With the first day of school right around the corner in Whitehall, students may be feeling those first-day butterflies.

With the first day of school right around the corner in Whitehall, students may be feeling those first-day butterflies.

That goes for school leaders, too.

Last week, Whitehall principals and administrators, many of them new to the district, escaped to the Jefferson Golf Club in Blacklick for a two-day retreat. The focus had as much to do with getting to know one another as it did with starting off the year right, officials said.

"Leadership Academy is an opportunity for our administrators to get off campus and focus on their professional development and plan together for a smooth start of the school year. It is a time for reflection, growth and planning," said Superintendent Brian Hamler.

The time away gives everyone a chance to align their goals, he said.

"During Leadership Academy, I gave the analogy of pulling the rope in the same direction instead of having a tug-of-war with each other," Hamler said. "We've got a great team in place here at Whitehall and I'm very anxious to see how their individual talents and individual skill sets come together as one for the benefit of our children.

"These are very exciting times."

The purpose of the retreat is threefold and differs slightly from past retreats, Hamler said. The first was to serve as an information session for each of the departments and to allow their leaders to share goals, challenges and procedures.

The second, he said, was instructional.

"This year, we had Dr. Tom Reed, who is the executive director of Achievement and Leadership Services at the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio. Tom was exceptional in talking to our people about self-awareness and leader effectiveness in times of change."

Finally, the retreat served as a way to break the ice.

"We've got a significant number of new administrators this year and I feel it's important for everyone to get to know each other a little better and start to develop a healthy working relationship in a more casual environment," said Hamler. "As the comfort level with your co-workers increases, I feel efficiency in the workplace tends to increase with it."

The first bell rings Aug. 25, and Hamler said he's ready for the start of the 2014-15 school year.

"I'm looking forward to the teachers reconnecting with one another and preparing themselves for the challenges ahead," he said. "I'm looking forward to our high school seniors basking in the glory of their final year. I'm also looking forward to the innocent apprehension of our kindergartners, sixth-graders and ninth-graders as they enter a new building for the first time."

Hamler has set his sights on increasing student achievement, saying the district is only a few students away from a significant jump on its state report card.

"I know we can do it," he said. "We have extremely talented and passionate teachers and we have the students to make it happen.

"This will be a big year for us in terms of the impression that we will make with people outside of our district. It's our time to step up and show everyone what we are capable of doing."