Superintendent John T. Hillis

John T. Hillis Superintendent
April 21, 2021

Dear Blackhawk Community,

Our budget situation this year is finally beginning to stabilize.  We began the school year with a threat of 20% mid-year cuts to school aid and the possibility of a continuing financial crisis with no end in sight.
Since then, school aid has been fully restored by the state legislature and federal stimulus money is positively impacting our fiscal outlook. 
This year, Oxford Academy will have a 0% increase in its tax levy and will seek to create a long-term plan to effectively manage the infusion of state and federal funds.
Along the way, we will ask the community to support an Energy Performance Project that provides much needed upgrades to energy-oriented infrastructure and guarantees to cut energy consumption costs over the next ten years by several million dollars.
The Energy Performance Project will result in no additional billing to local taxpayers and in turn should have a positive impact in the future as a result of reduced energy costs.
As always, we thank the Oxford community for its steadfast support of Oxford Academy and we look forward to providing the best education possible for all of our children.
With Sincere Gratitude,
John Hillis

March 16, 2021 
Good Afternoon Blackhawk Nation,
We have been engaged in extensive discussions over the past several weeks trying to problem-solve the many logistical issues involved with bringing all students back to school every day. 
As of today, I’m happy to report that we have plans in place to do just that.
Starting the week of April 12th, all Middle School and High School students will also be attending 5 days a week.
Only students with valid medical excuses will be able to attend remotely beginning April 12th.
The last 12 months have been very challenging, but we are finally in a position where we can once again safely accommodate all students and staff.
We will continue to monitor local and regional data and will react accordingly if COVID cases begin to affect our buildings.
Right now though, it’s time to increase our attendance and continue to provide the best education possible for all of our students.
We appreciate your flexibility and understanding as we do our absolute best to provide for this entire community.
Stay safe and stay positive.
John T. Hillis
Oxford Academy and Central School District

January 15, 2021
Good Afternoon Blackhawk Nation,
Education at Oxford Academy continues to be going well.
Faculty and staff have adjusted to the COVID procedures and protocols seamlessly as have students.
We continue to evaluate our status every day and are keeping a careful watch on events going on around us.  Thankfully, COVID-19 cases in the school setting have remained low even though Chenango County numbers have been increasing. 
Due to our low case numbers, we have decided to move to Phase III of our reopening plan, beginning Monday, February 1, 2021.  Please refer to this CHART for specifics on what that will look like. 
It’s important to understand that we will continue to monitor local and regional data and will react accordingly if cases affect our buildings.  The well-being of our faculty, staff, and students remains our number one priority.  
We understand that this is a challenging time for everybody and we appreciate your flexibility as we continue to provide the best education possible for all of our students.  
Stay safe and take care.
John T. Hillis

November 12, 2020

Good Afternoon Blackhawk Nation,

I wanted to reach out to give everybody a few quick updates on our current status and some expectations moving forward.  
Right now, Oxford is in good shape with respect to infections.  Our procedures have been effective to this point and as long as everybody in the community remains vigilant, we should continue to be fine.  

Our schools are at about 50% capacity and our staff is working very hard to provide a safe, secure and structured environment in which all students can learn.  They have become the unsung heroes of the pandemic thus far and we owe them much of our gratitude and thanks as we approach Thanksgiving.  

Building shared decision-making teams are planning for Phase III.  We will release updated plans for that when the time is appropriate.  As of now, the plan is to get through the holidays and evaluate the COVID situation in January.  If things are stable at that point, we may move to increase in-person numbers again at the end of January.  This will coincide with the end of the first semester in the MS and HS.

And lastly, as the weather begins to turn, I would also like to remind everyone that there has been no change to our snow day procedures.  Snow days will be called when needed and there will be no instruction on snow days.  Let the kids wake up excited and let them play.  And as usual, there will be no significant impact on our school calendar unless we exceed the allotted number of days.

That’s it for now.

Stay safe everyone,
John Hillis

October 28, 2020
Good Morning Blackhawk Nation,
I’m writing to keep everybody up to date on our current situation and how things happening around us may affect our posture moving forward.
As you all know, cases in Chenango County have been on the rise recently.  
The good news is, this rise doesn’t have anything to do with schools being open but has more to do with what people are doing on their free time.
Having said that, if cases continue to increase, the school will be forced to react.
On October 21, 2020, New York State released its Micro-Cluster Strategy and in it, Oxford is located within a Tier 4 Geographic Area.  
This means that if we attain a 7 day rolling average positivity rate of 4% or higher for 10 days, and 15 or more new daily cases per 100,000 residents on a 7 day average, we will be labeled a Yellow Precautionary Zone and we will be required to begin testing 20% of our in-person students and staff.
Depending on the availability of tests, whether they are provided free of charge by NYS or if we have to purchase them, and a number of other factors, we may need to change our current status back to Phase I (25 % capacity) or even move to fully remote.
These will certainly be worst case scenarios but I want everybody to be aware of the volatility of this situation.   
We will do our best to be as transparent as possible throughout this situation and we will relay relevant information as soon as it becomes available. 
We continue to work closely with Chenango County Department of Health and follow guidance and directives from them.
Please keep in mind that this is only an FYI at this point.
The District will not make any decisions of this magnitude without carefully weighing pros and cons and giving the community as much advanced notice as possible.
Thank you for your continued support and stay safe everybody!
 John T. Hillis

 9/30/2020 Update

Good Afternoon Blackhawk Nation,
Thus far, our reopening has been going well.
Faculty and staff have implemented the new changes in procedures and protocols seamlessly and students have adapted to the new norms quickly and efficiently.  
As promised, we have been evaluating our status every day and are keeping a careful watch on events going on around us. Currently, there have been no COVID-19 cases in our buildings and there are very few active cases in the county.
Because of these factors, we have cautiously made the decision to move to Phase II of our reopening plan, beginning Monday, October 19, 2020.  
Please refer to this Phase II chart for specifics on what that will look like and please be aware that we made a change to the Middle School schedule for safety purposes.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause but the well-being of our faculty, staff, and students has always been our number one priority.
We will continue to monitor local and regional data and react accordingly if needed.  However, we wanted to give everybody ample time to plan.  
We understand that this is a challenging time for everybody and we appreciate your flexibility as we continue to provide the best education possible for all of our students.  
Stay safe and take care.

9/18/2020 Update
During the school year, we will continue to send out periodic updates to keep everybody informed about what's happening in the District.  
Thus far, our opening has been going well.  There have been no COVID-19 cases in our buildings and our new procedures are working.  We fully understand that there are areas where we can certainly improve, but we are aware of them and we work on them every day.
Broadband across the region is still an issue so brief lapses in connections may affect instruction.  It is important to note that this is not necessarily an Oxford issue and the Regional Information Center at BT BOCES is diligently working on it with area providers. 
Keeping lines of communication open throughout this pandemic is very important.  If you have specific questions, please reach out to school main offices for assistance.  We will do our best to help solve any issue you may have.
We're doing well so far, Blackhawk Nation!  
Let's try to stay on the same page moving forward and prepare to move to Phase II.
We will let everybody know well in advance but start thinking somewhere around Columbus Day if everything continues to go well. 
Have a great weekend everybody.  

July 22, 2020

For months now, this district has been trying to create the best plan possible to bring students and staff back, and resume teaching and learning in Oxford.

In anticipation of this decision, we have been working every day to develop a set of procedures and protocols that will eventually become part of our overall district reopening plan.

The district has circulated three separate surveys seeking information on a variety of topics as part of this effort.  We have read all the comments and concerns.  We have also been engaged every day with school districts in our area and even across the state and nation.

We’ve learned a lot, but it’s very clear that there is no one correct pathway through the complexities surrounding school openings. Instead, we have a responsibility to do the best we can to support the Oxford Academy school community according to guidelines set by the New York State Education Department and public health authorities.

Here is the framework we put together for our reopening.  It’s a starting point only and is subject to change as the situation develops.

It’s important to note that this is not the entire plan The entire plan will be posted on our website by July 31st and will be very detailed.  The plan will also be subject to change if official guidance shifts.

The brief framework you see here is a blueprint and it is meant to be conservative.  It does not bring everybody back on opening day and it doesn’t even come close.  It’s not intended to. Instead, it creates a system by which we will be able to adjust numbers of students and population densities in any given area of the district at any time.

Some say we need to get back to normal.  However, we now know conclusively that children are able to be infected by this and they can spread it.  The seriousness of these infections are still not fully understood and long term implications can be very serious.

Others say we should follow the science.  But the science and understanding of this virus develops more every day and is constantly changing.

Quite simply, we don’t know what we don’t know.

The more detailed reopening plan will have brand new mandates and health and safety measures required by the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Education Department.  

Our daily operations will be affected significantly by these and it will be much more productive to start slowly and do it correctly before we try to implement them on a larger scale with most or all of our students.

Our plan prioritizes the safety of our students, staff and the members of our community first and foremost.   Then it adds flexibility and uniformity between grade levels.   It creates the ability to ease back or bring more students in during any week.  

We know that no plan is perfect and this one won’t be either.  We know there are some people who will ultimately appreciate this plan, and others may not.   We will eventually get back to some form of normalcy though.  

What we’ve developed here will help us begin to bridge the gap between now and then.  Along the way, we’ve continued to improve virtual learning and in-person teaching and learning, and we’ve been working every day to further advance the health and safety of everybody within our buildings.  

More details will follow just as soon as we are able to communicate them, and we hope they will answer many of your questions and concerns.

Thank you for your continued patience in this matter.

It’s very important for us to get this right.


John T. Hillis




Dear Oxford Academy Parents,


Teams at Oxford Academy have been working for weeks on plans for the eventual opening of our schools.

Right now, we're planning for three scenarios.  A full opening in September, a modified opening consisting of blended learning possibilities and a resumption of virtual instruction until we are instructed to resume in-person instruction.


There are many variables influencing this decision and there are numerous issues to be planned for in each case.  

The Governor stated today that more guidance for schools will be coming on Monday, July 13. Consequently, our district plans for opening must be submitted to NYSED by Friday, July 31.

A final decision about how we will proceed should be coming from the Governor's office sometime between August 1 and August 7.

In the meantime, we will continue to advance our planning and we ask that parents begin to prepare for the probability of children wearing face masks.  We will have face masks on hand if need be but we highly recommend sending children with their own that they are familiar with and are comfortable wearing.

Further communications will be coming as our planning continues and our understanding of this situation develops.

Thank you for your support and patience.


 John T. Hillis


Oxford Academy and Central School District

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