"Empathy Explorers" visit CKCS photos

The "Empathy Explorers" visited Core Knowledge Elementary School Thursday, Oct. 9, to offer students lessons on bullying and empathy. The program, from Elevation Education, uses a character named "Action Hero" and his role in a movie to explore the issues of bullying and how to handle certain situations. The program also has students respond anonymously to questions about bullying at their school to provide data to administrators on students' thoughts on bullying.


Gorrell: Enrollment drop won’t force changes

Despite a lower-than-planned number of students in the Verona Area School District that lowered the district’s revenue cap, officials aren’t concerned about a major effect on the budget.

Superintendent Dean Gorrell said Monday that because of the schedule for school district budgets, in which the fiscal year begins July 1 but budgets cannot be finalized until late October due to enrollment numbers, flexibility is always built in.

“It just puts every school district at risk,” Gorrell said of the budget process.

The district had anticipated an additional 121 resident students, but instead saw a loss of three on the “third Friday count,” which takes place every year on the third Friday in September and serves as the official count for state aid. That meant nearly $500,000 less in revenue cap authority from the state.

“That’s a fairly large differential right there, but it’s not one we can’t weather,” he said.


Attendance remains steady, and that’s not a good thing

The official third Friday enrollment count in the Verona Area School District confirmed some bad news for the district’s budget.

While unofficial counts had brought about the possibility of lower state aid thanks to much lower enrollment than district officials had planned for throughout the budget process, the unofficial counts had not distinguished the number of resident students in the district.

The official count, taken the third Friday in September each year, however, did, and it wasn’t what officials had hoped.

Resident students, or the number of school-age children living within VASD boundaries, is down by three from September 2013. Officials had projected a 121-student increase during the budget process earlier in the year.


Stoner Prairie Back to School Night photos

Stoner Prairie Elementary School held its back-to-school night Thursday, Sept. 18, along with a build night with LEDs. The evening gave parents an opportunity to see what their children would be learning during the upcoming school year. Schools all around the district hold back-to-school nights early in the year to offer parents a chance to meet their children’s teachers.


No crayons allowed: Sculptor teaches students how to make art from recyclables

For six school days, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 17, sculptor Victor Castro acted as a resident artist at Glacier Edge Elementary School.

However, this art class had nothing to do with crayons, colored pencils or construction paper. Instead, Castro relied solely on recyclables as his art supplies.

As a strong proponent of the three r’s (reducing, reusing and recycling), Castro uses items for his sculptures many people regard as that trash.  That includes old yogurt cups, juice bottles and practically any other disposable food containers.

He shared these creative re-purposing techniques with Glacier Edge students as they built sculptures to put on display in the school’s library and on the fence near the baseball field.

Completely fascinated by the way plastic bottles can be re-shaped into plastic rods, the children sat in awe as Castro transformed one type of material into something totally different.


Calendar changes would focus on parent-teacher time

Though it’s not yet clear how, the Verona school day – or year – could look a little different starting in 2015-16.

A Verona Area School District committee took steps toward determining that answer Monday night, including possibly starting the year earlier or adjusting daily start and end times.

The School Calendar Committee, consisting of district staff and parents, was formed this spring to provide teachers more time to work with students and parents on personalized learning plans (PLPs). The district set out a goal of every student having a personalized learning plan by 2016-17.

Those plans would spell out how each student learns, their strongest subjects and other information to help teachers best reach every student.


Enrollment numbers still low

A preliminary enrollment count on Sept. 22 showed an even lower number of students in the Verona Area School District than a Sept. 4 count that was already well below projections.

The most recent count, though, is for “butts in seats” and not resident students, which is the number the state uses to determine a district’s revenue cap. The state conducted those counts on Sept. 22 as well, but the numbers are not in yet, superintendent Dean Gorrell told the board at its Sept. 22 meeting.

The most recent district count showed 5,405 students in seats, while the district had projected 5,500. Gorrell said the district’s resident student estimate could still be accurate, though, depending on how the numbers break down with open enrollment.

That includes 82 students open enrolling out of VASD who will count toward the resident student number.

The final numbers from the state should be available sometime in October and will be discussed by the board.


Board approves VAEA agreement with base wage increase

Teachers who are members of the Verona Area Education Association will see a wage increase for the 2014-15 school year.

The Verona Area School Board approved the agreement Monday night after VAEA members voted unanimously to approve it last week.

The agreement includes a 1.46 percent base wage increase for teachers who are not eligible for a increase given their service years in the district. The board also agreed to fully fund those increases.

District human resources director Jason Olson and board president Dennis Beres both mentioned the possibility of a new compensation structure in the future.

“We’re thinking that this is probably the last year of our salary schedule in its current format,” Olson told the board.

Wellness program

The district is also adapting its focus on healthcare to better incentivize wellness among employees.


Board OKs 129 acres of land purchases

Renderings courtesy Verona Area School District. The Herfel property, which is about 18 acres, is near the Cathedral Point housing development.

The Verona Area School District has been growing quickly for years, and officials don’t expect that to stop anytime soon.

In late 2013, the Board of Education began discussing potential land purchases, and Monday night it turned that conversation into action with a pair of land purchases and an extension of the previously approved West End acquisition contingent on voter approval.

The purchase of the three parcels, which will likely be on the April ballot as referenda, would total just under 130 acres for just under $8.5 million, though exact acreage and price will be determined by upcoming surveys as part of the purchase agreements.

On top of an additional five acres in the previously approved West End purchase (45 total), the board also approved 66 acres in the adjacent Erbach property and at least 18 acres from the Herfel property in the Town of Verona.


VAHS students get ‘enchanted’ at homecoming

The 2014-15 VAHS homecoming court is, front, from left, Jessica Coyne, Sara Endres, Erica Higgins, Kori Keyes, Ariana Makuch, Hannah Miller, Jeannette Newberry, Megan Wipperfurth (back, from left) Cole Droster, Larry Brown, Avery Fossum, Christian Gleiter, Brady McCormick, Noah Roberts, Brodie Roehrig and Ethan Young.

Verona Area high School students can look forward to an “Enchanted Night” Saturday, Sept. 27, for the school’s homecoming dance.

The week prior, Sept. 22-26, will feature dress up days and themes to bring school spirit before the Friday afternoon parade.

Monday will be “Rep your country,” which asks students to dress to represent the country of their choice.

“Nerd Day” will follow on Tuesday, with “Why Did I Buy This?!” Wendesday and class colors day Thursday. Freshman will wear green, sophomores red, juniors blue and seniors are supposed to go Greek with togas.

Friday is school spirit day, asking students to wear orange and black, to help cheer on the football team at the Homecoming game that night.

Tickets for the dance are $8 and an ID is required for entry. The dance will be at the high school.