It's a New Year, and the Pickerington Local School District's top administrator said that means it's a critical time for the district to finalize plans and strategies for implementing new curriculum and performance evaluation systems mandated by the state.
Just five months ago, Rob Walker took over as Pickerington's superintendent.
In that time, he's tried to familiarize himself the local community, as well as students, staff, traditions and cultures.
But amidst the getting-to-know-you phase, Walker and other district officials have had to keep a close eye on the Ohio General Assembly, which legislates new plans for funding the state's public schools and how to educate Ohio students.
This year is no different, and Walker said district officials and teachers are preparing to implement both new "Common Core" curriculum for students and processes for evaluating teachers, building principals and the superintendent himself that will be required for the 2013-14 school year.
"We're trying to ready ourselves for the implementation of the Common Core and the new Ohio educator evaluation systems that will have to be fully implemented next school year," Walker said.
"We're providing very meaningful feedback to our teachers and building leaders on instructional methodology and the skills teachers will need to display in the classroom."
Ohio is overhauling its school standards, which state legislators have dubbed guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at every grade level.
In doing so, Ohio joined 44 other states in adopting the Common Core State Standards in math and English. Standards in other subjects are being rewritten now.
The new tests are designed to measure how well students grasp learning concepts and show whether they are ready for college or a career.
Additionally, teachers and building administrators will be evaluated based on their students' academic performances.
"It's a whole new evaluation system as outlined by the Ohio Department of Education," Walker said.
In addition to ensuring the district is compliant with curriculum, as well as student and educator performance requirements, Walker said his staff is preparing a "blueprint" of five to seven goals for the 2013-14 school year.
Those objectives will be presented the Pickerington Board of Education this summer, and Walker expects board members to select two to three which they feel are useful and attainable in 2013-14.
Another priority for the remainder of this school year and for the next one will be to improve communications with the public following a year in which district's communications office was eliminated.
"We'll be moving toward more and more transparency of what we're doing and more and more encouragement of staff and the community for participation," Walker said.
"That will start to give people a clear picture of the direction of the school district.
"It's my goal to get more involvement and participation from our community and staff in making recommendations tour board of education," Walker said.
" I would like to look at all facets of what we're doing in trying to encourage participation."
Walker said he hopes to improve communication through use of the district's website, pickerington.k12.oh. us, and by working with existing and emerging media outlets.