It is my pleasure to share with you the New Albany-Plain Local School District's vision to be one of the highest-performing school districts in the nation.

It is my pleasure to share with you the New Albany-Plain Local School District's vision to be one of the highest-performing school districts in the nation. We continue to pursue our mission of developing high achieving, self-directed, intellectually curious citizens of the world.

The beginning of the new year is a perfect time to reflect on the accomplishments of 2011, and outline our goals for reaching our exciting future. In 2011, NA-PLS reached some of the highest levels of academic achievement ever attained and enacted $2.8 million in cost containment.

We reduced expenditures, budgets, hiring and found new ways to reduce costs. Most notably, our staff members partnered with us to renegotiate salary and benefits, resulting in substantial savings for the district.

We had the highest number of National Merit scholars in school history, the highest-ever ACT average, as well as the highest percentage of students reaching the college-ready benchmark in all four ACT subjects. Overall, the district had the highest performance index of all time, as measured by the Ohio Department of Education's annual report card.

In addition, we used our academic-achievement report data to identify several areas for improvement in our students' achievement, particularly in our "value added," or growth, data. Last fall, staff members worked extensively to identify areas for improvement, setting immediate goals to increase student learning.

Already in 2012, we have several efforts under way to create our future and accelerate our innovations for new approaches to teaching and learning.

The benchmarking excellence process is one of these efforts. Last year, more than 40 community members, staff members and students worked to design a rigorous research process. We have articulated our vision for the future by conducting a multitier research process that revealed four top schools for benchmarking.

The school district emerging as a best match for our extended visit and research was the Minnetonka Public Schools in Minnesota. Thanks to a $50,000 donation from two generous funders, the Corna-Kokosing Construction Co. and the New Albany Community Foundation, this initiative is moving forward.

Our research team will visit the Minnetonka schools the first week of February. We will be sharing our results with you as we collect, synthesize and analyze the data to identify priority recommendations and goals.

In addition to benchmarking, our staff has been aligning curriculum to the national Common Core State Standards and working districtwide to implement research-based strategies in every classroom. Additional studies will take place this year in the special education and gifted programs, in which we will seek out new research and pilot innovations. In the coming months, I will be sharing these exciting developments.

Finally, I would like to invite you to our Feb. 23 town hall meeting, sponsored by our PTO organizations. During this special event, I will share more about our accomplishments and our efforts to create the future of education in the New Albany-Plain Local Schools. I hope you will consider attending this event so we can meet to discuss our efforts and our vision for the future.

Although we will continue to face many challenges both in finances and facilities, this is an exciting time to be part of creating the future of the district.

Here's to 2012! The best is yet to come.

April Domine is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.