Work continues on behavior, personalized learning

At the same meeting it was discussing space needs, the board heard an update from VASD president Dennis Beres on the progress of work to respond to parent complaints.

Those complaints on a pair of major district initiatives have kept board members busy, especially those on the newly established curriculum, instruction and assessment committee.

Board meetings in late May and throughout June included parents speaking out on the problems they see in the district’s new behavior programs and the way personalized learning is being implemented.

So far, the board has created a task force on behavior, though it hasn’t met yet. It has also slowed its personalized learning timeline by two years.


BRMS to host active shooter drill Tuesday

Photo by Scott Girard. A pair of paramedics help a “victim” shot in the leg out of the school to safety at a training held last year at Savanna Oaks Middle School.

The Verona Area School District and local emergency responders will hold a full-scale training drill Tuesday at Badger Ridge Middle School.

The active shooter training July 28 will include the Fitchburg and Verona police departments, Dane County Sheriff’s deputies, EMS personnel and the 911 call center. The training is expected to last from 3 to 7 p.m.

Earlier this month, the district hosted a smaller-scale training at the K-Wing of the high school for local police departments to practice setting up a “warm zone.” Law enforcement use that term for an area that is secure, but is located in an area still under threat, such as a portion of a building.

Tuesday’s event will be on a larger scale and include “real” participants, with staff and others acting in different roles in the situation. The district held a similar event at Savanna Oaks Middle School last year.



Officials to give keynote address at tech conference

The Verona Area School District is again being recognized for its approach to personalized learning.

This time, three of its major supporters in the district will give the keynote address at the “Learning Through Technology” conference Aug. 20 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

VASD director of technology Betty Wottreng and personalized learning coaches Rita Mortenson and Laura Lindquist will explain the district’s progress to teachers from around the state and show what personalized learning can look like at different levels. The address, titled “The Path to Personalizing Learning: One District’s Story,” will cover the district’s work since the school board made personalized learning a priority in 2013.

“We are proud of the work our district is doing, and it is an honor to be invited to share with other districts,” Wottreng wrote in an email to the Press.


Board OKs land purchase – again

A recent private transaction might have cleared the way for the Verona Area School District to avoid an unpleasant condemnation process.

The school board voted Monday night to continue its expansion plans after T. Wall Enterprises sold its property on the West End to Steve Brown Apartments in recent weeks. 

It’s the same 45 acres of land and $3.75 million price the board agreed to in September 2014. That deal eventually led to the school district’s request on the April ballot to be able to use eminent domain when Vanta had to back out of the purchase agreement at the last minute after not meeting all of its contingencies.

Superintendent Dean Gorrell told the Press after the board meeting Monday night he was more optimistic about success this time around because of the T. Wall Enterprises sale.


Kisting named CKCS director

Core Knowledge Charter School has a new director.

Rick Kisting will take over the position on a permanent basis, Verona Area School District superintendent Dean Gorrell announced Wednesday in an email to district staff. Kisting told the Press he has “great respect for the district and the Core Knowledge program.”

“The structure (of the school) is a solid program in terms of curriculum, in terms of instruction,” he said. “I think it has a strong parent leadership component that really allows for some shared decision making within the school.”


Verona's Glacier Edge nearly 60 students over capacity

While the Verona Area School Board has shifted its focus over the past few weeks to behavior policies and personalized learning, it wasn’t all that long ago its top priority was getting a handle on growth. 

And no school has been more hard-pressed by increased enrollment than Glacier Edge Elementary School, which is projected to be 60 students over capacity for the upcoming school year.

Administrators already have repurposed rooms in the 9-year-old building and are encouraging collaboration among teachers to make the most of the school’s space.


VAHS student named National Merit Scholar

Stephanie Van Fossen of Madison is one of nine Madison area high school seniors named winners of National Merit Scholarships, the fourth and final listing of graduates awarded the scholarship heading into the 2015-16 school year.

The 1,700 college-sponsored award recipients announced Monday bring to 7,400 the number of high school graduates winning National Merit Scholarships nationally this year. The college-sponsored scholarships range from $500 to $2,000 annually for up to four years, at the college financing the scholarship.

Van Fossen will attend Macalester College in Minnesota this fall to study mathematics.


Verona superintendent celebrates 10 years

Photos by Scott Girard. Superintendent Dean Gorrell recalls stories from his decade in the Verona Area School District.

In 2005, new Verona Area School District superintendent Dean Gorrell told the Verona Press he would “like to stay here in Verona for a long time.” 

Ten years later, he’s still here and has experienced plenty in the last decade. 

Gorrell did not think of himself as someone who stayed in a place long when he first arrived, but he wanted to change that. So much so that when he negotiated his contract with the school board, he made sure it would cost him if he chose to leave early. 

A clause in the agreement gave him a bonus for staying beyond four years, but also would have forced him to pay $40,000 had he left. 

“I really wanted to build that in as an incentive to me,” Gorrell recalled. “It worked.” 


Personalized goal postponed

The Verona Area School District likely won’t meet its goal to have personalized learning plans in place for every student by 2016-17. 

The school board formally acknowledged that Monday night and extended the timeline for personalized learning implementation that was approved in April 2013. 

The board’s new Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment committee has taken up discussing the personalized learning implementation, and it suggested the delay to the board.

“The idea here is not to stop or hit the pause button or the snooze button or anything of the sort, it’s just simply to let this breathe more naturally,” said board president Dennis Beres. “Take complete advantage of the professional development plan." 


Talents and Passions program under review

An expert in talented and gifted school programs is reviewing the Verona Area School District’s policies this summer.

VASD director of curriculum and instruction Ann Franke told the board Monday that University of Wisconsin-Whitewater professor Pam Clinkenbeard is doing a “gap analysis” to find the differences in what the district is doing and what should be happening. 

Franke said Clinkenbeard is interested in seeing how the district is trying to use personalized learning as a way to give options to those students.

Clinkenbeard will have initial findings in August, Franke said, and then more information in October.


–Scott Girard


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