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.

Oct. 2019, the Equity Practitioners’ Network with their coaches and Paul Gorski

“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 EPN has supported me in better recognizing the inequities baked into school policies, child nutrition practices, extracurricular and optional activities offered to students, and other areas in schools across Vermont. These are some specific examples of where institutional inequities have surfaced for me during this new learning. In addition, talking with students has raised my own awareness of the concerns they have about the lack of representation in the curriculum for students who are racially and socioeconomically diverse. This has caused me to focus on the curriculum as it relates to equity in a deeper way.”
-Erin Maguire, Equity Practitioners Network, Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Essex Westford School District

Recommendations for Education Equity post-COVID-19 (6/1/20)

The Equity Practitioners Network’s Response to COVID-19 (5/7/20)

The VPA’s Equity Initiative:

Is grounded in the framework and principles of the Equity Literacy Institute (a program of EdChange, founded by Paul Gorski, in Ashville, North Carolina). The Equity Literacy Framework cultivates the knowledge and skills that enable us to be a threat to the existence of inequity in our spheres of influence. The eight Equity Literacy Principles infuse integrity into the development of these abilities, and their impact on individual behavior, organizational culture, and policy and decision-making.

The VPA equity initiative is focused on increasing Equity Literacy in Vermont’s schools through public engagement, individual practice, and the development of local equity literate teams.

 “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

The VPA’s Equity Initiative Involves:

  1. Hosting bi-annual Equity Summits around the state. 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. Plans for future summits are on hold given the need to avoid gathering in large groups (April 2020).
  2. Creating an Equity Practitioners Network. The EPN is a new professional learning opportunity for Vermont educators and education leaders that builds Equity Literacy capacity. The program requires a two-year commitment to an Equity Literacy practice through study, coaching, team-building, Small and Large Experiments with Radical Intent, and sharing your experience with others. There are currently thirteen school districts represented in the first cohort of the network.
  3. Maintaining a public-access, crowd-sourced and moderated Equity Resource Directory. This current collection of books, videos, courses, organizations, and more is a work-in-progress. Your suggestions are welcome, as are your comments or reviews about what is listed. (coming soon: The VPA is also developing a short list of things you can do right now to get an Equity Literacy practice started at your school or in your district)
  4. Strengthening partnerships with Vermont organizations committed to education equity and/or professional learning for educators.

“I no longer view the world the same anymore. At school I am seeing inequity and trying to explain it to others.”

-Anonymous, Equity Practitioners Network

Sample Student Led Maps for Equity During Summit IV






Additional Quotes From EPN Members

“Once you start seeing these things, you can’t not see them, and you see them everywhere. I’m also hyper-aware that my privilege as a white person is what has enabled me to navigate the world for so long without seeing these inequities.”

-Emily Therrien, Equity Practitioners Network, Teacher, Randolph Union High School


“It is very easy to move about the school world and view it from a very traditional sense. What I mean is that traditions can be powerful, deep-rooted, and it is very hard to change the perspective of educators. The fact is that institutional racism exists, and schools are one of the systems that perpetuate it. My ability to recognize inequity has been like taking the blinders off.”

-Autumn Bangoura, Equity Practitioners Network, Equity Instructional Leader, Burlington School District


“This course has opened my eyes to my own unconscious bias and has given me the resources and talking points to move ahead in this work at my own school.”

-Lisa Bilowith, Equity Practitioners Network, Director, Jean Garvin School, Burlington


“I feel like my ability to recognize inequities has grown significantly since beginning this work. It has added a filter for me, that was not as readily present in my work previously.”

-Caitlin Cavagnino, Equity Practitioners Network, Special Education Director, Bennington-Rutland SU


“I feel like I’m at that stage where I see inequities everywhere. I know I still have blind spots, but at almost any event or in any conversation, I am noticing power dynamics, assumptions, biases, and privilege at play.”

-Hannah Barden, Equity Practitioners Network, Teacher, Union Elementary & Main Street Middle School, Montpelier


“Recognizing the inequities in our school transfer policy, child nutrition policy, and book fair practices are some places these issues surfaced for me. In addition, talking with students has elevated the lack of representation in the curriculum for students who are not white and middle class.”

-Anonymous, Equity Practitioners Network


“The question is always in the back of my head now: How could this situation/practice/tradition/way of thinking be perpetuating, promoting, or protecting inequities? With that orientation, I can recognize more instances of inequity.”

-Beth Ann Drinker, Equity Practitioners Network, Assistant Principal, Flood Brook School

Thank you to the Bay & Paul Foundation, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), the Vermont Community Foundation, the McClure Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.