As we approach the winter break and the end of 2018, New Albany-Plain Local School District leaders are taking the time to reflect on the first half of the school year and the progress we have made as a district.

We remain committed to our purpose: to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student. A great deal of information has been shared in these columns, with a recent focus on the academic success and support of our students. But as it states in our purpose, the developmental needs are equally as important.

Quality classroom instruction, by caring teachers and staff members, obviously is making an impact on the academic progress in the district.

We are committed to supporting the growth of all of our students in and out of the classroom by providing the necessary resources to help them on a variety of levels.

Our school counselors, mental-health specialists and clinicians work with students daily to identify needs and offer support.

For example, Sources of Strength, both at New Albany High School and New Albany Middle School, is a strengths-based, peer-to-peer program that develops students' skills so they may support fellow students in building friendships, choosing healthy activities, etc. Their mission is to spread hope, help and strength in every corner of our community.

Other examples of this type of work in our district include:

* The New Albany Well-Being Initiative.

Launched in 2017, the New Albany Well-Being Initiative is led by a group of community leaders working in collaboration with our schools to create a best-in-class well-being model focused on New Albany students.

In keeping with our focus on student growth and development, the vision of the Well-Being Initiative is for each student to possess a strong sense of well-being, which is defined as being healthy both mentally and physically. The mission is to empower a caring community with resources that help maximize the mental and physical well-being of each student.

We have worked collaboratively to consolidate the district's well-being program components under one umbrella, identifying the enhancement areas and then filling those areas with programs and other resources that will drive the vision and mission.

We remain focused on improvement in the following areas: suicide awareness and prevention, drug/alcohol education and prevention and developmental education, including bullying prevention, internet safety and citizenship, and emotional, cognitive-behavioral and social competencies.

As we look to the new year, save the date of Jan. 31 when the well-being committee sponsors a student health and wellness fair from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Philip Heit Center for Healthy New Albany, 150 W. Main St.

The event will include: mental-health resources, cooking demonstrations, massages, mindfulness techniques, tips for healthy weight and nutrition, New Albany Police Department Ident-A-Kid cards and drug-abuse education. Admission is free.

Learn more about the New Albany Well-Being Initiative at

* Mental Health Club at New Albany High School.

This year for the midterm exams at New Albany High School, a relaxation room is being sponsored by the Mental Health Club, a student-driven organization focused on supporting the mental health of all students. The club was created to break the stigma associated with mental illness and promote positive mental health.

For this initiative, the Jefferson Room is transformed into a support center for students to help reduce stress and anxiety during exams. Some of the features of the relaxation room are therapy dogs, healthful treats and snacks, coloring, massage chairs and peer-to-peer support.

* The R Factor.

Our work in the schools and in the community continues with the R Factor, a culture, behavior and decision-making framework our students and staff members are using to develop exceptional life skills to successfully navigate their school and life experiences.

Join us for the next community session focusing on the discipline of "Step Up" at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at New Albany Intermediate School, 177 N. High St.

Finally, we thank residents for being partners with us as we focus on the well-being of our students, staff and community. District leaders cannot achieve this on our own and we are grateful for a community that values this work as vital to our combined success.

This winter break, we hope all community members take time for yourselves during the stressful moments and enjoy friends and family.

We will be waiting for our students Jan. 7 as we usher in 2019. Happy holidays.

Jon Hood is director of student services, safety and security for the New Albany-Plain Local Schools District.