For Dublin City Schools, 2013 brought big changes.
Along with adding a tech center and increasing student focus on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, initiatives, Dublin City Schools got a new leader in 2013 and said goodbye to Superintendent David Axner after seven years of service.
The top stories of 2013 included:
After Superintendent David Axner announced he would leave Dublin City Schools in the fall to become associate executive director of the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators, the district began its search for his replacement at the beginning of 2013.
"I won't be satisfied here until there is someone selected that plans to carry the torch and I feel comfortable," he told the Dublin Villager early this year. "I have such mixed feelings to leave this district."
The district received 14 applications for the post and interviewed six people in February.
By March, Dublin City School Assistant Superintendent Michael Trego and Olmsted Falls City School Superintendent Todd Hoadley rose to the top as the two finalists for the position.
The Dublin Board of Education chose the northeast Ohio superintendent as the new district leader during a March 11 board meeting.
"He is an experienced, innovative superintendent," board President Chris Valentine said in March. "His work in Olmsted Falls speaks to this."
"It was a very difficult task to pick from so many excellent candidates," board member Stu Harris said, noting Hoadley brings "vision and experience and innovation to take our district another 10 years in the style of (current Superintendent ) Dr. (David) Axner."
Although he led Olmsted Falls in the Cleveland area through the end of the 2012-13 school year, Hoadley did spend some time getting acclimated to Dublin City Schools before his Aug. 1 start date, with meetings with administration and teachers and visits to schools.
"Having the ability to come in even before school ended to visit the buildings and visit the teachers and visit classrooms, that was invaluable to see the district while it was in operation," he said.
Hoadley and Axner also had a chance to work together on the transition.
"It's almost a perfect scenario having Todd and I work together," Axner said. "Obviously, most districts don't have the opportunity to do that for various reasons."
Dublin worked to improve its offerings and interest in STEM subjects during 2013.
In February, the district opened its new technology center at 7060 Coffman Road, giving the opportunity for video conferencing, online classes and other tech-savvy projects.
Teacher Dun Zhang uses the new tech center to teach Chinese at multiple locations at once.
"The teacher teaches at all three high schools," Chief Technology Officer Mike Voss told said in February. "It saves the district money that way and kept the Chinese program."
In August, the district named Kimberly Clavin the new manager of STEM initiatives, a newly created position.
The position, funded by federal Race to the Top money, focuses on expanding STEM programs and interest in the district, while bringing real-world experiences to the classroom.
"She'll work on opportunities for students more centrally based and some programs to excite younger students," said Eydie Schilling, district executive director of learning and teaching. "She's going to build a K-12 program."
Since the start of the school year, Clavin has visited schools to show how STEM subjects can be used in everyday activities and has given them a better understanding of abstract ideas such as sound waves with experiments and demonstrations.
Professional connections Clavin made during her engineering career have also been used to bring speakers into classrooms to show how different STEM subjects can be used in careers.
An architectural engineering class at Scioto High School got some on-the-job experience with two OSU engineering students as they surveyed land for a project in November.
At Scioto High School, a Biomedical Research Academy also was launched with the start of the 2013-14 school year.
The yearlong academy offers students lessons in advanced biology, body systems, research, 3D art and technical writing.
"I'm guessing the majority (of students) will have medical aspirations, but I wouldn't exclude anybody because of lack of interest (in medicine)," Teacher Roger Rabold told The Villager. "Ideally, if they do a strong job, they'll have a formal research document that could benefit them in other ways."
The class also provides a good dose of real-world applications with speakers from different medical fields and shadowing.
"I'm not sure what I want to do, but I thought it would be a good way to figure it out," Jerome junior Keegan Graham said last month. "There are quite a bit of career options."
Safety and security
Dublin City Schools also made some improvements to keep students safe. Funds were previously used to create one entrance and exit for the schools during the day and to post cameras.
Improvements made this year locked doors and installing buzzer systems at the district's 19 schools as well as an electronic ID check for visitors.
To get into a school during the day, visitors must use a buzzer to gain access to the office and then scan their driver's licenses.
District staff also got training for emergency situations and how to spot warning signs.
Tracey Miller, the district's director of secondary education, attended safety training offered bythe Ohio Attorney General's Office in January.
"We sent five administrators and they came back and said 'We need to have everybody see this,' " Axner said.
"It's a combination of exposing things that could have been done to prevent situations like those at Columbine and Virginia Tech. There were warning signs that no one did anything about."
Dublin City Schools celebrated academic success in 2013 with several students earning perfect ACT and SAT scores.
In addition, the district earned high scores on state and international tests.
The district got results from new testing that Jerome and Scioto high school students participated in that ranked them with other students from around the world.
The science, math and reading tests given to 15-year-olds allow Dublin City Schools to compare student learning on a local, regional, national and international scale through the Program for International Student Achievement, or PISA.
The U.S. average for the tests falls around 500; both Jerome and Scioto students scored above the average in all tests, the district announced in February. In fact, the district said, Jerome and Scioto are in the top 10 when compared to other countries.
On the state report card, Dublin City Schools earned mostly A's and B's in the newest rankings.
The state is shifting to a new letter grading system on the annual state report card and districts will not receive an overall ranking until 2015, but Dublin did score high on most measurements, with the exception of a new area that examines the achievement gap between different subgroups of students.
"First off, I'm very proud of the scores and data that came out," Superintendent Hoadley said. "The 'performance index' score is at an all-time high."