Winter recess has arrived just in time to celebrate the holiday season for New Albany-Plain Local Schools students, their families and friends.

The arrival of a new calendar year often provides for a period of reflection for many, including our schools. We remain steadfast in our purpose: "to create a culture of accountability that achieves the best academic and developmental outcomes for each student."

A few celebratory reflections since school began in August include:

* Increasing academic-achievement results to be ranked No. 17 of 611 public school districts in Ohio to earn the highest ranking of all Franklin County school districts.

* 100% of our third-graders achieved the Ohio Third Grade Reading Guarantee requirements for the third year in a row.

* Superior classroom instruction and services by our caring and dedicated faculty, staff, administration and school board.

* The announcement of our record-setting 16 National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalists at New Albany High School.

* 278 of our eighth-graders extending their learning beyond the classroom by traveling to Washington, D.C., and other classmates participated in service-learning projects.

* Outstanding performances of "Godspell Jr." and "Beauty and the Beast" by our middle school and high school thespians.

* Renowned performances by our elementary, middle school or high school band, choir and orchestra students.

* Countless hours of volunteerism and support from our parents/guardians and community to benefit more than 5,000 students.

* Expanded partnerships with local businesses.

* The New Albany High School girls golf team winning its second consecutive state championship while smashing records, yet again.

* The high school boys and girls golf teams, the football team and the boys and girls cross-country teams all finishing the fall season with Ohio Capital Conference championships.

As we look toward 2020 and the second semester of the 2019-20 school year, we will continue our efforts to support growth of all of our students in and out of the classroom by maintaining our high expectations while also providing access to resources and supports to help our students.

Achievement

and growth

Together, curriculum, assessment, instruction and social-emotional learning provide the framework for "how" our talented teachers enable our students to learn and grow daily.

By actively engaging in professional-development activities, literature reviews and research, our teachers, administrators and staff enhance their professional skills to better meet the ever-changing needs of our students.

As we look toward the future, we are working to expand external partnerships and opportunities for our students via new career-pathway course offerings, increased opportunities for internships and apprenticeships and more.

Student well-being and funding

Academic success requires that each student be healthy, both physically and mentally.

To date, more than 20 age-appropriate research-based programs are enhanced by the services of full-time school counselors and contracted third-party grant-funded personnel in all of our schools.

It is recognized by our community and state that the social-emotional needs of students are becoming increasingly complex and have a direct correlation to academic achievement gains.

Although our advocacy to equalize school-funding levels for our students to private or nonchartered school students in Ohio was approved by the General Assembly in the last biennial budget, our advocacy was vetoed yet again by the governor. School funding in Ohio remains unconstitutional and requires an overreliance on local property taxes.

We will continue to advocate for legislative changes that benefit our taxpayers.

We are, however, receiving approximately $400,000 total in additional dollars earmarked by the governor to support student wellness and success during the next two years.

The prioritized areas identified for supplemental services for this funding include expanding mental-health services for students, introducing a school well-being community liaison and investing in professional development related to trauma-informed care and cultural competence for staff members, all to better meet the needs of our students.

Upcoming well-being-related programs in early 2020 for parents of students in grades pre-K to 12 and community members include:

* "Vaping -- The New Look of Nicotine," 7 p.m. Jan. 14 at New Albany Intermediate School, 177 N. High St.

* "The R Factor in Our Schools," 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at New Albany Early Learning Center, 5101 Swickard Woods Blvd.

* "What Parents Need to Know about Digital Citizenship," 7 p.m. March 24 at the intermediate school.

Continuous improvement

We remain thankful we are a learning organization which challenges itself to continuously improve.

Our continuous-improvement plan includes objective measurable outcomes that will increase student achievement, growth and well-being on our school campus -- all while remaining fiscally responsible to taxpayers.

Our current financial forecast is strong, based upon the deliberate actions of the school board, administration, faculty and staff.

We can and will continue to improve to meet the academic and developmental needs of our students while proudly serving our community. The leaders of New Albany-Plain Local Schools look forward to welcoming everyone back from winter recess Jan. 6 as we usher in 2020.

Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.