I don't think there has ever, in my 19 years of visiting central Ohio schools for journalistic purposes, been a visit when I failed to come away inspired and motivated by what I observed in those classrooms.

Dear Columbus Parents,

I don't think there has ever, in my 19 years of visiting central Ohio schools for journalistic purposes, been a visit when I failed to come away inspired and motivated by what I observed in those classrooms.

Oh, there have been plenty of times when I've come away frustrated and concerned after attending school-board meetings or visiting with administrators in offices, but after visiting the classrooms themselves? I always leave feeling inspired by the passion that teachers have for their students and their profession and by the eager minds and hearts of those students (even those cranky middle schoolers: I'm an experienced enough parent to know that, behind that façade of "I don't care" is a kid who is still sucking up information about his or her world in copious quantities).

So when Columbus Parent began making its plans to move production back into the same division that publishes the ThisWeek Community News editions that serve central Ohio, I asked ThisWeek's managing editor Joe Meyer if I could tap his staff's expertise in sharing some of their inspiring stories from area schools. It became the centerpiece of this year's annual Schools-focused issue.

We did decide this year to do away with the directory of central Ohio schools and districts in the issue, and I'll be honest why: The community (aka "charter") school situation. Now that does trouble me because no sooner would we confirm a community school was in existence than a news report would crop up requiring us to remove it from the directory.

But the volatility of the community-school situation in central Ohio underscores just how desperate so many families are to find the best possible education they can for their children. Take heart from the stories we've dug up, though: There are very good people out there teaching and volunteering in all our schools.

We also took a look, in this issue, at two topics that I think of as being kind of "old school": handwriting and animals in classrooms. Have a read and don't hesitate to let us know what you think on our Facebook page or by sending me an email!