PARIS — Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s Class of 2023 is the first senior class to complete senior projects since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, SAD 17 Superintendent Heather Manchester told directors at Monday night’s meeting.

Senior Brandon Palmer, student representative to the board, explained that the projects involve an independent study that can take a year to develop before executing and presenting a summary report to a panel of teachers.

For their project, Palmer and Cole Pulkkinen held fundraisers during spring baseball games to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association of Maine, a tribute to his grandmother who has the disease.

After a three-year hiatus, some directors asked Palmer to provide a student’s perspective on the value of senior projects.

“I think it’s helpful,” Palmer said. “It shows, besides all the work you’ve done in high school, whether you have extracurriculars or not. I spent time doing something that I’m really proud of. I could show it off to my teachers. You can demonstrate how you’ve grown over time, and I think that’s really rewarding.”

Michaela Holbrook and Brendan Palmer, student representatives to SAD 17’s board of directors, present student news and events at Monday night’s meeting in Paris. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

“Senior project presentations are one of those days when kids are at that place of development in educational theory,” Manchester said. “There is stress, but it’s a healthy kind of stress. The kids have to perform, but they’re in a very supportive environment.”


It’s really healthy for kids to experience public speaking, she said, “and it’s a lifelong skill for them.”

In another matter, Operations Committee Chairman Lew Williams of Hebron announced that Thursday will be Transportation Director David Fontaine’s last day with the district. After 13 years, Fontaine is leaving to work for the Auburn School Department.

Williams also announced that SAD 17 and Oxford Hills Technical School representatives are working through the legal details of the school’s program expansion, which includes constructing a building for plumbing, electrical and building trades courses.

The building will be paid for with a $2.1 million federal grant and will be constructed on the high school property on Main Street in Paris. To be in compliance with the grant’s requirements, the district will have to provide an access easement for the building.

Williams also announced that fifth- and sixth-grade students at Otisfield Community School are attending classes in the portable unit on school grounds on Powhatan Road.

For much of the school year, their classes have been held in makeshift areas of the school, including storage rooms and the library. Stair and ramp access to the building is almost complete. The final phase of installing a fire suppression system will be done over the summer.


Otisfield Community School’s portable classroom building is in use on the school grounds on Powhatan Road. The school was using a storage room and the library because of overcrowding. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

Principal Jessika Sheldrick expressed her appreciation to the district for the new building to relieve overcrowding.

“It has been a long time coming,” Sheldrick said. “We got the OK in the middle of last week to move into our portable. We rallied and got the staff and students, (Facilities Director) Michael Manning got a team together, everyone just pulled together to get our kids in that building. They were beaming, they were so thankful.”

Site work began last fall and was beset by delays due to material shortages and scheduling challenges, issues related to handicapped access and fire suppression requirements. In all, the district ran into $125,000 in unanticipated expenses.

SAD 17 Chief Financial Officer Carrie Colley confirmed that the total cost of the project was $397,000, the bulk of which is being financed by a three-year lease-purchase agreement.

Curriculum Director Jill Bartash updated the board on assessment testing that is underway. Sheldrick, Paris Elementary School Principal Lori Pacholski and Agnes Gray Elementary School Principal Cathy Bickford added anecdotes on testing at their respective schools. Bickford said she has promised students that in exchange for performing at their best she would wear a banana costume to school.

Manchester announced the Staff Members of the Month for the past three months. They are Megan Goddard, social worker at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, for April; Nancy Norcross, secretary for Otisfield Community School, for May; and Kyleigh Roberts, fifth-grade teacher at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway, for June. All three and their family members were recognized at the meeting.

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