The Pickerington Local School District experienced change in 2012, but also was able to attain several academic successes throughout the school year.
Walker is hired as superintendent
March 28, the PLSD Board of Education unanimously agreed to hire Rob Walker as district superintendent.
The hiring came after Karen Mantia, the district's superintendent from March 2007 to August 2011, left to take the same position with Lakota Local Schools near Cincinnati.
It also followed a year in which PLSD Assistant Superintendent Jim Sotlar served as interim superintendent for the entire 2011-12 school year.
Walker, who prior to his hiring had not been identified as a candidate for the post, came to the district after serving the previous three years as Lancaster City Schools superintendent. He was given a $135,000 annual salary to come to Pickerington.
Excellent with Distinction, of sorts
Sept. 26, the Ohio Department of Education announced in a preliminary report the Pickerington Local School District met 26 of 26 indicators on the State Report Card for academic achievement in the 2011-12.
The report also stated the district showed growth and improvement in 18 indicators from the previous years.
According to PLSD District Academic Advisor Sandy Meigel, the feats would have been enough to score the state's top rating of "Excellent with Distinction" for the third time in four years.
However, the ODE this year never provided final ratings for districts statewide because of an ongoing investigation by the Ohio Auditor's Office into schools' student attendance data.
Although Pickerington was not among those being investigated, some districts -- including the Columbus Public School District -- have been accused of tampering withstudents' attendance data.
Rushlow competes in national bee
May 29, Lakeview Junior High eighth-grader Nicholas Rushlow made an almost unprecedented fifth and final return to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., where he tied for fourth place.
The competition marked the end of an era for one of central Ohio's most storied spellers, as eligibility limits in both class grade and number of times an individual can participate will prevent him from going back.
Although he was never crowned champion -- Rushlow finished 91st, 17th, 33rd, 14th and 4th during his run -- he became somewhat of a celebrity for his repeat appearances at the bee.
In addition to earning the respect and affection of his peers -- capped off by a request from PLSD Treasurer Dan Griscom to pose for a photo before being honored by the PLSD Board of Education last spring -- Rushlow and his trademark yellow polo shirt were readily recognized by bee judges, and in recent years he was featured in an ESPN skit and was invited to visit the White House.
In her 34th and final year in education, Gail Clark walked away from her career as the Pickerington Local School District's "Teacher of the Year."
Clark, a response to intervention specialist at Toll Gate Middle School and a former fifth-grade teacher and previous building teacher of the year at Pickerington Elementary School, was honored last May.
Among other accolades, her peers nominated for the award for her dedication to students, her warmth toward students and staff and a "relentless" pursuit of excellence in the classroom.
"I am truly speechless and truly humbled," Clark said after the surprise announcement.
"This is a place I am proud to say for (34) years I have made my home and when anybody asked what I do, I was very proud to say I am a teacher for the Pickerington School District."
National Merit, Achievement
PHS Central 2012 graduates Ryan Knight and Michael Morris each were awarded National Merit Scholarships last spring, and PHS North 2012 graduate Janelle Holmes received a National Achievement Scholarship.
Each of the students received $2,500 college scholarships.
Knight and Morris received the award from the National Merit Scholarship Corp., which recognized them based on their abilities, skills and accomplishments.
Holmes received her scholarship through the annual National Achievement Scholarship program, which recognizes academically promising black students throughout the nation and to provide scholarships to the most outstanding program participants.
Call for restoration of art, music, P.E.
A group of parents called Keep Our Kids Specials in School throughout last summer called on school officials to change the way the district delivers education in art, music, physical education and media technology.
The goal, according to group members, essentially is to lead a charge to bring back regularly-scheduled art, music, physical education and media technology classes which were scaled down after the Pickerington Board of Education in April 2011 sought to address financial constraints by cutting approximately $13 million from its operating budget.
As a result, Walker formed committees of school staff, parents and community leaders to research the issue.
They met last fall, and those discussions will help the district shape curriculum in 2013-14 and beyond, Walker said.
John Long retires
After 38 years of teaching, PHS Central Vocal Music Director John Long held his final performance in the district last May 23.
Long said his decision to retire at the age of 60 was "98 percent" because of looming changes by the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, which could impact him financially had he chosen to keep teaching.
During his tenure, Long's choirs were recognized throughout central Ohio and beyond for excellence.
He also coached Pickerington High School's 1997-98 boys' cross country team to its only state championship, and that same year each of his choirs scored superior ratings in state competition.
In his final year in teaching, Long took Central's Chorale, Symphonic Choir and Freshmen and Sophomore Concert Choir to perform at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., before STRS rules for non-current educators prevented him from taking part in Central's graduation ceremony.
"I'll certainly be there to cheer them on like a proud dad," he said last May.
"When they cry, I cry. When they cheer, I cheer. When they're up there singing, they're an extension of me."
Griscom retires, Sotlar goes to CW
The PLSD ended 2012 in searches for a new district treasurer and assistant superintendent after PLSD Treasurer Dan Griscom announced he would retire, effective Feb. 1, 2013, and Assistant Superintendent Jim Sotlar was hired to become superintendent of the Canal Winchester Local School District.
Griscom has served as the district's treasurer since May 2008, and plans to officially retire.
However, after some members of the local community balked at his plans to retire and be rehired by the PLSD, he currently is a candidate for the New Albany-Plain Local School District's vacant treasurer's position.
Sotlar was the district's assistant superintendent since 2008.
He accepted the Canal Winchester post after serving as Pickerington's interim superintendent for the 2011-12 school and being a finalist for the superintendent's position prior to Walker's hiring.