No VASD referendum in November

Despite officials' hopes earlier in the year and a preliminary land purchase agreement, Verona Area School District voters will not vote on a land purchase referendum in November.

VASD superintendent Dean Gorrell told the Verona Press Friday morning there was simply too much left in the process to ask the school board to pass a resolution in August to get a referendum on the ballot, which would be required by law.

That includes a second land purchase in addition to the agreement reached earlier in the year to purchase 40 acres in the West End property owned by Vanta Properties, formerly T. Wall. That purchase included many contingencies, and Gorrell said more time is needed to ensure the “land is purchasable.”

The second piece of land is unknown, but has been discussed in closed session multiple times at school board meetings.

Read a full story in next week’s Verona Press.


Board OKs 10-cent lunch price increase

Verona Area School District students will pay 10 cents more for lunch this year than in 2013-14.

Even with the price raise, VASD still is well below average compared to area districts like Madison, Mt. Horeb and Oregon, according to data provided by the district. Lunches will cost $2.15 at elementary schools, $2.20 at middle schools and $2.30 at the high school. Breakfast prices will not change.

This marks the second-consecutive year prices will rise by 10 cents. Food services director Cindra Magli told the school board last week the 2013-14 prices were lower than the USDA would like them for the upcoming year, prompting the increase. 


District projects to see increase in state aid

The state Department of Public Instruction released preliminary general state aid projections July 1, and it brought more good budget news for the Verona Area School District.

When VASD planned in its own budget, it projected $25.4 million in general state aid, up from last year’s $23.9 million.

The state projections released July 1 are even friendlier, with a preliminary $25.7 million in general aid.

That would amount to a nearly $6 million increase from the 2011-12 school year, illustrating the district’s rapid growth and the financial boon provided by including 4-year-old kindergarten students in the student population.

VASD is among 53 percent of districts statewide that are expected to receive more aid than in 2013-14, while the other 47 percent can expect a decrease.

Official state aid numbers will be finalized Oct. 15 after final population counts in September.


‘Never the same’: Schmitt leaves district after 26 years, many hats

Photo by Scott Girard. John Schmitt has served the district in a variety of roles, most recently overseeing the two-way immersion program at Sugar Creek and Glacier Edge elementary schools.

When John Schmitt arrived in the Verona Area School District in 1988, he made a point to get to know every teacher.

“I would go into every building and literally meet with every teacher K-12,” said Schmitt, who began in the district as the “advanced studies administrator” coordinating the Gifted and Talented program.

Now, as Schmitt retires from his role as the director of community services, the district has more than doubled in size and his role has changed more than once. Most recently, he has focused on establishing bilingual programming, community education and the Kindergarten choice program.

“In some ways, that’s what I love about the job is that it was never the same,” he said. “It might be the same for six months or a year, but there was always something that was new or something on the edge that I had the privilege to try.”


Hoffman receives state agricultural educator award

Photo by Scott Girard. Verona Area High School teacher Kevin Hoffman works with students in his classroom at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

A recently retired Verona Area High School teacher received an agricultural educators award in June.

Kevin Hoffman, who grew up in Verona himself and taught Agricultural Education for 24 years at VAHS, received the Honored Educator Award from the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Education at a conference June 18.

The award recognizes members of the association who “provide key leadership and input at the local and state level,” according to a news release from the organization.

Teachers much have at least 20 years experience to be considered for the award.

“Adviser, mentor, colleague, teacher and friend are a few of the titles that Kevin holds,” the release states. “He has given time, talent and himself without hesitation.”

The release touches on his time as a board member for the organization and other roles as an educator as factors in the award.


NCS gets state STEM grant

Thanks to a $19,093 state grant, New Century School’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will take another step forward for the 2014-15 school year.

According to a press release last week from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the district was one of 15 chosen to receive the one-time funding, which will help enhance STEM offerings for students in grades K-5, said state superintendent Tony Evers.

“STEM education is vital to our students and the future,” he said. “These courses take an innovative approach to engage, motivate and inspire students to spark their interest in careers in science technology, engineering and mathematics. These fields hold so much potential as the source of innovation and entrepreneurship that drive economic development and the knowledge-based economy.”

Three phases


Exploration Academy adjusts schedule

Exploration Academy students and advisers will have 18 days of even more flexibility next year.

On late start Mondays, EA students, which will number 80 for the 2014-15 school year, will not have to attend school.

Instead, they will develop a “Late Start Monday Learning Plan,” which will include community-based work experiences, time outside of the normal school day or regular project work.

“We’ve long said that students don’t necessarily need to be within the four walls of the classroom or the school to engage in learning,” outgoing EA director Mike Murphy said. “What we’d really like to do is promote … that students could get out into the community or just work more flexibly rather than feel like they just need to be in the classroom.”

The new plan fits with the mission of increased personalized learning for students at the charter high school, which opened for its first year in fall 2013.


VAHS yearbook wins national publishing award

Photo submitted. The Verona Area High School yearbook club won another award this year for excellence. Members include (front) Olivia Lilly; (second row, from left) Kelli Krueger, Madelyn Vogel, Cailynn Hensen, Bailey Bruisker, Kate Nagel and Jacob Kellen; (third row, from left) Bethany Burton, Amanda Holman, Sarah Guy, Nicole Noltemeyer, Megan Lee, Amanda Guzman, Claire Goldbin and adviser Rita Mortenson; (fourth row, from left) Maria Egle, Taylor Amato, Leah Sinner, Shannon Reilly, Samantha Kolpek, Julianna Cruz; (not pictured) Joselyn Connelly and Felicia Retrum.

Verona Area High School’s yearbook staff took home an award for its 2013-14 edition.

Jostens, which produces VAHS’ yearbook and many others around the country, named the VAHS program a “National Yearbook Program of Excellence.”

Adviser Rita Mortenson said in an email she was “so proud of the students and all of their hard work.”

“This yearbook class runs like a professional business with deadlines, advertising, graphic design and more,” Mortenson wrote. “The students have worked so hard all year on making sure we had a beautiful book that everyone would love to see and that we were proud to produce.”

The yearbook had to meet outlined criteria in three categories to receive the award, according to a press release from Jostens. The categories were creating an inclusive yearbook, generating school engagement and successfully managing the creation process.


Graduation photos

The Verona Area High School Class of 2014 celebrated the end of its run at VAHS Sunday afternoon in Epic’s Voyager Hall. Around 370 students walked across the stage at Epic’s Voyager Hall Sunday to receive a diploma and tossed their mortarboards outside on a beautiful afternoon following the ceremony.

The class song was “Best Day of my Life” by American Authors.


District changes retirement benefits

Verona Area School District officials revealed nearly a year-and-a-half of work to put an end to rising health care costs for retired employees, offering a change to the system through new “tiers.”

The plan was formed by representatives from the school board, superintendent Dean Gorrell, business manager Chris Murphy, director of human resources Jason Olson and representatives from the Verona Area Education Association and the Verona Educational Support Professionals Association. District officials had identified the problem of rising health care costs and wanted to work out a long-term solution that would work for the district and its retirees, Olson said.