Those are two words with powerful meaning to New Albany-Plain Local Schools.
These words typically are associated with our athletics teams, but they also illustrate our daily expectations as we reflect upon the 2017-18 school year.
The 2017-18 school year is in the books. Across our district, we saw tremendous learning and growth, and we have much to celebrate as we fulfill our district purpose, "to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student."
Nearly 350 teachers, 200 support staff members, 29 administrators, five school board members, more than 10,000 parents and our communities have partnered to increase student achievement, student growth and student well-being for more than 5,000 students this past school year.
We graduated a senior class of 379 students, with eight National Merit Scholarship Program finalists, 10 Commended Scholars, 25 student athletes who committed to play interscholastic athletics at the next level and more than $2 million in first-year useable scholarships to support higher education. Four of our graduates also committed to serve our country in a branch of the military.
Overall, the class of 2018 is the highest-achieving class to graduate from New Albany High School to date.
Meanwhile, our seventh- and eighth-grade middle school students demonstrated empathy and compassion for our greater community by fundraising for schools devastated by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, breast-cancer awareness and the New Albany Food Pantry.
The heart of our middle schoolers also was evident daily by them delivering for Meals on Wheels, undertaking fine-arts performances, taking the fields and courts during athletics competitions and collecting outstanding accomplishments with Power of the Pen, Ohio Model United Nations, FIRST Lego League, robotics, Science Olympiad and more.
We witnessed the ingenuity of 362 fourth-graders as they brainstormed, developed, marketed and sold their products at the annual Entrepreneur Day. They raised more than $16,000 for five charities selected by students.
In addition, fifth-graders excelled during their science fair to receive awards of excellence from the state of Ohio.
We celebrate the efforts of our primary school teachers and students in achieving a 100 percent passage rate on Gov. John Kasich's Ohio Third Grade Reading Guarantee for the second consecutive year.
In the performing arts, our primary school first-graders continued their "Carnival of the Animals" performances at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts for the 10th consecutive year.
We welcomed more than 140 preschool students to the newly configured New Albany Early Learning Center. The preschool and kindergarten staff members continue to align curriculum, assessment and instructional practices to reach our youngest learners, and we are well on our way to earning a 5-star rating for our preschool program.
We celebrated amazing achievements in academics, fine and performing arts and athletics as our talented students excelled in band, choir, orchestra, theater, the visual arts and 28 interscholastic and club-sports teams. Students' participation in activities beyond the classroom enriches lives, enhances school culture and builds community while increasing academic achievements.
We also formalized a well-being initiative to empower a caring community with resources that help maximize the mental and physical well-being of each student. We partnered with local, state and national experts to implement age-appropriate programs to measure improved developmental outcomes for students.
We introduced the R Factor to the district and our families to build upon our culture by instilling common language and behavior expectations necessary to promote student achievement, student growth and student well-being. (Editor's note: The R Factor is a popular response-and-outcome training defined by the "event + response = outcome" formula.)
This work will return in the fall as we introduce students to even more disciplines associated with the R Factor. We invite families and our entire community to join us in learning more about the R Factor beginning in September.
Summer is upon us and it's a well-earned opportunity to pause, reflect, vacation, rejuvenate and play. The giant yellow taxis are on break until the first day of school Aug. 16. Until then, unplug, read a great book, catch a game, put on your helmet and take a bike ride, go for a walk, run, hike, blow bubbles in the park, skip rope, draw, reconnect, chase butterflies and take time to enjoy the sunshine and the occasional raindrops -- and adults should watch for children running around our neighborhoods as they enjoy summertime.
Thank you to our faculty, staff members, administrators, parent-teacher organizations, booster organizations, parents, board members and community members for your efforts to support the incredible students of New Albany-Plain Local Schools. You are appreciated!
Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.