OXFORD - In July, David Woods will take over the position of Oxford Area School District Superintendent, replacing Dr. Raymond Fischer, who is retiring after this school year. Parents, teachers, students and community members had a chance to interact with Woods for the first time at a 'meet and greet' held April 18 at the Oxford High School.
Woods took questions from the audience with most of the school board members seated behind him. One recurring slogan he stressed was that some changes may come quickly and others could take time. He spoke of continuity in curriculum and between schools as well as leadership and comprehensive technology. When asked about his accomplishments, one item he pointed to was making college credit courses available to high school students to the point where a student could achieve an associates degree by graduation time.
Former School Board President Chauncey Boyd questioned Woods on his record at the Riverside School District in Lackawanna County, where he is currently superintendent. He pointed out that the PSSA test scores in that district went up only in Woods' first year there, and since then have trended downward.
Woods countered that the state continues to raise the target for test proficiency each year, so that scores may improve but still seem to be going down as the goal rises. 'The percentage of students achieving what they had over the last year was going up…' he said. 'I didn't interview for Oxford Area on improving test scores -- that's not what education is about. Education is about improving that child year after year. Education is about the end game -- where is that child going after public education? Is that child staying in post-secondary education or staying in that job he trained for.'
Boyd also asked Woods to comment on his current district's attempts to withdraw from their IU's career and technical school that led to a lawsuit against the district.
'The vocational careers are very important. A lot of students excel there and get great paying jobs, that's their way of expressing themselves,' Woods prefaced his explanation that Riverside did not like the way their IU's career and technical school was going over budget, plus they wanted the option to allow their students to attend a different program where there were more programs available.
Attendance at the meeting was light, partly due to the early evening timing, with the session starting at 5 p.m. While several audience members questioned the early timing, it allowed the event to wrap up at 6:30 in time for the school board session that night at 7 p.m.
When Woods was appointed some residents questioned the process that lead to the hiring, including the role that was played by the CCIU.
During the meeting, school board member Christine Peabody explained the process that started with the IU gathering applications and presenting the board with a field of nine candidates. From there onward, it was a school board committee that narrowed the field to four who were then interviewed by the full Board. 'We are very confident in our decision. We went through the process,' Peabody said.
School Board President Jason Brady said he feels the board has made the right choice. 'I think through the interview process we selected the right candidate,' he said. 'Overall, I think the process went very well.'