Equity Focus

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.

Diversity Equity and Inclusion in Student Activities

DEI Committee: In the spring of 2021, the VPA began a collaborative Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in activities/sports committee. That committee is in partnership with the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association (VSADA). This group meets monthly and has student participants, members of the VPA staff, VPA Activities Standards Committee, Executive Council, and the VSADA. The committee is co-chaired by Mike Jabour of South Burlington High School and Quaron Pinckney of Burlington School District.

Related Statements/Policies/Updates

Overview of the Focus on Equity  

The VPA’s overall mission, as indicated above, is to improve equity for all students throughout all of its efforts and programming.

In addition to the above, 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 routinely advocates for policy, law, and procedures with state and national collaborations that support all students in public education equitably. Some examples include but are not limited to: VPA participation in the ACT 1 advisory working group, VPA member participation on the VT Taskforce on Diversifying the Educator Workforce, Building Bright Futures,  and the NAESP Race and Equity Task Force.
  • 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 was an initial gathering for participants to shape and help lead collaboratively, now working together as the Vermont Educational Equity Collaborative (VEEC).
  • 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. An initial advisory group reviewed the results member-driven needs assessment to identify meaningful, actionable goals for this resource. The advisory group was 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. Update: Welcoming, Equitable & Antiracist Communities Update (12/7/22)

The Equity Initiative also includes the following programming:

Equity Practitioner’s Network: Cohort #2: 

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.

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) (Cohort 1, Year 2)

In July of 2021, the second EPN cohort was launched. To learn more about this this group, the goals, and the content led by Dr. Wendi Williams, you can view: Cohort 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)

 “Just a quick note to thank you for your leadership with the VPA Affinity Group for Leaders Of Color.  It was, by far, one of the most supportive, inspiring, and informative 90 minutes I’ve ever had in my professional career.  We’re talking top 2-3 here- and my career is 28 years old. I am truly grateful to you.” (2020 VPA Affinity group member)

Our group provides an opportunity for BIPOC administrators, working in predominantly white schools to come together and share experiences, learn from and support each other through our triumphs and challenges. The sharing of stories, experiences, ideas, successes and lots of laughter, provide a place for healing and growth that allows for racial equity transformation. Additionally our affinity group has become a wonderful place to network, make state-wide connections and as well as  providing leadership and guidance on issues of educational equity.

The group is facilitated by Bonnie Johnson-Aten, long-time educator in Vermont and currently Principal at Edmunds Elementary School, with support from Kevin Robinson, Integrated Arts Academy Principal.  We will generally meet virtually once a month, with quarterly in-person gatherings.We hope you will consider joining us.

A Place of Our Own– An Affinity group for LGBTQIA+ Administrators (A VPA member benefit)

“I want to share with you that during a segment of our Leadership Team meeting, I ended up finally “outing” myself to all my district colleagues. I share this with you because the confidence, level of social-emotional safety, and security I have been experiencing as a result of being in the affinity group paved the way for this to happen today.  I was able to leave day one of this week-long meeting feeling more empowered and secure in my own inner truth than I have in my last two years.”(2020 VPA Affinity group member)

Our group provides an opportunity for LGBTQIA+ administrators and athletic directors, to come together and share experiences, learn from and support each other. The sharing of stories, experiences, ideas, successes, challenges, and lots of laughter, provide a safe and secure place for our tribe.  We have found that similar issues come up, no matter where we work in Vermont.  Additionally, our affinity group has become a wonderful place to network and make state-wide connections, as well as provide leadership and guidance on LGBTQIA+ issues.

The group is facilitated by Kevin Dirth, former Superintendent of the Maple Run Unified Schools and long-time educator in Vermont. We generally meet virtually once a month and hope to occasionally meet in person several times a year. We hope you will consider joining us.

Tools for Consideration

Thank you to the Vermont Community Foundation, the McClure Foundation.