Stoner Prairie Elementary School students had plenty of motivation to read all the books they could during “Read Across America Week.” As a reward, students were given duct tape in relation to how much they read, and they duct taped principal Mike Pisani to the cafeteria wall during lunchtime Monday, March 3. Once the stool under his feet was removed, Pisani tumbled off the wall.
The Verona Area School Board approved changes to the district’s recruitment and hiring policies Monday night over objections from two district support staffers.
The changes involve adding six options for district administrators to use while recruiting new staff, with questions specifically surrounding waiving posting requirements for open positions and retention and signing bonuses.
Mariann Kropp, president of the Verona Educational Support Professionals Association, which represents school secretaries, custodians, teachers’ aides, food-service workers and special-education assistants, told the board the posting requirement changes brought a “loss in transparency.”
“The possibility of hiring the best and brightest may be curtailed when limiting the search,” she said, according to her prepared statement. “Support staff already have a challenging time getting interviewed for positions they are qualified for, to which I can personally attest to.”
New Century and Glacier Edge elementary school students got a chance to try their hand at city planning this year.
Through the “Terrace Town” program, which was first created in 2000, students built their own cities using cardboard boxes and real-life lessons from city planners and architects.
At NCS, all students participated, with the K/1 and 4/5 classes focusing on communities and features that promote sustainability, while the 2/3 classes used scaling to learn math and got in-depth looks at different architecture tools, 2/3 teacher Larry Gundlach said.
At Glacier Edge, third-graders and bilingual second-graders had the chance to design their city and met with Verona city planners to learn about the regulations and processes for planning a city.
Teachers involved in the project first met in November and students began to work on the project soon after.
The state Legislature is considering a bill that would alter performance standards for schools statewide, and Verona Area School District administrators are questioning the legislation’s necessity.
Senate Bill 619 would eliminate the national Common Core standards, which despite becoming a source of controversy, have been adopted by 45 states. It would replace those standards with a 15-member appointed board.
VASD director of instruction Donna Behn said the district has put in “a ton of work” getting ready for Common Core since it was adopted in 2010.
“Just the work that I’ve done with staff is overwhelming, but then they go back into their buildings and work with others,” Behn said. “I cannot even imagine (implementing new standards).
“It boggles my mind that we’re going to set all that aside and just throw it away.”
Verona Area School District officials extended the deadline for applications to the district’s charter schools to March 12 after two schools received fewer applications than they had open spots.
New Century School and Verona Area International School had 11 and six open spots remaining, respectively, after the original Feb. 14 deadline.
The district changed the way it got information to parents of incoming kindergartners this year, opting to send home a DVD and information packet rather than hold a large meeting as it had in past years.
“We don’t know all the reasons (for the low numbers),” said John Schmitt, VASD director of community services. “Maybe parents just decided not to. We just don’t know, but (superintendent) Dean (Gorrell) was willing to give them a couple of more weeks to say ‘try it again.’”
The Verona Area High School student who was removed from the school last month had written a 13-page essay that ended with a school shooting, a police report shows.
Verona Area School District administrators sent a letter home to VAHS parents Jan. 28 alerting them to the threat, and informing parents that the student would not return to the school.
“Rest assured that we treat these matters seriously and that we will continue to keep you informed within the bounds of the law,” VAHS principal Pam Hammen wrote.
Administrators did not release any more information at the time, but according to the police report on the incident:
The 17-year-old male senior had written a 13-page paper for his final assignment in a creative writing class, which was first read by his teacher on Jan. 14 and immediately reported to VAHS administrators.
Glacier Edge Elementary School students all participated in music concerts Feb. 18 and 19, with kindergartners through second-graders performing Tuesday morning and afternoon and grades three through five Wednesday morning and afternoon. The students sang and played instruments for their parents and teachers in the audience as music teacher Melissa Bremmer told stories along with the music.
The three elementary charter schools received much less interest for the 2014-15 school year than last year for incoming kindergarten spots.
Last Friday was the deadline for parents to apply to send their kids to one of the district’s three elementary charter schools – New Century School, Core Knowledge Charter School and Verona Area International School – and the number of requests for kindergarten spots as of Tuesday was at 69, well below the 103 requests for last year.
New Century School received the lowest, with just 10 applications for 21 open spots for incoming kindergartners.
The school, which in 2010 had its charter changed to become a “green” charter school, focused on environmental lessons, had 21 applicants for 18 open kindergarten slots a year ago.
NCS director Jim Ruder said he expects the number to grow in the coming months as the school continues its marketing efforts to incoming VASD parents.