PARIS — Oxford Hills school officials said Monday night that work is ongoing to upgrade safety and security issues at the district’s 12 schools.

Assistant Superintendent Steve Ciembroniewicz led off, updating the board on safety training for staff and talking about plans to work with Oxford Emergency Management Agency on training in the future. He reported that the district’s emergency operating plan has been shared with the operations committee last month, with a final draft expected to follow in June.

Director Robert Jewell of Paris questioned whether enough has been done to address potential gun violence in Oxford Hills schools.

Maine School Administrative District 17 Assistant Superintendent Steve Ciembroniewicz, pictured on Jan. 17, addressed the school board on building safety plans during its business meeting Monday night. Rose Lincoln/The Bethel Citizen

“You were going to be working on a safety plan for the district,” Jewell said to Ciembroniewicz. “It’s been over a year now. Have you even put the committee together to start going through this? To see what we need for safety? Because we’ve had another shooting.

Jewell added, “I have said before that as a board member, and a lot of people agreed with me, that I would very much like to see a proposal for safety in all our schools, put together by experts, put in a separate referendum and let the voters decide what they want to do.”

Jewell was referring to statements he had made during a school board meeting in June 2022 in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old former student shot 36 students and staff, 19 of them fatally, using an AR-15-style rifle.


At that meeting, Jewell advocated for a districtwide plan to be developed by a security consultant and put to a vote. The proposal did have some support, but other directors pointed out that the cost to create such a plan could approach $100,000 and was not a budgeted item during that, or the current, fiscal year.

“I can give you an update on that,” said Ciembroniewicz, who was hired in July 2022. “All the schools’ annual updates are done and have been vetted by the school’s safety team. The district plan is done. We’re doing a few adjustments to it and we’re bringing it to the Operations Committee in June. In terms of assembling a districtwide committee, that has yet to be done.”

“So we don’t have experts on these committees that are looking at our buildings and our processes with our internal committees?” Jewell asked.

“School resource officers are involved in those committees,” Ciembroniewicz said.

“Well, we don’t have the people we should have then, probably,” Jewell said. “If we’re going to really put together something where somebody and that’s what their job is, that’s what they do for a living is safety.” [sic]

“We are also working with the Maine School Safety Center on this, and they are experts on this,” Ciembroniewicz assured him.


Murray presented information on the growing threat of cybersecurity, pointing out that cyberterrorists are increasingly targeting schools through networks with ransomware.

“There have been ransomware attacks on 1,735 schools in 27 different districts,” he said. “While 45% have paid ransoms to recover their data only 60% of those got it back.”

Technology Director John Murray said the district’s IT department is in the process of running a cybersecurity risk assessment, which involves checking every device in all schools for vulnerabilities. He expects to have a report on its findings after this week. Staff will develop a plan for short- and long-term action based on the report.

In addition to putting security protocols and training in place, Murray said his staff is working on a districtwide device inventory and will create a rotating five-year plan for updating them, which will translate into replacing up to 800 student and 75 staff devices annually.

Agnes Gray Elementary School student Alivia Deabler is honored Monday night at the Maine School Administrative District 17 board meeting in Paris for her prize-winning essay. Principal Cathy Bickford introduces her. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

In other business, directors approved the first reading of policies for family and medical leave, agenda preparation and dissemination, and the final reading of student expulsions.

In her update, Principal Cathy Bickford of Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris recognized fourth-grader Alivia Deabler for winning a recent essay contest.

She also told directors that school attendance is improving. She highlighted the reading advancement of a fifth-grade student who missed 54 days of school last year but only 14 days this year, thanks to intervention and positive behavior incentives.

“She achieved a year and a half’s worth of growth and jumped 20 percentile points in reading,” Bickford said. “And she was able to see that her improvement is connected to being in school.”

Margaret Emery, principal of Waterford Memorial and Harrison Elementary schools, reported that STAR test data show students improved in reading comprehension between October and January. Third-graders showed improvement in reading equal to close to an entire academic year. STAR tests measure reading and math achievement.

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