Big drop in state aid for VASD

The Verona Area School District will lose the second-most general state aid of any district in Wisconsin for the 2015-16 school year.

Estimates released from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction July 1 show a drop of $3.1 million in state aid (12 percent), with only Wauwatosa receiving a larger drop from 2014-15, at $3.3 million.

The estimates from DPI do not include the $150 per pupil categorical aid and will be based on attendance over the last three years.

VASD superintendent Dean Gorrell told the Press the drop was expected, so it will not affect the district’s preliminary budget that the school board approved last month. 

The main reason is that Epic’s Deep Space auditorium building had a major effect on the valuation of the City of Verona. The building reached its full value last year, at well over $200 million.


All in one place: Murphy retires after 33 years, entire career in district

Photo by Scott Girard. Retiring business manager Chris Murphy sits in his office last week in the Verona Area School District administration building, which did not exist when he began in the position 25 years ago.

Chris Murphy began teaching phy ed at Verona Elementary School as a new college graduate back in 1982.

On June 30, he’ll have his “bittersweet” final day of managing multi-million dollar budgets in the same district he began in.

“I feel so fortunate to have spent my whole career in one place,” Murphy said last week, sitting in an administrative building that didn’t exist when he began as the district’s business manager in 1990. “The only real job I ever had is working for the district.”

When Murphy applied for the district’s business manager job after eight years as a teacher here, he didn’t have any experience in the field. 

“I interviewed just for the experience,” he recalled. 


VAIS sock hop 2015

Verona Area International School held its first annual Sock Hop for about 150 students, parents and friends at Savanna Oaks Middle School on May 29. 


Kids and Critters 2015

Students from a 4K class at St. James Preschool joined Glacier Edge Elementary School students at Whalen Pond Thursday, May 28, to explore the different types of animals the pond houses. 


Teaching the teachers: ‘5 Ws’ course sets the foundation for personalization

Photos by Scott Girard. Savanna Oaks Middle School phy ed teacher Brad Crandell illustrates his group’s understanding of how personalization differs from other teaching styles.

Online courses have made access to education and development easier for people at every level of education.

But sometimes, it’s just not enough, as Verona Area School District administrators decided after taking the district’s first personalized learning course in summer 2013.

“That was a great starting point, but we really felt it was time to customize it for our staff,” VASD technology coordinator Betty Wottreng said. “It was a bit more challenging (for staff to collaborate online). They really like more face-to-face time, the ability for more discussion.”


NCS end-of-year field days 2015

New Century School held its field day at the Goodman Center campus for a day of outdoor activities and swimming.

Principal’s leave followed legal incident

Former Savanna Oaks Middle School principal Steve Penne has been paid as if he worked at the school through the end of the year.

However, he hasn’t been the principal since the beginning of the school year, when he was placed on medical leave shortly after a disorderly conduct charge. He resigned effective Jan. 22.

An incident report from the Verona Police Department acquired through an open records request with VASD revealed that Penne made repeated unwanted contact, both in person and through letters and phone calls, with a former coworker with whom he also had a prior relationship. The woman in the case had asked Penne to cease contact with her, and police were involved in two separate incidents just prior to the school year. 


State to freeze special education funding

State aid to students with disabilities in public schools remains frozen in the 2015-17 biennial budget proposed by Gov. Walker and the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), according to a press release last week from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

If the plan is not changed, by the end of the biennial budget, it will be eight straight years that special education aid support has been held flat. At the same time, according to DPI, costs associated with educating students with disabilities have increased, resulting in a decrease in the average reimbursement rate the state provides to school districts. 

In the 1999-2000 school year, reimbursement rates were 34.3 percent. For the 2014-15 school year, the rate is 26.8 percent of costs. 


Lunch prices up 10 cents in 2015-16

The Verona Area School District again raised lunch prices 10 cents for next school year.

It’s a pattern that’s likely to continue for years to come, VASD director of child nutrition services Cindra Magli explained at last week’s school board meeting. 

“You're going to see me here every year,” Magli told the board.

A federal program that helps cover the cost of lunches for free and reduced lunch students requires a district to raise its prices every year if it is below the program’s standard cost for a lunch. That number is $2.70 for the coming school year. 

The new prices will be $2.25 for elementary schools, $2.30 for middle schools and $2.40 for the high school. Those are all still well below the average for school districts around the area, Magli pointed out.


Country View Elementary: a slimy reward

Country View Elementary School students got to see their teachers covered in goo Wednesday, June 10, during a “Slip and Slime” event as a reward for meeting their fundraising goal in the school’s walk-a-thon this spring.


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