Devices trump innovation grants for VASD

Over the past three years, the Verona Area School District has steadily increased the money it has put toward “Innovation Grants.” 

This year, the board’s call for proposals was absent in the fall, and superintendent Dean Gorrell confirmed the grants will not go out this year.

But it’s not because of the dip in open enrollment funds or any other cuts. 

Instead, the money that would have gone toward the grants – which totaled nearly $180,000 last school year, is being saved up as the district looks at options for acquiring technology devices for every student. 


Plan ahead on college financial aid

Verona Area High School will host a financial aid information night for parents of current seniors next week.

The VAHS student services staff is planning the event for Wednesday, Jan. 28, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the VAHS Performing Arts Center.

Dawn Moyer, a college access adviser with Great Lakes Higher Education, will guide parents through the steps to apply for financial aid, explain the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and answer any questions from parents on the timeline or process.


Referendum decision goes to deadline

The Verona Area School District school board planned to approve language for an April referendum Monday night.

Instead, board members will have to hold a special meeting next week to get that done ahead of the Jan. 27 deadline if they want voters to make a decision on three potential land purchases this spring.

The board met in closed session ahead of its normal meeting to discuss amendments to the purchase agreements reached in September. The district recently got rezoning approval from the Town of Verona for the 18-acre Herfel property near the southern side of the district, after the City of Verona approved a rezone of two properties on the west side of the city in December.


Pre-K info. meetings Jan. 27, 29

The Verona Area School District will hold a pair of informational meetings on pre-kindergarten registration next week.

The district was scheduled to hold the first of three meetings Wednesday, Jan. 21.

The two upcoming meetings will both be in Fitchburg. The first is Tuesday, Jan. 27, from 6-7 p.m. at Stone Crest Apartments. The second meeting will be Thursday, Jan. 29, from 6-7 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club.

The meetings will provide parents with a chance to get information about the Pre-K program and begin the registration process.

For information, email Marisa Kahler at


Kindergarten choice forms will be online Jan. 28

Parents enrolling their children in kindergarten in the Verona Area School District will have a new way to submit the information this year.

The district will move the process online for the first time to eliminate the 10-12 forms submitted for each student in past years. The shift will include forms for parents of current students in K-7 who may want to move into or out of a charter school.

While those paper forms will still be available at each school site for parents who don’t have Internet access, the hope is that it will save time for those working to get through all of the data.

“The turnaround to give (schools) the information is going to be much quicker,” said district community services administrative assistant Marcia Byrd, who has organized the forms in recent years.


AP information night Jan. 22

Verona Area High School will hold an information session for parents and students on Advanced Placement classes Thursday, Jan. 22.

The meeting, which will be in the K-Wing library from 6 to 7 p.m., will cover what AP classes are, what benefits they offer and the resources available.

AP classes offer a chance for students to receive college credit if they score well enough on a test at the end of the year.

The night will also give parents a chance to hear from current students and staff on their time in AP classes.

Childcare will be provided.

For more information, visit


Embracing a Change

Whether it’s advertisements online, or “having it our way” at a fast-food burger joint, personalization is everywhere.

Officials in the Verona Area School District are planning for local schools to soon offer the same.

“We expect things to be personalized for us,” said VASD superintendent Dean Gorrell. “Google figured that out awhile ago; Amazon figured that out awhile ago.”

The transition to “personalized learning,” which the school board officially supported in April 2013 with a set of belief statements, is one being made around the United States and in Europe. 

Personalized learning could be defined as discovering each student’s interests, passions and learning style and allowing them to have a say in what they do in the classroom and how they demonstrate their knowledge. 


The magic number to close schools: -35

As school districts around Dane County closed last Wednesday due to cold weather, a few prominent ones stayed off the lists, with Verona among them.

That’s because last week’s cold weather never led to a formal “wind chill warning” from the National Weather Service, Verona Area School District superintendent Dean Gorrell told the Press last Thursday. 

“If they’d issued a warning Tuesday evening for Wednesday morning, we’d have called it,” Gorrell said. “And we would have called it Tuesday night.” 

The NWS issues a warning if the wind chill is predicted to reach -35 degrees or lower. According to a chart from the NWS, it would take between 10 and 30 minutes to get frostbite at that wind chill, depending on the temperature and wind speeds. 


BRMS eighth-graders look to start discussions on school, diversity issues

Photos by Scott Girard. Badger Ridge Middle School eighth-grader and Students For Justice member Ashley Vasquez looks on as a member of the Multicultural Leadership Council from Verona Area High School leads an activity Dec. 18. Vasquez and S4J hope to do similar activities with other groups of students at BRMS.

In fall 2013, anti-bullying speaker Calvin Terrell visited with middle school students in the Verona Area School District. More than a year later, his visit is still making an impact with Badger Ridge Middle School students – inspired by his attempts to bring conversations about tough topics to the forefront.

“Throughout the day, Calvin Terrell showed us things we never really thought about,” eighth-grader Delaney Dykman told the Verona Press last month. “We were in a room full of kids who we didn’t really talk to, and we just talked about issues that are going on today and just like issues that we have throughout the school and we really got to know each other.”

Earlier this fall, the school board recognized Dykman, along with fellow eighth-graders Ashley Vasquez and Armenia Jones, for their accomplishments in starting the group “Students For Justice,” or S4J.


Board plans to shorten long weekends in 2015-16

There are no major changes to the school calendar planned for 2015-16, but a pair of traditional four- and five-day weekends will likely be shortened next year.

The Verona Area school board plans to finalize the calendar at the Jan. 19 meeting, but looked at a pair of options at Monday’s meeting.

The options would change the traditional five-day weekend at the end of October into a three- or four-day weekend, and both would change the usual four-day weekend to end February into a three-day weekend.

In the first option includes a three-day weekend in October and two flex days added for teachers at the beginning of the year. Teachers would be able to use these days to schedule time with parents beginning in July up to mid-October to provide more possibilities for parent-teacher conferencing. They would then report back on how they used those days and how effective it was to consider in future calendars, superintendent Dean Gorrell said.