Hilliard City Schools leaders have spent the past five years developing the culture we desire in our district.

Our culture is the heart of our school system. It makes Hilliard City Schools a special place to learn and work.

Building and sustaining the Hilliard culture requires intentional effort from everyone in the district. Our values, culture and behaviors are part of that effort.

Culture is not a document that hangs on the wall. Culture is what we believe, how we behave and the experience our behavior produces for others. It is the foundation on which our education community is built.

Our core values provide the standards for how we behave toward each other, our students and our community. Our success depends on the ability to collaborate and execute in a constantly changing environment.

Culture aligns everyone in the district around a common set of values and behaviors that ultimately determine how we prepare our students for success.

Our Hilliard leadership team, including the members of the school board, purposefully act to model our values and behaviors.

Over the past month, our "growth mindset" has led us to hold a listening tour, to utilize the Thoughtexchange platform to gather information about timely educational issues and to engage in open, honest conversations with parents about special-education services.

We have an exceptional, successful school district. Hilliard has a growing national reputation as an innovative leader in the field of education. We have dedicated, talented teachers, administrators and staff members.

Nevertheless, we strive to be better each day, and we embrace the productive discomfort of change. Today's education must continue to evolve and improve if we truly live our mission to prepare every student to be "ready for tomorrow."

'Stand up and own it'

We teach our students to "stand up and own it." We instill in the young people we serve the value of personal responsibility. We strive to act with purpose and to do the right thing.

As a leadership team, we recently shared the plans to create campus education experiences at Britton and Norwich elementary schools beginning in August 2020. We believe Britton serving as a K-2 primary building and Norwich as a 3-5 elementary building would provide increased efficiency and opportunity for our students. After years of research, conversations and engagement – some of which was at the Alton Darby and Darby Creek elementary schools campus – we decided to roll out this proposal at a school board work session in January.

Our communication and engagement strategy didn't meet our own, or our community's, expectations. Many parents felt, and rightly so, that we should have been more transparent, timely and engaging in both the process and announcement.

We "own it" and pledge to learn from this situation. We gathered hundreds of comments during the listening tour and are preparing a more comprehensive strategy to include the Britton and Norwich communities moving forward.

Furthermore, we set aside an evening to listen to the concerns of parents of special-education students. Our team, including members of the school board and special-education staff, spent an evening hearing from parents with specific concerns about our special-education programs.

We listened, we learned and we will improve. This is what we do and who we are as a district. The outcome from these events demonstrates Hilliard is a place where we can count on each other.

Power of the team

We know that we are always stronger together.

Education isn't an individual task – it truly takes a village to prepare students to be ready for tomorrow.

We invest the time to care, listen and communicate. We actively ask for help; we make each other better.

And most of all, in such a diverse community, we embrace the diversity and respect our differences.

This was never more clear than during the recent listening tour. We had a plethora of ideas, fears and concerns. Some parents are concerned about the campus approach for the Britton and Norwich buildings; others embrace the change and are eager to work together.

Special education takes a true team approach, from the initial multi-factored evaluation to the individualized education program. With more than 2,600 IEPs in the district, and more than 300 newly identified students over the past four years, we strive to create meaningful, personalized experiences for each student in our care.

We actively engage parents in this process – it is a true team effort.

Overall, our parent confidence in our special-education programs is high, but we have work to do. We continue to model the value of teamwork as we cultivate a great place for every student to learn.

Passion for growth

We value, and live, our "growth mindset."

We don't rest on past performances because we know the world of tomorrow demands we educate our students differently. We are focused on workforce development, business partnerships and technology integration into the learning environment.

The school board has dedicated resources to social- and emotional-learning strategies and student well-being. We are national leaders in this rapidly developing area.

The Innovation Campus has expanded to three buildings. It served about 1,000 students when it opened in 2013; this year, more than 2,000 students attend, and we are planning to educate up to 3,000 students next year.

Our commitment to innovation keeps us efficient as we manage population growth.

We embrace the productive discomfort of change and work to identify fears early in any process.

Our desire to create campus educational settings on the two sites that permit both a neighborhood elementary feel with a campus structure is another example of striving to improve. What we have works, but we want to reach higher levels. We want to equip our students for success, prepare them for college and the workforce and instill the personal skills required for lifelong learning.

The district has an exceptional leadership team, with experience and talent second to none. Although some districts face turnover and frequent leadership changes, Hilliard has a seasoned team of leaders with a track record of success.

The school board and senior leadership team is committed to transparent governance and skilled leadership. We know parents live busy, sometimes chaotic lives, and we respect their time. Our values guide our work, our passion and our mission to prepare every student to be ready for tomorrow.

Hilliard City Schools Superintendent John Marschhausen writes the Hilliard Schools Connection guest column for the ThisWeek Hilliard Northwest News.