Hilliard Superintendent Dale McVey delivered his final State of the Schools address Oct. 16 at the district's newest building, Bradley High School.
McVey had publicly announced his retirement, effective June 30, five days prior to his annual address.
Such addresses are common for mayors and city managers in the government sector, but McVey said more than one fellow superintendent had questioned why he established the policy nine years ago.
"The first year was in the media center of a middle school and beyond the required attendees, no one else was there. ... But it has since evolved into an opportunity for the district to share with the public our successes," McVey said.
McVey used the 30-minute address to focus on three key topics: academic performance, financial health and innovation.
"Ultimately, tonight is about demonstrating to you, our taxpayers, the good value you are receiving with your investment in the Hilliard City Schools," McVey said.
McVey began by outlining the preliminary results of state report cards that the Ohio Department of Education issued incrementally during the past few months. The official results remain on hold for an ongoing statewide investigation into attendance-data manipulation. Columbus City Schools is one of the districts under direct investigation.
McVey reiterated that self-imposed safeguards within the district prevented Hilliard from manipulating data, and that valid results revealed the quality of Hilliard schools.
"For the fifth straight year, we will receive the highest possible rating of 'Excellent with Distinction,' " McVey said.
Hilliard schools met all 26 state indicators, demonstrated more than a year's worth of growth, met Adequate Yearly Progress and achieved a record performance index rating of 104.4.
"While we are certainly pleased with the level of success we have achieved on the state's evaluation tool, we know this tells only a part of the story. A true quality education goes beyond a report card and includes the full scope of services and experiences available to students," McVey said.
McVey referred to the numerous educational programs available and to the number of students earning scholarships.
On district finances, McVey thanked the voters for approving a 5.9-mill operating levy last fall that provided the district with a "more-stable financial picture."
McVey pledged the district will continue "focusing on operating efficiencies and providing a good value to residents."
He reported retirement incentives and other staffing adjustments netted the district $1 million in savings, and that only 9 percent of the Hilliard's tax dollars are spent on administration, compared to the Ohio average of 12 percent.
McVey focused most his address on innovation, using a satirical news story to illustrate how quickly technology advances and the dire consequence of falling behind.
The segment highlighted a Blockbuster Video museum where "customers" could experience, some for the first time, the process of renting videocassettes.
Referring to the company that once ruled the market, McVey said, "Do we want Hilliard to become another Blockbuster, or do we want to look into the future and become Netflix?"
McVey said it is estimated that by 2019, half of high school instruction will be completed virtually or online.
"More colleges are expecting students to take online courses and businesses are conducting training in online environments. This is a new need for our students and Hilliard schools are responding by providing both online and blended learning opportunities," said McVey, citing a student who enrolled in an online class because of a scheduling conflict.
The online opportunity allowed that student to complete both classes, McVey said.
Referring to Darby High School science teacher Jake Grantier, who had talked about project-based learning prior to McVey's address, McVey said the practice of empowering students to solve problems in a critical and collaborative manner is another example of 21st-century learning in Hilliard schools.
McVey addressed STEM courses -- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics -- and the district's planned Innovative Learning Center, the last major project McVey will oversee as superintendent.
The center will provide the opportunity for students with a wide variety of skills to customize academic curriculum.
Reflecting on his pending retirement, McVey said, "If I'm known for nothing else, I hope it will be for preparing students for the next stage of their success."
"Our success is determined by (our students') success. It has been a privilege to serve as your superintendent. You challenged me and pushed me to be better ... and I hope we pushed each other," McVey said.
Board President Lisa Whiting provided opening and closing comments, thanking McVey for his service and leadership and the community for its support.