With three new board members, Oxford’s board of education has its sights set on the future for students and staff throughout the district.
One focus that board members consistently mentioned during recent interviews with this reporter is a push towards providing vocational options in education for students.
“If there was ever a time to explore bringing back skilled trades and vocational education back into the buildings, now is that time,” President Dan D’Alessandro told this reporter. “We should be seeking partnerships with local business, in an effort to give educators a better understanding of the skills our different local industries are looking for to better prepare our students for the opportunities that exist right here in Oxford.”
The goal to expand educational opportunities tied in with a recognition by board members that all students are different.
“(Everyone’s) definition of “quality education” is (different),” D’Alessandro continued. “To one person or a group of people it may look like ACT/SAT scores that rank at the top of the state… We know not all students will go on to college… they may go onto a two-year business school, join the military, be a fashion designer, or develop an app that is downloaded on mobile devices all over the world . . . The student going to Harvard has (very) different goals than the student that wants to go to welding school and our district needs to foster the aspirations of each student.”
Beyond focusing on providing more options for students, several Oxford board members also said they’d like to continue strengthening Oxford’s current stand-out programs, such as the robotics program, Oxford Virtual Academy, Oxford High School’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) program and Oxford’s International Program.
“I think by encouraging the programs that we currently have (which are) programs that might be a little outside of the box. I think that’s what we should do (as board members). We have a unique vision here at Oxford because we do a lot of programs other districts don’t and I think those programs have set us so far apart from everybody else… I think we have a good grasp on setting ourselves apart already (as a district),” said Trustee Heather Shafer.
According to Vice President Joyce Brasington, she would like to see a strong focus on academic achievement continue within the district over the next several years.
“Research indicates the number one way to improve student achievement is to focus on teacher quality,” said Brasington. “The teachers I have come in contact with, as a parent and former Oxford administrator, (are) dedicated professionals. The district needs to continue to provide teachers with meaningful professional development designed to improve their instructional practice and provide principals with the tools to effectively coach their staff.”
Looking back at the progress the board has made throughout his three years as a board member, Treasurer Mike Schweig said he’s seen a huge improvement in morale within the district in recent years and that he hopes to see those improvements continue in the future.
“(I) feel that we’ve come a long way in terms of working together. That has to do, first and foremost, with our superintendent. Tim Throne has done an excellent job in terms of bringing people together. I would say that includes teachers, teachers, staff, and community members,” said Schweig.
Each of the board members expressed an excitement to work together in creating a better tomorrow for Oxford students and staff.
“Our goal (on the school board is to) not fight over the circumstances but to create solutions and I think this board is apt to do that. I just feel as though, although we have varying opinions, at the end of the day… I think that getting and keeping this school district at the highest level, that (goal) is unanimously thought by all,” said Trustee Tom Donnelly.
According to Superintendent Tim Throne, the board was expected to unveil its strategic plan, which contains clear goals for the upcoming school year, at the Feb. 7 meeting.