In 2013, the Hilliard City Schools handed the mantle of leadership to a new superintendent, opened a learning center and received mostly good news on two state report cards.
In choosing the district's first new superintendent since 1999, school board members looked to John Marschhausen from Loveland Local Schools in suburban Cincinnati.
"I am thrilled to have this tremendous opportunity to lead the premier district in Ohio," Marschhausen said in March upon accepting the job.
Marschhausen, whose first day was July 1, succeeded Dale McVey. McVey announced his retirement in October 2012.
Marschhausen was not among the 22 people who met the original application deadline for the position. After the initial deadline passed, board members pressed Bill Reimer, the district's representative from the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, to seek additional applicants.
Marschhausen was selected from a trio of finalists that included, at the time, two Hilliard administrators: Steve Estepp, executive director of K-12 curriculum and instruction, and David Stewart, principal of Bradley High School.
As for McVey, his legacy lives on in Hilliard with the new learning center that bears his name.
"It's been an incredible honor and privilege," McVey said at a retirement ceremony. "It's been the best experience of my life, but it's always been about the children, and I hope that is what I am remembered for."
The McVey Innovative Learning Center opened its doors in May.
The district renovated its former administrative offices at 5323 Cemetery Road for the learning center.
The center offers educational programs and opportunities designed to individually prepare students for a postgraduate career or coursework at colleges and universities.
District officials have said they believe the center will promote flexible learning opportunities to meet the changing needs of students and advances in technology.
For example, Project INC at the learning center focuses on management and advertising skills while Academy INC, a program that is slightly more advanced, instructs students on developing business models.
Another program, Project Rock, allows students to practice recording live music and sound engineering in a professional-grade recording studio.
Hilliard received two state report cards from the Ohio Department of Education in 2013 because the 2011-12 results were delayed more than six months while the ODE worked with State Auditor Dave Yost to investigate allegations of tampering with student-attendance data against several districts, including Columbus City Schools.
For the 2011-12 results that were certified Feb. 27, Hilliard received the highest possible grade of "Excellent with Distinction" for the fifth consecutive year and was ranked first in Ohio for its value-added rating, which calculates how much progress students in grades four through eight make in math and reading during a school year.
For the 2012-13 school year, Hilliard earned five A's, two B's and two D's in the nine graded categories on the newly reformatted state report card.
The ODE now issues letter grades for individual criteria, creating what state officials say is a more accurate barometer of the effectiveness of a district's education relative to individual students. Districts will not receive overall letter grades until 2015, according to the ODE.
The new report card format also includes more value-added categories.
Hilliard earned an A on the overall value-added measurement, which means that overall, the district's students made more progress -- about two years' worth -- than expected in one school year.
The three subgroups graded in the value-added category received an A, B and D.
The value-added measurement for gifted students earned the D. The A and B were for the lowest 20 percent of students in achievement and for students with disabilities, respectively.
Hilliard earned its other A's for meeting all 24 performance indicator standards and its two measured graduation rates.
The district received a less-than-average grade of D for its "gap-closing" measurements, which are called annual measurement objectives in the new report card format. The metric is similar to, but not the same as, the adequate yearly progress measurement in the old report card format.
Land sale falls through
A 124-acre parcel between Cosgray and Leppert roads remains in the hands of Hilliard City Schools after a central Ohio developer opted not to execute a purchase contract the school board had approved in April.
The district had agreed to sell 124 acres between Cosgray and Leppert roads to Rockford Homes. The land originally was intended for development of a third high school, but after voters rejected two bond issues, the district bought land on Walker Road and opened Bradley High School in 2009.
The land was sold for almost $5 million at $40,000 per acre, $10,000 per acre less than the purchase price in 2003, but district officials said it was the best offer available at the time.
The district also was offered $50,000 per acre from the nonprofit organization Help All Kids Play, but did not pursue the offer on recommendation of legal counsel because payments would have been financed -- for perhaps as long as 30 years -- whereas Rockford would pay the purchase price at closing.
The sale to Rockford Homes included a 240-day contingency for the developer to obtain the desired rezoning and development plan, and Hilliard's preferred housing density was determined to be too cost-prohibitive for Rockford Homes to proceed with infrastructure development, Mayor Don Schonhardt said.
The land still is for sale, district spokeswoman Amanda Morris said.
Approximately 1,100 students graduated from Bradley, Darby and Davidson high schools during ceremonies May 22-24 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center at the Ohio State University.
Bradley's 330 seniors had a special distinction: They were the first graduating class from Bradley whose members attended the high school, which opened in 2009, all four years.
New principals, same board
The district welcomed seven new building principals in 2013.
Mindy Mordarski became the new principal at Bradley High School and Joyce Brickley became principal at Darby High School.
Dawn Sayre was named principal of Heritage Middle School.
At the elementary schools, the new principals were Tara Grove at Avery; Betsy Long at Beacon; Jonathan Way at Brown; and Hilary Sloat at Horizon.
Meanwhile, local voters re-elected all three incumbent school board members -- Paul Lambert, Andy Teater and Lisa Whiting -- from a four-candidate field.
Lambert, 59, was elected to a second term, Teater, 51, was elected to a third term and Whiting, 51, was elected to her second full term.