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, and The McClure Foundation. 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.

In addition to the Equity Initiative, some of the VPA’s related work includes:

  • Ongoing Professional Learning & Annual Leadership Academy: Many of our ongoing offerings and the theme of our Annual Leadership Academies over the past several years have been directly linked to improving equitable outcomes and building more anti-racist school communities. (view current offerings)
  • Policy, State and National Collaboration: The VPA advocates for policy, law, and procedures with state and national collaborations that support all students in public education equitably (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 NAESP Race and Equity Task Force).
  • DEI Committee: In the spring of 2021, the VPA launched a collaborative Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in activities/sports committee. That committee is in partnership with the Vermont School Athletic Directors Association (VSADA).
  • Mini-Grants: In 2020-21, The VPA, with support from the VSA (Vermont Superintendent’s Association) and VSCA (Vermont School Counselor’s Association) partnered with The Vermont Community Foundation and Barr Foundation to help distribute $313,000 in the form of $3,000 – $5,000 mini grants to 81 schools around the state in support of student food, mental health, and access to learning needs related to COVID-19 relief. (list of schools that received mini grants)
  • Connecting Vermont Equity Coordinators: Beginning in March 2021, the VSA and VPA started a monthly drop-in for school or district employees who have the role of equity coordinator or a similar title. This space is also an initial gathering for participants to shape and help lead collaboratively. Contact Mike at mmcraith@vpaonline.org in you are interested in joining.
  • Leading Equitable, Anti Racist, and Inclusive Education Communities: The Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA), the Vermont Superintendents Association (VSA), and the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) received a grant award of $150,000 from the Vermont Community Foundation and Barr Foundation. The grant will support work by the Associations to promote equity, antiracism, and inclusion in communities statewide and is part of the Vermont Community Foundation’s Welcoming, Equitable and Antiracist Communities Recovery Initiative. Specifically, this work will focus on efforts to improve equitable practices and outcomes for all Vermont students. Currently an advisory group is reviewing the results member driven needs assessment to identify meaningful, actionable goals for this resource. The advisory group is made up of: Alison Sylvester, VT-NEA Representative, Annsunee Swift, VPA Representative, Flor Diaz Smith, VSBA Representative, Mikaela Simms, Equity Coordinator Representative, Jess DeCarolis, AOE Representative, Amy Rex, VSA Representative, Kristin Hubert, VTCLA Representative, Jessica Spencer, VCSEA Representative, Xusana Davis, Executive Director of Racial Equity.

The Equity Initiative also includes the following programming:

Equity Practitioner’s Network: Cohort #2: Now Accepting Applications

Overview: The Equity Practitioner’s Network is a cohort-model professional learning opportunity for Vermont educational communities. Educators from around the state participated in Cohort 1. You can learn more about cohort #2 which will run from August 2021 to June 2023, here. Application Deadline Was June 4, 2021

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 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 

(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

 LGBTQIA+ Affinity Space for Vermont School Administrators

(VPA member benefit, launched March, 2021)

Vermont School Administrators and Athletic Directors who identify as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and are interested in joining this newly formed affinity space, are invited to connect. With support from the VPA and VT Pride Center, Dr. Kevin Dirth will serve as the group’s primary organizer and facilitator. Kevin can be contacted at: kdirth@maplerun.org

Tools for Consideration

Equity Summits

  • Starting in 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 Vermont Community Foundation, the McClure Foundation and the National Life Group Foundation.