“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress;
working together is success.” Henry Ford
Welcome back. We have been busy this past summer in preparation for another successful school year. As many of you know, referendum projects have been full steam ahead. I am proud to share that most of the work has been completed. Our students and community members have been enjoying the use of our new VHS tennis courts; our students, staff and parents have moved in the band equipment into the beautiful, new music room addition; and the Verona High School multi-purpose field is expected to be completed and ready for use by our student athletes in the coming days while the lower field has an anticipated completion date of October 2016. The HVAC work throughout Verona High School has been completed and the VHS and HBW kitchen renovations will be ready for the opening of school, with punch list items to be wrapped up in the next few weeks. The energy savings improvement program (ESIP) upgrades not only enhanced the lighting in all of our schools, but enabled us to go green and become more energy efficient throughout the entire district. There has been an incredible amount of site improvement work and upgrades to our facilities that will enable our community to provide a safe, secure, positive learning environment and a supportive atmosphere for teachers, staff, and students. I would like to acknowledge our dedicated custodial, maintenance, and technology staff for their amazing flexibility and determination in working with contractors this summer and insuring that our buildings are ready to go once students walk in our front doors on Tuesday morning. Our team has done a tremendous job.
Our strategic plan provides us with direction on what we value most as a community, including our mission statement, core values, and strategies that will guide us to achieve our goals. We have built an amazing amount of momentum in our collaboration. There is always a great deal of anticipation and excitement as we lead up to the first day of school, for both students and staff. It is an opportunity to begin again and establish new year’s resolutions, goals for which we can strive toward and be proud of. Much of this work began in June once school let out last year. Many of our staff committed themselves over the summer to projects such as development and revision of rigorous curriculum, immersion in meaningful professional development for new courses and Google Apps For Education (GAFE), and enhancing lesson plans to further engage students in higher level learning with a commitment to embedding the effective use of technology and transforming how teaching and learning is done in our classrooms.
We are fortunate to have an experienced and dedicated group of educators in our district. We are also excited to welcome an extremely talented group of new teachers to Verona this year who we are confident will continue to sustain the high standards we have come to expect within our community of learners. To that end, the support of the Verona Foundation for Educational Excellence (VFEE) is dedicated to enhancing education within our community by providing grants to our staff for innovative ideas that will enhance student learning. Please consider supporting this outstanding organization that makes a difference in teaching and learning for our children.
Our students excel academically, athletically, and artistically. The Verona Public Schools plays an integral role, with the support of our parents and the dedication of our students, in sending students to some of the most competitive colleges in the nation, commitment to the United States Armed Forces, and entry into the workforce.
Our elementary schools support the successful conflict resolution and peer mediation programs that began at F.N. Brown and is now in each elementary school. Service projects, such as Hearts for Hope, integrate a variety of art skills while developing empathy for those that are in hospitals battling cancer related diseases and those that are currently serving our country in the U.S. Armed Forces. Our Laning Avenue School Sensory Garden helps students with anxiety, ADD/ADHD, Autism, or Sensory Processing Disorder who can feel overwhelmed by ambient noise, fluorescent lighting, or by working in a large group. Taking a break from those sensory experiences aids students in returning to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn. The Columbia University Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Workshop Model is going strong, providing a differentiated foundation in literacy for all of our students. Our Orton-Gillingham partnership with Fairleigh Dickinson University provides training and certification to staff members in our first cohort through a direct, multisensory structured, phonetic approach to teaching reading that supports our learners. This upcoming year is sure to excite our young, budding scientists with the infusion of our new inquiry-based science program in grades 1-8, providing opportunities for students to discover and learn science through active, hands-on experiences.
At HBW, the house model, team approach has enabled our faculty to increase staff collaboration in order to best meet the learning needs of all of our students. HBW students are becoming more aware of climate change, connecting students more deeply and personally to the cause by helping them understand local efforts designed to combat this important global issue. We continue to expand STEM and Computer Science courses at our middle and high school. Our outstanding music program, both choir and band from elementary through high school, continues to provide our community with excellence and a commitment to community service.
Our athletic program continues winning State titles in girl’s tennis, boy’s basketball, and football, as well as other individual and team championships in numerous sports. Fourteen student athletes from the Verona High School Class of 2016 are currently participating in NCAA athletics next year. We are proud of our success in dual enrollment college courses, which provide our students opportunities to earn college credit while attending VHS. We boast some of the highest participation in Advanced Placement (AP) courses in New Jersey and the nation. This Fall, over 47% of our students at VHS will be enrolled in at least one AP course. While increasing AP participation nearly 20% over the past two years, student performance increased with scores of 3 or better climbing from 63% in 2015 to 71% in 2016. More and more of our students are engaged in rigorous coursework and performing at a higher level than just a few short years ago.
These honors and accomplishments are a result of our concerted efforts, a manifestation of the day in and day out commitment and passion of our faculty, and the support and guidance we provide to each and every student. We have much to be proud of in Verona, a testament to our individual contributions and our collective efforts. As is the case with any focused and evolving organization, we still have much work to do. Together our community will help redefine the future of Verona, a place we are all proud to call home. We must continue to work together in sustaining positive, healthy, safe, supported, engaged, and challenging school environments.
Verona is a special place. We are a highly engaged and supportive community, dedicated to, first and foremost, to the best interests of each and every child. We continuously strive to raise the bar for success. We continue to measure and support each and every student, an approach that is differentiated and personalized, always seeking to help each child achieve their unique potential. Let us always remember the importance of maintaining a focus on a whole child approach as an entire community, one where we collectively support the academic, social and emotional wellness of every child. Let us lead together in a manner that will strengthen our community during this difficult time, and in turn, help each other heal.
Best wishes as we strive to attain our new year’s resolutions together.