The role and responsibilities of public school districts continue to evolve as quickly as the times in which we live.

Schools no longer are solely required to provide academic instruction. From the local level to the state and federal levels, schools are focusing resources on social-emotional learning and core values. The new Ohio Department of Education strategic plan includes an enumerated domain of social-emotional learning based on core principles, including equity and partnerships.

We also know that in order for young people to learn they must be safe, fed and loved. These basic physiological needs must be met before learning can take place. For more and more students, school is where they feel safe, they develop a sense of belonging and they receive two square meals per day.

Social-emotional learning and student well-being are two focal points for the Hilliard City Schools. We know that students who are healthy – in both mind and body – learn and perform better in life.

All young people, regardless of their support structure outside of school, are facing unparalleled social and emotional challenges in today's digitally connected world.

In the Hilliard City Schools, we embrace the responsibility of facilitating digital wellness, engaging parents about the social-emotional learning challenges young people face and providing significant resources in the area of student well-being.

This past March, the Hilliard City Schools partnered with the Dublin City Schools for our first "Be Well" event. More than 2,000 people participated in the "Be Well" event and associated book talks.

Our districts welcomed Dr. Michele Borba, author of "UnSelfie," and Kate Fagan, author of "What Made Maddy Run," as part of a series of book talks in the month preceding "Be Well." We are proud of our partnership with Dublin and community engagement with this essential topic. Strong schools and strong communities are synonymous.

We also continue to ask more and more from our classroom teachers and school administrators.

While we have added dozens of counselors to our Hilliard schools family, our teachers are working on the front lines with children. These dedicated professionals are leading the way in the social and emotional development of students.

Our district is committed to supporting our professional staff with time, resources and professional development as the role of schools continues to evolve. Our Hilliard University and scheduled in-service days are only the tip of the iceberg. Our teaching staff dedicates hours of their own time to live our district's growth mindset.

Our professional ranks include, of course, our wonderful school nurses and health-care aides who handle everything from acute care for students with medical needs to Band-Aids and upset tummies in our clinics.

Hilliard partners with exceptional service providers to enhance the work we do as a team. From Nationwide Children's Hospital to Panorama Education and the Ohio State University, outside experts are essential in our social-emotional efforts.

Our partnership with Grant Us Hope has brought Hope Squads to our three high schools and three middle schools. These school-based, peer-to-peer, suicide-prevention programs provide a curriculum focused on suicide prevention, self-care and anti-bullying.

Our culture work is grounded in our core values.

Our ongoing partnership with Tim Kight and Focus 3 has been at the heart of our commitment to character and culture for five years.

Our teachers and students "press pause" when faced with events throughout the day. We are on a journey together in this work. We know that real, systemic change doesn't take place in one, two or three years. Real change means doing the work, cultivating kindness and thoughtfulness, making mistakes and learning through the process.

We are committed to doing this work, to taking the time to make it part of our DNA and monitoring progress along the way. We know that optimistic, positive students perform at higher levels. We cultivate positive self-talk and a growth mindset in all students.

Hilliard personnel recently participated in a national social- and emotional-learning summit to help shape national policies and programs. Presented by the American Association of School Administrators, the group engaged in meaningful dialogue with peers from across the country about how social-emotional learning is contributing to the whole child – physical- and mental-health development of fundamental, lifelong learning skills.

The district's quality profile includes a goal targeted at increasing the sense of belonging in each school building. We measure specific social-emotional attributes, analyze the data and learn from it to improve for the next year.

In the coming months, we will share our progress on the quality-profile goals with the community. By reporting our progress, and sharing what we have learned, we add depth to our collaboration and partnership with the community.

Being "ready for tomorrow" begins with a safe, healthy environment today. The district has put social-emotional learning at the forefront of our work. We are intentional in our decisions to create the culture we desire for our students, teachers and community.

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