Retiring Superintendent Steve Dackin gave his final State of the Schools address to the Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce last week, saying he hopes people will think of Reynoldsburg schools as "a destination district."
"I see our school district as providing successful strategies to build a strong workforce for central Ohio," he said.
Dackin gave his seventh State of the Schools speech Feb. 6. He retires July 31 and is working to help his successor, Tina Thomas-Manning, make the transition to her new post.
"Retirement has its privileges," he said. "I can say now that I think the governance of the school system plays an important role in allowing innovation to happen. We have a board of education that allows leadership to happen. Their only agenda is that kids are taken care of."
Dackin said district finances are stable and the budget is expected to stay "in the black" through 2020.
"We received one-third less than we expected after we passed an operating levy in 2010 due to losses in state aid and property devaluation, but we have a $13-million cash balance today," he said.
He said the open enrollment policy, through which students from other districts are allowed to attend Reynoldsburg schools, generated about $2 million last year for the district.
"Through careful, reduced spending, partnerships and shared services and savings in our negotiated contracts, our personnel costs were the same in 2013 as they were in 2008," he said. "Our goal is to maximize what we provide for our kids without going back often to taxpayers to ask for more money."
Dackin explained the new state report card, which has nine letter grades instead of one, in areas such as achievement, gap-closing, progress and graduation rates.
"We are a pretty good school district, but not good enough," he said. "I welcome the state's new and more rigorous requirements for excellence. If we were using the old system, we would have gotten an A-plus on this report card."
Reynoldsburg was rated "excellent with distinction" on the state report card released in 2012. New state requirements on the 2013 report card placed a stronger emphasis on measuring how much progress each student makes in one school year and how well districts are closing achievement gaps in groups such as students with disabilities.
"We are doing some things well," Dackin said. "We got an A in overall value-added progress, but we are not pushing and challenging gifted students and other groups enough."
He said two new measurements for the report card begin in 2015 -- the K-3 literacy grade that measures how many third-graders pass new reading efficiency tests; and "prepared for success," which measures how many students are earning college or workforce credits to succeed in college and careers.
The state also implemented a mandate this year preventing districts from promoting third-grade students if they do not pass state reading tests.
"The state should not have to tell us not to promote kids who can't read by third grade," Dackin said. "Under this new measure, though, our preliminary numbers looked good. We do a good job of teaching our kids to read."
He said the district has a 91-percent graduation rate.
"That is not good enough. We still have one out of every 10 kids in Reynoldsburg who does not graduate from high school," he said.
He said partnerships with Columbus State Community College and the dual enrollment and early college courses available to Reynoldsburg students at BELL Academy are helping prepare students for college and careers.
"Our goal is to have students graduate from Reynoldsburg schools with a high school diploma and an associate's degree from college," he said.