Visiting German principal enjoys ‘atmosphere’ at Sugar Creek

Photo by Scott Girard. Visiting German principal Werner Reith, center, who runs an adult night school in the Hessen province in Germany, looks on with Sugar Creek Elementary School principal Todd Brunner, right, as fourth-grade teacher Haley Brisky gives student Abigail Wanta feedback on her work.

He’s used to teaching adults who are at school completely of their own choice.

That’s not quite the average student at Sugar Creek Elementary School, but principal Werner Reith enjoyed the different feel from the adult night school he runs in Germany.

“I enjoy the very lively atmosphere, the joy the kids come to school with and the way they meet their teachers and meet Todd (Brunner) as a principal,” Reith said Monday in the Sugar Creek library after meeting a fifth- and fourth-grade class. “It’s a good atmosphere. I like it.”

Reith was visiting the school, and would visit Core Knowledge later in the day, as part of an exchange program between Wisconsin and the German region of Hessen.


What’s next: High school or elementary?

There’s likely to be more than one new school in the Verona Area School District in the next decade or so, but the question is whether the district starts with a high school or an elementary.

Those were the two options offered by the school board Monday night at a retreat to provide guidance for the Future Schools Committee, which was established earlier this year as the district began to look into expansion and land purchases. 

Whichever the committee ends up deciding on, board member Joanne Gauthier pointed out Monday the district faces both a “short-term problem and a long-term problem” with school expansion.

“And problems in between,” superintendent Dean Gorrell added with a laugh.


New space for a new program

Photos by Scott Girard. Principles of Engineering students Alex Pletta, Sigal Felber, Brett Andreas work on their dog-food dispenser project. The class, the second in the Project Lead the Way engineering strand, allows students to be hands-on and self-driven.

Getting college credit while in high school can be a big boost for students -- not to mention their parents’ checking accounts – and some students at Verona Area High School now have the appropriate setting to go along with the credit.

“They say it looks like a college when they come in,” said Rick Boehm, who teaches the engineering strand of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) classes at VAHS.

The setting Boehm referred to includes a pair of new classrooms that were renovated over the summer for around $400,000 to be used by the growing number of PLTW classes. 

PLTW is a national program with different strands that focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and a curriculum the school pays a fee for that allows students to largely go at their own pace. 


Two Verona principals to host German visitor

A pair of Verona Area School District principals will host a counterpart from Germany for a few days at each of their homes later this month.

Sugar Creek Elementary School principal Todd Brunner and Core Knowledge Charter School principal Brett Stousland will each host the visiting principal for three days at their home as part of the Hessen-Wisconsin Principal Visiting Program.

Werner Reith, who is the principal at Abendgymnasium Darmstadt in Germany, will stay with Brunner and his family Oct. 25-27 and Stousland’s Oct. 28-30.

Reith will then stay in Madison with other German principals to meet with state education officials. While in Verona, Reith will observe the practices in the schools and present  information on German and European educational practices.

The program will bring a total of 10 German principals to Wisconsin for the week.


Proposed budget: slight tax cut, debt paydown

School district taxes likely will drop a bit this year, but not as much as originally projected.

With a large jump in the district’s tax base this year resulting mainly from construction at Epic, Verona Area School District officials are trying to take advantage of the corresponding extra revenue by paying off debt early.

In a draft budget memo shown to the board Monday night to prepare them for a vote next week, the debt service fund levy for the 2014-15 budget was listed at $7.38 million, well above the annual meeting’s projection of $2.75 million. 

The memo also listed the projected mill rate for 2014 at $12.04 per $1,000 of assessed property value, just over the $12.01 rate projected the annual meeting. Both are lower than the $12.27 rate in 2013.


Damaged flags return to Country View photos

Five flags were recovered at Country View Elementary School June 17 following the EF3 tornado that destroyed four classrooms at the school. The fifth flag had been flying over the school. Superintendent Dean Gorrell made a point to gather the flags that morning, knowing he wanted to do something with them eventually. He presented them to the school’s teachers Tuesday afternoon. The flags will hang in rooms 206, 210, 211, 212, where they were recovered, while the fifth will hang in a common area.


"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.