Superintendent John T. Hillis

John T. Hillis Superintendent

December 19, 2022
Good Afternoon Blackhawk Nation,
I’d like to take a moment today to communicate with the community about the state of student learning in Oxford.
Since before the pandemic, we’ve been in evaluation mode: basically looking at everything we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and assessing the impact of those things on student performance in the classroom.  
When COVID hit, it threw us into a bit of a tailspin with respect to teaching and learning and all the things that we needed to do as a District to be proficient at them.
Since we’ve come out of the pandemic with the COVID mandates, guidelines and restrictions lifted, we’ve been able to really get back to focusing our energies on student learning.
Our teachers are now engaged in plenty of professional development opportunities meant to hone their skills and make them even better at what they do.  
At the Primary level, we’re focusing heavily on math and literacy development and all the things we need to do to make sure our students have the foundational skills needed to succeed later on.
At the Secondary level, we are working across disciplines to make sure our curriculum is aligned from top to bottom and to make sure it makes sense with no holes in content.
Participation in interscholastic sports and extracurricular activities is as high as it’s been in years.
We’ve also invested heavily in our related arts.  PE, Music, Art and Theater, Agriculture, Tech and STEAM are all areas where students pick up skills that are not only important in school, but also in life in general.  
Truthfully, we have Primary, Middle, and High School students with skill sets that we as adults don’t have.  And they’re really good at them.
We’ve also been tracking our NYS testing data for years now.  
I’m pleased to report that we are showing growth in our student performance results and hope that we will continue to do even better, year after year.
In fact, test results at many grade levels puts Oxford in the top third in the region in Math, ELA and Science.
Even though these results compare favorably to other schools in the region, we want to be the best, so the quest continues.  
We’re grateful for the support we have within the community and we’re thankful for the many wonderful teachers and staff who never give up on this important endeavor.  
If there are any specific questions regarding curriculum or student learning, please feel free to reach out to your teacher and/or Building Principal.   I’m sure they would love to talk about the things they do every day.
Have a great week everybody.
John Hillis

December 7, 2022
Good Morning,
Every year, schools in New York State are mandated to conduct a minimum number of emergency drills.  The statute now requires twelve drills be conducted each school year, four of which must be lock-down drills, the remaining eight are required to be evacuation drills such as fire drills.
In Oxford, we have continued to practice the evacuation drills as required but have also decided to increase the number of lockdown drills that we conduct in a given year.  These drills may come in many forms as the school year progresses and we test our proficiencies.  Sometimes we work with outside agencies such as law enforcement and sometimes we conduct internal-only drills.  The outcomes of these exercises are always debriefed and relevant information is disseminated.  In any situation where there is a real-world concern, we have always communicated with the community as soon as we have information to share.  That has happened on several occasions in the past couple of years.  
Oxford Academy has protocols in place to spread vital information as quickly and efficiently as possible.  The bottom line is, if there’s something going on, and you need to know about it, we will make sure you know.   If you don’t hear from us, it’s safe to conclude that it’s a drill.  For operational security purposes, we cannot always let you know what’s going on.  It’s also important to understand the basic language that we speak when these situations arise.
Let’s review:
Shelter-in-place - Students and teachers generally continue doing what they’re doing but will not leave the location that they are in until the shelter is lifted.  A shelter-in-place is most often called in cases of medical emergencies, when someone needs assistance and we want to minimize traffic (seizures and allergic reactions are common).  
Hold-in-place - Similar to a shelter-in-place.  Sometimes used in conjunction with another directive like a lockdown.  A hold-in-place is similar to a shelter-in-place in that students and teachers stay where they are until they get updated information releasing them from their location.  When buildings are being cleared during a lockdown, a hold-in-place is in effect until the entire building has been cleared and notice is given that the building has been released.
Evacuation - Students and staff are moved to a predetermined location because something is happening at or near the current location.
Lockout - Buildings are secured from concerns outside the building.  Doors and windows are closed and locked.  Outdoor activities are terminated.  Indoor activities proceed as normal.  Nobody may enter or leave the building until there is an order to lift the lockout after the danger has passed.  (We had a real lockout earlier this year and you were all notified immediately.)
Lockdown - There is a threat of violence inside the building and everybody seeks safety behind locked doors.  Students and staff stay out of sight and stay quiet.  Lights generally are turned off, phones silenced and nobody responds to announcements or fire alarms.  Once the threat has passed and the building has been secured, rooms will be cleared one at a time by safety personnel and a hold-in-place will be in effect until the entire building is cleared. (This is generally the most serious.)
Often, lockdowns and lockouts are used by people interchangeably but as you can see, they are very different responses to very different situations.  Mistaking one for the other can greatly change the dynamics of a situation and very often the misinformation flying around the community.
Please understand that the safety and security of our students and staff is always first and foremost on our list of priorities.   We will continue to do what is necessary to insure that safety and security every day because the threats are constantly evolving and we must evolve with those threats.  For now though, no news is good news.
Have a great day and let’s all remain Blackhawk strong.
John Hillis

September 9, 2022
Good Morning Blackhawk Nation,
After a busy summer, school is finally back in session and we couldn’t be happier.

We had a great day yesterday and it is always energizing to see the smiling faces coming back into the buildings, ready to learn.
Thank you for your support, and thank you for such wonderful children!

I’m writing this morning to remind you of our schedule changes this year and how they will benefit all of our students.
After COVID, nationwide test scores decreased for the first time ever in Math, and by the largest margin in 30 years in Reading.  Like everywhere else, COVID impacted student performance in Oxford. 
Although we didn’t experience the severe declines that happened in some places, we understand that we have been affected also.  

As educators, we’re always trying to get better at what we do and we’re always looking for more effective ways to increase student learning.  As part of our multi-year review, we decided that a few changes to our building schedules would help provide additional benefits to all students.  

Beginning this year, in the Primary School, students will be able to meet each week in small groups with their teachers for more focused and enhanced learning opportunities.  The objective of these opportunities will be more individualized instruction and skills development.  
During this time, we’re seeking growth in reading, writing and math skills.  Things that will be important to future academic success.

In the secondary, we took a 10 period day, consolidated it into a 9 period day, and added an Enrichment Period at the end. This period will be used for multiple purposes.

For the first time, students will have the opportunity to stay during Enrichment and get extra help in any subject.  All they have to do is go see their teacher at the end of the day.  
Students will also be able to use this period to do homework before sports practices start in the afternoon.  They will have the time needed to begin assignments before practice, in a teacher’s room, and be able to ask questions if needed.

They will also be able to make up missed work due to absence, music lessons or various appointments, etc.  They may be able to finish tests, quizzes, science labs, essays or any other work that may be due.
Additionally, this will be a time when extra-curriculars will meet without conflicting with interscholastic sports or other after school activities.  

Enrichment will be a useful and positive addition to our daily schedule and all parents should encourage their students to use it effectively to keep lines of communication open and self-advocate with teachers and advisors.  

We sincerely expect this schedule to create a new and vibrant learning dynamic in our buildings and we hope that all Blackhawks embrace the multitude of opportunities that it will provide each one of our students.

Best wishes to all for a wonderful school year.
John Hillis
Superintendent of Schools


June 13, 2022
Dear Parents/Guardians:
I’m writing to inform everybody of a few schedule changes that will be taking place during the 2022-2023 school year.
These changes are designed to benefit students, teachers and staff along with the District’s ability to support student learning and participation in enhanced curricular as well as extra-curricular activities.
Our goal is to create a period of time each day when students are able to meet with teachers and staff to make up missed work, finish current assignments, get extra help, meet with extra-curricular advisors and participate in multiple extra-curricular activities, etc.
This period will occur after the last regularly scheduled instructional period of the school day, between 2:25 and 3:10.  Students will have the ability to stay if needed (or required) whenever they choose and attend to matters that cannot be taken care of during the regular school day. 
Sometimes it may be just getting extra help on an assignment, finishing an essay or science lab, or even finding a quiet place to do homework before practice.
In the MS and HS, there may be instances where a teacher will require a student to stay for help and support.
In the Primary School, all students will be assigned a specific day of the week that they will be required to stay for small group skills development and individual instruction.  The Primary School will be in touch with more specifics at a later date.
These changes will occur in all three buildings and as such, the bus schedule will change to accommodate building needs.
Morning bus runs will stay the same but afternoon bus runs will change according to the following:
PM Bus Schedule:
            First Release
            2:20 pm     PS 1st release of students
            2:23 pm     HS 1st release of students
            2:30 pm     MS 1st release of students
            Second Release
            3:00 pm     MS 2nd release of students
            3:06 pm     HS/PS 2nd release of students
            Sports Run
            4:50 pm     Leaves Middle School
            5:00 pm     Leaves High School
*Must sign up for sports bus by 1:00 pm daily
*Up to 2 buses will run per day as needed
John Hillis
Superintendent of Schools

August 29, 2021
Good Morning Blackhawk Nation,
I’m writing today to give everybody a heads-up on our school year and what to expect.
As you are all fully aware, things have changed significantly since June.  The Delta variant is out there and COVID cases are once again rising.  However, like last year, we are determined to keep the buildings open by making sure all of our students, teachers, staff and visitors continue to remain safe.
As we begin another year, our COVID procedures and protocols should be very familiar to you.  
In fact, much of what we successfully did last year will still be in place.
Here are the basics:
            1.  All students will be in school every day
            2.  Masks will continue to be required inside the buildings
            3.  Masks will continue to be required on the buses
            4.  Mask breaks will occur periodically throughout the day
            5.  Masks are not yet required outdoors while on school property
            6.  We will not be required to do temperature checks or surveys like we did last year
I fully understand that everybody is tiring of the mask mandates, but in a school, they are especially important so we ask for your cooperation.  
Hundreds of our students are not yet vaccinated and masks are the primary defense mechanism to slow the spread of COVID in Oxford.  They are also required by NYS Department of Health so we must comply.
With any luck, the pandemic will ease soon and we will be able to get back to normal but for now, these measures are for the safety and benefit of everybody in this community.
They will also help us ensure that our buildings remain open.
As always, we will do everything possible to further the safety of our entire Blackhawk community and as always, we appreciate your support in helping us make Oxford the special place that it is.
Please feel free to refer to our district website for additional COVID information and updates. 
With Sincere Regards,
John Hillis
Superintendent of Schools
Oxford Academy and Central School District



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