Happy New Year and welcome to 2019.

As we returned from winter break Jan. 2, I spoke with our staff about our mission, vision and plans for our future during our Winter Academy, a professional learning day for our administrators, teachers and staff.

Earlier in the school year, we adopted the mission statement, "Empowering leaders who impact the now and innovate the future." The term "leaders" is very important for us, as we take the leadership development of our staff and students very seriously.

We recognize that while we, as the adults, are charged to lead and propel the district forward, our students also have a responsibility for being part of that leadership. We have four focus areas that capture our district vision statements (available on reyn.org): student learning, student experience, communication and finance.

A focus on each of those areas will guide our work as we look to embrace continuous improvement. We will use each area to craft goals and action steps associated with the completion of our strategic plan.

We are in the process of creating what we call, a "portrait of a Reynoldsburg graduate." This will be a comprehensive view of skills and experiences that every graduate will possess before they walk across the stage to receive their high school diplomas.

While we create a portrait of Reynoldsburg graduate, we need to ensure that we are working to meet the needs of our rising ninth-graders as they transition into high school. We will do this through the 9X Impact, an experience that will ensure our children are high school ready, future focused, inspired to making an academy choice and socially and emotionally ready for high school and beyond.

We are in the process of reviewing how well we use our daily schedules to increase opportunities for students in and outside of the classroom. Examining our use of teacher collaboration time can result in more purposeful opportunities for teacher planning, varied academic experiences for students, and more.

Finally, we know that we must be more mindful of the social and emotional needs of our students. Mental health, anti-bullying and student support mechanisms are not measured on a report card, but we know that a failure to address these types of needs will result in the lack of success of far too many students.

As we look toward our future, we have to be considerate of our continued emphasis on financial planning as well as building-space usage and allocation.

Two major issues that we must tackle in our not-too-distant future are full-day kindergarten and expanded preschool opportunities. We will have much more discussion about these initiatives as we go forward.

We will continue to seek input and support from our community, staff and students as we work to address the needs of all of our students. We intend to ensure that Reynoldsburg City Schools is an innovative place to learn and it is recognized not only in Ohio, but nationwide.

I look forward to sharing additional thoughts and working with you all in the coming months. Here is to an exciting and energetic 2019!

I am, and remain always, #reynproud!

Melvin Brown is superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News.