Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s football team presents its state championship trophy during Monday night’s school board meeting, receiving a round of applause. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — During Monday’s Oxford Hills school district’s meeting several positive administrator reports and presentations honoring student achievement were marred by infighting, hostility towards district employees and school board resignations.

With the resignation of two representatives from Oxford and Paris, tempers appear to be gaining a foothold against Maine School Administrative District 17’s board of directors in the wake of developing a student gender identity policy. The policy’s first reading was approved at SAD 17’s Oct. 17 meeting, which led to a firestorm on local social media and revealed a plan by Paris residents to target and purge school board members they felt were promoting non-conservative agendas.

A social media post criticizing Oxford Hills school board members who support a student gender identity policy posted by Armand Norton of Paris, asks residents to “fight” against the board and its policies. Submitted photo

Armand Norton of Paris launched a petition for voters to recall that town’s two directors who voted in favor of the first reading, Sarah Otterson and Julia Lester. In October, Norton told the Advertiser Democrat that he had no dispute with gender policy and understood the need to consider one, but that he firmly opposes any policy that includes provisions violating parental rights. He has spoken at every school board meeting since then and has posted anti-gay memes and statements on social media.

Following an executive session during Monday’s meeting board Chair Natalie Andrews announced that Lester had resigned from the board. Another director, Stacia Cordwell of Oxford, also resigned Monday.

A Facebook post in support of SAD 17 board Director Sarah Otterson of Paris, the subject of a recall petition in retaliation for her support of a student gender identity policy, made by her daughter, Joanna Brown. Submitted photo

Curriculum Director Jill Bartash, who was hired in September to oversee the department on an interim basis, attended the school board meeting to report on district projects and plans. As she finished her presentation, Director Bob Jewell of Paris remarked that he was unsatisfied with the information and wanted to hear more comparative data of SAD 17 standardized test scores with other districts.

Bartash informed him that comparative math data was included in a math audit report provided to all directors. Jewell said he only received the information that day, but the same report was released to the public and media by Dec. 2.


Jewell then reprimanded Bartash, and talked over her when she tried to speak, for making a curriculum presentation for only the first time since September. While Monday was the first report personally provided by Bartash, curriculum committee reports have routinely been included at regular board meetings. She replied that monthly presentations have been made during meetings and he and all board members are invited to attend curriculum committee meetings.

Other business

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s football team was honored for winning the school’s first ever state championship, with several players being singled out for individual honors on the field.

Three students, Madeline Stack, Dante Allen and Silas Timm, presented to the board on career internships they have completed through the Oxford Hills Community Education Exchange’s Extended Leadership Opportunities program.

Vincent Kloskowski, executive director of the Education Exchange, reported that Oxford Hills has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Maine Department of Education to expand the program and a $30,000 grant from the Betterment Fund in Bethel and Educate Maine.

Child Services Director Jan Neureuther informed the board that Oxford Hills’ focus on positive behavioral intervention supports has gained state, national and international attention. She recently spoke to Our Maine School Safety Center on PBIS training and initiatives that have been ongoing in Oxford Hills. That led to an introduction to Dr. Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia, who including SAD 17’s work on PBIS in a book he is writing about advances in behavioral learning disabilities. She has also been asked to present at the International Conference on Positive Behavior Support in Jacksonville, Florida, next spring.

More locally, she said that Oxford Hills Technical School’s Diversified Occupations program has been featured on News Center Maine and in the Advertiser Democrat.

Neureuther also spoke about a series of behavioral supports training programs that SAD 17 staff will participate in.

Finally, Andrews congratulated Director Curtis Cole from Norway on being recognized by the Maine School Board Association for 20 years of service to education in Maine.

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