Oxford Public Schools Community Survey Results

Conducted Summer-Fall 2014

Who We Are, Where We Need to Go

The importance of a high quality school system to a community such as ours cannot be overstated. How
we manage, lead and support our schools speaks to what we value and our aspirations for the
community’s children and Oxford’s future.
The Oxford Public Schools (OXPS) is committed to continual improvement and to meeting the needs of
the community it serves.
To that end, and as a component of efforts by a newly appointed Superintendent of Schools to learn as
much as possible about the district’s history, needs and priorities, the district sought input from all
members of our community.
The Oxford Public Schools Community Survey went “live” on August, 13th, 2014 and requests for
participation in the survey were promoted using social media, during school Open House events, at
School Committee Meetings, via local news media coverage and multiple other venues. Paper copies of
the otherwise electronic survey were also hand-delivered to the Oxford Senior Center to facilitate
participation by community members who may not have had computer access.
Over 200 survey responses were submitted between August 13th and October 6th when the survey
window was closed. The survey asked respondents to identify themselves only by stakeholder role
(Parent of school-aged child, Resident without children attending OXPS schools, Classroom Teacher,
Support Staff, and Administrator). The survey did allow for multiple designations such as Parent and
Classroom Teacher or any other combinations.
Additional open-ended survey questions were as follows:
1. Why is the success of the Oxford Public Schools (OXPS) important to you?
2. From your perspective, what are the strengths of the OXPS? (i.e. what are those one or two
aspects of the OXPS that need to be preserved at all costs.)
3. From your perspective, what do you see as the one or two key issues or challenges facing the
OXPS? Why these?
4. From your perspective, how should the OXPS consider addressing the challenges described
5. Additional Comments/Concerns/Ideas


Survey Responses Analysis
In November, 2014 the Superintendent issued a request for volunteers (from both the teaching staff and
parents) to review the responses to the survey questions, categorize the responses as big “themes”
emerged and then develop findings (statements of verifiable fact) based on those themes.
For example, regardless of the group of respondents being considered, the issue of “communication”
was found to be a frequent topic of discussion for respondents. Those responses that spoke of concerns
regarding communication would be grouped together. Those that offered suggestions about
communication would be as well, but with a slightly more specific purpose. Any that spoke of the role
that communication plays in leadership or school improvement would be then considered in that light
and so on.
From there, team members would talk through, “Then, what are folks really saying (overall) about this
issue?” and collaborate to develop findings (statements) that they believed were representative of the
themes identified. Team members were encouraged to support their findings with quotes (full or partial)
from the responses. Those quotes (always italicized) are woven through the pages that follow.
Sometimes they appear within the finding itself. More often they follow a finding as part of a list of
separate responses.
Quotes selected were those considered strongly representative of the theme and are intended to bring
voice and credibility to the analysis. They were most often the ones that led team members to say, “this
one really captures what others are getting at.” They are not to be considered an exhaustive or
complete list of responses related to the finding.
The Superintendent is extremely grateful to the members of the analysis teams. They were:
Amy Belhumeur
Dena Caron
Kim Davis
Cassandra Day
Tom Ethier
Palmina Griffin
Kristen Gustafson
Evelyn Mwenye
Lisa Pavilionis
While there are often themes (such as identified “Strenghs”) that are common across the respondent
groups, the following report presents findings for Parents and Residents followed by those for the
district’s teachers, support staff personnel and administrators.
We are sincerely grateful to all community members who took the time to participate in this survey. We
welcome all voices as we work to provide ALL students the best education possible and as we strive to
provide ALL community members a healthy return on their investment in the Oxford Public Schools.
Thank you.


OXPS Community Survey Findings
Parent and Resident Responses

When asked to describe why the success of the Oxford Public Schools is important to them;
A number of parents cited the promise of successful futures for their children they saw as dependent
upon the success of the schools. A number of responses focused on the need for quality education
grounded in learning that prepares all students for college and future success.
Many parents and residents alike answered this question using words such as “pride”, “proud” and
“community”. They voiced a strong desire to see renewed senses of both community and town pride
centered around the school system. Many decried the current Level 3 status and look forward to seeing
the district turnaround.
As taxpayers, parents reference a current lack of perceived value for taxes paid (i.e. Return on
Investment) when considering the education received. Conversely, many also posit that with improved
schools, Oxford will reap a more heathy return on that investment.
Likewise, a great many residents (including recent OXPS alumni) who do not currently have children in
the district’s schools, also pointed to the role(s) that quality schools play in supporting property values,
attracting new families to the Town and positively contributing to the Town’s image. They too speak of
matters of pride and the desire to be able to be proud of the successes of the Oxford Public Schools.
They suggest that a strong school system is reflective of a strong and desirable community.
In response to the question, “From your perspective, what are the strengths of the OXPS? (i.e. what
are those one or two aspects of the OXPS that need to be preserved at all costs.):
Overwhelmingly, parent respondents speak highly of the “dedicated”, “caring”, “talented”,
“supportive”, and “professional” teachers in our schools.
A number of parents and other residents also identified particular programs and/or courses as strengths
that should be preserved at all costs (e.g. NJROTC, STEM, the Arts, Advanced Placement courses).
When asked to identify key challenges facing the Oxford Public Schools, parents:
Raised concerns about the schools being properly and sufficiently resourced. This “resourcing” was
discussed in terms of funding (by both the town and the State), technology, staff (as it impacts class
size), current curricular materials and staff reductions; particularly of support staff (IAs, TAs) in the lower
grades and special education.


Many parents raised concerns involving matters of school safety the perceived lack of consistency
demonstrated by the schools in terms of the enforcement of policies. This was highlighted in particular
with regards to the issue of bullying and what they believed to be the inconsistent or inadequate
addressing of such by the administration.
With respect to curricular and instructional matters, many parents and some residents raised concerns
about the lack of “challenge” (rigor), the Common Core State Standards and “teaching to the test”. A
number reference the number of students opting out of Oxford High School and cite the lack of rigor
and perceptions about Oxford High’s inability to adequately prepare students for success in college as a
strong contributor to this “opting out”. A common theme heard from parents and residents was of the
need to raise the expectations for academic achievement and to expand the higher level offerings at
OHS and bring back courses such as Art and Foreign Language at the middle level.
A number of parents also cited concerns with communication at all levels within and throughout the
district. By this they meant school to home, school to student and even between administrators and the
teaching staff. Parents suggest that this lack of clear, consistent communication negatively impacts staff
morale, parental engagement, and ultimately student outcomes. As an example of school to parent,
parents described not knowing how to assist their children with homework or otherwise support
improved achievement.
Finally, a great many parents voiced negative perceptions regarding Oxford Middle School (OMS). They
spoke of feeling, “unwelcome” and in some cases, “unsupported” by the school. They also complained
about the offerings available at OMS feeling that they fail to challenge students, do not include Art and
foreign language study and provide access to other advanced-level content.
When asked to offer their thoughts regarding how the OXPS might best address concerns that parents
have and/or improve in its ability to meet the needs of all students and the community, parents spoke
most frequently of the need for greater communication from the district, building administrators and
teachers, as well as for greater parent and community engagement in support of student learning and
broad, shared ownership for student success.
They also described what they see as the critical roles of consistent and strong leadership, open twoway communication and transparency needed to build confidence in the district as responsible stewards
of their investment in the OXPS.
A great many parents suggested that increasing the expectations for students, staff and leadership
coupled with expanding course offerings (particularly in the arts and technology) at the secondary level
would help to address the issue of students leaving OXPS via school choice.
Parents suggested ways in which they believe the district should work to ensure safe and productive


They also made suggestions for working collaboratively with the Town, the State and the community to
acquire needed funding. They also suggested ways in which the district can strengthen its own
credibility so as to support greater collaboration.
Suggestions are grouped by categories bearing bold headings. Headings are followed by summary
findings and sample responses (in italics) which support these findings.
Address the challenges of school choice and improve the degree to which OXPS is preparing students
for College and Career. Identify why students are leaving, raise expectations and the number of
rigorous (e.g. AP) and enriching courses and incentivize student’s taking them. Build in greater
exposure to technology and STEM at the secondary level.
Parents describe how academics expectations, available courses and other factors contribute to the
numbers of students exercising school choice, choosing to attend the regional vocational school or
receiving home schooling. Many speak of the need for more high level courses, enhancement of cocurricular and extra-curricular offerings and the delivery of more engaging instruction. Some speak of
what they perceive as a lack of high expectations for rigorous student work and voice concerns about
how the system currently prepares students for post-secondary success. They speak of the need for
more varied offerings and for instruction that engages.
Make the subject exciting ! Having more AP and Honors classes with enthusiastic knowledgeable
There needs to be more active learning in the classroom, especially in high school.
To be competitive, more AP classes should be offered in the high school.
More advanced/AP classes. Earlier tracking. A gifted program.
Advanced students should not be held at the same pace as the rest of the class and for all
students, homework should be serious enough to require time, building study skills and critical
My concerns happen at night as I review their homework. I don't feel they are being challenged
and I'm concerned this will create bad work habits in the future. When a challenge presents
itself, I'm concerned they will not be equipped with the tools to take on the challenge and
More arts and music.
OXPS should absolutely bring back the art program to the Oxford Middle School. It will certainly
help improve the experience at the middle school. My prediction is it could help students feel
more secure and improve their education by motivating them to succeed and strive.
In the Oxford High School, OXPS should hire another teacher for the music/theater program. It
would bring stress off the current teacher in this position and potentially make it easier for these

teachers to extend the program to more students. There are a mass of students that were
disappointed to find how difficult it was to enter the music program.
One more teacher needs to be hired to the music/theater program in the Oxford High School
which would absolutely improve the experience at the high school.
Children need a variety of experiences to find and learn where their interests lie. At every level
there is a limited number of courses outside the " basics". When my child was in the middle
school there were no languages being taught, no technology class, no band or music as an 8th
grader, no art ...this needs to stop!
I also feel we need to bring back some special programs such as art etc. I realize some of these
may cost money but we need to find ways to help kids love learning and express their interests in
their school.
Middle school is the key period in a child's life when they should be introduced to different
programs and try new activities that help develop their future. Without an art program, there is
another reduction in a creative outlet that is extremely important in a child's life.
For every student who leaves OXPS for school choice, we lose the tax revenue of at least 3
households to whatever town that family chooses. Why does Oxford let this happen? A strong
fight needs to be made for our students, because by improving our schools we improve the entire
A small number of parents raise concerns regarding what they see as a flawed “common core
curriculum” and offer the following suggestions.
Get rid of the common core. I have been researching and it is all crazy. I along with a lot of others
will most likely be pulling our children out to home school within the next two years.
Commoncore (sic) needs to change. It is ridiculous that you do not allow the more advanced kids
to be MORE ADVANCED. You cannot hold down the kids that need to be challenged, advanced
kids are not allowed to grow because they are trying to standardize every child and it is absurd.
Get rid of Common Core and PARCS (sic) testing which I know will be coming. Have you really
read what were (sic) teaching our children now then what we were teaching them in the 80's. I
knew my 50 states and capitals by 5th grade. I could write on(sic) cursive in 3rd or 4th grade and
I knew the Real bill of rights not what common core is teaching our kids!!! Stop with this testing.
All kids are not the same and learn differently!!!!
Parents also see the recruitment, training and retention of the best possible teachers and leaders as key
to OXPS students achieving greater success and improving the district. They see high expectations and
accountability for results as important drivers.
Raising expectations of teachers and students would be the first order of business.

Perhaps a more in depth interview process should be required for all incoming educators.
Have in-services or meetings with teachers to help them remember why they are here, why they
got into teaching in the first place.
I would re-evaluate the teachers and what they actually teach. Perhaps actually checking what
they're teaching is a good start. Reminding them that politics should not be discussed in class,
that their personal feelings for certain tragedy's(CT) also should not be dwelled upon in class.
That's what parents and psychologists are for.
Teachers need to be accountable for the success of their students. The evaluation system is a
great tool if it is implemented with integrity. A streamlining of this system is needed throughout
the district.
Increase accountability of administrators for the teacher improvement.
The administration needs to work with the teachers and ensure they have appropriate lesson
I feel very strongly that some of the teachers NEED to be evaluated.
Emphasis realistic assessment of where the system is today and resist hard the temptation in
thinking that simply doing the best you feel you can means you've done enough in absence of
any evidence of progress. For administrators, teachers and students.

Support students and their families to make post-secondary education a viable option.
A number of parents raise concerns with the levels of support being provided by OHS and its Guidance
Department in terms of the provision of support for students and families interested in applying to
colleges and trade schools.
A post high school advisor is needed to help kids navigate the college search and trade school
search. Many students will be the first generation to go to college and parents don't know how
to help them.
There is absolutely no way to make anyone to go to college, but perhaps we could start
encouraging it? Do something to show students the difference in the long term financial success
of those who attend college and those who don't. Quinsig and Worcester State are reaches for
some, but why does everyone assume those are the places for them? Let's encourage students to
reach outside of the central Massachusetts circle.


Strengthen school safety by being consistent with handling student discipline, actively addressing
issues of bullying and developing and practice protocols for dealing with emergency scenarios.
Many parents offer suggestions for ensuring that our schools are orderly, safe and that administrators,
teachers and students are clear on what is expected of them and that all are held accountable for
meeting those expectations.
The school needs to get a little bit more strict on its codes and policies and enforce them more
Follow the rules set forth to everyone staff and students. Be leaders not friends to the children.
Hold everyone accountable for the errors done.
From my perspective I think there needs to be more discipline at the Middle and High School
level. The students need to realize that school is not always a social event, and the teachers are
not there to be there friends they are there to do a job. Administration needs to be more
accountable for what is going on in their buildings. I also think that the dress code needs to be
enforced; if that code is enforced I think that you will see a change in the student’s behavior.

Strengthen systems of communication between the schools, home and the larger community and
actively promote the good work and accomplishments of the OXPS in order to counter negative press
and raise the district’s positive profile.
Parents offered suggestions for strengthening communication so as to make the district’s priorities clear
and to build confidence in the district’s fiscal and organizational competence. A number of parents
speak of the need to raise the district’s profile by sharing news of the good work happening and the
successes of its students.
Some parents also speak of the frustrations of limited communication of any kind and of the need, as
parents and taxpayers, to hear from and be heard by the district.
The school should reach out to the community more, invite the community in to the school to see
what is happening. Encourage the students to bring ideas on how to help, volunteer, and
showcase the school. Put the school out there.
If the news media could be a proactive rather than a negative force at our disposal within the
Oxford Community, once again involving students as well as staff and administrators, the
citizens of our community could be more in tune with our programs and events and have more of
an understanding of the direction we are headed as an educational system.

More communication from principals, teacher is needed. I know some teachers who email
weekly even if it is a sentence to let parents know how their child is doing, it is so well received.
Good news is so refreshing.

I have had several teachers not contact me (an involved parent) when there have been incidents
that should be addressed. Teachers not returning calls/emails in a timely manner is a problem
and needs to be addressed.
Listen to the parents and hear what we have to say and our recommendations. These are our
Communication, Communication, Communication.
Transparency and open communication will be how you gain trust back within the community.
Engendering greater parent and community participation, support and ownership for student success.
Parents speak of the need on the part of the schools to creatively find opportunities for parents and
other community members to engage in school efforts. A number describe a willingness to volunteer
and/or advocate for the schools, but also a lack of awareness of both the district’s priorities of needs
and how to best support them. Some speak of the desire to assist in their child’s school, but the
challenge of doing so during the work day. Others indicate that they feel ill-prepared to assist their
children with school work that may look different than what they themselves experienced when
I almost want to say it should be a requirement for parents to help out on a rotation of some
kind. It is always the same mom, dad helping out.
I would love to volunteer but work full time to provide for my children. If there is anything after
school hours I volunteer my time, as well in send in donations.
I believe that if the senior citizens of our community could feel welcome and invited by the
schools to more school functions through more extensive use of various news media, as well as
creating more volunteer opportunities within our town for students to interact with seniors in the
community, those seniors would be more apt to vote in favor of educational support ballot
Work more closely with the parents. Involve parents more and keep them better informed
especially as the children reach middle school and high school.
The understanding of the homework for the parents can be difficult. I think parents should have
a couple of evenings where they can be instructed on how we can help our children with their
academics, homework, projects, etc. thoughout the year. The new math concepts are extremely
confusing and without the proper instruction we cannot instruct the children correctly on how to
do the math correctly.
We need to see the linear educational journey of our students and understand our part in each
phase. Communication within the entire district (regular ed, special ed, principals, staff, etc.)
needs to be better.
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Carefully consider all positions and expenditures so as to ensure that the OXPS is functioning as
efficiently as it possibly can.
While some parents speak of the need for additional funding and express a willingness to support such,
many also caution that the schools must be run as efficiently as possible, that any waste be identified
and that they and the larger community be shown that they are getting an appropriate return on their
investment. They need to know the administration and the School Committee have scrutinized all
staffing and expenditures, that they are competent in their dealings with budgeting and that the budget
process itself is open, transparent and credible. The district also needs to make clear its priorities and
I believe that the school needs to be more transparent of its needs/wants. I don't believe that
many parents know what the financial shortfalls are and what they can do to help.
I think you really need to get a handle on the budget, and figure things out. I am also sick of
going to the school committee meetings and everything is shot down, and the town meetings as
Understand where the money is being spent and how we can better use the money that is
Advocate for adequate funding of the schools at the community, Town and State levels and
aggressively seek additional funding opportunities.
Many parents describe a lack of adequate funding (regardless of the source of that funding) as a serious
impediment to improvement. As described above, many also express a willingness to support the
schools, but only when they feel confident that their investments are being used efficiently and to
maximum effect by competent, transparent school leaders.
Recently there was discussion on the budget for education, which I generally would support an
increase in budget for education. Clearly new methods and direction is needed, as based on
testing scores, we are failing our kids in providing a superior education and futures.
Really hoping that the town will put forth and pass a Prop 2-1/2 override. Not optimistic that the
townspeople will make the investment, but we have to try!
Clearly, OXPS needs more $$ from the Town to bring our schools to the proper levels of
staffing/funding/technology etc.

Utilize the resources you have better, including getting more parent and businesses involved.
On the budget issues we need to push to get the state to update their outdated formulas for
allocations of funds!!

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We have to get appropriate funding to service the students so that we can have smaller class
Reach out to companies in the area for support
Increase the budget. Invest in our children (present) for a better future.
I believe an override needs to be requested.
Budget has been huge issue but we have to invest in our kids for our future. Society cannot
blame kids if we have not offered them the right tools to get the end product.
The OXPS needs to address the financial challenges by aggressively seeking grants that are
available to school districts which other towns seems to be receiving. Perhaps the OXPS needs a
grants man to be dedicated to the task.
Several times I have heard there is no money for new programs. This is an unacceptable excuse.
Many districts that have limited resources apply for grants. Would it be cost effective to hire a
grant writer? It seems the town may never approve an override.
Seek out grants aggressively and continually stay apprised of special needs legislation being
prepared to petition the passage of legislation that would support the town's effort financially.
Align Special Education supports so that student needs are met locally and out of district
placements can be avoided.
Stop laying off the special education departments. These people are needed to keep the kids in
the "regular " classrooms. As a last resort sending these kids into other districts and schools so
they can learn, I think they should be able to receive their education in their own school districts.
Or at least close to home. Our schools need to work within the budget set by the state. Salaries
need to be contained. Benefits for employees need to be looked at.
Parents also highlight the need to improve and strengthen the relationship between the schools (as a
department of the Town) and the Town itself. It is believed that in doing so, the schools and the Town
will better understand the priorities and realities of each and will be positioned to work for the
betterment of the collective.
We need to build the relationship that has fallen between the town government and the school
department. Brainstorm together, but be unified.
We need to develop unity for the district. Maybe a community/educational forum or evening as
such. Inviting the town officials to school related functions for them to see what goes on in the
schools and also to see what the needs of the district could be.
Have a conduit to present to the town leadership at regular intervals and have a representative
at any town leadership meetings that could impact the school system
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Have a rep from the town leadership show respect by attending all school leadership (school
committee) meetings, regularly, and additionally be involved with meetings about issues the
town could give support about. The town has valued the school in the past as being independent,
but to improve the school district collaboration and transparent communication is key.
The establishment of a liaison between the OXPS and the Oxford Finance Committee is a truly
positive move. There must be cohesiveness between the school system and the town
Communication between the townspeople and the school needs to be continuous, not just when
funding is needed.
We need to create partnerships within the town so that when we asked for more funding we
have the trust and support of the town.
The final of the five survey questions provided the opportunity for respondents to make any additional
comments, raise any concerns and/or suggest ideas. As did other respondent groups, parents and
residents expressed gratitude for opportunity to express their opinions and have them heard. They also
used this final question to reiterate their requests for improved communication.
Asking for parent feedback is a great start!
I'm so thrilled that the administration is asking for input. I certainly don't have all the answers,
but knowing that you're interested in what residents perceives the issues to be - that goes a long
way. Thank you for showing true interest in improving our school system. Please communicate
with us often and in as many ways as you can. Ask for our help where you need it.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak up. I haven't had an opportunity and believe very
strongly in the potential for this town to be so much more.
Thank you for the survey. Makes us believe you care about our opinions. Long overdue and
actually requested several times.
Respondents spoke with optimism of their belief that the Oxford Public Schools has great potential for
success. They also drove home the belief that strong shared commitment and responsibility,
collaborative and inclusive leadership will be needed to realize that potential.
I am excited about the changes I have already seen this year and am looking forward to what is
This school district was a very good system and well thought of. It can be again.
Oxford can be on top again we just need the right leader to do it.
The system has great potential just needs the right team to unlock it.

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Leadership is crucial. The foundation exists, but without the proper leadership, it will crumble.
This discussion gives me hope that we are heading in the right direction.
A great education can be had here in Oxford but things need to change. We need the parents
and the town to get on board to help us. We have seen it cannot be done without them. Oxford
can and will be a better school system. We have not had an educational leader at the helm for
quite a number of years. We want to increase the values of education in Oxford. We need to look
at all aspects of administration and to make sure they are doing the most complete job they are
paid to do. Going above and beyond in the workplace pays off at the end. There are a lot of
support staff in non-teaching or administrative roles that work tirelessly for not extra pay... but
for pride. Lets get the Pride back in Oxford!

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Teacher, Support Staff and Administrator Responses

When asked to describe why the success of the Oxford Public Schools is important to them;
Teachers, support staff and administrators, as did parents, often reference the issues of “pride” and of
the sense of “being proud”. They use these words to describe and discuss their work, their students and
student successes and the community.
As many of Oxford’s faculty and staff live in the community and are themselves products of the OXPS,
they speak of being invested stakeholders in the successes of both the district and the Town.
A great many of the teacher respondents indicate that they, in large part, measure their personal
success by that experienced by their students. Many of these same educators appear to define
“success” in terms of emotional, physical success in addition to that of academic success.
As a teacher in the district, I would love the schools in our town to have a positive reputation
instead of a negative one that has seemed to develop. I, along with my fellow staff members, am
responsible for providing our students with a strong education and want nothing but the best for
them. I want to be proud of teaching in this town.
The success of OXPS is important to me because I have a strong desire to be a leader in a highly
effective school system. It is also important to me because I believe that public education is a
noble profession that provides students with an opportunity to improve their quality of life and
to assist them in reaching their fullest potential as productive members of the 21st Century
I am committed to OXPS. I believe whole-heartedly that we can make the strides we need to
make in order to become and maintain an educational system built on excellence. I want to be
part of the positive change and am willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen for my
students, my staff, my colleagues and the community. We SO can do this!!
In response to the question, “From your perspective, what are the strengths of the OXPS? (i.e. what
are those one or two aspects of the OXPS that need to be preserved at all costs.):
Overwhelmingly, and echoing the sentiments of parent respondents, the district’s educators identify the
“people”, the staff (including support staff) as the district’s greatest asset. A strong representative
example response that speaks to this describes, “A fully qualified staff, truly devoted to student
The strength that I have seen comes in the willingness of the staff and community members to
do what is in the best interest of the students – Admin. Response
From the elementary standpoint.... The staff and their commitment to do the very best for the
students they teach.
The quality of the teaching staff in Oxford, unquestionably, is the greatest strength of the
system. Oxford is very fortunate to have a faculty that is solely concerned with the success of its
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students. They are a team that exhibits great motivation and inspiration for the children of
The most important strength of the OXPS is the hard working and dedicated staff. They go above
and beyond to have their students not only be successful in mastering the standards but they
truly care about all aspects of their students' growth. I am honored to work with these people.
Many teachers also speak favorably about the district’s provision of technology (described as “everincreasing”) in support of teaching and learning.
The technology at the middle school is excellent. Students and teachers have the opportunity to
use technology as a learning device.
Further, many reference programs and offerings and extra-curricular activities that they see as strengths
of the district. These include Theatre, Music, National Honor Society, NJROTC and more.
Responses from support staff largely echo those of teacher and administrator respondents. They
identify many of the same strengths and values.

When asked to identify key challenges facing the Oxford Public Schools, responses tend to cluster
around the following issues.
Climate/Professional Culture
A majority of teachers, when identifying challenges, cited an atmosphere of distrust, a lack of
consistency and lacking communication in district. They attribute these matters to ineffective, uneven or
even failed leadership from the administration at both the district and building levels. The describe the
need to;
Create a climate that is positive and supportive, not polarizing, hostile and defeating.

In order to support the creation of such a climate, many teachers suggest that leaders need to “be
visible, accessible and willing to listen to staff member’s concerns and ideas for improving our schools
and the district.”
Listen to those in the trenches. Value the professionalism of the staff and treat them like
Provide more forums for OXPS teachers to speak out
Staff need to be heard. Not from a nagging point of view, but teacher's see the students daily.
We know what they come from and where they need to go, socially, emotionally and
Ask for and value teachers' opinions in decision-making
Ask what we need to do our jobs and support and address those issues with sincere respect and
understanding- that has not been present for a very long time.
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Trust that the teachers in the district are professionals. They should be part of the decision
making when it comes to the needs of the children that they work with every day. Major
decisions should not be kept top secret and staff should never be lied to for any reason.
Treat all the teachers in a professional and appreciative manner.

They also believe that administrators need to be responsible for holding underperforming staff (as well
as each other) accountable for performance and results. District and building leaders should be clear
about expectations, provide needed support and address any shortcomings in a professional manner.
Conversely, leaders should celebrate excellence in teaching regularly, often and publicly.
Administration should be in the classrooms every day!! The kids should not see the principal at
teacher evaluation time only. Get out of the office and lead! Our students shouldn't even notice if
the principal walks in, nor stop working. They should be able to ask what they are involved with
and be able to jump in and either participate or lend a hand.
Hold students, staff and administrators accountable and to high standards.
Raise expectations and really expect them to be met.
Holding teachers and students to higher expectations and having positive leadership.
Stop ignoring the teachers and then ream them once a year if you don't like what you see.
Support them throughout the year with examples for change and the support to make it happen.
Dedicated professionals should be at least recognized, and supported. Ineffective staff members
should be offered improved mentoring and increased assistance for improvement and if no
appreciative improvement is made, they should be terminated, regardless of age or discipline.
Student Discipline
Staff feels that administrators must consistently enforce student discipline in accordance with district
policies and as described in student handbooks.
Follow the student handbook rules to the letter and discipline those immediately. Make the first
punishment severe enough so the offending student will not want to do it again. Make it worse
for habitual offenders even if it affects the graduation rate.
Have clear expectations for all of the students, make sure that there are real consequences and
that all faculty are following through with them.
Strongly enforce discipline at all levels.

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Communication/Clarity of Expectations/Roles
Communication, as a concern, is discussed as referring to matters of direction, priorities and initiatives.
This is a common complaint of teachers and support staff members alike. Respondents also describe
lack of consistent accurate communication between members of the administration themselves. This
they believe leads to contradictory messaging, confusion and frustration.
We need to find a way to better communicate ideas, changes, and updates. As a teacher it is
quite awkward to have a parent ask me questions about the district and I don't know what they
are talking about.
Get all the principals on the same page.
Prior to fulfilling a task (curriculum mapping) directors or other administrative representative
should demonstrate/model expectations, present sample or provide clear directives (at least to
lead teachers and department heads). Also, the directive or plan must be consistent for all and
cannot be constantly changing. Otherwise, nobody understands what to do. Even with lead
teachers and department heads, it becomes "the blind leading the blind."
Support staff, in particular, also raise the concern that with so many staff in the district fulfilling so many
various and markedly different roles, there is a serious need for clearly understood job descriptions and
expectations specific to their assignments. They feel a need for clear roles and improved communication
to support this. This appears to be a concern for Teacher Assistants, Instructional Aides and special
education service providers as well.
There should be a continued fostered understanding of the role of therapists in the districts and
their unique way of supporting students, with crazy schedules, interesting materials as well as
important role in supporting students but ALSO staff (teachers, aides, administrators, etc). I feel
that the best way to address this is to just make sure our questions get answered and when you
hire title I staff in the future, they are made fully aware of what they will be doing, what their
hours will be, and how involved they will be required to be in the district.
Additionally service providers raise concerns about the spaces and supports available to them as they
work with small groups or individual students.
Space resources should be preserved to allow direct services to be provided effectively when
inclusion support is not indicated.
Many teachers feel that poor communication contributes to the “silo effect” by which OXPS can feel like
a collection of disparate schools as opposed to a system.
There is a disconnect between the schools in that they are perceived as totally separate entities
rather than parts of a whole. The lead teachers and department heads do not have clearly
defined roles and expectations, are not included in any decision-making and are not informed of
what is happening in the schools.

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Professional Development
Many of the district’s teachers and support staff point to what they perceive to be a lack of quality,
relevant and aligned professional development. They seek professional development that, “that might
actually introduce fresh ideas and perspective for teaching the content in my classroom.”
They raise concerns that professional development is planned without considering teacher voice and
that the PD appears to be nearly exclusively around English Language Arts and Mathematics while very
little is provided to teachers and staff working in the other disciplines.
The quality of professional development needs to improve and become meaningful for all
teachers. In the past it seems to have focused on literacy and math.
With respect to professional development and improvement efforts overall, staff believe that the
administration needs to more actively listen to their teachers and engage them in district improvement
planning and decision making around professional development planning, policy and protocol
development and other decisions that impact student outcomes.
Initiative Implementation/Follow-through
Teachers describe the frustration of seeing a great many half-hearted, poorly planned and then
unsuccessfully implemented district initiatives attempted with much initial fanfare, but then
undermined by inadequate follow through, insufficient professional development and/or the provision
of time to allow initiatives, “a chance to take hold” before another being brought in or a change in
direction on the district’s part. They feel that there needs to be a greater emphasis on “quality over
I feel that a lot of new material and changes are being thrown at us at once. Learning new ways
of doing things is great, but we definitely need time to learn how to implement these changes.
Slow down on the introduction of new initiatives while we allow all of the current initiatives in
play a chance take hold.
Educators need to be given less initiatives to carry out so they focus on less but do it to the best
of their ability instead of focusing on many initiatives and never having the opportunity to
become fully vested in any of them.
I think we have too many initiatives going on. I understand the need to remain current and
relevant, but I see more value in doing less things better rather than just doing more things. We
sometimes are thrown into new projects or models in misguided ways just to see the initiative
abandoned or needing to be redone entirely. There seems to be more and more “directives “that
are unclear and weekly prepared.
Anytime a new program or teaching expectation is incorporated into the curriculum there needs to be
enough time to gather data and view progress before moving on to something new.
Allow for complete mastery of an initiative before another is given. Support each initiative with more time
for planning and implementation.

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Teachers believe that district needs to “slow down”, provide adequate time and training and help them
understand clearly the “why’s and how’s” as well as how the new connects to and supports district
priorities. They believe that doing so will make them more successful in the classroom, but will also
better position them to communicate the same understandings to parents and to enlist their support.
A number of teachers believe that what they perceive to be a high rate of administrative turnover
negatively contributes to the issue of “initiative churn” and also has implications for the clarity with
which the district’s mission and vision are communicated and promoted.
While many staff raise concerns regarding what they view change as happening in a way that they
describe as too much, too fast, administrators cite,
"The Oxford Way" or "That's the way we've always done it." mindset and excuse making for
maintaining low expectations, low budgets and low vision for how we are educating our
as challenges to improvement.
District Profile
OXPS educators see a significant need to raise the positive public profile of the OXPS and that the OXPS
and Oxford High School in particular, does not promote its successes or “market itself” well enough. One
respondent captured this concern this way,
I think the other schools do a better job selling themselves to our students than OHS. We seem to
give other schools/ recruiters more access to our middle school students than our own high
A number point to this issue as at least partially explaining why Oxford sees, many of, “our top students
leaving the district.”
They tend to believe that the community too often hears about the problems or failings (based on “bad
press and rumors”) of the district, but are often unware of, “all the great things happening in our
Spotlight successes of everyone in the system, from students to programs to teachers. Let the
community know who is teaching here, where they've been and what they've done that makes
these schools worth a good 2nd look.
Restructuring/Retaining Top Students
In addition to raising the district’s positive public profile, teachers describe a need to strike a better
balance between focusing energies on struggling or underperforming students and supporting and
celebrating the achievements of our, “best and brightest.” They believe that this will better meet the
needs of top students, provide positive models and help with the retention of OXPS students in district.
They also complain of schedules that prevent students from having access to Art, Theatre and other
offerings as well as rigorous academic courses and suggest that schedules need to change.

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Perhaps consider changing the schedule to get rid of the "duty" period each teacher has (mostly
spent on walking duty around the building or covering for other teachers when there is not
enough subs- happens a lot!) and instead replace it with common planning time with grade level
subject teachers. Or, alternate CPT time between teammate and grade level subject teachers.
I would love to see longer class periods. 45 minutes is not long enough to do a lot of hands-on
learning. I hope a longer period would encourage more teachers to do more PBL.
Our schedule is divided into 7 forty-five minute periods. This is not enough time to review,
instruct, and insure that students are practicing the material correctly. I feel that the schedule
should be changed to allow for periods of 60 minutes or more.
Creation of additional position(s) in the Fine Arts at OHS. More scheduling options would
immediately exist, and the program would immediately expand. This would also provide
important motivation for high school students to remain enrolled in OXPS. Many of the "best and
brightest" are lost because they are looking for creative opportunities in private schools or other
arts-prioritized districts.
Another issue specific to support staff involves their concerns regarding their own numbers which were
significantly diminished as a result of the special education department’s reorganization in the spring of
2014. They voice displeasure with the reorganization itself and how it and the employment implications
of it were communicated. A number of respondents express that the central administration failed to
properly and thoroughly vet these organizational decisions. These staff highlight concerns for their
colleagues who were put out of work and argue that the reductions in staff were not enacted in the best
interest of students.
Many suggestions for addressing the concerns described above are include in the previous section.
When asked to offer their thoughts regarding how the OXPS might best address concerns that teachers
and support staff have and/or improve in its ability to meet the needs of all students and the community
additional areas for improvement were highlighted.

Strengthen Family and Community Engagement
Transparency and building a good relationship with the community is maybe one way the OXPS
could address a growing gap in home-school cooperation.
Communication between OXPS and parents is vital! Multiple approaches may be needed to accomplish this

Outreach to families through different avenues to encourage participation and parent
Try to get the families more involved in their children's education is critical. I know this is easier
said than done but getting them on board with what we are doing as educators is the first step
to engaging families in our plans.
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Perhaps holding monthly support for parents, guardians would be beneficial.
Transparency and building a good relationship with the community is maybe one way the OXPS could
address a growing gap in home-school cooperation

The community needs to know exactly what their taxes are going towards. Just giving them a
number of dollars does not tell them how their money will help our children.
Bring parents into the fold. Encourage parent involvement from K-12. Teach parents how to help
their student at home.
Strengthen supports to students
A full time literacy position should be reinstated. This would help develop reading comprehension
at an exceptional level.
Collaborate with SPED teachers and families to create programming that is effective for students
The teaching of how to study should not be left to chance nor to the "natural" instincts of a
teacher. Early on, every single child in the system should experience at least one class on "how to
be a student". By the time the average student gets some information in this area, he or she is
preparing for some state-mandated exam.
I think there could be more collaboration and communications between M.S. & H.S.. Students
from the H.S. coming to the M.S. for programs and assisting teachers that they had years earlier,
Band, theatre, clubs and athletics. are areas where the older students can connect with the
younger student to advertise the great things they can look forward to at O.H.S.
Students and parents should receive information about the other schools long before they are to
go to those schools. When stepping up to Clara Barton, Oxford Middle School or Oxford High
School the families and children should be meeting with or introduced to the teachers and
practices of all grades in that school and not just the lowest grade(3, 5, 9).
We need to honestly assess whether all of our students benefit from being on a "college
preparatory" track. If not, we need to find an array of options to help make them "career" ready.
For each group of respondents, the opportunity to include any additional information not covered by
the previous questions was provided.
Many educators took this opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation for the survey itself and the
opportunity to be heard. Many cautioned, however, that many surveys, meetings and discussions had
been conducted in the past with seemingly no changes made as a result. Educators voiced a mix of
guarded optimism and skepticism regarding this process.
In the face of diminishing resources, time constraints, increased accountability for performance and the
leadership challenges described earlier, district staff overwhelmingly spoke of their optimism and beliefs
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that the OXPS has great potential for returning to its former status and for once again being an excellent

Thank you for asking these important questions. It appears to me that you have opened a door
for discussion and problem solving.
Just being asked my thoughts and concerns regarding OXPS is a refreshing change.
Thank you for listening to our thoughts and concerns.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to have my voice heard. The highly qualified, loving staff I
work with would all agree that this is a great step toward positive change for the better. I am
willing to be a part of any discussion panel, committee, or initiative that addresses the
aforementioned concerns.
I am excited about this new opportunity for change. This school system has taken its share of
lumps and bumps, there is the bad....but there is also a lot of good. If I didn't believe - I would
have left long ago
I hope these suggestions are taken seriously. We need to work as a team to get the best results.
We are in the trenches, know the issues and know our students. We are professionals and need
to be trusted and respected as such
I am beyond excited to see how this year goes, with a new principal, Dean of Students, and
Superintendent. I hope that the OHS staff meets the challenges ahead of them, instead of
making excuses as to why we are unable to do certain things.
Years ago, the OXPS was known for its high quality of education for the students of the
community. Somewhere along the way, this changed due to budget constraints and mandates
which burdened the system. A direction that focuses on the true priorities can bring the OXPS
back to the enviable level it once was.
I'm looking forward to positive change and a more positive outlook to our future!

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