VAHS club aims to provide aid at local, global level

Photo submitted. The Verona Aid group has been mostly run by students, adviser Jason Knoll (pictured center) said.

Recent political rhetoric on Syrian refugees has not discouraged Verona Area High School teacher Jason Knoll or the students who created the Verona Aid group to help them. 

The group formed earlier this fall to focus on helping those very refugees, after Knoll could no longer handle seeing photos of children being carried through horrific conditions as their parents looked for safety.

“I couldn’t just sit back and keep watching the news and seeing these images,” Knoll said. “It broke my heart. I’m a father of three kids.”


VASD Board opposes referendum rules change proposal

The Verona Area school board recently sent a letter to state legislators opposing proposed changes to school district referendum rules. 

The changes, which are proposed in Assembly Bill 481 and Senate Bill 355, would prohibit school districts from going to referendum within two years of a failed ballot measure, and would limit the dates on which districts could hold referendums.

All seven VASB members signed the letter outlining the board’s opposition to the measures, saying it “undermines the fiscal authority of local elected officials,” among other reasons for opposition.

The board outlines specific effects the policy could have in Verona, acknowledging that if an expected April 2017 referendum for buildings or renovations were to fail, it “could create severe overcrowding issues for us.” 


VASD: Board seeks "least bad" fix for Glacier Edge Elementary space crunch

Verona Area school board members aren’t sure they will find a good solution to the space crunch at Glacier Edge Elementary School. 

Instead, they’re looking for the “least bad idea” of “all the bad ideas,” as board president Dennis Beres put it Monday. The board has a somewhat narrowed list of potential options but left open the possibility of – and hoped for – adding to the list.

While some board members expressed “adamant” opposition to particular suggestions, like moving fifth grade, there was no consensus Monday about removing any ideas from the list.

But other plans, such as moving the Two Way Immersion program (which has three classes at GE), temporarily redrawing school boundaries or adding costly portable classrooms, weren’t much better received. 


Continuing Chinese a challenge

File photo by Scott Girard. The first class of fifth-graders from Verona Area International School graduated in the spring.

Most Verona Area International School students are well on their way to becoming proficient in Chinese by the time they graduate from the school’s fifth grade.

But continuing their language education is currently not an option in the Verona Area School District, at least not to an “ideal” level, said former VAIS parent Teresa Mueller.

Mueller was talking about the set-up that has the three sixth-graders who are former VAIS students remaining in the district using their “Read 2 Succeed” time at Savanna Oaks Middle School to read in Chinese. Because of schedules at the elementary and middle school levels, that leaves the last third of their time unsupervised, she said.

Next year, though, the seven students scheduled to graduate will split in attendance areas between SOMS and Badger Ridge Middle School, which have different schedules themselves.


Career Cafe sparks interests for eighth-graders

Photo by Scott Girard. More than 15 eighth-graders attended a recent Career Cafe session given by state Department of Corrections deputy secretary Deirdre Morgan.

Eighth-graders Megan Diller and Oscar Valadez had no idea what a career in biotechnology included.

Until Dr. Thomas Tubon visited for a “Career Cafe” at Badger Ridge Middle School earlier this semester, that is. Tubon, who works at Madison College, was the first of four speakers this semester at the middle school to focus on a range of careers.

“They kind of provide a window to what the job actually is,” Valadez said. “It made me more excited.”

The program is new this fall to BRMS, and will likely spread to Savanna Oaks Middle School in February or March, said SOMS counselor Sarah Holzum.

BRMS and Core Knowledge Charter School counselor Amie Pittman, who has run the program there, said the program is aimed at “making that pathway” to a future job for students.


Verona school board sets guiding principles for GE space crunch fix

The Verona Area School District will need to make a tough decision soon to alleviate a space crunch at Glacier Edge Elementary School.

One option would be moving the 3-year-old Two-Way Immersion program, and another is moving Glacier Edge fifth-graders out of the building entirely. The district hasn’t yet ruled out any solutions.

But it did not attempt to come to any decisions Monday night during its working session, nor did it discuss any specifics beyond a mention here or there. Instead it worked toward understanding how the district should prioritize the long list of effects that any change could have.


District closes on West End purchase in Oct.

The long process of the Verona Area School District acquiring land in the West End development came to a quiet end last month.

The district officially closed on 45 acres on Oct. 15, according to city administrator Bill Burns, and it did not require using eminent domain.

This final piece of property was, somewhat ironically, the first of three properties the district placed a purchase option on for future schools.

But the deal fell through when Vanta, the property owner, was unable to secure all necessary agreements.

At the last minute, the school board voted to add the use of eminent domain to the referendum question for the April ballot. Voters approved the referendum – including the purchases of two other properties – by a significant margin.


Transgender committee pores over policy language

The draft policy created by a transgender ad hoc committee would allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their gender identity.

Single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms would be designated for students who “have a need or desire for increased privacy, regardless of underlying reason.”

The committee met for the third time Thursday, Oct. 22, where it parsed language like “mays” and “shalls” to finalize the bathroom rule and other parts of a draft to send to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards before it comes back to the Verona Area school board to be voted on as a policy. A WASB official will review the language to tell the district if anything could be a problem legally or to propose adding language that has worked in other districts.


Busing change hits day cares’ bottom lines

In the final week of August, Regina Kane found out her day care business would be paying five times what it had in past years to bus students to the center after school.

“We’re a small business; that impacts us hard,” Kane said of the nearly $8,000 increase in cost. “We’re pretty backed into a corner.”

Kane, the administrator at the Caring Center on West Verona Avenue, is not alone.

Tanya’s Big House 4 Kidz, another Verona day care center, had nearly $10,000 added to its expenses this year after Badger Bus, which began providing bus service for the Verona Area School District in July, changed how the contract system had worked with the former bus provider. 

But what really frustrated Tanya’s owner Mike Schraufnagel was the timing of the announcement.


Verona's Late-start Mondays, breaks up for review

Spring Break isn’t going away, and neither are late-start Mondays. At least not yet.

But they are among the many possible eventual changes a Verona Area School District ad hoc committee discussed in recent weeks. The committee met Oct. 14 and 21 to consider adjusting the annual school calendar in hopes of creating larger chunks of time for teacher professional development. Recent state law changes regarding required time in school have prompted the committee to think big.

“I’d like to see the district break from the norms,” VASD parent Mylinda Heil said at the first meeting.

Larger changes like that aren’t likely for 2016-17 though, as many committee members have said there was not enough time before the January deadline to get enough information to make those big-picture alterations.


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