PARIS — At the Oxford Hills School District meeting on Monday, several administrators’ forward-looking reports and presentations honoring student achievement were marred by infighting, hostility toward district officials and school board resignations.
With the resignation of two delegates from Oxford and Paris on Monday, anger at the board of Maine’s School District 17 appears to have gained a foothold in the wake of its policy on student gender identity. The first reading of the policy was approved at the October 17 meeting of SAD 17, causing an uproar on local social media, with the school board feeling Parisians were pushing an unconservative agenda. revealed plans to target and purge members of the
Armand Norton of Paris has issued a petition asking voters to remember the city’s two board members, Sarah Otterson and Julia Lester, who voted in favor of the first reading. In October, Norton told Advertiser Democrat that while she has no objection to gender policy and understands it needs to be considered, she is adamantly opposed to any policy that contains clauses that violate parental rights. Since then, he has spoken at every school board meeting and posted anti-gay memes and statements on social media.
After an executive session during Monday’s conference, board chair Natalie Andrews announced that Lester had resigned from the board. Another director, Oxford University’s Stacia Caldwell, also resigned on Monday.
Curriculum Director Jill Bertash, who was hired in September to oversee the department on an interim basis, attended school board meetings and reported on the district’s projects and plans. When she finished her presentation, Paris Director Bob Jewell said she was not satisfied with this information and wanted to hear more data on the SAD 17 standardized test scores and comparisons with other districts.
Bartash informed him that comparative mathematics data was included in the mathematics audit report provided to all directors. Jewell said he only received the information that day, but the same report was released to the public and media by Dec. 2.
Jewel then chided Bartash for giving her first curriculum presentation since September and talked about her when she tried to speak. However, the Curriculum Committee’s reports are regularly included at regular board meetings. She replied that monthly presentations were made during the meeting and that he and all board members were invited to the Curriculum Committee meetings.
The Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School football team is proud to have won the school’s first state championship. Several players were selected for individual honors on the field.
Three students, Madeline Stack, Dante Allen, and Silas Timm, presented to the board about career internships they completed through the Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange’s Extended Leadership Opportunities program.
Vincent Kloskowski, executive director of the Education Exchange, said Oxford Hills was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Maine Department of Education to expand its program and a $30,000 grant from Bethel and Educate Maine’s Betterment Fund was reported.
Child Services Director Jan Neureuther informed the Board that Oxford Hills’ commitment to supporting positive behavioral interventions is gaining state, national and international attention. She recently spoke to her School Safety Center in Maine about her PBIS training and initiatives underway in Oxford Hills. That led to Dewey’s introduction to Dr. Cornell at the University of Virginia. Dr. Cornell included his SAD 17 study on PBIS in a book in progress on the advancement of behavioral learning disorders. She has also been asked to attend the International Conference on Positive Action Support in Jacksonville, Florida next spring.
More locally, she said Oxford Hills Technical School’s diverse vocational programs have been featured in News Center Main and Advertiser Democrat.
Neureuther also spoke about a series of behavioral support training programs in which SAD 17 staff participate.
Finally, Andrews congratulated Norwegian Director Curtis Cole on being recognized by the Maine State Board of Education for his 20 years of service to education in Maine.
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