The Canal Winchester Local School District will ring in the New Year with a new superintendent.

The Canal Winchester Local School District will ring in the New Year with a new superintendent.

On Jan. 1, James Sotlar, formerly assistant superintendent of the Pickerington Local School District, took over as the new leader of the school district. He succeeds Kimberley Miller-Smith, who retired Dec. 31.

Sotlar said he will spend a portion of his time in 2013 getting to know the staff, students, parents and the community.

"It is important for me to start to develop positive relationships with the various stakeholders in the district," he said.

Already, the new superintendent has set several priorities, including the safety and security of the students and staff; preparing students for the future by developing high-quality learning environments for all; and being a "good steward" of taxpayer money.

"While I am out in the community, I want to get a feeling for what people think about the future of education and what they think about Canal Winchester Local Schools. I would like to know the strengths and areas of needed improvement for the district," Sotlar said.

"This is important to me as I begin to plan our short- and long-term goals of the district," he added.

In addition to planning for the year, Sotlar will be faced with a few challenges in 2013, including the preparation of administrators and teachers for the new Ohio Teachers Evaluation System.

Currently, the Canal Winchester district is piloting the new method, which aims to gauge the effectiveness of teachers and administrators.

The Ohio Department of Education expects all school districts to implement the program during the 2013-14 school year.

Another challenge facing the district, according to Sotlar, will be aligning the new "common core" standards to the curriculum.

"The K-12 standards in English language arts, math, science and social studies will be fully implemented by 2014-2015, the same year the new state assessments are to align to the standards," Sotlar said. "It's vital that our teachers start implementing the new standards now to better prepare students for the future."

Implementing the standards may become even more challenging this year if the funding formula, which is currently under review, is changed by the state.

"The greatest financial challenge that the district will have in 2013 will be to control costs while offering great programs for the students," Treasurer Joyce Boyer said. "The school district is always concerned about the state funding formula. State funds make up 37-plus percent of our general operating funds, so any decrease in funding will impact the funds that are available to spend on educating the students and operating the school district."

Sotlar is also concerned about the state funding formula and the impact it could have on the district.

"It is very difficult to plan ahead, especially when you are not sure what monies will be allocated to the district," he said.

"Once we know what the new funding formula will look like, we can then start to plan ahead more effectively. It is challenging right now to make any decisions, not knowing if the district will lose, gain or break even with the state money."