One hundred seventy-eight school days -- an academic school year -- make quite a difference in the life of a child, a school district and a community.

The graduation of the New Albany High School Class of 2017 provides the opportunity for us to pause to reflect upon our successes, learn from our challenges and prepare for the future of the New Albany-Plain Local Schools.

We are headed in the right direction.

We began our year committing to "students first" by grounding the work of our school district within our statement of purpose, "to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student," and to do so within a sustainable budget.

We are on target to fulfill our commitment.

Analysis of student-achievement results throughout the school year illustrated the majority of students are at or above expected levels of growth and improvement.

Results and demonstrated continuous improvement matter.

Student-performance outcomes on required state assessments will be published by September. We are committed to excellence.

Although achieving great educational outcomes for students is our most important responsibility, district leaders remain committed to maximizing existing resources and living within our means.

The most recent five-year forecast shows an improved positive cash balance through 2021 that will increase with changes to employee health-care plans.

The district achieved its financial goals of reducing total expenditures this fiscal year by at least 1 percent while also receiving an unqualified opinion on a recent audit and earning awards for excellence in financial reporting.

We will remain fiscally responsible.

We strengthened curriculum and instruction work with teachers; improved programming for students; increased access to extracurricular activities; completed a reconfiguration study to increase instructional time for students without additional costs; created common assessments to measure student progress; and focused professional-development activities for teachers to improve student learning.

We sought to actively engage and solicit feedback from stakeholders.

We will continue to listen and improve.

We have witnessed remarkable visual arts and vocal, instrumental, orchestral and theatrical performances by our students, cheered enthusiastically from the bleachers, sidelines, pool deck or courts and shared smiles and tears to celebrate the many academic, life, cocurricular and extracurricular victories or losses.

We have enjoyed nontraditional learning opportunities via our service projects, charitable activities and international-travel experiences.

We celebrated a scholarly senior class that earned more than $2 million in usable first-year scholarship money, the highest amount earned by any graduating class in history.

We will continue to care, support and celebrate our talented students.

We are emerging stronger than ever and focused on what really matters for effective learning for our students, despite any challenges on our school campus.

We continue to build a culture and a sense of belonging to ensure all students are part of our learning community.

We are committed to building on this spirit as we move forward as a district and as a community.

We appreciate that our strong partnerships with families and local, civic and government leaders remain focused on our students.

We are one New Albany.

As summer officially has arrived and the chapter closes on the 2016-17 school year, we look forward with anticipation and excitement to the 2017-18 year, which will begin for students Aug. 17.

Although much work remains to fulfill our commitments to our students and residents, the New Albany-Plain Local School District certainly is heading in the right direction thanks to our entire learning community.

Together, we can and will soar as Eagles.

Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.