The Oxford Hills Technical School is emerging as one of the most successful technical programs in the state, according to OHTS Director Shawn Lambert.

Lambert touted many of the program’s strengths during a presentation to the SAD 17 Board of Directors.

The enrollment rate is triple the statewide average.

“If you look at all the students who are eligible to attend a technical school, [and see] what percentage actually do, the state average is 15 percent,” he said. “Our average is 45 percent. That’s just an incredible number.”

Lambert said that he didn’t deserve the credit for the staggering statistic.

“That’s nothing that I’ve done,” he said. “That’s me just inheriting something. The reason is the comprehensive model.”

OHTS is seamlessly integrated into the Oxford Hills High School, said Lambert, which allows a broad range of students to take advantage of a wide array of programs.

Other technical schools might have very limited offerings, such as truck driving and forestry.

OHTS does have programs geared toward similar blue-collar and service industry vocations, including not only forestry, but automotive collision repair, diversified occupations, automotive technology, culinary arts and building construction.

However, it also includes a variety of more white-collar and public service industries, such as business education, law enforcement, pre-engineering, banking, early childhood education, communications, computer-aided drafting design, graphic arts, and health care.

“The school has a very wide range of offerings,” said Lambert.

With classrooms that occupy space in the high school, and the sheer volume of careers on offer, it’s no wonder that OHTS draws in many students. Many students don’t even realize that they’re enrolled in OHTS.

“We try to blur the lines whenever possible,” said Lambert.

The approach seems to be attracting students like flies to honey.

This year, 82.5 percent of the school’s 992 slots were filled. The program boasts 437 students in programs that occupy two or three class periods.

With large numbers of mainstream students participating in OHTS, the school has also become a state leader in academic performance.

“On average, we perform much higher than most technical schools in the state,” reported Lambert. “In fact, we score 10 points higher than the AYP [Adequate Yearly Progress] goals that are required of us.”

The program is to the advantage of many students, who can, in many cases, earn college credits without paying for them.

Last year, 50 students picked up 189 college credits by participating in OHTS programs.

OHTS has developed a series of relationships with college institutions that help transition students into higher learning opportunities. The school’s relationship with Central Maine Community College has been a vital part of its success.

“OHTS has more … agreements with CMCC than any other secondary school in the country,” said Lambert. In turn, he said, “CMCC has more … agreements than any other college in New England. They’re a very big player in this, and we have more with them than anyone else.”

Another indicator of the program’s success, said Lambert, can be seen in the school’s annual Skills Challenge competition, which recently saw 300 students come together to demonstrate their skills in everything from fashion design to computer technology.

“Historically, we’ve always had students go to nationals,” said Lambert.

They don’t only go to nationals, said Tom Moore, a member of the board.

“When these youngsters go to nationals, invariably they come back placing in honors,” he said.

Last year, the Oxford Hills team took home eight medals from the SkillsUSA State Championship, including three gold medals.

One student, Melissa Lebel won fourth place in the nation in the Welding Sculpture competition.

Lambert said that in the future, he will try to build upon the program’s many successes.

“I’m smart enough to know when something’s good.”

Reprinted with permission from The Advertiser-Democrat.