BY ROBERT L. BAKER
Wyoming County Press Examiner
Tunkhannock Area School District cancelled classes for Friday after rumors of a threatening text message and a message on Facebook.
High school principal Greg Ellsworth confirmed that an alert had been sent out around 9:30 p.m. to parents of students across all schools in the district that school would not be in session, less than two hours after parents attending a school board meeting were told that action would not be necessary.
Officials told concerned parents at the meeting that they were trying to get to the bottom of rumors.
Several parents asked questions about the rumors swirling since the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children dead.
“What are the facts?” parent Deeata Nichols asked. “I have a student in fifth grade who tells me she heard things.”
Superintendent Michael Healey said that he had probably received about 50 communications regarding a FaceBook posting and as many about a threatening text message, but no one has been able to present either so law enforcement could determine its credibility.
“We believe we’ve prepared for about every eventuality, but the one we can’t get a handle on is the rumor,” Healey said Thursday. “The bottom line is that we cannot substantiate any of the claims that there is going to be violence tomorrow, and it’s not happening just here. You see it at other school districts as well.”
After one TAMS parent said she had heard that a student assembly involving the showing of the movie, “Reindeer Games” scheduled for Friday had been cancelled, she wanted to know why.
Healey said it was because of the rumors.
“We did not want to place students assembled in jeopardy,” he said. “The administration made a decision to postpone the showing until after this frenzy subsides.”
He suggested that the movie would be shown around the time of the administration of PSSA tests.
“We’re concerned about the darkness of the parking lot for tomorrow night’s high school basketball game with Elk Lake,” he added, but we don’t want to needlessly alarm the public.
“Everybody is suffering from the same thing. We’re very concerned if we make the wrong decision and something happens, you will say, ‘you knew about this and didn’t act.’ Where does it end?”
In light of the security concerns, Tunkhannock Area board president Martin Migliori said he had appointed a committee comprised of representatives of the board and community to review district-wide security.
Among its membership are three parents of students in the district who have law enforcement experience: David Ide, Richard Seaberg and Richelle Stapleton. Also on the committee are board members Rob Parry Don Nowels and Bill Weidner as well as TA information technology director Joe Kormis and TA cross country/track coach Randy White, who is also a Triton Hose Co. first responder and Tunkhannock Twp. supervisor. They are to review security measures now in place and report back to the board in January.
The public can provide the committee with security concerns and suggestions by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
An additional committee was set up to look at financing of any security recommendations. It will consist of board members Migliori, Mick Cronin, Kim Teeters, TA business manager PJ O’Shea and TA assistant superintendent Ann Way.
And, one more committee was created to look at transportation issues and that will consist of board members Lori Bennett, and Steve Colley as well as TA transportation director Karen DeLancy and TA director of information and sports Ken Janiszewski.
Just ahead of 8 p.m., the public board meeting adjourned and Migliori announced it would be going into an executive session but would not be coming back out for a vote.
It is not clear when the executive session ended, but around 9:30 p.m. the alert was made to parents that the next day’s school would be cancelled with all after-school activities including the night boys basketball game between the Tigers and Elk Lake also out. It is not clear if the game will be rescheduled.