OXFORD, Mich. – The Superintendent of Oxford Community Schools spoke for the first time Thursday, describing the state of Oxford High School after Tuesday’s shooting and looking ahead to the next steps.
Superintendent Tim Throne taped a YouTube video at 4:35 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 2) from the performing arts center lobby of the high school.
“I apologize that I’m coming to you in this way, but we felt that this was probably the most expedient way to communicate with our parents and our families and our community,” Throne said.
Throne was present for Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe’s briefing hours after the shooting, but didn’t join Sheriff Michael Bouchard the following two days.
‘This high school is a wreck right now’
In the video, Throne was visibly emotional and talked about the state of the school.
“This high school is a wreck right now,” Throne said. “Maybe the best way to describe it is, it’s like a war zone.”
He said it will likely be weeks before the building is ready to reopen for school. He said he spoke with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday, and she promised to do everything in her power to open up the supply chains to give Oxford High School the resources it needs to get back in order.
A mourning community
Throne said everyone needs time to process what happened, and to mourn and grieve.
“We have parents that sent their kids to school two days ago, and they’re never coming home,” Throne said. “To say that I am still in shock and numb is probably an understatement.
“As I told our staff earlier today -- it was the first time that we had an opportunity to bring everybody together over at the middle school -- I want you to know that you are loved, that these events that have occurred will not define us. We will be resolved with a clear memory in how we move forward.”
He said he couldn’t be more proud of staff members, teachers and administrators for how they handled the tragedy. He said students did exactly what they were trained to do.
“While we had hoped that never in a million years would we ever have to pull this game plan out, we did, and I couldn’t be more proud,” Throne said.
Throne said after finishing the video message, he would immediately leave for his first meeting with parents.
He said the district is working to communicate as quickly as possible.
“I apologized to our staff today that we haven’t been communicating sooner, and that’s OK,” Throne said. “That’s OK because in this instance, we have to go by the book, and we simply cannot communicate things until others have communicated things.”
Throne promised to reach out to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday night and ask authorities to release whatever video footage they feel comfortable releasing.
“I want you to know and I want you to be as proud of your sons and daughters as I am and our staff is with what they did,” Throne said.
Throne mentioned the funerals that would come over the next four or five days.
Four students were killed in the shooting: Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.
“I want to allow our staff the opportunity to attend those funerals, to be with our kids and parents, to be with one another,” Throne said. “After that, we will begin a process for bringing our students back in.”
Throne said the district is doing what it can to organize between 1,600-1,800 backpacks, phones, coats and other items that were left inside the school.
“We’ll begin to go through that, and once we have a better idea of how long that’s going to take to process that stuff, contact families, get it back to you, we’ll communicate that plan as quickly as possible and let you know what that’s going to look like,” Throne said. “But I think it’s probably pretty safe to say, don’t plan on that in the next couple of days. It’s going to take us a little bit yet to work through all of that.
“We’re working as quickly as possible. We’ll be in communication some more in the future, but at this point, allow yourself time to be with your families, be with one another, give grace to one another. Today may be a dark day in Oxford, but it’s still a great day to be a Wildcat. Thank you.”
You can watch the full video below.