VPA’s Equity Initiative

The Vermont Principals’ Association’s mission is to support school leaders to improve the equity and quality of educational opportunities for all students.


January, 2018

Educational equity means that each and every student receives the resources and educational opportunities they need to learn and thrive.

  • Equity means that a student’s success is not predicated nor predetermined by characteristics such as race, ethnicity, religion, economics, class, geography, disability, language, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or initial preferences.
  • Equity means that every school provides high quality curriculum, programs, teachers and administrators, extracurricular activities and support services.
  • Equity goes beyond formal equality where all students are treated the same.  Achieving equity may require an unequal distribution of resources and services.
  • Equity involves disrupting inequitable practices, acknowledging biases, employing practices that reflect the reality that all students will learn, and creating inclusive multicultural school environments for adults and children.

Related Statements/Policies

Overview of the Equity Initiative

In the summer of 2019, the VPA launched the Equity Initiative. This work was led by Linda Wheatley with support from the Bay and Paul Foundations, the Vermont Community Foundation, The McClure Foundation, and VSAC-GEAR UP. The VPA’s Assistant Executive Director, Mike McRaith, currently serves as the primary contact person for the initiative. The initiative provides concentrated learning, efforts, and actions on issues of equity for our members and the communities that they serve.

The VPA’s overall mission, as indicated above, is to improve equity for all students throughout all of its efforts and programming. Please note the additional specific actions steps (both internal and external) identified in the above 6/2/20 statement and the VPA’s recognition of its own need for continual growth. Related, in addition to the Equity Initiative, the VPA offers ongoing and one-time event professional learning for educators directly linked to improving equitable outcomes and building more anti-racist school communities. The VPA regularly advocates for policies that support all students in public education (e.g. VPA member participation in ACT 1 advisory working group, 5/29/20 report, VPA member participation on the VT Taskforce on Diversifying the Educator Workforce, Symposium of RE Workgroups, and public support for H.714) and frequently collaborates with nonprofits and community leaders that overlap with the VPA’s mission. More specifically, the Equity Initiative includes the following programming:

The Equity Practitioner’s Network (EPN):

Launched in the summer of 2019, the EPN is a two-year cohort of educators from around the state. In the first year, 28 members built more understanding about Equity Literacy Framework directly from Paul Gorski of the Equity Literacy Institute in two day workshop. That workshop was followed by small group and one-to-one coaching provided by WholeHeart, Inc. additional direct content offerings from leaders in the field, and additional shared reflection, reading, and action projects. (Cohort 1, Year 1). In Year 1, The EPN has gathered this initial list of related resources/articles, with a 2020-21 goal of organizing and curating both materials and references for equity consultants in a cooperative and inclusive manner.

In 2020-21, the EPN will continue to evolve and grow, not only for the participants, but for the emergent program itself. Participants in year 2 will again have the chance to gain deeper understanding in specific areas from content experts, namely: antiracism, white supremacy culture, navigating power in schools, and advocacy skills. Participants will also have the opportunity to collaborate within the network and have facilitated space of reflection and inquiry. Program growth goals for 2020-21 include but are not limited to, revamping the planning team to include more marginalized voices, an EPN member, and additional expertise, fundraising for longterm stabilization of the program, and the launch of cohort 2 in the summer of 2021. In 2020-21, the EPN also welcomes the invitation to participate and learn from The Symposium of Racial Equity Workgroups as coordinated by Vermont Executive Director of Racial Equity, Xusana Davis.(Cohort 1, Year 2)

Selected Quotes From EPN Members, 2019-2020

“It is like removing rose-colored glasses. Once you learn to look at decisions differently you can’t help but question every decision you make.”

-Heidi McLaughlin, Equity Practitioners Network,  School Counselor, Winooski High School


“I see inequities that I didn’t see before, or maybe it’s just that I ask more questions or pause and wonder more often: What am I missing? How is this affecting everyone? Who is left out/pushed aside/marginalized? What don’t I know? What story isn’t being told?”

-Jennefer Paquette, Equity Practitioners Network, Assistant Principal, Fair Haven Grade School


“The most important realization for me is that every policy either promotes inequity or is a threat to it. There is no such thing as an equity-neutral policy. That means that we can closely examine every policy in our school and unearth inequities that may have existed for many years.”

-Chris Sheehan, Equity Practitioners Network, Teacher, Twinfield Union School, Plainfield

“A Place of Our Own”- Affinity Group for Vermont Administrators of Color 

(New VPA member benefit, launched August, 2020)

If you identify as a Vermont Administrator of Color, please join me and other Vermont Administrators of Color to talk about and get support regarding the added layers of complexity, stress, pressure, bias, and isolation we experience living, working and leading in predominantly white spaces. Particularly during this current time of a pandemic and national racial crisis. This is a new member benefit provided by the VPA for any Vermont Administrator of Color. I will provide initial facilitation and we can determine the process, frequency, and format together in our initial meetings. We will meet via zoom, and our time will include but is not limited to:

  • An opportunity to connect with Vermont administrators of color;
  • Intimate conversation in a small group;
  • Sharing strategies for navigating & leading for equity;
  • Ongoing support
  • Creation of a community of practice;
  • Laughter
  • Renewal

Please fill out this short survey if you are interested, spread the word, and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.


Bonnie Johnson-Aten

Equity Summits

  • Since May of 2018, over five-hundred administrators, teachers, students, and organizational partners have engaged in day-long courageous conversation about what equity means and looks like. Four summits took place, in four different locations between May of 2018 and October of 2019. Plans for future summits are on hold given the need to avoid gathering in large groups. We look forward to possible collaboration on this work with similar student led summits 

Thank you to the Bay & Paul Foundations, the VSAC-GEAR-UP, the Vermont Community Foundation, and the McClure Foundation.