Summer 2018 Staff Information

Dear Oxford Hills School District Faculty and Staff, 

Congratulations! You have found your way to the Oxford Hills School District's Summer Information Page!  We have migrated our summer materials to the webpage in an effort to provide the information you need about the opening of school in one place. This way the information can be referred to as often as necessary on as many platform devices as possible.   One important note: Opening day for all faculty and staff has been moved up to Monday, August 27.  All staff should report to work on August 27.  

I have just returned from my week of vacation in the woods of Northeast Maine. The weather was unbelievably beautiful, the water warm and the family ever present. Best of all was the lack of cell phone reception!  I can't think of a more relaxing respite from the hectic nature of our daily work as educators. This past week provided a great opportunity for me to refocus on the importance of our work - the challenge we have all accepted; to individually provide students with every opportunity necessary to ensure their success in post graduate pursuits. 

The District's Core Beliefs include: 

  • Meet students where they are, motivating and helping them develop their individual learning paths.
  • Hold students to high expectations and provide adequate time and support to achieve them.
  • Prepare students for success by helping them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Foster high aspirations and the skills of self-determination, self-control, and self-advocacy.
  • Guide students to be curious learners and ethical leaders, able to adapt to changing times.
  • Provide learning experiences in a safe, caring, and welcoming environment.

The course we charted remains challenging, yet we travel it knowing the outcome is worth it. We need our students to be successful as they represent the future of our communities, state and nation.  It is also personal. We need the students we graduate to be smart, compassionate and financially stable to care for us when we are no longer able!  We have done a great deal of work through our strategic planning over the last 3 years that is moving us in the right direction. Here are significant projects that have been on the forefront of our work and will continue to drive our work in the coming year.  

A proficiency scaffold has been created and its implementation in our classroom practices needs to be honed.  We need to establish a system of grading that is understood by students and parents, transparent, predictable and promotes growth.  We need to teach and encourage strong work habits that build grit during sustained challenges. This remains important work that will continue to challenge our belief systems and the why we do what we do.  

We have nearly seventy  new faces to welcome on opening day. The turnover we are experiencing was not unexpected and is shared by most school districts in Maine. A significant number of our staff were nearing retirement age five years ago.  The University system reported at the same time that the number of students entering the education field has declined.  We recognize the importance of mentoring and imbedded professional development on teacher retention and  student learning. The District has worked diligently to increase the role of mentors in supporting new teacher learning. Over a decade ago we instituted a Good First Teaching course for new hires to inculcate them into the District's literacy practices. Later, a math class was instituted. Five years ago we instituted New Teacher Monthly Meetings. Last year we established a stipend for mentors. This summer we began offering training to mentors and have redesigned and extended the New Teacher Monthly Meetings so that it integrates the content formerly taught in the coursework over the first two years. We believe that this integrated training over a longer period of time coupled with trained mentors will provide the support necessary to retain great teachers and improve the learning outcomes for our students. 

Providing  wrap around services (Social workers, nurses, guidance counselors, substance abuse counselors) is important to support "at risk" students and the staff who work with them.  We are expanding our social worker presence at all elementary schools and  increasing to fulltime our Substance Abuse Counselor at the middle and high school. This is the first step in providing access, particularly for the smaller schools whose access in the past has been very limited. This is just a start.  We need to continue to find ways to increase students and staff access to behavioral specialists, nurses and school counselors. Your input on how these services could be helpful will be needed.  

This has been a very busy summer for many of our year round staff. Custodians and maintenance crews have done an amazing job not only cleaning and repairing our facilities but helping with the unexpected things that seem to crop up without warning. They take great pride in the work and rightfully so! Our schools and facilities have never looked better. Our principals and teachers have spent countless hours interviewing potential teachers and staff, engaged in professional development, coursework and conferences.  We have a wonderful and diverse pool of new staff who bring a range of experiences and skills to their new roles. I want to express my graditude to the central office staff who spend their summer working to ensure your fall goes smoothly. We have a number of bus drivers who worked over the summer providing transportation to summer school. This allowed students who may not have been able to participate to attend. Special thanks to the amazing bus mechanics who worked diligently all summer on tuning our bus fleet in anticipation of the start of the school year and annual state bus inspections. Our food service department had several staff working this summer to provide summer feeding sites at summer school programs across the District. Thanks to their efforts students received needed nutritional meals to support their learning. 

Overall, the course we have set moves us in the right direction. The trip is a long one that will create some challenges.  We must celebrate the journey we've been on and look forward to the adventures we have yet to experience. As long as our sights are set on our destination we will not only endure the journey but grow from its lessons. I look forward to seeing you all at the opening day on August 27, 2018.