Verona School Board Tackles Tough Budget; Plans Educational Enhancements

The Verona School Board faced a challenging budget situation at its meeting on March 12, 2024, grappling with a preliminary budget that exceeded the cap by $1.2 million. In addressing this, the board aimed to balance the need for fiscal responsibility with the continuation and expansion of educational programs. The proposed budget included an increase in state aid and a 2.52% tax levy hike, with the total anticipated revenue for the fiscal year 2025 being $2.6 million. Expenditures were largely allocated to general education instruction and benefits, with a focus on supporting classroom instruction despite a 19% reduction in support areas.

The board’s budgetary goals were twofold: to maintain class sizes and to enhance educational offerings. The addition of a kindergarten teacher at Brookdale, a part-time ESL teacher, and a part-time Student Assistance Counselor (SAC) at the high school were highlighted as critical needs. The ESL position aimed to increase program participation by allowing students to remain at their home school, while the SAC role was seen as essential in addressing substance abuse and other addiction issues among students.

The educational initiatives discussed were comprehensive and aimed at both improving instructional quality and supporting students with special needs. The ongoing implementation of the MAP Growth Assessments, which have been enhanced with new reporting capabilities for teachers, stood out as a key tool for gauging student progress. The Positive Project character education program and the adoption of the focused teacher instructional and evaluation model were also noted as important developments. Additionally, the multi-tiered system of supports and special services programs like LSS and lldd were to be continued.

Comparisons of Verona’s per-pupil costs and classroom supplies with other similar districts were addressed, and the board deliberated on the impact of a proposed tax levy increase on the average property tax and estimated tax increase for the average home. Board members expressed concerns about the sustainability of cost reductions and the potential impact of new legislation on the district’s financial decisions. There was also an acknowledgment of the importance of maintaining a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially considering national trends of hate crimes in schools targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

The board engaged in a debate about the anticipated impact of new housing on the district’s budget and enrollment projections. The potential increase in student population posed significant challenges for budgetary planning, classroom sizes, and support services. The superintendent highlighted the restructuring of the middle school as a strategic move that would allow for better staff utilization without necessitating additional hires. The board contended with the difficulty of budgeting for an influx of students not yet enrolled in the district.

Chronic absenteeism was another concern discussed, with the superintendent emphasizing the need to educate parents on the implications of excessive absences. The Quality Assurance Continuum (QAC) and Instruction Program (IMP) scores were examined in the context of student attendance, with the board considering the effect of absences on these metrics and the district’s standing. The potential negative impact of student absences on graduation rates, particularly for those with health issues or disabilities, was also a concern, prompting discussions on addressing individual cases sensitively.

During the meeting, the Speak Up in Schools program received positive feedback for its emphasis on school climate and leadership training. The board celebrated the DECA team’s advancement to the National Convention and the successful conclusion of winter sports, alongside discussions on potential athletic program upgrades. One board member praised a recent “Mean Girls” musical production and suggested expanding leadership training programs to more students. Old business, including administrative stipends and related investigations, was discussed with debates on whether to eliminate these stipends or negotiate specific amounts for certain responsibilities.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Diane DiGiuseppe
School Board Officials:
Pamela Priscoe, Denise Verzella, Diana Ferrera, Christopher Wacha, Michael Boone

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