Among other notable developments in 2013, the New Albany-Plain Local School District began a major construction project on a tight timeline.

Among other notable developments in 2013, the New Albany-Plain Local School District began a major construction project on a tight timeline.

District officials are using funds from a $45.1-million, 2.59-mill bond issue voters approved in November 2012 to build a two-story, 150,000-square-foot building for 1,200 students in grades 2-8. The new building is northeast of New Albany Middle School, near the 2-5 elementary building playground.

The district also received a $1.5-million grant from the New Albany Community Foundation, $1 million of which was donated by Leslie and Abigail Wexner and the rest by an anonymous donor, for the project.

The district broke ground June 10 and one educational wing of the building is expected to open by fall 2014.

Superintendent April Domine said the two modular classrooms by the 2-5 elementary building will be removed at that time. The rest of the building will open by January 2015.

The building was designed by Moody-Nolan of Columbus. Harrison Planning Group of Columbus is the district's representative to Moody-Nolan and the representative on the construction site. Corna Kokosing Construction Co. of Westerville is the general contractor hired to oversee the project.

The New Albany-Plain Local school board on May 20 approved the interior schematic design for a new school building and agreed to change the traffic pattern on the entire campus as part of the building project. In the mornings and afternoons, when parents are picking students up or dropping them off, traffic backs up on local streets.

The school board agreed to make the following improvements: close the middle and high school bus loop on Dublin-Granville Road, leaving a gated emergency access only; close the road on the east side of New Albany Middle School and change the road west of the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts to accommodate two-way traffic for parents to drop off and pick up students; expand the high school parking lot to the south; close the road north of the 2-5 elementary gymnasium and build a new road opposite Chatham Green Drive; create a bus loop for all grades off Kardules Fields Way; add a student parking lot south of the high school tennis courts; and add 827 parking spaces to the campus.

The board also agreed to relocate the varsity baseball, varsity and junior varsity softball fields from Swickard Woods east to vacant land east of Swickard Woods Boulevard and south of the K-1 elementary building and Plain Township Aquatic Center parking lots.

The district will continue to lease fields in Swickard Woods from the city of New Albany, and possibly could improve those for use as practice fields.

Kevin Harrison of the Harrison Planning Group said at the last school board meeting of the year on Dec. 16 that the construction project is on time and on budget.

Harrison paid for a camera that allows residents to view the construction site on the district's website, Photos are updated every 30 minutes.

Personnel changes

Several new faces came to the school district in 2013 and many positions were changed while district officials continue their search for high school and middle school principals.

* Rebecca Jenkins was hired as treasurer Jan. 8.

District officials had sought a treasurer since Brian Ramsay left New Albany in 2012 to become the treasurer of the Westfall Local Schools in Williamsport. Peg Betts was interim treasurer until Jenkins was hired.

* The district added a second employee -- in a new position -- to the financial office in August.

The school board voted Aug. 26 to hire Monica Gerhart as director of financial services.

"This position is much like an assistant treasurer you would find in most of the districts across the state and in our surrounding area," Jenkins said in an email. "The district has grown exponentially over the past several years. With this growth, the number of meetings required to guide the district has grown as well, leaving little time.

"The district has reached a point where it needs someone to oversee the day-to-day functions of the fiscal office. This person will also be charged with completing the annual comprehensive annual financial report, month/fiscal year-end close-out, assist in the annual budget process and will be available to offer assistance to all district leadership on a daily basis."

* The school board hired Michael Sawyers March 18 as chief of operations and strategic development.

Sawyers replaced Ken Stark, who left in December 2012 after being hired as director of operations by the South-Western City School District in Grove City.

Sawyers was honored in October 2013 with the Distinguished Service Award given by the Buckeye Association of School Administrators.

He received the award for "going above and beyond and displaying exemplary leadership in the field" while working for the Ohio Department of Education.

* The school board on Aug. 26 also approved changes for building administration at multiple levels, where the district was lacking several key personnel.

Scott Emery was hired as K-1 principal June 10.

Emery, who was the principal of Goshen Lane Elementary School in the Gahanna-Jefferson district, replaced Susan Wittig.

After high school principal Ric Stranges and assistant high school principal Rex Reeder resigned to go to Delaware Hayes High School, the district hired Mark White in July as interim high school principal.

The high school also has two assistant principals: Steve Gehlert, the former middle school assistant principal, and Adonis Bolden, who was the high school's dean of students.

At the middle school, high school science teacher Robert Messenheimer was hired as the assistant middle school principal, working with current interim Principal Kip Greenhill, who was hired in August 2012.

Safety improvements

The school district made many changes in 2013 to improve safety for its students.

In January, middle school and high school students were issued badges that unlock doors to the cafeteria and the middle school and high school buildings. It allowed the district to lock all high school doors except for the main entrance.

The district faced some challenges with the open concept of its campus, in which middle school and high school students have to leave the school and go into a separate building housing the cafeteria. Some middle school students also are required to cross a grass oval and enter the high school to attend classes.

Domine said the new practice provided another opportunity to teach students about responsibility and self-discipline.

Elementary students do not have badges for building access because they always are with a teacher who will have a badge and can gain access.

For those students, the district changed building entries before the start of the 2013-14 school year. The K-1 and 2-5 buildings now have secure vestibules that require visitors to enter through the office.

The district also revised its volunteer and visitor policies, which went into effect Dec. 2.

All volunteers working in kindergarten to fifth grade now must complete a background check.

Volunteers working in the middle and high schools must complete a background check if they could work with students unsupervised, such as on a field trip, in a club or other activity or as a coach, according to district officials.

All visitors now are required to show photo identification before entering a school building.

Goals met and achievements

Several goals and achievements also marked 2013.

* The school board on Aug. 26 approved a 14-percent performance bonus of $21,700 for Domine for her work in the 2012-13 school year.

Domine was hired in December 2010 and earns $155,000 in salary each year and about $60,600 in benefits. She is eligible to earn up to 15 percent of her salary in an annual performance-based bonus.

* Domine said the district worked to increase student achievement by meeting all of the Ohio Department of Education's 26 indicators on the reformatted school report card and increasing student participation in Advanced Placement classes.

* High school students scored their highest ACT average ever and the district had the highest percentage of students in its history earning the ACT college-ready benchmark in all for test subjects, she said.

* Fourteen students were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.: four scholarship semifinalists, one achievement scholar and 10 commended scholars.

* New Albany High School in May was ranked 323 on Newsweek magazine's list of America's top 500 high schools. It was ranked 15th in Ohio.

* The district began expanding its international focus in 2013 with several international field trips and a STEM class that involved a trip overseas.

Twenty-five New Albany High School students and four teachers completed a service project for the Mariposa Foundation in the Dominican Republic June 2-9 and 11 students, seven parents and two teachers traveled to China June 8-17.

Both trips were a first for district students and both were self-funded

The third trip, from June 2-12, was part of a STEM class that took 18 middle and high school students, five school staff members and four parents to Moholoholo, a nature preserve in South Africa for such animals as rhinos, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas.

The students spent much of the 2012-13 school year building a robotic car to photograph and video the animals, aided by a $10,000 donation from Commercial Vehicle Group of New Albany, which also provided engineers to help design the vehicle.

Their work was displayed Dec. 1 at Cabela's at 1650 Gemini Place in Polaris.

New Albany students were on hand to explain exhibits and screen a documentary of the trip.

* The district also increased its Mandarin Chinese program this year by adding classes for 2-5 elementary students and received the International Education Project of the Year award in March 2013 from the Columbus Council on World Affairs for the 2012-13 school year Haiti initiative.

New Albany students in all grades raised $25,000 for an orphanage in Haiti after studying the work of Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, which provides free health care to impoverished people on four continents.

The money was earmarked to establish a tilapia-fishing operation -- a sustainable business along the lines of what Farmer advocates -- at the Zanmi Beni Children's Home in Haiti.

* Domine said the district continued to work on other goals.

District officials changed their approach to technology by allowing students to bring their own technological devices to school and adding new devices to be used in classrooms.

The district continued implementation of blended-learning courses, by adding new classes this year and more teachers to the program, which combines traditional classroom education with online learning.

District officials also designed a new teacher-evaluation system with the Plain Local Education Association, the local teachers union. The system will be implemented in 2014.

* Finally, district officials celebrated a community partnership Aug. 30 when the new artificial-turf football field was dedicated.

The new Veterans Field was funded through the efforts of local athletics boosters, who raised more than $600,000 for its installation.

The boosters requested the field be renamed Veterans Field and that veterans receive free admission to all events.