PARIS — SAD 17′ has announced yet another change-up of the district’s administrative leadership: Paul Bickford, currently director for Oxford Hills Technical School, has been named Principal of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

One could say Bickford was born for the job, having roamed the halls of Oxford Hills schools his entire life. Both of his parents were teachers in the district; his wife Cathy is an elementary school principal.

Bickford attended school in Paris, graduating from OHCHS with the class of 1990. He returned 25 years ago to begin his own career in education as a math teacher. And, for the last 18 years he has served as an administrative leader: first as a guidance director, then as OHCHS assistant principal, then principal at Oxford Hills Middle School from 2017-2019 and, most recently, heading up Voc Region 11/OHTS.

Paul Bickford, pictured here with his younger daughter Megan (OHCHS Class of ’21) during a 2018 production of Cinderella. Supplied photo

“I am very excited to be here,” Bickford said during an interview with the Advertiser Democrat in the office at OHCHS that he will soon occupy for good. “I’ve worn many hats. Having been a parent of students who have come through as well adds another perspective. I know how it all works, and I know what I am in for as principal.

“I had no intention of applying for this position over the last few years. (But) with two new assistant principals at the high school this year, I felt like this would be the best thing for the school as a whole and also for the tech school. For me, the person in the principal’s chair needs to also be on board with the comprehensive model at OHTS.”

The connections for students between OHCHS and OHTS is a particular point of pride for Bickford. Where statewide the enrollment of high school students in at least one technical education class is less than 20%, within SAD 17 the rate soars to almost 80%.


Bickford took his time in making his decision after Principal Ted Moccia announced his retirement at the beginning of 2022. He spent some time talking it over with Moccia and with one of his OHTS lieutenants. By the time the position was posted in April his mind was made up and he threw his hat in the ring. He knew it would be the right move.

“I love my job at the tech school,” Bickford said. “But I have no concerns about moving over to this role. We have a lot of good things going on, and we have things we need to work on.”

“I am extremely proud and happy the selection committee is moving forward with Paul Bickford’s nomination to be the next principal of OHCHS,” Moccia wrote in an email statement to the Advertiser Democrat. “He has tremendous institutional knowledge regarding the comprehensive model and how important the relationship between the principal and the Region 11 director is. Paul has a work ethic second to none, add to that his intelligence and diligence (and) he will do well in the job as principal.

“I am very close to Paul and when I found out he was the candidate I was very pleased. Paul is not just a coworker, he is also one of my best friends. He will be his own leader in the job but he also knows I am only a phone call away if I can help in any way.”

OHCHS’ future Principal Paul Bickford (left) and retiring Principal Ted Moccia at SAD 17’s Central Office. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Over the summer Bickford will invite high school staff members to meet with him so he can learn different perspectives within the building. School culture — for students and employees alike — is a top priority.

“We want to make sure that every student in the community feels safe, secure and valued,” he stated. “That will be an ongoing focus for us. I think the majority of our students feel that way. But I don’t think all of them do.


“We need to make sure we are always working on best teaching practices, and always evolving. The pandemic hurt and we need to support our kids and our staff socially, emotionally and do as much as we can educationally. It’s (the pandemic) been hard.”

“I am here to support our students,” Bickford said. “I grew up here. I come from a teaching family, both of my parents taught here at the high school. I was influenced by educators who brought me to where I am today. Being principal, I think that is the best way for me to make the most positive impact on our kids.”

Bickford’s promotion was not made official until Monday night when the SAD 17 Board of Directors approved it. But, even before that happened the mood at OHCHS had become spring-like.

“I was very excited,” Meghan Marcoux, principal’s secretary at OHCHS, said of her reaction. “It made me very happy. He obviously was my pick. He 100 percent has everybody’s support. He knows the kids, he has the experience. The district really needed someone they’re comfortable with. Kids are happy, staff is happy.”

“It was just what I was hoping,” added Colleen Holden, the high school’s receptionist. “He will do an excellent job.”


Matt Delamater, left, OHCHS Principal Ted Moccia and OHTS Director Paul Bickford at the start of Oxford Hills’ 2021 graduation at Gouin Field. Courtesy Cristina Sugars

Comments are not available on this story.