The Vermont Principals Association
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Vermont State Board of Education Comments, 8/18/23 & 9/20/23

State Board Comments on Secretary of Education 9/20/23
Public Comments: My comments are on the open Secretary of Education position from a State Board of Education Meeting on 9/20/23

AOE Leadership and state level leadership is critical to the future of VT educationWe stand on a precipice in which we have some students being openly discriminated against in some schools, partly because our General Assembly chose to not address the Carson V. Makin Supreme Court case that allows money to go to religious schools and other private schools that discriminate.  Whoever the next Secretary is needs to be someone who is committed to Each and Every student regardless of their social class, religion, gender identity, and all demographic and social identities.

By working collectively in the quest to collectively serve all students regardless of their background in an equitable manner we can truly become the Educational State that we all want; the opportunity is great, the challenges are significant and having the right person in that position is paramount.We need a pragmatic and inspiring leader at this time more than any time in my career. From my perspective, the field is begging for leadership and it ideally should come from the AOE’s top leader or leaders.Jay Nichols, VPA Executive Director

State Board Comments, 8/18/23

I recently gave the following comments at the State Board Mtg. My comments are aligned with the direction of our Executive Council that all Vermont children and schools funded by Vermont Taxpayer dollars should be subject to the same rules. Here are my comments in their entirety:

Nichols Public Comments State Board of Education 8/18/23

Good afternoon, for the record, Jay Nichols Executive Director of the Vermont Principals’ Association. The VPA has a deeply shared belief that all Vermont children should be equally valued and that all Vermont children are equally important to our future as a state.

This means that the same set of basic rules for schools should apply for any school, public or private, that is receiving taxpayer supported funds. At the VPA, our Executive Council has dubbed this, “Same Dollars, Same Rules.” This is a mantra we hope the State Board and the Legislature will recognize as one of fundamental fairness going forward and that is essential for the educational and economic vitality of our state.

We have heard that private or independent schools should have a different set of rules. We think that is true if a school is truly independent; however, any school that is receiving taxpayer dollars to operate is not independent; but rather dependent; on the state and therefore should follow the same rules. Let’s move away from our current publicly segregated system and show all Vermont children that we value them equally. Separate but equal did not work to improve our society when minority students were discriminated against after the civil war and into the modern education era and that approach doesn’t work now.

Thank you.

Jay Nichols

*** I want to be very clear that we have many private schools that are members who DO NOT discriminate against any students and the Executive Council and the VPA Team fully supports them and appreciates all they do! 

Episode 26 – Dr. Earl Franks

In this episode we hear from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Executive Director, Dr. Earl Franks. I was joined by the VPA’s assistant executive director, Erica McLaughlin Dr. Franks is a veteran association executive and advocate for public education and school leadership with over three decades of pre-K–12 education experience. In his role as NAESP’s executive director, Franks advances the Association’s mission to lead in the advocacy and support for elementary and middle-level principals and other education leaders in their commitment for all children. He represents the nation’s pre-K­­­­­–8 principals on the Board of Directors of the Learning First Alliance, the National Policy Board for Educational Administration, and as a member of multiple national educational organizations and coalitions. Prior to his selection as the NAESP executive director, he served as executive director of the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS), Alabama’s leading umbrella organization for principals and school administrators. He was inducted into the Alabama Educational Leadership Hall of Fame in 2018. Franks received his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He received his Master of Science in Education, Bachelor of Music Education, and Educational Specialist degrees from Troy University in Troy, Alabama.

Part 3: Vermont: Diversifying the Educator Workforce Series, with Glennys Sánchez and Leah Tuckman

In this episode, we talk with Glennys Sánchez and Leah Tuckman of the Great Schools Partnership. We talk about the research and reports that have been conducted the past few years in regards to the needs for diversifying the educator workforce in New England including the Call to Action for Increasing the Racial, Ethnic, and Linguistic Diversity of the Educator Workforce (2020) and the Regional Landscape Report Snapshot (2022). Now, with support from the BARR Foundation, the Great Schools Partnership is hosting a series of Community of Practice convenings with different stakeholders from around New England. Those convenings aim to bring together and support leaders to facilitate sharing, collaboration, and coordination across the region to work towards a common goal: accelerating efforts to diversify the educator workforce. 

Part 2: Vermont: Diversifying the Educator Workforce Series, with Mikaela Simms 

Part 2, Vermont: Diversifying the Educator Workforce Series, with Mikaela Simms 

Mikaela Simms has been working as the Diversity Coordinator for the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union for more than a decade. She is the co-director of the Spark Teacher Education Institute, and has been on the planning team for the VPA’s Equity Practitioner’s Network since the fall of 2020. She also works with Indigo Radio and co-hosts In The Company of Black Women. In late 2019, Mikaela founded the Vermont Educators of Color Association which has had support and collaboration with the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont to hold in-person convenings, and issued the Vision Document for Sustaining Educators of Color in VT in the spring of 2022. In this conversation we talk with Mikaela about all of this and what might be meaningful steps for comprehensive action on Diversifying the Vermont Educator Workforce and more.

Part 1: Vermont: Diversifying the Educator Workforce Series with Lashawn Whitmore-Sells

Part 1 Vermont: Diversifying the Educator Workforce Series with Lashawn Whitmore-Sells

In Part 1, Mike talks with Lashawn Whitmore-Sells. Lashawn has been a teacher and school leader of color in Vermont since 1992. She currently works in the Champlain Valley School District as a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) coach in Shelburne Community School. In this conversation Lashawn shares some of her own history with helping to lead past recruitment and retention work for diversifying the educator workforce in Vermont. She shares insights about what has worked and what has not worked in previous initiatives and provides suggested guidance for Vermont-specific recommendations for current efforts. 

Related Links

Episode 22 – Ronn Nozoe

Ronn Nozoe is a lifelong educator and the Chief Executive Officer of NASSP, an organization dedicated to transforming education through school leadership. Nozoe previously served as associate executive director and interim executive director at ASCD where he led the development of their Whole Child Network and Activate, an online professional development library of resources. Prior to this, Nozoe was deputy assistant secretary for policy and programs at the U.S. Department of Education, where he worked on initiatives to build state and local capacity in the areas of teacher quality, school safety, rural education, and migrant and Indian education. In his home state of Hawaii, Nozoe served as deputy state superintendent from 2010–15, during which time he amplified principals’ voices in statewide decisions with the creation of the Deputy’s Principal Roundtable; and leveraged federal Race to the Top funds and School Improvement Grants to increase statewide achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment. Prior to that, he served as district superintendent of the Farrington/Kaiser/Kalani complexes, and as a principal, vice principal, and teacher in various schools across the state. Nozoe holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education and teaching, both from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Sidelines Conversation – Rob Miller

Rob Miller is a master’s Crossfit athlete, father of two and four-time cancer survivor. He grew up in South Africa playing any sport he could. His love of sports helps drive him in his career and the constant pursuit of his goals. We talked about athletes making great employees and how he uses many of his athletic endeavors in his business world.

Sidelines Conversation – Mike Tromello

Mike Tromello is a man who wears many hats. When I first met him, he was the strength and conditioning coach for Harvard Westlake and assisted with their water polo team, whilst creating an incredible gym. Mike is in a constant state of growth and personal development. He coaches top CrossFit and Hydrox athletes but has also transcended back into the world of youth football coaching his son’s football team. We discuss all these things and the metamorphosis between being a collegiate football player and developing a successful gym’s climate and culture. There are nuggets of gold within this podcast, so if you’re looking for helpful tips on coaching, mindset, or developing culture and climate, this is a great listen for you!

Episode 19 – Dr. Wendi Williams

In this episode, Mike talks with celebrated psychologist and educator, Dr. Wendi Williams. Dr. Williams’ career spans two decades and features important research and writing, recently becoming Provost at Fielding Graduate University, previously as the Dean of the School of Education for Mills College, and much more. 

In her words, she “has committed her life’s work to educate clinicians, teachers, institutions, policymakers, advocates, and the general public. Her work threads the intersection of psychology and education with black women’s liberatory leadership practices by which to understand our everyday lived experiences. We talk about the inspiration she draws from the women in her family, adrienne maree brown, Octavia Butler and bell hooks, the importance of balance and being grounded in our bodies for equity leadership, the challenges around paces and modes in justice-centered leadership, and I share some of my favorite Dr. Wendi Williams quotes back to her for her to elaborate on. A head’s up that the recording ends a little abruptly as we lost track of time a bit–but as you listen to the knowledge, joy, and care that Dr. Williams brings to all of her work, including in this episode– we think you’ll be like us and want to hear more.

Episode 18 – Dr. Delaney Ruston of Screenagers

In this episode we talk with filmmaker and primary care physician, Delaney Ruston. Delaney is most well known for her films, Screenagers, and Screenagers–The Next Chapter. These films have been screened widely, aired on PBS, and were at the forefront of advocacy campaigns, including with the World Health Organization. For her work in using films to build movements, Delaney has won several awards including Harvard’s McLean National Council Recognition Award and New York’s Fountain House Advocacy Award. You can learn more about her work and films at: