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2023 VSA/VSBA Conference
Workshop Descriptions


Jennifer Berkshire Keynote

Making the Case for Public Education: From school culture wars to expansive new private school choice programs, public education is in a precarious state. This keynote will provide an overview of the “what” and “why” of education politics around the country and in the courts, and make the case for defending and celebrating public education.

Jennifer Berkshire
Model Policy on Wellness and Comprehensive Health

Essential Work of Vt School Boards: Establish Policy


The development and maintenance of school district and supervisory union policies is a key role of school boards. Policy is a school board’s prime lever for applying leadership and guiding the operations by district staff. Policy is required when a state law advises that a school district must have a policy governing its activities in a certain area. 


This workshop will provide a brief overview of policy development and adoption. Using the new requirements from Act 66 of 2021 for the policy on Wellness and Comprehensive Health, we will look at the updated Local Wellness Policy Guide, including the new components of the model policy and the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in developing, adopting, implementing, and monitoring it. 



  • Jess DeCarolis, Agency of Education Division Director & Student Pathways Division

  • Sandra Cameron, Vermont School Boards Association Associate Executive Director


Collaborative Onboarding of New Board Members

Essential Work of Vt School Boards: Board and Superintendent Partnership

The effectiveness of a district or supervisory union is dependent on the board’s working relations with the superintendent. A successful relationship between the two requires work. Part of this work is a shared understanding of the delineation of roles and responsibilities of the board and superintendent. 


In this workshop we will examine the board/superintendent partnership in the context of onboarding new board members. What does a successful onboarding system look like and who is responsible for what? We will hear from districts how they divide up the tasks between the board and superintendent when it comes to training new members and look at best practices nationally.  


  • Michael Clark, Grand Isle SU Superintendent

  • Brad Blanchette, Grand Isle Board Chairperson

  • Sheila Soule, Addison Northwest School District Superintendent

  • Debbie Singiser, Vermont School Boards Association Director of Board Services

Characteristics of Inclusive and Effective Board Meetings

Essential Work of Vt School Boards: Effective and Ethical Operations

School boards are public bodies entrusted by the community with overseeing the system of education for children in the district. As elected officials, school board members must act with integrity and adhere to the highest ethical standards. Lawful and effective operations are crucial to a strong school board. Effective operations are characterized by well-organized meetings with agendas that focus discussion and decision making, engaged board members who have the information necessary to make informed decisions, and practices, protocols and policies that are legally compliant. 

In this workshop, you will learn the characteristics of effective and ethical board meetings, as well as strategies to ensure that board meetings are inclusive of and accessible to your community. We are honored to be joined by Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas and Deputy Secretary of State Lauren Hibbert who are well-versed at navigating complex public meeting dynamics. 



  • Sarah Copeland Hanzas, Vermont Secretary of State

  • S. Lauren Hibbert, Vermont Deputy Secretary of State

  • Cara Zimmerman, Vermont School Boards Association Director of Policy Services and Legislative Affairs



 Budgeting that Meets Student Needs in Light of Upcoming Fiscal Pressures

Essential Work of Vt School Boards: Budget and Financial Oversight


Boards have an important role in assuring the education system has sufficient resources to achieve its mission and in providing high-level financial oversight to assure that resources are properly managed on behalf of taxpayers. By efficiently allocating resources, school districts can enhance educational programs, maintain updated facilities, and attract skilled teachers. In this session, participants will examine contextual factors that will have an impact on upcoming fiscal planning and how to contend with those factors. In addition, participants will explore strategies for effective communication with their communities when it comes to budgetary decision-making.


  • Jeff Francis, Vermont Superintendents Association Executive Director

  • Chelsea Myers, Vermont Superintendents Association Associate Executive Director 

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