August 7, Message from School Board Pres. Donnelly

Dear Oxford Community Schools Families,

I hope and pray all of you are enjoying the waning days of summer break. Our hearts continue to be with the students, staff, families and community members whose lives were forever changed by the tragic events of Nov. 30, 2021.

This is an amazing community, and we have been through so much together. I am truly proud of the way our community has stood together during this tragedy. We are and will continue to be #OxfordStrong.

We have many exciting things in store for our return to school. Details will come soon on a back-to-school tele-townhall, as well as a back-to-school open house to introduce you to some of our new staff members, new academic programs, security enhancements and much more.

Safety continues to be our top priority, and I’m so proud of the numerous safety updates and security measures we are taking to ensure a safe return to school. We’ll highlight these measures at our tele-town hall and open house.

Our commitment to the mental health and well-being of our students also remains strong, and there will be numerous supports in place for our students and staff. These supports will be especially important in the months ahead as more information is released in the prosecutions’ and civil cases.

For instance, many of you have seen recent media reports regarding allegations based on videotaped evidence of the tragic events of Nov. 30. I’d like to take a moment to address those allegations.

We grieve for the families of Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling, and Hana St. Juliana with little ability to understand what they are going through. The profound questions that drive so much of their pain and anguish are the same questions that drive us to seek a more complete understanding of the events on and surrounding that day. 

The reality is, we don’t yet know the answers to those questions. It is our hope and aim that we will have answers at the conclusion of the various investigations. Until then, we as a board and a district must refrain from using partial information to make judgments or draw conclusions.

While attorneys may make statements to the media, we must remember that they may be providing partial information about an incident that exists within a much larger and more complex context.

On that day, we believe our students and staff acted swiftly and heroically with tremendous courage. Staff members rendered aid to wounded students. Their actions and training on our district’s emergency planning and protocols clearly prevented more injuries and deaths.

That’s why isolating a single moment in a video — out of context — does a disservice to our staff members, students and the entire community. We are confident the various investigations and cases will ultimately bring the complete set of facts to light.

These attempts to sway public opinion with speculation before the investigations are complete are counterproductive and designed to divide us. However, we will not let that happen, nor will we allow these actions to distract us from our mission of promoting healing and providing a world-class education to our children.

In the past 10 days, and several times over the past few months, the district and board have learned information from plaintiffs’ attorneys or the prosecutor at the same time that you learned it. We weren’t briefed in advance. We weren’t given a heads up. We weren’t shown the evidentiary materials that they’ve referenced.

From now until the trials take place, we will continue to learn information together. This is going to be difficult at times. It will be less so if we keep open hearts and open minds and remember that we are one community working to heal, together.

We will do our best to communicate and, to the extent we’re able, correct misinformation, but we can only do so much in the age of social media and 24-hour media coverage. Plus, with a criminal investigation and several lawsuits underway, there will be times when we simply don’t have all the information.

So please, we ask you to not join in the speculation, the divisiveness and the mistrust.  

Most importantly, we will continue the business of educating our kids.

Our investments following the SEC review of district safety practices and procedures made us stronger and safer, and we are building on our already highly qualified academic team. While some districts have struggled to find qualified applicants, I understand we have numerous applications for open positions across our district, and current teachers and staff I’ve spoken to are eager to return. They want to be part of #OxfordStrong.

Our strong attendance rates of 92% across all our schools following the tragedy were a testament to the resilience of our school community and our collective refusal to allow the tragic events of Nov. 30 to define us.

We have enormous compassion for our families, students and staff. We have come so far together. We’ve mourned and attended funerals, vigils and town hall meetings together.  And we will continue to heal – together.

Everyone, from our board members to our teachers, administrators and support staff, can’t wait to see the faces of our Wildcats again in our hallways. As we prepare for our return to school, I assure you we will remain undeterred in our mission to provide a world-class education for our students.


Tom Donnelly
School Board President