Skilling insists that Oxford’s success is a direct result of trust built between district employees and school board members through a shared vision that was consistently communicated throughout the administration, the schools and the community. The district also went a long way toward earning the trust of parents and the rest of the community by eliminating activity participation fees and student admission fees for school events.
This shared trust between the school board, educators, parents and the community emboldened Skilling to transform the district’s educational delivery. Once such trust is built, Skilling says, “It opens up innovation exponentially.”
In the end, just as he’d hoped before the Great Recession set in, Skilling was able to “leverage this economy to create Oxford’s finest hour.” But he and Oxford Community Schools remain focused on the future.
By 2013, all Oxford teachers will use a blended learning instructional model, where the instruction is delivered both by the on-site classroom teacher and by computer-based software, Internet-based software or teachers educating remotely via the Internet. By 2015, most face-to-face learning, especially in the upper grades, will be in “flipped classrooms.” Students will receive instruction outside of the classroom (often via recorded lectures online), and teachers will devote classroom time to practice, application, mentoring, discussion and collaboration, among other things. Oxford also aims to digitize all of its curriculum and instructional material, replacing traditional textbooks.
Spurred in part by the OVA’s success, the district plans to create the Oxford International Virtual High School. This program will connect students to teachers and peers around the world. Some classes in the program will use a blended learning model, while others will be full-time online. The goal is to provide students opportunities to work in a globally diverse environment.
Based on his experience at Oxford, Superintendent Skilling bluntly advises other school leaders to embrace digital learning: “If the magnetism of your vision is not greater than your current assets, your district’s in a state of decline, decay, heading towards mediocrity and possible extinction. If you don’t get on board with virtual, you’re on your way to extinction.”