OXFORD – The SAD 17 Board of Directors approved a community-service graduation requirement despite concerns from several board members.

The 12-4 vote was taken at the board’s Monday night meeting in the second and final approval of the new policy.

The 20-hour community service graduation requirement will begin with next year’s freshmen class and be fully implemented with the class of 2013.

High school administrators decided to expand the current five-hour community service that is required in health class but several board members said they were concerned about the compulsory component of the new policy.

“It has a whole different connotation,” said Elizabeth Swift, who represents the town of Hebron on the board and voted against the measure.

Concern over the compulsory nature of the requirement arose two weeks ago when Oxford board representative John Palmer said he was all for community service but only as a voluntary action.

At Monday night’s meeting, Palmer again questioned the compulsory nature of the requirement and asked who would oversee what community service the students would chose. He was told by High School Principal Ted Moccia that all faculty members would be trained in what was considered appropriate community service and that he and the director of guidance would have the final say if there was a question.

Palmer also noted a discussion he had with an unnamed college official who apparently questioned whether the community service might be discredited during college admission because of its compulsory nature

“We have the power to do it (require community service), but we don’t have the right to do it,” Palmer said.

New board member Wendy Newmeyer of West Paris, who also voted against the policy, said that she had gone so far as to offer money to some of her employees to do community service and they would not accept the challenge.

Board member Adam Tsapis of Harrison, another opponent of the measure, said he was concerned about the message the board would send by approving community service as a requirement when the school’s youth police officer doles out community service as a “punishment.”

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