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.


No crayons allowed: Sculptor teaches students how to make art from recyclables

For six school days, from Sept. 10 to Sept. 17, sculptor Victor Castro acted as a resident artist at Glacier Edge Elementary School.

However, this art class had nothing to do with crayons, colored pencils or construction paper. Instead, Castro relied solely on recyclables as his art supplies.

As a strong proponent of the three r’s (reducing, reusing and recycling), Castro uses items for his sculptures many people regard as that trash.  That includes old yogurt cups, juice bottles and practically any other disposable food containers.

He shared these creative re-purposing techniques with Glacier Edge students as they built sculptures to put on display in the school’s library and on the fence near the baseball field.

Completely fascinated by the way plastic bottles can be re-shaped into plastic rods, the children sat in awe as Castro transformed one type of material into something totally different.


Calendar changes would focus on parent-teacher time

Though it’s not yet clear how, the Verona school day – or year – could look a little different starting in 2015-16.

A Verona Area School District committee took steps toward determining that answer Monday night, including possibly starting the year earlier or adjusting daily start and end times.

The School Calendar Committee, consisting of district staff and parents, was formed this spring to provide teachers more time to work with students and parents on personalized learning plans (PLPs). The district set out a goal of every student having a personalized learning plan by 2016-17.

Those plans would spell out how each student learns, their strongest subjects and other information to help teachers best reach every student.


Enrollment numbers still low

A preliminary enrollment count on Sept. 22 showed an even lower number of students in the Verona Area School District than a Sept. 4 count that was already well below projections.

The most recent count, though, is for “butts in seats” and not resident students, which is the number the state uses to determine a district’s revenue cap. The state conducted those counts on Sept. 22 as well, but the numbers are not in yet, superintendent Dean Gorrell told the board at its Sept. 22 meeting.

The most recent district count showed 5,405 students in seats, while the district had projected 5,500. Gorrell said the district’s resident student estimate could still be accurate, though, depending on how the numbers break down with open enrollment.

That includes 82 students open enrolling out of VASD who will count toward the resident student number.

The final numbers from the state should be available sometime in October and will be discussed by the board.