PARIS — Principals from eight of the 10 schools in Maine School Administrative District 17 shared similar reports on opening days Monday night with the board of directors: lots of excitement, lots of positive energy, lots of new staff and lots of engaged students.

The positive behavior interventions and supports program is a major focus in the Oxford Hills School District and Oxford Elementary School Principal Tiffany Karnes said after six years of using it her leadership team prioritized training for new and veteran employees in three areas: respect for others, responsibility and safety. The school has 13 new employees and 342 students, she said.

Jessika Sheldrick, Otisfield Community School principal, said the town Fire Department held a fundraiser to provide supplies for students. The result far exceeded expectations and gave the school a healthy inventory.

“When they pulled in with a truckload of supplies for our little school,” Sheldrick said, “our community came through for our students. We brought the stuff in and the kids went through like they were at a store.  . . . We have more supplies to support them throughout the year. It was really touching that the Otisfield Fire Department did that for us.”

At Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris, Principal Cathy Bickford said that over the summer she and custodian Eric Liimatta focused on a top-to-bottom building clean-out and other staff helped sort through it. For the first time in years the stage in the gymnasium has been waxed and polished. Student enrollment has increased from 116 students last year to 132 this year, she said.

Principal Douglas Kilmister of the Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway said four of the five vacant teacher positions are filled. Thirty-eight students left after the end of school in June and 40 new ones have enrolled. In all, Kilmister said Rowe Elementary welcomed 108 new students last week, including new prekindergarten and kindergarten classes. The total enrollment for all grades stands at 414.


Paul Bickford attends a meeting in May when Maine School Administrative District 17 directors named him principal of Oxford Hills Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. Brewster Burns file photo

“In my August newsletter to parents, I predicted the best year in years,” Kilmister said. “Maybe it was an easy prediction. But there was a kind of energy and excitement coming out of those opening days. We had new staff and did a lot of team-building. Staff said to me it was a very hopeful start and a lot of hope in the air.”

There are 388 students at Paris Elementary School, Principal Lori Pacholski said. She said one teacher volunteered over the summer to provide new staff with two days of training on positive behavior intervention and supports so they had a foundation before classes began. She said it made a tremendous difference schoolwide the first few days of school.

“I have gone in and out of every classroom several times for the last four days, and every one has great classroom management,” she said, “which means that students are engaged, they are focused, they are listening to their teacher and in the spaces where they need to be. I will say, this is the first time in eight years as an administrator that I haven’t been worried by day two. Things are very settled in the building.”

Pacholski also said that to her surprise there are more parents dropping off and picking up students this year. There have also been some bumps on busing because some routes have been combined with Agnes Gray school and schedules are being tweaked to keep student arrivals on time.

“I want to play duck-duck-ditto,” Hebron Station School Principal Jamey Martin joked as she started a report that repeated what had already been said. “Overall, our staff is happy to be back. We have a general sense of relief with more normalcy. There is a buzz of excitement and collaboration.”

She said one new student was overheard declaring to his father at the end of the day how much he loved kindergarten, a highlight not just for his new teacher but for all staff.


Oxford Hills Middle School’s report was given by Jessica McGreevy, who went from vice principal to interim principal over the summer and was named new principal before the end of Monday’s meeting.

McGreevy said the Paris school’s motto for 2022-23 is “every student matters and every moment counts.”

The middle school leadership team started the year with a focus on the district’s strategic pillars, including ways to support new teachers through integrating new staff into the organization and providing ongoing mentor support.

“So many of our teachers came in through the summer, spending their time to make sure that they were ready to welcome students,” McGreevy said. “It was tremendous work.”

Paul Bickford, speaking as the new principal of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris, said there are 20 other new staff members who started last week. New employees have been matched with mentors. Likewise, incoming freshmen were matched with about 50 upperclassmen during their first day. On Thursday, the first day for all high school students, there were 1,140 enrolled.

“Thursday and Friday, we spent a lot of time on social and emotional learning,” Bickford said. “Friday we held a pep rally. Work really started (this week) with back-to-school classes.”

Bickford said he is meeting with the Student Council to select a school board representative from the junior class. He is also working to add students to join staff members and administration on the school leadership team.

Harrison Elementary and Waterford Memorial schools’ Principal Margaret Emery is expected to update directors on those schools at the next board meeting.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.