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Oxford Hills Tech Students Get a Literal Foundation to Learn From, Sun Journal

by Nicole Carter, November 18th, 2021

Building construction and plumbing technology students are building a residence that will be moved and sold at the end of the school year.


Stakeholders are gathered to celebrate progress at OHTS’ outdoor classroom last Wednesday. From left, Steve Pray, Hammond Lumber; Jeff Newton, Hammond Lumber; Nancy McClean-Morrissette OHTS Student Services Coordinator; John Poto, Board Chair of MVR #11; Ena Derenburger, Turn Key Homes of Maine; Tom Cassidy, OHTS Plumbing Instructor; Paul Bickford OHTS Director; Dan Daniels OHTS Building Construction Instructor; Tony Stevens OHTS Building Construction Assistant; Todd Truman President Turn Key Homes of Maine; and Jerry Wiley, Vice Board Chair of MVR #11. Supplied photo

PARIS — Oxford Hills Tech School has executed a novel and innovative way for students in its building construction and plumbing technology programs to learn their trade.

Administrators had a full foundation installed at the high school. Now, students are building a house that will later be moved to another location and put on the market for sale.

The onsite building foundation, a tool that can be used for education every year, was the brainchild of Building Construction and Technology Instructor Danny Daniels. He had been kicking the idea around for at least four years, at first envisioning a simple pad but thinking bigger over time.

When assistance began flowing into Oxford Hills through the Coronavirus Relief Fund last year, OHTS Director Paul Bickford allocated enough to make the project a reality, adding a new type of outdoor classroom to the high school parking lot.

OHTS tapped Oxford contractor Turn Key Homes of Maine and the company’s supplier Hammond Lumber to develop the curriculum. Using one of Turn Key’s new construction plans and Hammond for materials, at least 40 students are building a ranch home. The house is a 1,232 square foot structure measuring 28’x44′ with three bedrooms and three baths.

“Danny approached us last spring to ask if we would partner with them,” explained Ena Derenburger, sales manager for Turn Key Homes. “We’ll work with the students all the way through with inspections, permitting, etc. Then we will actually move the home to one of our sites in Norway at the end of the school year.

“It gives the students real, hands-on experience in the field that will just be invaluable for them. They won’t see their project as one aspect, like doing siding, roofing or plumbing, but all the way through from the first stick.”

Daniels described an impressive list of positives that the foundation classroom is bringing, not just to OHTS but to the entire school community.

“Before, a lot of time was lost traveling to projects,” he said during a Zoom interview.

Up to an hour a day was spent riding buses to other sites like the 4-H camp at Bryant Pond where students have worked on several projects over the last five or so years. Less time on the road means tech school students have more time to participate in other school classes and activities. Being at school for class means that the class is no longer affected if one student has to leave early for a medical or personal appointment. At Bryant Pond, there was one transport in and one out for everyone.

It’s not just the 30 students in the building construction trades benefiting from the foundation classroom. The school’s plumbing technology program, led by Instructor Tom Cassidy, has more than a dozen kids who are working side-by-side with those doing carpentry.

“Students are getting a more complete experience,” Daniels continued. “They’re seeing how real life works for contractors on the job. They have the opportunity to figure out what expectations are of them while still in school, instead of being introduced to it once they’ve joined the work force. Beyond the trade, they’re picking up transferable skills. Teamwork with their peers. The third year students are assigned to leadership positions where they get to practice being the boss. They have the time to develop those skills.”

With student working on the house throughout the day the foundation project has also brought more exposure to the rest of the high school about the tech program.

A key role for Turn Key Building has been to act as the general contractor, just like in real life, for the project. They work directly with building supplier Hammond Lumber to order all the materials students need to build the house, bringing in yet another area where they are gaining experience. The shipping delays and materials shortages currently affecting all businesses and consumers becomes one more dimension of education.

With Turn Key Building sourcing the materials for the house it will eventually sell, the tech school is saving money. No longer does it have to purchase lumber and hardware for kids to build and later disassemble shed models. According to Bickford, between building and plumbing materials and transportation, OHTS has saved about $3,000 this year.

Asked about the pros and cons of the innovative classroom, Daniels admitted there has been absolutely no downside.

“It’s all opportunity in real life. Not manufactured,” he said. “It’s real. Someone is going to live in this, pay money for this. It has to beat standards. And Todd (Truman, owner of Turn Key Home) is putting his name on this house. We need to make it as perfect a we possibly can.”


OHTS building construction and plumbing technology students are building a house, in the parking lot of OHCHS, on a foundation that will serve as an outdoor classroom for years to come. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

A glimpse to the future: Tiana James stands up to a pandemic, Sun Journal

by Nicole Carter, February 18th, 2021

Eighteen-year-old Tiana James became a CNA last summer and immediately went to work at a hospital caring for COVID-19 patients.


Tiana James has played as OHCHS’ girls varsity lacrosse goalie since she was a freshman.


OHCHS student Tiana James of South Paris launched her nursing career before the start of senior year.

PARIS — Senior year for most students is a combination of making plans and contemplating the start of adulthood. What schools or training to attend, where to work, where to live. Not to mention, maybe how to get through school when they can’t go to school.

Tiana James of Paris made quick work of those routine challenges and has taken on much, much more during her senior year than most adults have to worry about.

Facing COVID-19

Last July, at the age of 17, James passed the exams and completed the requirements to become a certified nurse’s assistant, a step towards her eventual career as a nurse specializing in women’s health. The first thing she did was apply for a job at a local hospital to gain experience and earn a paycheck.

Since then she has worked at the hospital’s COVID unit, working at least five – sometimes seven – days a week caring for those most impacted by the pandemic.

“Last summer I was working 50 or 60 hours a week. Now I still work almost every day,” she said in a Zoom interview last Friday. “I’ve always had a strong work ethic. I focus on school work Tuesdays and during my free periods. I do school from 7:30 a.m. until about 1:30. Then I go to work until about 7 p.m. Sometimes I don’t get home until 8:30 at night.”

When able, James attends Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in person on Mondays and Tuesdays. The other days she is remote and works in Lewiston. Saturdays she puts in a 12-hour shift at the hospital. Her schedule does not leave much free time, but when she is not working she said she manages to hang out with her two best friends.

She works at the same hospital as her mother; her father works at another nearby, giving her a strong support system to help with the pressures of caring for very ill patients.

“I’ve learned to manage,” she said. “When I come home, I take off my scrubs at the door and put them in the wash. My mom and dad are very supportive. We don’t get out much, it’s pretty much the three of us right now.

James usually clocks in at the hospital about 2:45 p.m. and starts her shift by reviewing her patients’ reports. By 4 p.m. she is taking their vitals and bathes them or helps them eat. She might spend up to 90 minutes with each patient.

COVID patients can be anywhere from stable to not at all and she sees the toll the virus has on them.

“We’re very careful between rooms. We have to wear face shields, N95 masks, gowns, hairnets, booties on our feet and I double glove,” she said of her hospital routine. “The patients tend to feel bad for us that we have to wear all that stuff. They feel like they’re a burden. But I reassure them that I am there to help them get better. The gear protects me and them.”

Each patient on the COVID unit has a designated nurse and CNA. Their doctors check on them at least every other day – if their treatment is going well and they aren’t experiencing distress. Unable to see their families, often their nurses are the only people they have any contact with during the day. A stay in the unit might be a week, it might take a month.

“I’ve worked a few times in the ICU with people on ventilators. The ICU is not my favorite place because I just lost my grandmother to COVID,” she said. “She was 69. She lived in Alabama. She had a heart problem and she got better. We were able to visit her in July. But then she got COVID.”

James believes that people outside of healthcare do not realize how many patients go into the hospital with COVID-19. While unable to cite specific numbers, she confirmed that it can be multiple patients on a daily basis. She gets frustrated that even some people in her own family that don’t believe it.

“I want to tell them to walk through the hospital sometime,” she sighed. “If that’s your grandfather, your mom or dad in the hospital, on a ventilator, and you think you’re safe? You’re blind to what’s going on in the world.

“I have been the last person some people see before they pass, because of COVID. They can’t see their family, because of COVID. So for them, I’m the last thing they see before they go. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s reality. And still there are people who walk around with no mask on.”

Sometimes a patient’s family will call the hospital and want to speak with the people who take care of their parents, to find out if they are okay. James can talk with them and give updates about how they’re feeling or how their mood is that day. But she cannot go into details about their condition.

“I don’t have that scope of knowledge, it’s beyond my practice,” she said. “It takes a toll. There are days I leave and think that I don’t want to go back tomorrow. The 30-minute drive home from work, it gives me a chance to just breathe. Sometimes those four hours I’ve worked are the longest four hours. I get that time to process, and I can talk with my mom and dad although I have to be careful because of HIPAA. There is only so much I can say to them.

“But I love my job, I wouldn’t trade it. I come home, shower, eat dinner and try not to think about it. I try to leave work at work.”

As a healthcare worker, James was one of the first in Maine eligible for the coronavirus vaccine. She got her first dose after Christmas and the second in January. She had no reaction to the first injection and just some minor aches and a bump on her arm after the second. Some people advised the teen she should not be vaccinated.

“For me, it was like, ‘wow this is really happening,’” she recalls. “A lot of people said, ‘don’t get it, you’re young.’ But I got it for my patients, my family, for my community. It was a moment of … I’m not sure how to say it. It was unreal.

“I never thought in a million years I would be offered something so significant during this time. Almost all staff chose to be vaccinated [right away].”

Patient connections

One part of caring for COVID patients that stays with James are the stories they tell her. One of her patients, a World War II vet, loves telling her about when he was in the war.

“It is something that has definitely opened my eyes about life,” she said. “Since I’ve started working there I’ve learned that you can’t take any moment you have for granted. So many people wake up one day, and then three days later they’re gone.”

“Growing up I’ve always thought about the future – what am I going to do about this? What about when this happens? But since working at the hospital I’ve seen people who have lived life to the fullest and when they’re ready to go they can go. I want to tell my story like they’ve been able to tell me their stories, and be happy about it.”

She said working as a CNA during a pandemic has taught her to appreciate the time she has with her mom and dad, her grandparents and her niece, and to live for the day. And while recognizing it’s not necessarily for the best, she enjoys building relationships with her patients.

“I had one patient who didn’t make it and that was right after my grandma passed,” she recalled. “We had a bond. I had worked with them before they had COVID. They had made progress and then came to the hospital with COVID and then didn’t make it. It was almost like losing someone close to me.

“But it’s something you have to get used to. That happened, but at the same time I just had to put my face on and finish my shift because there were other patients who needed me that day. It’s not easy and I struggle sometimes.”

James plans to work at the hospital until next July, when she will move south to attend the University of Southern Alabama. She was accepted into the school’s nursing program with an in state tuition rate. Most of her father’s family lives in the area so her support system will continue. She hopes to continue towards her master’s degree and ultimately work as an obstetrics nurse.


James always knew she wanted to work in a hospital to help people but she found ways to help others first. She is President of her senior class and Vice President of the National Honor Society.

“I have always had a voice. I want it to be heard,” she said. “I took on a lot of leadership roles my junior year. I became class president and joined NHS. I knew going into senior year there would things we’d have to adjust and be ready for.”

Early in 2020 James partnered with other class leaders to successfully lobby the SAD 17 School Board to change their dress code to allow students to wear hats. The issue had become important to many and she wanted to help change it for them.

“I think about my classmates often, the ones struggling,” she continued. “I am grateful for my family. I’m grateful for everything I have. I have a car, my license, I have a job and I can go do things and have a lot of things that other kids don’t.

One more experience James is hopeful she can enjoy before graduation is the spring sports season. She has been varsity goalie on OHCHS’ girls’ lacrosse team since she was a freshman. After missing out her junior year she is anxious to get that final season in.

“Right now, as an athlete, I get to look forward to lacrosse,” she said. “I’ve played since seventh grade. As goalie … I’ve taken a beating. It’s a physical and a mental game. You have to know the strategy.

“My work schedule will be probably Sundays only [when the season starts], which will make my paycheck close to nothing. But I don’t want to miss my senior season, and I’ve worked enough to save and be able to play. I’m ready to play.”

With her eye toward graduation in June, James said school administrators deserve props for seeing her and all her classmates through.

“It’s been a crazy year,” she said. “They have worked very hard and they’re doing a very good job to keep the class of 2021 happy, or at least as happy as we can be.”

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OHTS senior Scott Tibbetts plans to get certified in heavy diesel equipment after he graduates later this year.

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Scott Tibbetts is in the automotive technology program at OHTS.

PARIS — Scott Tibbetts of South Paris is still a teenager (18) still in school (a senior at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School), but he already has years of work experience in his chosen field and plans for his future career.

“I’ve always liked working on things,” Tibbetts said, easily summing up his skills and goals. “It started when I was probably 12 or 13. I drove a race car at Speedway 51 in Groveton, NH. So when I found out about the race car program at the middle school I was like, ‘yeah, that’s what I want to do!’”

The program Tibbetts refers to was part of Quest Day at Oxford Hills Middle School, taking part in building a car that was eventually driven at Oxford Plains Speedway by Scott Luce of Strong. The group was made up of students with diverse interests: mechanics like Tibbetts, sales and marketing reps for fundraising and designers that created the car’s graphics, among others.

“We pretty much built it from the ground up,” he said. “It was a super-lite model car, with a Chevy motor.”

Disappointed to learn as he graduated eighth grade and moved onto OHCHS that he could not sign up for tech school classes until his sophomore year, Tibbetts was allowed to continue with the middle school’s Quest Day through ninth grade so he could continue working on mechanics.

When Tibbetts got to the automotive program at OHTS, he was just excited to jump in and learn whatever he could in the school shop. SAD 17 teachers offer their own vehicles for the students to use for class so he got the opportunity to work on all kinds of different passenger cars and trucks.

Currently he is working on drivetrains at OHTS, tearing into parts and learning new things about working on them. He is rebuilding a Chevy 350 motor that has been built and dismantled at OHTS several times.

His favorite automotive thing, however, is diesel and heavy equipment. Diesel vehicles only come through the school occasionally, but he has been able to apply his skills on big trucks at his after-school job, All Mobile Equipment in Harrison. He attends school first, and heads to independent study after.

“I enjoy diesels a lot more than the smaller vehicles,” Tibbetts said. “For one, the pay is better.

“I do pretty much everything there. Brake jobs, maintenance. We have a contract to service Estes Express Lines in Lewiston. They call us and we go down there to take care of their trucks and trailers, figure out what’s wrong with them.”

Tibbetts likes the challenge of mobile service. He works with another employee on service calls for Estes while his boss’ main client is Lucas Tree.

“You never know what you’re coming into,” he said. “It might take 10 minutes; it might take a couple days. You have to guess what you might need before you go down there.

A glimpse to the future: Scott Tibbetts takes the road that diesels travel, Sun Journal

by Nicole Carter, February 4th, 2021

Scott Tibbetts has managed to include learning the automotive trade in school for the last six years.

The Graphic Design program has lots of winners to announce for the Regional Scholastic Art & Writing competition!

January 31, 2021

The Graphic Design program has lots of winners to announce for the Regional Scholastic Art & Writing competition! 21 awards were given to OHTS Graphic Design students:1 Gold, 9 Silver and 11 Honorable mention for comic art, design, photography, digital art, and editorial design. Let's congratulate Alden Tim for winning a gold and a silver in photography, Culiandra Nero for winning several silver awards for two portfolios in design, and editorial design, along with honorable mention in digital art, photography and design, Alexia Fassano 2 silver and 2 honorable mentions in photography, Hayley Kennagh a silver in design, Logan Reynolds a silver in design, Audrey Swasey honorable mention in design, Breydon Brough honorable mention in design, and last but not least Viktoria Sugars winning 5 honorable mentions for her comic art, digital art and designs. These Graphic Design Students Rock! Check out some of their work below.

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Audrey Swasey

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Viktoria Sugars

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Culiandra Nero

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Breydon Brough

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Viktoria Sugars

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Viktoria Sugars

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Viktoria Sugars

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Culiandra Nero

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Alexia Fassano

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Alexia Fassano

Culiandra Nero

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Culiandra Nero

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Alden Timm

Logan Reynolds

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Culiandra Nero

Haley Kennagh

Culiandra Nero

Alexia Fassano

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Alexia Fassano

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Alden Timm

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Thomasina Lester holds one of the many robots she has built as a preengineering student at Oxford Hills Technical School in Paris.

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PARIS — COVID-19 may have changed how students are able to approach their education, but almost a year after the virus shut down schools and continues to plague in-person learning, Oxford Hills Technical School student Thomasina Lester remains in firm control of hers.

It helps that her education has been in a variety of settings and that she has worked part time her junior and senior years for an online tutoring company, Fiveable.

“I became a teacher’s assistant with Fiveable after using it for my own exam prep for AP exams,” Lester, of South Paris, said during a Zoom conversation. “I used to study for my AP world history exam at the end of my sophomore year.

“Then I applied to be a content creator in 2019 and I worked on that for a number of months. Over that summer I became a content intern and created content for AP exams and for fellow students.

“This past semester I’ve been working as teacher assistant in U.S. history. I work with a course teacher to help students online and teach the course. This spring semester I’m working to provide curative resources for students and I tutor as well.”

Lester credits Fiveable with giving her tools to attend school online through a pandemic. She was familiar with Zoom technology before it became a necessity and already had a comfort level with working remotely.

“It’s a unique skill,” she said. “A lot of people weren’t introduced to it until the pandemic and I think those skills have helped me. It’s definitely a different environment.”

Exposure to other types of learning when she was younger have also helped Lester deal with hybrid and remote education models. She was home-schooled for three years starting in fifth grade and spent her freshman year attending the magnet/STEM School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone.

And after three years in Oxford Hills Technical School’s preengineering program, she is ready for the next chapter in her academic career. Lester was recently granted early decision enrollment at Columbia University in New York. There, her studies will be focused on the business aspect of engineering.

She has years of engineering experience. She was drawn to it from her days in kindergarten. By third grade she decided she wanted to be an electrical engineer.

“My first engineering project was in fifth grade, when I was home-schooled,” Lester recalled. “It had an electrical approach. I had a bread board and using LED and wires, I built simple systems. It started me thinking about engineering and problem-solving and those sorts of skills.

“I’ve always loved math and science, they are my favorite classes. I have an analytical approach to life – it’s who I am and engineering aligns with that,” she said.

Transferring to Oxford Hills for her sophomore year, Lester was introduced to OHTS’ preengineering progream. There, her interests expanded to robotics.

“My first preengineering project was around robotics,” she said. “That was my introduction to in-class engineering. We moved through a few different pursuits, but robotics was the most interesting to me. It incorporates different electrical aspects, and you need that analytical approach especially to program the robot.”

In school, Lester builds robots from kits. And she applies new programs to them to challenge herself.

“The kits come with instruction manuals but I kind of take it further than that,” she said. “I’ll create a task for myself and work to achieve it. You can take it beyond what the kit is.

“Right now I’m working on a robot that will follow another. They are the same type, but they’ll follow each other. I’m taking the obstacle avoidance code and reversing it to be a following code. The robots are meant to avoid objects, but these will be programmed to follow, or track the other.”

When she unplugs from technology, Lester enjoys reading literature and history, but science is never far away. One book she particularly enjoyed reading in school was Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

Thomasina Lester of South Paris will continue her engineering studies at Columbia University in New York next fall. 

A glimpse to the future: An engineering life, Sun Journal

By Nicole Carter, January 28, 2021

Thomasina Lester of South Paris has lived her passion for STEM since kindergarten.

OHTS Celebrates Students in End of the Year Awards Ceremony

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OHTS Pre-Engineering students Colby VanDecker (l) and Seamus Winning (r) work on the controls of a plasma cutter they recently built. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — OHTS seniors Seamus Winning of Norway and Colby VanDecker of Otisfield were challenged by their Pre-Engineering instructor David Langevin to build a computer-automated table as their independent study project. With the choice of what that would entail left to them, the two students embarked on building a plasma cutter – equipment that will benefit other programs and classes in the school for a long time to come.

“We thought a plasma cutter would be neat to have,” said VanDecker.

“It cuts shapes out of plate steel using electricity,” said Winning. “We like working on cars and stuff, so we built it for the automotive program to use.”

“They built the machine with minimal instruction, which is great,” said Langevin. “It can construct all kinds of parts. We can make custom grills for trucks, metal signs, even coffee tables. They are already cutting prototypes for Automotive for custom light covers.

“It can make brackets or custom shapes. Auto Collision Program instructor Fred Steeves has an art welding class that will benefit from using it. It has both practical and decorative uses in OHTS programs.”

While VanDecker and Winning continue cutting prototype projects with the unit, Steeves’ class is supporting the project by building a customized down-draft table for it.

“Mostly I’ll use it in the after-school welding class,” said Steeves. “And Auto Collision will use it. It will be available for any program that has a need for it. We don’t have a welding program so I teach it after-school to those students who are interested in it. It’s elective, and students can earn a half credit by taking it.”

Winning, who is part of the after-school welding program, will be able to earn his elective credit using a machine he earned credit building.

Plasma cutting technology is a common part of high school vocational programs, but not quite like this machine.

“For students to build a unit like this, that’s unique,” said Langevin. “Not too many people would take the effort. They started working on it about six months ago. The frame and motors were donated to the school by Procter & Gamble and we purchased the electrical control equipment.

“Our cost to build this plasma cutter is about $700. A similar machine would cost around $6,000 to purchase.”

VanDecker and Winning continue to fine tune the machine, cutting prototypes in different sizes and shapes. They are focused on pieces with fairly intricate detail. According to Langevin, the students have proven the principle of operation and control. The final element he is grading them on is their documentation of the process to build it, so that he can have future students build on their work.

“Right now they are cutting bird designs,” said Langevin, which are fairly intricate. “I will hang them in my classroom.”

VanDecker and Winning plan to continue studying mechanical engineering after they graduate from high school next June. They are both considering University of Maine Orono or Maine Maritime Academy.

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OHTS pre-engineering students on the cutting edge, Sun Journal

by Nicole Cater, February 13, 2020

OHTS Pre-Engineering Program seniors Colby VanDecker and Seamus Winning built a plasma-cutting machine for the school's vocational students to use in classes and after-school programs.

Rotary recognizes OHTS alumni for vocational service, Sun Journal

by Nicole Carter, January 30, 2020

The Rotary Club of Oxford Hills presented local business owners with certificates of recognition for their vocational service. All five recipients are graduates of Oxford Hills Technical School and provide community and economic support to the Oxford Hills region.

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Rotary recognition: From left, Rotary Youth Services Director Tina Fox; Dalton Rice, Rice Tree Service in Waterford; Ryan Ricci, 290 Main Street in Norway; Sheldon Rice, Rice Tree Service; Jarek Mains, Mains Earthwork & Construction, LLC in Oxford; Jasmine Colby, Mane Room, Salon & Relaxation Site in Norway; Rotary Vocational Services Director Dan Hart. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

Ryan Ricci graduated from Oxford Hills in 2009 and studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island. He then went on to work at the happiest place on earth in Florida and traveled through Europe. Ultimately, he returned to Maine and taught for three years at Paris Elementary School and Roberts Farm in Norway.

“I was always one of those kids who wanted to get out an explore,” Ricci said. “I never thought I’d come back home, [but] I love it here.”

Three years ago Ricci returned to his culinary roots as a partner in the Norway start-up pub, 290 Main Street. Ricci stated that much of the restaurant’s success comes from being part of the community. He is rewarded by employing others in an area that does not have an abundance of opportunities. His advice for other new business owners is to be willing to take the chance on themselves.

Sheldon Rice’s road to business ownership was decidedly different. He graduated from OHCHS in 1985 and then Central Maine Community College. He feels fortunate he was able to work with his grandfather and uncle in their Waterford forestry business. He stayed close to home earlier in his career, working in the vegetation management division of a large utility company and becoming a licensed arboricultural arborist.

“I found my passion for what I wanted to do,” Rice said. “The business has grown exponentially in the past several years and I am fortunate to be able to work and live in this community.”

Jasmine Colby, a 2007 graduate, is a partner in the recently opened Mane Room, Salon & Relaxation Site in Norway. She has been a cosmetologist for ten years.

“My first instinct was to get out of town,” she said, to find a busier locale. “But I realized that my profession is built on trust. People knowing me and being in this community has helped.”

Jarek Mains also graduated from OHCHS in 2007. Like Ricci, he left the area for job opportunities that took him across the country working on pipeline construction. He expected that he would eventually return, and the birth of his two daughters prompted it.

“I knew that this is a good place. I want them to grow up here in the Oxford Hills,” Mains said.

Mains started his Norway-based business, Main’s Earthworks & Excavation, LLC in 2016. While he said his start was a bit rough, being able to depend on other contractors made it possible for him to keep going and grow.

The final Rotary honoree was Dalton Rice, Sheldon’s son. The 2014 OHCHS graduate majored in business administration at University of Southern Maine, also playing on the college’s baseball team. When a career in professional baseball didn’t take off, he turned to the family business and feels lucky he can work with his dad.

“I look forward to continue growing with my dad and working in this community,” Dalton Rice said, joking that his favorite place to work is in the raised boom truck where he doesn’t have to listen to the elder Rice. “I can’t hear so well from up there.”

Asked what advice they would share with others starting out with a new business, Sheldon Rice emphasized that passion needs to be the driving force, along with committing the time to execute it.

Ricci and Colby, whose businesses are in highly competitive fields, agreed.

“You have to be there for customers when they need you,” Colby said, noting that there are about 15 other local salons to choose from.

“It’s so true. You need the passion to be able to make that jump,” Ricci said. “I was scared, the failure rate for new restaurants is is 79%. On the face of that, the odds are not in your favor. But the build-off is involvement with your community. How do you give back, how do you connect with people? That’s huge.”

“You’re married to it,” said Mains of managing his business. “But the rewards that you get back, from the time you put in? I always tell someone thinking about it to go for it. It’s good have something that you’ve grown yourself.”

Collectively, the five honorees provide 40 local jobs through their businesses. And as if to underscore the importance of community to success, they revealed how they support each other through both patronage and referrals.

“We’re two doors down from 290 Main Street,” said Colby. “We’ll call over and they actually deliver lunch.”

“I work with the Rice Tree guys a lot,” Mains said. “They’ve helped me out so much, I can’t thank them enough.

“And Jasmine cuts my hair.”

Oxford Hills student wins New York Times cartoon contest, Sun Journal

by Nicole Cater, January 16, 2020

Culiandra Nero of Paris is one of seven winners nationally.

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PARIS — Oxford Hills Technical School junior Culiandra Nero has been an artist for most of her formative years. And a competitive one too.

The South Paris resident is one of seven high school students to win The New York Times’ Learning Network cartoon contest, which had 850 submissions from around the country.

“Our teacher posts different contests on our online classroom,” Nero said. “We can choose whether to enter and then work on it on our own time. She is always available to give advice and that kind of thing. I had some free time after school so I decided to do it.”

The theme was news events in October 2019. Nero chose the impact of Hong Kong’s political situation on the National Basketball League, specifically showing the irony of NBA player LeBron James’ statements about Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s support for Hong Kong protesters. It includes a depiction of China’s Xi Jinping as Winnie the Pooh.

The cartoon can be viewed, along with the other six winners and honorable mention/runner-up submissions, at The New York Times website.

Recently, Nero submitted work in the Scholastic Arts & Writing competition and is waiting to hear results. Last year, she won a silver award in that competition and was runner-up in Maine’s Congressional Arts Competition.

Her next competition is Oxford Hills Technical School’s Annual Tech Challenge on Tuesday to showcase her advertising designs. She did well enough in last year’s challenge to represent Maine at the national competition.

Art has flowed from Nero’s fingers for some time.

“I started drawing when I was small,” she said. “I’ve always liked creating, and art was the most accessible outlet for me.”

Nero joined the Gifted and Talented Program at Paris Elementary School when she was in the fourth grade. Once she reached Oxford Hills Middle School, she continued her craft, joining the Art Club.

She is in her second year of Oxford Hills Technical School’s graphic design program and plans to major in art in college. Besides illustration, Nero also works with photography and typography.

Her accomplishments will be listed on her college applications. She is looking at East Coast schools with top quality art programs, such as the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, or Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida.

“But I’ve been encouraged to consider schools in California too,” Nero said.

Nero would like to forge a career in illustration, either as a storyboard or concept artist. Studying on the West Coast aligns with her goals to work in the entertainment industry, she said.

“Culiandra is super talented,” her instructor, Virgina Valdes, said. “And no matter what I ask of her, she is always on top of it.”

Her accomplishments will be listed on her college applications. She is looking at East Coast schools with top quality art programs, such as the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, or Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida. “But I’ve been encouraged to consider schools in California too,” Nero said.

Nero would like to forge a career in illustration, either as a storyboard or concept artist. Studying on the West Coast aligns with her goals to work in the entertainment industry, she said.

“Culiandra is super talented,” her instructor, Virgina Valdes, said. “And no matter what I ask of her, she is always on top of it.”

7 course ‘surprise menu’ brings upscale food to rural Maine, Bangor Daily News,

by Lori Valigra, November 25, 2019


Cappelletti with parm fondu, a pasta dish that includes hazelnut bagna cauda with anchovies, garlic, olive oil and chilli flakes, served during a 7-course dinner at Table X in South Paris. Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Crandall

SOUTH PARIS, Maine — A restaurateur in this western Maine town plans to open a Sunday dining experience that he hopes will become the next destination to bring food lovers out of the city and into rural Maine.

It won’t serve the comfort food typically expected in rural Maine. In a trial run before its full opening in January, chef Alex White of Table X served seven courses, including salmon with watercress and apples in a dashi dressing. One of the favorites among diners was the cappelletti with parm fondu, a pasta dish that includes hazelnut bagna cauda with anchovies, garlic, olive oil and chili flakes.

There’s a mystique component to Table X. Diners won’t know specifically what they will be eating until they are served.


“Table X can change people’s idea of what dining could be,” said White, who will create the menu and dishes for Table X. “We’ll give guests a lot of what they don’t know they want. You can change someone’s life through food.”

He said one person eating the cappelletti pasta commented that she liked the hint of salt in it.

“I told her it was the anchovies,” he said. “She said she didn’t like anchovies but liked the cappelletti.”

He describes Table X as having a tasting menu format with smaller dishes and high-quality ingredients that are sourced locally. He said the seven courses will fill the diner.

Behind the venture are White and Dr. Myung Kim, a self-described foodie who owns X Vault Pub & Provisions, the South Paris restaurant hosting Table X. Kim is also a dentist whose practice is above the restaurant.

White, 27, was raised in the Oxford Hills area that includes South Paris. He has worked under chef Andrew Carmellini, a James Beard award winner and owner of The Dutch restaurants in New York and Miami. He also has worked under well-known chef Barbara Lynch at French-Italian restaurant Menton in Boston.

High-end meal at a good price

Kim and White share a love of dining out at the best restaurants in the country. Kim said he was inspired by another rural Maine restaurant, The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, famous for its reservations made by notecard.

“Our major goal with Table X is to provide our patrons with an incredible edible journey for that evening using local resources and chef Alex’s creativity and passion,” Kim said.

Matthew Crandall, a local businessman who put together Table X’s website, attended the Nov. 3 dry run of Table X along with Kim’s dental office staff.

“The food was incredible, a step above Portland,” Crandall said. “It’s worth the trip to try this.”

His highlight dish was the cauliflower soup.

“I talked about it for three days. The presentation was unique and the flavor was rich and creamy,” he said. “There was grilled cauliflower on top that gave it an incredible crunch. And it had a hint of truffles and spices.”

Crandall also liked that White came out of the kitchen to talk to the diners before most of the courses to explain his thinking on creating them and their heritage.

“We were talking about food and thinking about what we were eating,” Crandall said.

Table X takes prepaid reservations online or by emailing the chef. Each Sunday a total of 35 diners spread over two seatings will pay $75 for a seven-course meal, including salad, canapes, bread, soup, fish, an entree, two desserts and four tasting glasses of wine.

Diners can let the chef know in advance if they have any food restrictions. A vegan evening is being planned.

Table X will be open Dec. 8 and Dec. 29 before opening all Sundays in January.

An early passion for cooking

White said he got his taste for food from his adoptive Italian mother, and ate lobster and caviar as a young child.

“I was always cooking,” he said. “I was big and fat until I turned 16,” he said. “But then I turned to healthy eating and lost the weight.”

His interest in becoming a chef heightened when he took a culinary arts program at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

White met Kim during high school. The two met again later while attending the same church and laid the plans for X Vault, a restaurant Kim started with a former partner in 2016 and where White was head chef.

White initially studied law in college, but after five semesters, he realized he preferred to be a cook. He attended the culinary program at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Florida.

After working at The Dutch restaurant in Miami, he headed to Boston where he worked at acclaimed restaurant Menton. But he didn’t want to stay in Boston, which he felt was crowded.

“I took $5,000 and ate my way from northern to southern California,” he said. He dined in fine restaurants and tasted meals with different influences.

He then returned to the Oxford Hills area to first work at X Vault, and now to launch the Table X venture. He also has been commuting to Boston to learn more about wine from a sommelier in a restaurant in the North End.

Table X will use upscale china dishes. The other decor in X Vault is eclectic, with steampunk pendants and track lighting and a Moser safe as a centerpiece between the kitchen and the restaurant’s cherry and copper bar.

White said he hopes that, like X Vault, the Table X evenings will attract people from elsewhere in Maine and the United States.

“A lot of people from Massachusetts stop here, plus people come to the Oxford Casino,” White said. “People are hearing more about Oxford Hills.”

The restaurant also is on the way to Sunday River ski area in Newry.

X Vault and Table X are at 10 Market Square in South Paris near the intersection of routes 26 and 119.

OHTS’ marketing students help power local economy, Sun Journal, Nov 21, 2019

Oxford's 45th annual DECA Crafts Fair will bring together 166 vendors and more than 3,000 customers. It is produced by students participating in Oxford Hills Technical School's marketing program.

DECA Oufiero Herrick.png

OXFORD — Vendor registrations have been finalized. Floor plans have been drawn. The advertising campaign has been executed. In other words, it’s go time for the 45th annual DECA Craft Fair. On Saturday, Nov. 23, 166 crafters will descend on Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School with their wares and as soon as their displays are ready, doors will open and 3,000 holiday shoppers will crowd the aisles.

“It’s one of the biggest fairs in our area,” said Tanner Herrick, Co-Chair of this year’s event. “We have vendors from all over, as far as Pittsfield, Millinocket and from New Hampshire, too.”

Started in 1974 as a fund-raiser for (and run by) students participating in DECA (formerly known as Distributive Educational Clubs of America), the event has grown into a seasonal staple with a loyal following.

“We see people return year after year,” said marketing educator Wendy Robichaud, herself mentoring OHTS student presenters for the twelfth time. “There are even people that come from Connecticut to shop here.”

While the DECA Crafts Fair is not juried, it is competitive to get into and vendors are expected to present hand-crafted goods for sale. Marketing students start working on the project the day school starts in September and spaces fill almost immediately.

“All applications go out to last year’s vendors on our first day of school,” said Co-Chair Noah Oufiero. “Within two weeks we get confirmation from all who want to renew. Then we review what we have for openings, and email invitations to participate to prospects.”

There are rarely more than 20 open spots left available and first-come/first-served reservations immediately follow the second call for vendors. According to Robichaud, the prospect list contains about 365 interested craftspeople.

With such a long-standing track record, and continued support from former students even years after they’ve graduated, Oufiero and Herrick appreciate that they’ve earned a well-oiled machine to manage. But this year the pair are overseeing a big change—the addition of food trucks.

“Providing food has always been a challenge because we aren’t a culinary program,” Robichaud said. “It adds a lot of work. So we’ve added food vendors. Hopefully people won’t mind stepping outside to get something to eat.”

Mainely Hot Dogs of Portland (its menu is more than its name suggests) and Smokin’ Phil’s Belly Bustin’ BBQ of Monmouth (which is exactly as it sounds) will set up their trucks and grills in the parking lot of OHCHS to feed the fair’s patrons. If it goes well Robichaud hopes to expand food offerings next year.

“Having food trucks is right in line with our local vendor philosophy,” she said. “And it is saving us a lot of time.”

Oufiero and Herrick, both seniors, worked the craft fair the last two years as part of their marketing track in the DECA program. One of the things that drew them to DECA is the opportunity to participate in state and national conferences.

“DECA has given me the chance to travel and to compete,” Oufiero said. “There are only two high schools in Maine right now that do it. So last year we partnered with a school in New Hampshire and went to the conference there. There was so much going on, it was great.”

The experiences Oufiero has gained through DECA will be a big asset for college and his career beyond. After attending either University of Maine Farmington or Thomas College in Waterville he wants to work in sports management.

During his sophomore and junior years Herrick competed in automotive service and then marketing management; when he goes to the state competition this spring he will probably return to the automotive segment. He would love the chance to go on to the national conference in Nashville.

“Working on the DECA crafts fair, going to the competitions, it’s a great way to learn,” said Herrick, who has not narrowed down his college choice but expects to study business administration.

The conference will feature as many as 30 challenges. Students are presented with a scenario pertaining to their field and given 15 minutes to work out a solution that they role-play. Each student is judged, and the two top performers are chosen to represent the state at the national event.

Maine-crafted goods priced from one to hundreds of dollars will be on sale at the DECA Craft Fair Nov. 23. Submitted photo

Oufiero and Herrick will start preparing for spring conferences as soon as the craft fair is over. But first they’ll have to get through the next few days. On Nov. 23, the two will facilitate 166 vendors arriving at the high school and setting up within a roughly two hour window. There will be shuttle rides, questions about booth locations and last minute adjustments. And then the hoards of shoppers will move in and through the fair, a five-plus hour retail fest.

“I enjoy it, it’s like working in the real world,” said Herrick. Oufiero agrees. “There is no make-up on this,” he said. “You have to do it, or it doesn’t happen.”

DECA Craft Fair 2.png
DECA Craft Fair.png

Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce

41st Annual Dinner and Award Ceremony

Marketing and Hospitality students have been working with the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce to help prepare for the 41st Annual Dinner and Award Ceremony. Two marketing students have been helping prepare brochures and mailing invitations. Both programs helped set up, Tuesday, at the Silver Spur in Mechanic Falls. The event will be held Wednesday, March 21st.

41st Annual High School Woodman's Competition

June 11 & 12

Region Two School of Applied Technology in Houlton, Maine

The Oxford Hills Technical School team consisted of the following students: Jon Blake, Levi Brett, Brendan Cavers, Riley Chaplin, Logan Day, Tyler Day, Taylor Farrar, Hunter Hodgdon, Max Egan, Dakota Herrick, Ian Jack, Cam Martin, Bryce Morse, Austin Sanborn, and Ethan Thompson.

The Oxford Hills team won 1st Place in the following events: Axe Throw, Log Roll, Loader Competition, Precision Bucking, Tree Identification, Log Scaling, Tug of War, Game of Logging Team Bore Station, Spring Pole Game of Logging, Individual - all three events.

Second Place wins in the following events: DOT Split, Pulp for Distance, Cookie Stack, Cookie Cut, X-Cut Sawing, and Engine Trouble Shooting. Congratulations!


Congratulations to our DECA members for placing at the state conference March 2 and 3 in Portland. First and second place finishers qualify to compete at the International Career and Development Conference in Anaheim, California April 26-29.


First place finishers:

Ryland VanDecker: Automotive Services Marketing

Laura Valeri: Food Marketing

Jaime Merrill: Hotel & Lodging Management

Jarrod Todd: Sports & Entertainment Marketing Management

Patrick Dingley: Principles of Hospitality

Jadah Adams & Savanna Barker: Marketing Communications Team

Sarah Metcalf & Abby Buck: Travel & Tourism Marketing Management Team

Sarah Grillo & Reilly Hussey: Advertising Campaign Team

Tsela Shraiberg & Mickayla Politano: Fashion Merchandising Promotion Plan Team


Second place:

Sebastian Brochu: Quick Serve Restaurant Management

Dade Follette: Retail Merchandising

Nick Martinez & Anthony Michaud: Sports & Entertainment Marketing Management Team


Third place:

Mackenzie Tanner: Food Marketing

Matthew Fleming: Sports & Entertainment Marketing Management

Carly Ross & Jessica Punch: Buying & Merchandising Management Team


New state officers:  Tsela Shraiberg & Mikayla Politano

Highest test score at the conference for the entire state of Maine:   Jarrod Todd

Local Students Compete in Thomas Cup


Teams of OHTS Computer Technology and Pre-Engineering students took 4th and 9th place at a technology competition in Waterville last weekend.  


On December 2-3, Computer Technology instructor Stephanie Grover and Pre-Engineering instructor David Langevin brought 10 students to Thomas College to compete in the Thomas Cup against 40 other teams of high school and homeschool students.  Teams came from schools such as the Maine School of Science and Mathematics and the Baxter Academy of Sciences and from areas throughout the state including Lewiston, Falmouth, and Aroostook County.   


The Thomas Cup includes a number of technology competitions including cyber defense, gaming, nerf wars with robotics, crime scene investigation, and art.   The competition started at 6 p.m. on Friday and continued through the night until 10 a.m. the next morning.


While the Thomas Cup is centered on technology, competitors needed more than just technical skills to succeed. The best teams combined a mix of project management, innovation, creativity, teamwork, leadership, and more in order to overcome the challenges and defeat their opponents.


According to Junior Alan Coffin, “The Thomas Cup was very enjoyable and entertaining. The competition also showed us life skills, competing against of people toward a goal.”


Senior Emily Starr appreciated working with others who shared her interests.  “It was such a great experience meeting new students that were all equally enthusiastic towards science and technology,” said Starr.


Instructor Stephanie Grover agreed on the benefits of the event for students.  She also noted that “they ate more pizza than I thought humanly possible.”  


Oxford Hills students who competed were:  Dustin Bouchard, Chase Clarke, Alan Coffin, Nathan Cyr, Kyle Heath, Megan Linfield, Isaac McNutt, Nathaniel McNutt, Morgen Ray, and Emily Starr.


Grover and Langevin plan to bring students to the Thomas Cup next year.

Tech Awards 2017


Oxford Hills Technical School hosted its thirty-ninth Annual Student Awards Night on Thursday, May 25, 2017.  Awards were presented to students who have excelled in each of the Oxford Hills Technical School's program areas.  Students who were inducted into the National Technical Honor Society and scholarship recipients were also recognized.  The ceremony was followed by desserts prepared by the Culinary Arts program.

CTE Student of the Year 2017


Each year technical schools from around the state choose one student to recognize as their Career and Technical student of the year. It is my pleasure to announce that this Year's OHTS student of the year is a Marketing Management student who has been in the program for three years. In that time he has enjoyed consistent success, earning the highest program GPA as a sophomore, Outstanding Attitude award his junior year, and Outstanding DECA student of the year his senior year. He was the first place finisher in the DECA Maine state conference Automotive Services Marketing competition three years in a row. In 2016 he was recognized as a top 16 finisher at the DECA International Career and Development Conference in Nashville. In 2016 he chaired the Oxford Hills DECA Annual Craft Fair with over 150 vendors and 3000 patrons. Outside of the classroom, he has been a varsity football player for three years and alpine skiier for four years. He was awarded All Conference for both football and skiing.

This young man works at his family's business, Kettle Cove Marina and plans to study business at Southern Maine Community College next year.

It is my pleasure to announce the 2017 OHTS Student of the Year, Ryland VanDecker.

The National Center for Woman & Information Technology (NCWIT)

April 11, 2017 – South Paris, ME – Oxford Hills Technical School student Emily Starr has received the Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing and received Honorable Mention for the 2017 National Award. The award, sponsored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Oxford Hills Technical School, recognizes high school women for their computing-related achievements and interests as part of an effort to encourage more young women to choose careers in technology. A total of seventeen award recipients were selected from high schools across the region for their outstanding aptitude and interest in information technology and computing, solid leadership ability, good academic history, and plans for post-secondary education. Emily will receive two engraved awards, one for the student and one for her school’s trophy case. “Encouraging young women’s interest in technology careers is critical: our workforce needs their creativity and their innovation,” said Lucy Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of NCWIT. “NCWIT has opened up many new opportunities and philosophies for me. Knowing that there are women just as enthusiastic towards science and technology motivates me to pursue my education with complete dedication.” Emily Starr “This award is a testament to Emily, her achievement in this rigorous program, and her future successes. I could not be more proud,” said Shawn Lambert, OHTS Director. OHTS, A Cisco Networking Academy, continues to offer computing as part of its curriculum, recognizing its value to students’ future success. Programs of study include CompTIA A+ and Cisco CCENT training. Oxford Hills Technical School is a career and technical school serving over 500 Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and Buckfield High School. The school offers 20 programs ranging from Computer Technology to Automotive Technology to Early Childhood Education. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is a non-profit community of more than 850 universities, companies, non-profits, and government organizations nationwide working to increase women’s participation in computing and technology. NCWIT equips change leaders with resources for taking action in recruiting, retaining, and advancing women from K–12 and higher education through industry and entrepreneurial careers. Find out more at

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Stephanie Grover (207)461-3379

Tech Challenge 2017

One of the judges for the Engineering and Architectural Design program wrote about the experience.  To see what he had to say, please follow this link:

Tech Challenge 2017


Oxford Hills Technical School hosted its Fourth Annual Tech Challenge on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.  Tech Challenge is a showcase event in which students from twenty career and technical programs participate in skill-specific competitions and demonstrations for parents, community members, and others.  The activities included cooking or baking specific recipes, a MIG welding contest, and cookie cutting with chainsaws.  The event began at 3 p.m. and was open to the public.  An awards/medal ceremony was held at 6:45 p.m.

Tech Challenge to Showcase Student Skills

Oxford Hills Technical School is pleased to announce the Sixth Annual Tech Challenge will be held on Tuesday, January 17, 2017.  Tech Challenge is a showcase event in which students from twenty career and technical programs participate in skill-specific competitions and demonstrations for parents, community members, and others.  The activities will include building mock-ups, movie making, MIG welding, and children’s storybook writing (which will be judged by our toughest judges, the 3-5 year-old preschool students from our ECE program).  The event will begin at 3 p.m. and will be open to the public.  An awards/medal ceremony will be held at 7:00 p.m.


Oxford Hills Technical School provides state-of-the-art career and technical training to students from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and Buckfield Senior High School.

OHTS adds Plumbing program!


The article to the right was taken from the March 31, 2016 edition of the Advertiser Democrat.

Auto Collision program donates van through Recycled Rides
The article to the right was taken from the March 31, 2016 edition of the Advertiser Democrat.
Click here to read the article online
You can also check out the related article that was published on the Maine DOE website

The article was taken from the January 28, 2016 edition of the Advertiser Democrat.


To read the article that was published in the Sun Journal, please click the link:

Sun Journal

Tech Challenge to Showcase Student Skills


Oxford Hills Technical School is pleased to announce the Fifth Annual Tech Challenge will be held on Tuesday, January 19, 2016.  Tech Challenge is a showcase event in which students from twenty career and technical programs participate in skill-specific competitions and demonstrations for parents, community members, and others.  The activities will include building mock-ups, movie making, t-shirt design, and children’s storybook writing (which will be judged by our toughest judges, the 3-5 year-old preschool students from our ECE program).  The event will begin at 3 p.m. and will be open to the public.  An awards/medal ceremony will be held at 7:00 p.m.

Auto Tech Achieves NATEF Accreditation!

The Following was taken from the December 3, 2015 edition of the Advertiser Democrat:

DECA Craft Fair 2015


Oxford Hills Technical School's Marketing program will hold it 41st Annual DECA Holiday Craft Fair on November 21, 2015 from 9:30 AM- 3:00 PM at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.  For more information, please visit their website:

Deb LaFrance 2015


Oxford Hills Technical School's Early Childhood Education instructor, Debbie LaFrance, made the news!  The following article was taken from the October 22, 2015 edition of the Advertiser Democrat:

DECA Officers Chosen!


Oxford Hills Technical School's DECA Chapter installed their officers on October 20, 2015.  


The new officers are:

Back row: Alicia Albert, Reilly Hussey, Priscilla Ansah, Faith Bedard, Brianna Abbott

First row: Heather Swain, Victoria Pendelton, Erin Cleary


Heather and Erin are state officers, and the others are chapter officers.

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