School starts Thursday

Oxford Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie Markavitch took time to talk about what to expect in the 2023-2024 school year. Photo by D. Rush

Supt. Markavitch talks about what’s up this year

By Don Rush

A little under 7,000 students (approximately 4,500 seated and 2,100 online-virtual) will start their 2023-2024 classes in the Oxford Community School District tomorrow. At the end of last school year over 1,000 people, staff, students, and parents responded to a survey on the district’s strengths and weaknesses. From that the district was able to plan for this year. Schools Superintendent Dr. Vickie Markavitch sat down with the Leader last week to discuss what’s going on this school year, issues the district faces and what students, staff and parents can expect.

New Hires

This district employs about 800 people, Dr. Markavitch said. “In general, there is a great shortage of teachers and certified support staff not just here but across the state. I was pleasantly surprised at how responsive the candidate pool was to Oxford Community Schools. We managed to have multiple candidates for most every position we had available. We are still looking for a few. We have a Special Education opening we are still looking for, we’re still looking for a couple of bus drivers, cafeteria workers, but in total, we truly had great response and great candidates and we have been able to bring before the board (of education) some wonderful hires. On Wednesday morning (today) they will be coming in for a breakfast, tours and orientation to the district. It will be an exciting day.

We are also pleased with all the staff who are coming back. We had a few retirements and a few resignations, but really the majority of the staff are returning to us. We value them. Our staff is so tuned into our community and students and all the special training we have had here around safety, security, mental health, social and emotional learning. We are truly blessed that we are able to keep the staff who have been growing those special programs. Schooling is a people business. There are people on the learning end, people on the teaching end, people on the support end and so the fact that we have an exceptional staff is a value to Oxford schools.”


At its June meeting, the Oxford Community School Board accepted a resolution for the 2023-2024 school year budget. The proposed budget is $103,072,329, about a 3.5 percent increase over the final amended budget from the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

We also have some challenges,” Dr. Markavitch said. “One of them is our budget. The district has received one-time money for COVID recovery. We received a lot of one-time money, both Federal and State – for the tragedy we suffered (Nov. 30, 2021 shooting) and those monies are sunsetting — either last year, this year and the next year, depending on the grant where it’s coming from. The good news, I guess, and this is for everybody, not just Oxford, all districts across the state and country are experiencing the same things. For us, the good thing is last spring we did a five-year projection. So we advance notice of what’s coming. This spring we put in what we call ‘position control.’ Any time someone resigned or retired we evaluated the position, the work it did, whether or not there was some other way to get that work done with existing people. From April through July we were able to reconfigure and not replace seven positions. Those seven positions when you include salaries and benefits, will net us over a million dollars in savings.

Yes, we have a budget challenge. Yes, we’re preparing early. And we have some things in place to help us meet that beyond position control. We’re also trimming back on the normal types of things. We’re going to trim back travel where we can and be very careful with purchasing. We’ll make sure we know our inventory and buy as needed. Perhaps a little more than we do, though we’ve always been very careful of pricing and quoting and bidding things out. Hopefully, the more we can attack the budget challenge naturally as things change, the less we will have to impose. We really want to try and avoid, if at all possible, are program or position reductions. We have the challenge but I think we are equipped to deal with it.”

Drahner Road expansion

In June of 2021, the Oxford Community Schools board of education purchased 32 acres of property on W. Drahner Road from the Dominican Sisters for $2.5 million. By June, 2024 the district hopes to have the main building remodeled and brought up to code for school use.

It’s exciting. It’s not ready yet, but the demolition and remodeling of the Drahner Road property. The district has been accumulating one-time only money in our capital outlay fund. And we were able to come up with a remodeling plan that is extremely practical and efficient and will truly serve the district very well. We are doing this for less than five million dollars, which has already been accumulated into the fund. “

The district will move the 18 to 26-year-olds special education program called LOFT from the high school, the Alternative Education program from the middle school, Oxford Virtual Academy from a strip mall on M-24 and all technology people from across the district to the Drahner Road property.

She said the move will help these programs grow and clear up space in both the high and middle schools.

LOFT is looking forward to moving into their new space by January or February if we can,” she said. “The building for the other two programs won’t be ready until next summer.”

Safety and Security

Since the November 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School, the district quickly moved to improve safety measures. According to Dr. Markavitch, the efforts to improve safety and security of students and staff continues.

Have you heard of Drift Net?” she said. “When the Guidepost report came out, our challenge was to figure out how to surveil and secure our buildings seven days a week, 24 hours a day. If you can’t do that, you can’t necessarily know what happens at three in the morning. Our folks here went out to search for new technologies. They found several companies which promised to do this and then we found one called Drift Net.

Drift Net has an audio and visual camera system that is going into all of our buildings, hallways, classrooms, offices and entry ways. It will surveil for weapons 7/24. It will surveil through clothing and backpacks. It will surveil around the perimeters of our buildings as well as inside. It will also provide us with a vaping detection system that will be in all buildings and all bathrooms, all locker rooms.

The interesting thing about this system is it doesn’t record anything and no one can see anything unless there’s an event. If it sees a gun, hears a gun, detects a fire, glass shattering nothing records. So, even though it is on 7/24 seeing and hearing, no one but the camera can see and hear unless there’s an event to record it to the cloud and alerts identified Oxford personnel – principals, security. School resource officers of the event.”

She said unless there is an “event” the identified Oxford staff cannot log onto their computer devices to see what is going on. “I say that over and over again,” she said. “It is extremely important for teachers’ teaching and privacy in the offices. There is privacy, unless there is an event.”

She also said the company has received a grant to equip, install and train the district at no cost. “This grant will be in place for as long as we use the system. It doesn’t ever expire.”

Installation, she said, should start within a few weeks.

Because this is new and we don’t want to take any risks, all our current security systems will be left in place. It will be redundant, we will have three systems in place. I want to run redundant until we know everything works. At the end of the year, we will evaluate.”

Aside from the Artificial Intelligence weapons and “event” detectors the district has, Dr. Markavitch also said safety and security relies on people.

We are probably far ahead of other districts on how we train. You can put in a system and it helps, but at the heart of it safety and security is the people in the system. Not only our staff, who’ve been trained more than most, as it should be given what this district has gone through. The new hires will have to go through extensive online training. We’ve added suicide awarenss, threat assessment taining. We’ve added bullying training on what is bullying. We’re going to incorporate throughout the school year, not just at the beginning, more training on mandatory reporting. We are also creating our own in-house trainers for ALICE for threat assessment, for preparing on how to deal with an emergency when it happens. Our goal is for every support person, every new hire, every substitute who walks into our district, all of our people, are not only initially trained but are also maintained with training moving forward. We are way ahead of getting to that 100 percent training curve than we were before.”


Wow, our kids are so amazing,” she said. “At the high school now half of the students will have been there the day of the tragedy, half of them were not. We need to make sure the new kids coming in are sensitive to what happened there without being overwhelmed. Fortunately we have good advisors, people who are experts at trauma informed and recovery informed. We lean on them heavily to get advice on exactly how to do this.

Our kids did so well last year and we are looking forward to them doing well this year even with the new ninth grade class coming in.


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