Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett said the district will focus on its vision, mission and goals in the new year.

Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools Superintendent Steve Barrett said the district will focus on its vision, mission and goals in the new year.

Additionally, he said, the district will re-evaluate facility needs and reduce its budget by about $1 million.

"We'll take the work the district has done during the last five years and focus on the mission and vision," Barrett said.

He said it's important to get students out into the community to build partnerships.

"The schools are always stronger when they build partnerships," he added. "When you do it alone, it isn't as good for kids."

He said the district will work to strengthen its partnerships with the city and social service groups such as Gahanna Residents in Need.

An example is how Lincoln High School's Paw Print, a student-run spirit shop at the high school, will distribute 10 percent of its proceeds to local causes including Gahanna Residents in Need, Gahanna Special Education and Nationwide Children's Hospital for pediatric cancer. Students learn about social entrepreneurship, volunteer hours and donations will help the causes, and students hope to see an increase in sales in the Paw Print as the community joins in giving back.

Later this month, he said, the district will be working with architects Legat Kingscott on facility needs.

"We'll continue to identify our needs and decide the appropriate time to engage the broader community," he added. "We know we have facility needs and some overcrowding in the elementaries."

Barrett said the district will need to re-evaluate based on new developments that will bring students into the district from Jefferson Township, including 78 new houses that will be built by M/I Homes of Central Ohio LLC.

"We want to study enrollment projections," Barrett said. "We're trying to project growth over the next decade. We have to look at our plan in terms of development."

In addition to enrollment and facilities, Barrett said, the district will be looking at ways to reduce its budget in a way that least affects the classroom.

"It's hard to make budget reductions without affecting classrooms," he said. "We don't want to reduce opportunities for students."

He said leaders will try to cut the budget by $900,000 to $1 million.

"We have to show the community we can live within our means," Barrett said. "We've been meeting with principals and different district department heads and looking at retirements first."

He said the district also is looking at ways to combine roles.

"We'll look at ways to do things we've been doing in the most cost-effective ways possible," Barrett said. "It's not that we haven't been efficient."

Board of Education priorities

Beryl Piccolantonio, school board president, said the board focused on setting a framework by hiring a new superintendent and putting board committees in place in 2016.

She said the new year will be busy as the board uses that framework to measure progress toward district goals.

Among other things, Piccolantonio said, the board will focus on assessing building needs and finalizing a plan to address the capacity issues.

"In conjunction with this, we look forward to more dialogue with the city and (Jefferson) township so that plans will reflect future population growth," she said.

Piccolantonio said the board will address transparency by continuing to explore options to make board meetings more accessible, even to those who cannot attend.

"Through our finance committee, we will continue to delve into the district financials in order to ensure we are being as efficient as possible and that our spending remains focused on student achievement," she added. "Through our Student Learning and Achievement committee, we will continue to explore how the district can best ensure that each of our students is reaching full potential."

Piccolantonio said the Policy and Governance committee will continue to verify that district policies reflect district values and that they are applied consistently.

During the first quarter of the new year, the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation will present "A Night in Las Vegas" as the theme of the Gahanna Gala fundraiser on March 11, said Sharon Tomko, co-coordinator of school community relations.

More than 500 silent auction items, donated by businesses and individuals, will be up for bid at the Hilton at Easton, with proceeds earmarked to promote excellence in the schools, she said.