what I have documentation!
Marcia December 27, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Again you can't live in fear, and if you think about it you actually have a much better chance of being killed in a car crash than a school shooting.
JimmyJ December 27, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Well Marcia.....I guess we disagree. We do agree that we can't live in fear but the way things go with school shootings...if I believe there is a credible threat....I'm keeping my kid at home. If that's seen as doing it for "fun" or teaching them the wrong thing then so be it...after all what will a school employee do to being my child back if, after they "investigate" they are wrong. As to dying in a car crash...maybe the chance is better....but we have more control over school security and we refuse to exercise a lot of it under the guise of "upholding property value" than childrens safety.

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