Cool Code

Students around the Verona Area School District spent time over the last two weeks learning an increasingly useful skill: coding. The effort was part of the national Hour of Code week, in which students around the country of all ages spent part of their school days learning the language of computers. The main task involved directing "Angry Birds" characters to move around a map, but some schools also used their own tools. For more information on the program, visit

Committee: ‘Don’t reinvent the wheel’

In 2010, the Sun Prairie Area School District opened a new high school for grades 10-12.

This year, the Middleton-Cross Plains School District added fifth-graders to its traditional grades 6-8 middle schools.

But whether either of those configurations or another alternative would work in the Verona Area School District remains to be seen. 

That’s one of the key questions for members of the district’s Future Schools Committee, which held its second meeting last week – and its first since May. So they’re hoping for help from those nearby districts that have recently undergone transitions VASD is considering.


Equalizing the ‘utility’

Photo by Scott Girard. Stoner Prairie Elementary School is one of the schools in the district closer to a 1:1 ratio between students and devices. Here, Jamie Puent, Brynn Stacey and Sotera Boado play with iPads during “SP Design Lab,” which takes place every Tuesday and Thursday.

The Verona Area School District has had dozens of conversations about inequality in recent years.

But this time, it’s not the usual test scores or access to high-level classes for low-income and minority students. Instead, it’s the access to mobile devices at school.

That unequal access can cause all sorts of problems. It can be difficult to learn to troubleshoot each of the different devices at each school. It can mean an inability to share ideas and tools among different brands of devices. And it can create opportunities for some students that others may not have. 


NCS charter gets OK

The Verona Area School District’s two oldest charter schools each took a step forward Monday night in setting up their next five years.

For New Century School, that was gaining approval from the school board to spend the years until another charter renewal is required in 2019 transitioning to a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.

Meanwhile, Core Knowledge Charter School brought its charter renewal proposal to the board with few changes to what it’s been doing in the 18 years since it opened.

Board members unanimously approved the NCS agreement, and did not signal much hesitation toward CKCS’ proposal, which will be voted on Dec. 15. The NCS charter will allow the school to focus on STEM classes in addition to the environmental curriculum it brought in five years ago.


$25K study will evaluate current VASD buildings

An architecture company will begin considering the viability of expanding current Verona Area School District buildings while also helping the district get ready for an April referendum on land purchases. 

The school board approved the hire of Eppstein Uhen Architects (EUA) after a closed session Nov. 17 to look at the feasibility of expanding or renovating Verona Area High School, Country View and Sugar Creek elementaries and New Century Charter School.

Sugar Creek and New Century, which share a 58-year-old building, are under the most immediate pressure, as heating systems and water pipes begin to show their age and Sugar Creek surpassed its enrollment capacity years ago.


VAHS receives jazz society grant

 The Verona Area High School jazz band will have an expanded music selection after receiving a grant from the Madison Jazz Society (MJS).

The $295 grant will be used to purchase pieces composed by Fred Sturm, who passed away in August. He founded the Lawrence University Jazz Weekend and was “a good friend to Verona Jazz,” VAHS jazz instructor Paul Heinecke wrote in the grant application.

Heinecke said a big band he is member of, “All That Jazz Big Band,” also added a $100 donation, and Hyde Music in Madison offered 20 percent off its music for the purchase, meaning the program gets to add $500 worth of music because of the grant. That will total 10 new pieces, up from the original seven Heinecke applied for.

The Madison Jazz Society awarded a total of $5,605 of grants to 27 Wisconsin schools in November.


District hires public information specialist

The Verona Area School District hopes a new position can help get its message out to parents and community members. 

The district hired Kelly Kloepping, a marketing and public relations specialist, to fill its new public information specialist position, which was created after a communications audit earlier this year found that the district wasn’t getting its message to the Verona community as effectively as it could. 

“Kloepping’s role will consist of providing proactive communications to improve student achievement, building public support and providing information to internal and external audiences about school activities, goals and policies,” said a district news release.

Kloepping comes to the position as the district looks ahead to potential referendums on the April ballot for land purchases and continues its push toward personalized learning at every school. 


VAHS improves AP test access, scores

The Verona Area School District is among 27 statewide districts with a school recognized for improving access to Advanced Placement (AP) tests while maintaining student scores. 

The College Board named 547 districts in the United States and Canada that had increased the percentage of students taking AP tests while keeping constant or increasing the students who scored a three or better on the exams to the AP District Honor Roll. A score of 3 or above is what many colleges require to receive credit, a major benefit of the AP program for high school students. 

The percentage of VASD students taking AP exams grew by nearly 6 percent from 2012 to 2014, the three years the College Board took into account in deciding which districts received the honor. 

The total number of exams taken in that period grew from 537 three years ago to 712 last year. 


New Century changes focus to STEM

Five years after remaking itself into a “green” charter school to ensure its survival, New Century School is once again aiming for a new niche.

That doesn’t mean it will completely turn away from environmental lessons or getting students out-of-school experiences, but its classroom concentration will move in the same direction as many others around the country – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. 

Site council and board of directors member Katie Smith presented the school’s charter renewal application, which includes the STEM curriculum goals, to the school board Monday night, and it got a mostly warm welcome. 

“I kind of had a feeling that (last time) was, ‘Oh, let’s just do this,’” said board president Dennis Beres. “It was a process that was difficult.


‘Flash fund’ picks Verona education projects

Twenty-five Verona Area School District teachers got some help funding projects earlier this month.

The projects, which had all been listed on, a website that matches donors with school projects around the United States in need of funding, include technology, personalized learning and two-way learning for special needs students. 

U.S. Cellular did what’s called a “flash fund” earlier in October, contributing almost $19,000 to Verona schools. The schools that received money were Stoner Prairie, Glacier Edge and Sugar Creek elementary schools, New Century Charter School and Badger Ridge Middle School.