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.


Photo ID required

Photos by Scott Girard. VAHS Spanish teacher Carol White demonstrates where information from ID cards shows up on the welcome center’s computer screen at the school’s entrance.

“Photo ID Required,” reads a bright poster that greets visitors to Verona Area High School.

The poster, and the system that goes with it, are a change to the school’s visitor policy, and one that will spread to the rest of the Verona Area School District’s school as soon as this week.

The system, from Raptor Technologies, has been fully operational at VAHS so far this year and the computing system will be installed over the next couple of weeks at other schools, said VASD school safety coordinator Todd Endl.

Raptor’s main attraction is that it automatically scans sex offender registries from all states for names that match a potential school visitor’s after scanning an ID. In addition, Endl said the schools can program in information on restraining orders or custody issues pertaining to specific students “so we don’t have the mistake of the kid going with somebody they’re not supposed to.”


State: VASD ‘exceeds expectations’

The Verona Area School District once again received good reviews from the state Department of Public Instruction.

DPI released the 2013-14 District Report Cards Sept. 16, and VASD received a 73.4 out of a possible 100. That put the district just above the 73 minimum for the “Exceeds Expectations” category, the second-highest rating possible.

Last year, the district scored 74.4.

Statewide, 159 of the 424 school districts reached the “Exceeds Expectations” level, with only nine reaching the highest mark, “Significantly Exceeds Expectations.” Milwaukee Public Schools was the only district that “Fails to Meet Expectations,” according to a DPI news release.

The overall scores are based on student achievement, student growth, closing gaps and on-track and postsecondary readiness.

This year, VASD scored lower than last year in all four of the “priority areas,” though it was still above the state average in three of the four.


Eskrich named SOMS acting principal

A Savanna Oaks Middle School associate principal took over for the school’s principal in August due to the principal’s health concerns.

Sandy Eskrich, who has been at SOMS for four years, took over Aug. 18, according to a letter sent home to parents from principal Steve Penne and superintendent Dean Gorrell.

In the letter, Penne said he was taking a medical leave effective immediately, and that no return date had been established.

The school also appointed SOMS teacher Pete Christofferson as acting associate principal to fill Eskrich’s position.

Gorrell said he could not elaborate any further.

“That letter is about the extent of the detail that I can offer at this point,” he said in an email to the Press.


Enrollment well below projections

While the number of students in the Verona Area School District will likely grow once again in 2014-15, it might not be by much.

A preliminary count Sept. 4 showed only six students more than last year’s 5,433, listed on the state Department of Instruction (DPI) website. The district had projected total enrollment to grow to 5,500.

The number did not differentiate between open enrollees and resident students, however, a distinction that is key for budgetary purposes, as the number of resident students determines a district’s revenue cap.

Because of space concerns, the district had capped open enrollment at 55 students this spring, much lower than the nearly 100 students who are usually allowed to enter from other districts. Not all of those 55 spots are filled, either, though the district had initially received hundreds of applications.


Back to School photos

Students returned to school Tuesday around Verona. For some, it was more significant than the typical first day of school, as Country View Elementary students returned for the first time to the building and classrooms that were partially destroyed by a tornado June 17.


High school’s ACT scores reach new high

Verona Area High School’s class of 2014 graduates set a new high for average ACT scores for the school in 17 years of data.

According to figures released last week by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2014 graduates averaged a composite score of 24.5 out of a possible 36 points on the college entrance exam, up from the class of 2013 score of 23.6 and the highest since the 2011 score of 24.

Along with the score increase, district participation on the exam rose from 67 percent for the class of 2013 to 74.7 percent, the highest among the last seven years of data available on WISEdash, DPI’s information portal.

Among 19 non-alternative Dane County high schools, Verona had the fourth-highest average score, trailing Middleton-Cross Plains (25.4), Waunakee (25.3) and Oregon (24.7).


VASD: Five things to watch in 2014-15

1. Country View reopens

A 14-year-old school opening to students for another school year would not normally be a highlight.

But part of that school was decimated by a tornado less than three months earlier, leaving holes in walls and debris all around. So the prospect of children entering the building Sept. 2 has become a momentous occasion for the community.

The June 17 tornado, which also damaged nearby homes, left the district scrambling to replace the gym floor, rebuild three classrooms and sort through what items were salvageable. But VASD superintendent Dean Gorrell has been adamant from the first day that the school would be ready for students.

His optimism proved true, mostly because of general contractor Findorff’s dedication to the project, Gorrell has said, with only a short list of small finishing touches left before school begins.