Looking back at 2018, I am finding it difficult to sum up my feelings in one or two words. Successful? Exciting? Moving Forward? Positive Momentum? When you stop to think about it, it is all this and more.

In May, we celebrated the first TPS student to be accepted to Harvard University. Zoe Flores took courses exclusively at The University of Toledo while she was both a senior in high school and a junior at the university. Zoe spent her freshman year of high school at Toledo Technology Academy. Before she started 10th grade, she found out about Toledo Public Schools’ College Credit program, she was able to take college courses at UT. Because of her stellar academic achievements, Zoe was one of the 2,037 applicants accepted from a pool of 39,506 students who applied to Harvard.

The 2018-19 school year started with the opening of the Aerospace & Natural Science Academy of Toledo. Students from across the region are now taking classes that focus on growing industries such as aviation and aeronautics, animal science and management, urban agriculture and agribusiness and environmental sustainability and wildlife management. The school boasts a contemporary look and feel that encourages project-based, cross-curricular learning in a high-tech environment. Students will have the opportunity to earn college credit, industrial credentials and meaningful employment after graduation.

We also celebrated the rebranding of three of our schools. Jones Leadership Academy added Business to its name and students are taking courses related to marketing, finance and other business courses. Two of our elementary schools adopted a STEMM-focus. Students at Marshall and McKinley are now taking classes that revolve around science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. An early introduction to these areas of study will help students be better prepared for the jobs of the future.

The State Report Card, released in mid-September, showed progress continues to be made across the district. Highlights include: our graduation rate has climbed from 63.1 percent in 2010 to a projected 79.17 percent for 2018; students attending a TPS thematic/magnet school had a 98 percent graduation rate; the number of students earning Honors diplomas, as well as taking the ACT/SAT and Advanced Placement courses, increased for the second straight year. For more details about the State Report Card, click on this link.

The Ohio Board of Education named Mona Al-Hayani, a beloved history teacher at Toledo Early College, as the 2019 Teacher of the Year. In addition to her teaching duties, Ms. Al-Hayani is the vice president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers and advises the National Honor Society and Young Women for Change, a student-led group at her school. A two-time U.S. Department of Education Fulbright-Hays awardee, Ms. Al-Hayani has traveled the world as a teacher leader and researcher. She will represent Ohio in the 2019 National Teacher of the Year selection sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Career Technology programs continued to be popular among students. Currently, TPS offers more than 30 programs that allow students to plan a career path directly after high school. More and more students are taking advantage of internships with local businesses that in many cases lead to jobs upon graduation. Such internships are only one example of how Toledo Public Schools continues to build strong relationships with community partners who want to see our students succeed.

In November, both levy renewals — Issues 5 and 6 — won by the largest voter approval ratings in the district’s history. Both won by a 3-to-1 margin and the monies generated from the levies are earmarked for operations across the district. Many thanks to those who volunteered their time in support of our levy efforts or made a financial contribution to the campaign. The overwhelming response from voters is a true testament that our community believes in public education and the course we are taking to ensure our students become college and career ready graduates.

The list goes on-and-on but my focus now is where do we go from here? I’ve turned my attention toward the future and find myself wondering what our school district will look like a year from now…five years from now. The immediate plans include introducing new academic programs for our students and implementing best practices when it comes to our operations. We will also continue researching the option of a new medical-focused high school and expanding our community partnerships to assist in making these dreams a reality.

In closing, I want to thank you all – our students, families, staff members and supporters – for being TPS Proud. As 2018 comes to a close, we have much to celebrate but even more to look forward to.