As 2016 draws to a close, the members of the New Albany-Plain Local Board of Education want to share with our community some of the priorities and achievements from our first year together as a new team.

As 2016 draws to a close, the members of the New Albany-Plain Local Board of Education want to share with our community some of the priorities and achievements from our first year together as a new team.

As our first order of business, board members met in a series of public meetings to discuss, debate and agree to a statement of purpose that became our guide to both the selection of a new superintendent and the direction of our district.

Consistent with the unique character, aspirations and challenges of New Albany, the statement of purpose is "to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student."

We further defined each of those words to make our intentions clear.

We also stipulated that these outcomes must be achieved within the context of limited financial resources.

From this clarity of purpose we began the public search for our new leader. With the serendipity of many great discoveries, we found the right person in our own backyard in Michael Sawyers, the district's erstwhile chief of operations.

Not only does Sawyers have all of the qualifications we sought, he is firmly committed to implementing our statement of purpose.

Sawyers developed and implemented an extensive 100-day entry plan to act on our shared goals. He publicly reported his progress every two weeks, beginning even before his official start date.

By the start of the school year he assembled a leadership team equally committed to our purpose. Together with his team and representatives of our board, faculty and staff, he developed a continuous-improvement plan to bring clarity and a focused plan to all district employees and stakeholders that defines exactly what we expect to accomplish.

From that CIP, Sawyers and the board agreed to four objective outcomes that define what we expect to achieve this year and over the next five years. The first of those goals relates to measurable and specific improvement in the academic performance rating of our district and the second to achieving cost savings this year of more than $500,000.

Because we believe in rewarding what we value, Sawyers agreed to tie his potential performance compensation to achievement of the four outcomes.

In a highly unusual move, our treasurer, Becky Jenkins, agreed to modify her existing contract to replace previous goals with new goals identical to those of Sawyers.

Seeing this leadership alignment, our board members took the unprecedented step of placing our modest stipend of $700 per year at risk under the same top two goals as Sawyers and Jenkins. If we don't achieve our goals, we don't get paid. Period.

Finally, in an endorsement of goal alignment, district teachers agreed to make the academic-improvement goal the basis of their $300 performance bonus. The dollar amounts are far less significant than the complete alignment of the board, administration and faculty toward outcomes that matter to our children and our entire community.

It will take the support of students, parents, faculty, staff and community to propel New Albany-Plain Local to a position as a top-5 percent school district in the state by 2021. We are determined to get there.

President Laura Kohler wrote the Eagle Eye on Education column on behalf of the New Albany-Plain Local school board.