Verona Area School District – Dane County, Wisconsin

May 30, 2024

Verona Area School District

A First-Class Education

 

Leading School Districts Where Excellence and Equity Take Center Stage

In an educational landscape that is constantly evolving to meet the demands of a changing world, Verona Area School District (VASD) is committed to providing a top-notch education for every one of its 5,800 learners.

Superintendent Dr. Tremayne Clardy

Boasting a mindset that encourages excellence grounded in equity and inclusion, Superintendent Dr. Tremayne Clardy emphasizes the importance of creating a learning environment where every student feels a sense of belonging and has access to opportunities for growth. “What that means is that we engage, and no matter what your demographic circumstances are, we create an opportunity for growth. We position our students to thrive in what we know to be the most diverse global society that has ever existed,” he portrays.

Prioritizing Literacy

Central to the district’s approach is a focus on literacy which is carried across the entire organization, empowering students to become active participants in their education and the world around them. Dr. Clardy, asserts, “We know that it is more than just the ability to read, it encompasses the ability to be free. There’s no way to navigate our society, as a citizen of the United States, if you don’t have the literacy skills to be able to have critical thinking abilities, to be able to navigate and understand information, and to be able to disseminate your own opinions into the world.”

Building a Strong Foundation

In the early childhood years, Verona Area School District partners with families, businesses, and caregivers who are part of the child’s early development, to support strong foundations for learning from the start. “It is a priority for us. It is something that we know doesn’t just happen naturally, we have to have intentional strategies that allow that work to happen,” says Dr. Clardy. “We have one of the most amazing early childhood coordinators that I’ve ever worked with, Jennifer Larson. It’s been a strong partnership. And we are getting stronger with each year that we put on the organization.”

Equitable Opportunities

With a robust STEAM curriculum, ensuring equitable access to all students is top of mind in the district. “One of the things that we are intentionally looking for is not just access overall, but who’s accessing it,” Dr. Clardy, says. “We’ve noticed in some demographic data trends that the level of access broken down by race and also especially down by gender has not been equitable.” By focusing on marketing, engaging with families, and supporting students, they aim to ensure that everyone understands the opportunities available. The district has seen significant growth in female participation in STEAM programming over the past two years, which Dr. Clardy attributes to this promotion, along with strong partnerships with area colleges. “We want to make sure that no matter what your gender, race, or circumstances in education, including socio-economic status, you have the appropriate access to the very strong programming and partnerships we have with Madison College and other places. I think we have one of the best high schools in terms of access to unique experiences and training for the longevity of the STEM-focused curriculum,” he adds.

Supporting the Diverse Needs of Learners

The district’s teaching approach prioritizes collaboration, as evidenced by a unique strategy that allows teachers to share best practices. “Our community has invested in late start Mondays in the Verona Area School District, where every Monday, our students come to school, depending on the grade level, anywhere between 10 and 11 o’clock so our teachers can get together and share what they’re doing to meet the educational needs of all of our students,” describes Deputy Superintendent, Chad Wiese. He notes that this is a selling point in terms of hiring and retention, adding, “We have prioritized giving our staff members space to share what they’re doing in the classroom and meet the needs of every single student, and that’s a big deal.” To further support learners, VASD is fortunate to be able to provide technology to all students, currently in the form of iPads, with plans to transition to Chrome books over the next two years.

 

Investing in the Future

Guided by a strategic framework that is grounded in the five priorities of community collaboration, inclusive teaching and learning, student agency, value and belonging, and wellness and mental health, the district takes a unique approach to planning. Dr. Clardy elaborates, “Often you’ll see that when you have five key priorities like that, you take one priority per year. We don’t feel that that develops the whole child and supports our community in a truly effective manner. So, we use a true connectivity approach where we are working collaboratively with all five priorities at once. And while it may seem like a heavy lift, we know that you can’t truly develop the child if you remove or wait to implement one area of our priority or focus.”

He underscores the importance of wellness and mental health support in today’s world, for both students and staff, as well as the value of student voice. “Representation matters in our inclusive teaching and learning. While it’s a literacy approach, you have to also be able to see yourself in the curriculum,” portrays Dr. Clardy. “We do not believe in changing or shying away from historical facts. That goes completely against our equity focus and framework. We will have those tough conversations around how our history guides our current practices, and how we can galvanize together to create a stronger, more inclusive society moving forward.”

In terms of financial investment, Wiese reports that the Verona Area School District operates within the framework of Wisconsin’s school finance system, which relies on budgets set by the state. Over the past two decades, increases in per-pupil revenue limits have not kept pace with inflation, prompting the district to seek additional funding from local taxpayers through referendums. He recounts, “There was a 2017 referendum to build a state-of-the-art high school that we are quite proud of, and our students and staff members are incredibly fortunate to be able to attend daily. And then in 2022, following the pandemic, we went to our local taxpayers for a $19 million operating referendum. And that passed at a 69% rate. We are incredibly fortunate to be in a community that is so supportive of public schools.” This community support has allowed the district to address various needs, including bolstering mental health services, maintaining manageable class sizes, updating facilities, and expanding multilingual programs, while also facilitating competitive compensation for educators.

Valued Partners and Collaborations

The Verona Area School District collaborates closely with Findorff Construction, who Wiese describes as “the gold standard of general contractors as far as K-12 institutions in southern Wisconsin,” as well as EUA Architects, designers of the district’s new state-of-the-art high school. “We get visitors almost weekly if not every month that are doing building remodels or looking to build a new facility, who come and tour our high school to take a look at many of the design features that they put into that building,” he boasts.

Furthermore, the district works to foster strong relationships with local entities to ensure a thriving and supportive environment for all residents. “We’re proud of the partnerships we’ve got with the city of Fitchburg, and the city of Verona in terms of strong connections with both their city administration and their Chambers of Commerce, in addition to constant coordination with their first responders, in particular the fire and police departments in both communities,” maintains Wiese.

In their academic services and support efforts, the district relies on the expertise of the Unbound ED Standards Institute. “That work has been a priority for ensuring that there are grade-level standards and instruction in front of every single student, no matter what circumstances within our organization,” acknowledges Dr. Clardy. Partnerships with higher learning facilities, including the University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison College, and the University of Green Bay, are also key to the success of VASD. These institutions offer diverse opportunities for high school students, including dual enrollment and credits toward associate degrees.

Wiese concludes, “We’re adding 50 to 75 students a year. We believe that people are moving to these communities because they believe in the community resources that exist at the city and municipal level, and they believe that this is a place where they want to raise their family. Our school district is only as strong as our community and our community is only as strong as our school district.”

AT A GLANCE

Verona Area School District

What: A vibrant and growing school district encompassing 10 schools from PreK-12

Where: Dane County, Wisconsin

Website: www.verona.k12.wi.us

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