As Marysville Exempted Village School District Superintendent Diane Mankins looks back at 2013, she says that while the year is full of highlights, one stands out: receiving the Straight A Fund grant.

As Marysville Exempted Village School District Superintendent Diane Mankins looks back at 2013, she says that while the year is full of highlights, one stands out: receiving the Straight A Fund grant.

"Receiving almost $12.5 million to help start something new for our kids and our community is just a great highlight in the year for sure," Mankins said.

Earlier this month, the Ohio Department of Education awarded the Marysville school district with a $12,497,282 grant as seed money to start an early college high school.

The district is working with Ohio Hi-Point Joint Vocational School District, Columbus State Community College, Honda of America Manufacturing, the Union County Chamber of Commerce and EDWorks to create the Marysville Early College High School and Union County Innovation Center.

Ohio's first manufacturing-related early college high school focused on the STEM disciplines -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- will be housed in the old Maple Street Middle School, 833 N. Maple St. The building will undergo extensive renovations before opening at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Other accomplishments in 2013, Mankins said, are found in the new faces scattered throughout the district.

"We've hired some fantastic staff this year. We've hired three new principals in the district who are stellar. We've hired several new staff members who are doing an amazing job," she said. "I think we've hired some quality and talented people."

In June, the school board voted to hire two new principals and a new technology director along with filling several other positions. Christopher Deis was hired from the Olentangy Local School District as the new director of technology. Craig Lautenschlager started as the new principal at Mill Valley Elementary School, and Jonathan Langhals was named as the new Edgewood Elementary School principal. A month later, Mankins and the board hired Aaron Cook as the new principal at Marysville High School.

Cook started in the district 11 years ago as a math teacher at the old Marysville Middle School. He then went to the Delaware City School District, where he served three years each as an assistant principal at Dempsey Middle School and Delaware Hayes High School.

Mankins also points to a list of student accomplishments in 2013.

"We've had a lot of good things happen for students," she said.

The varsity football team made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The girls' varsity soccer team won the district championship. In addition, the high school marching band was awarded a "superior" rating at the Ohio Music Education Association State Marching Band Finals for the third consecutive year. The Marysville FFA chapter received recognition at the National FFA convention. The chapter was recognized as a three-star chapter, the highest ranking given by the national organization. Vocational agriculture teacher William Keck received the Honorary American FFA degree in recognition for his years of service to students and the community.

"We've had, especially at the start of this school year, our fair share of celebrations," Mankins said.

At the district level, the passage of the levy in May was a welcome relief for administrators and the school board.

"The May levy is so important because it helped us get two of those renewals off the ballot. When I first came here, we had this incredible cycle of renewals," Mankins said. "So getting that to pass and getting two of those off, and now we just have the one existing five-year renewal, is a much better place to be."

In May, the board voted to put a 9-mill continuous levy on the ballot to replace 5-mill and 4-mill renewal levies; the levy passed with nearly 70 percent of voters saying yes. In November, the district went back to the ballot to renew a 6.56-mill levy. Again, voters said yes, with 71 percent in favor of the issue.

Mankins admitted the year got off to a rough start, coming off a failed levy in November 2012 and the subsequent reduction-in-force that was undertaken to make up for a $2 million deficit.

"I don't want to relive a reduction-in-force ever," Mankins said. "Certainly I couldn't control the financial piece when I got here, but it was definitely my passion to make sure we never got in that mess again. That's not a place where we want to operate, and we're going to commit to keeping ourselves out of the position."