Verona Area School District Aims to be a National Model
The Verona Area School District is on a journey to be a national model for “excellence grounded in equity.” The district is doing the work to ensure it’s not just a phrase but something meaningful, Superintendent Dr. Tremayne Clardy said. Many are taking notice. “I truly hear from our community, and I hear from, more importantly, our students—specifically our students of color—the changes they’ve already recognized in us going on the journey together,” said Clardy.
Clardy is two years into his role as superintendent of the district. It has been a dream for him. “I’ve truly been blessed to find a match in a district that really fits my mindset of really wanting to engage in deep equity work and deep transformational change to ensure that all of our students have access to the phenomenal opportunities that exist in the Verona Area School District,” he said. Even when there are hardships, Clardy said they continue to move forward because they are focused on supporting children.
Clardy and his team set out to accomplish three major priorities in the first three years—develop a coherent governance model for board of education leadership, include an operational referendum on the November 2022 ballot and develop a five-year strategic framework.
The board of education governance model sets the parameters for the board and the superintendent to work collaboratively. Last year, the community voted in favor of the $19 million referendum. And the district will launch the strategic framework in August. The strategic framework priorities are as follows: community collaboration, student agency, wellness & mental health, inclusive teaching & learning, and value and belonging. Clardy said the framework will guide the district for the next five years.
Another major focus of the Verona Area School District is literacy. Clardy believes literacy is a strong equity strategy and the key to success. “When you think about historically the intentionality of trying to remove reading and writing and other literary based skills away from students, there’s a reason for that because people know the power of being literate and having a high level of intellectual literacy skill, not just to survive but to thrive in our society as we expect our students to do,” Clardy said.
The district recently released its annual report of academic outcomes. While it was successful in many areas, Clardy stated there is still room for growth. The data shows some disparities in high performance in Black and brown students. “We need to recognize and not just acknowledge it but talk about clear action steps that allow us to close the gaps—and I’m being very clear—I’m not talking about achievement gaps, I’m talking about opportunity gaps,” he said. “That means that every student in our district has a grade level or above, highly inclusive curriculum in front of them every day in our organization—that is a must.”