Enrollment in Early College Academy continues to rise in Oxford
● By Steven Hoffman
More Oxford Area High School students than ever are taking courses and earning college credits through Cecil College's Early College Academy as the program enters its third year.
The Early College Academy is a collaboration between the Oxford Area School District and Cecil College that provides students with the opportunity to earn college credits as they progress through high school. Students can potentially earn an associate's degree by the time they walk across the stage for their high school graduation.
Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones, the district's assistant superintendent, explained at the Sept. 20 school board meeting that the program started with 16 students in September of 2014 and increased to 22 students last school year. In the 2016-2017 school year, there are 34 high school students who are utilizing this opportunity.
“We're seeing it really expanding,” Billings-Jones explained.
The initial plan to have 25 Oxford students enrolled in the program for the upcoming year, but Cecil College was able to accommodate the increased number of students. Oxford has been looking to increase educational opportunities for students in recent years, and the Early College Academy has proven to be a popular option for students.
In other business at the Sept. 20 meeting, the Oxford Area School District is working to instill a sense of history in its students and staff members. One new aspect of this effort involves the creation of an activity book for youngsters that highlights the history of the school district.
Billings-Jones explained that she has had conversations with the social studies teachers, for grades five through eight, and several art teachers in the district to develop an illustrated history of the district. The teachers will be relying on informed out-of-district sources to compile information. Billings-Jones said that there are some good resources in the community, including the Oxford Area Historical Association. The goal is to have this project completed with the publication and distribution of the history in time for the 2017-2018 school year.
Billings-Jones also talked about how, for the first few years, new teachers take a guided bus trip through the district to learn something about the history of the area as they start their first year in the district. These bus trips have been so well-received that they now also want to offer the opportunity to more experienced teachers who joined the district before these bus trips were planned.
The Oxford School Board approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Oxford Educational Foundation for the recruitment, training, placement, and supervision of volunteers in the schools for the 2016-2017 school year.
Steve Roberts, the president of the Oxford Educational Foundation, reported that there are currently 81 community people in the community who serve as school volunteers.
During the last school year, Oxford Educational Foundation volunteers spent a total of 2,050 hours volunteers working with students. If an estimated dollar value were placed on that number of volunteer hours, it would amount to about $44,000. The Oxford Educational Foundation has already recruited more volunteers than last year, so the impact should be even greater for the 2016-2017 school year.
The board also approved the affiliation agreement with Lincoln University for sponsoring nursing education whereby students may receive monitored clinical experience in their area of study.
The school district took the first step toward building the budget for the 2017-2018 school year by approving the per-pupil allocation of $170. This allocation establishes how much funding each individual school receives to pay for miscellaneous expenses.
Brian Cooney, the district's business administrator, said that he reached out to officials from other school districts in the area to see how the $170 figure compares to those districts. Cooney said that the average per-pupil allocation for comparable schools is $165.30, so Oxford's expenditure is right in line with that.
The Oxford School Board will hold its next work session on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The regular meeting is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 18. Both take place in the administration building and begin at 7 p.m.