History of Vermont School Boards Association
The Vermont School Boards Association is a private non-profit, membership organization with the purpose of promoting public education, supporting school board in fulfilling their duties, and providing a collective voice for strong education policy in Vermont. Approximately 1,500 individuals are members of 285 school boards that are charged by Vermont law with decision making authority in local school districts and supervisory unions.
Two thirds of the annual budget of the VSBA is covered by annual membership fees based on district expenses (see VSBA Bylaws, article IV in appendix A). The remainder of revenue comes largely from publications, conferences and special services.
The precursor to the VSBA, the Vermont State School Directors’ Association was founded in 1936. The Vermont Commissioner of Education managed the organization which met once per year. In 1960 a group of board members voted to start a separate membership organization known as the Vermont School Boards Association. The Vermont Department of Education granted the VSBA $1500 in start-up funds to hire the first executive director of the association, Charles Nichols, Jr., a former teacher and Proctor school board member. Nichols traveled from town to town soliciting membership dues to raise the balance of his $6,000 salary.
VSBA was incorporated in 1961 as the Vermont School Boards Association, Inc. Its first office was located over the Howard Bank on Main Street in Montpelier. VSBA was then housed in a former clothing store, later at the Miss Montpelier Diner and finally at the former Tavern Motor Inn on State Street until a partnership was formed with the Vermont Superintendents Association and the Vermont Principals’ Association. The 2 Prospect Street Partnership built a new office building on Prospect Street (site of the old State Garage) in 1990.
A separate independent organization, the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust, was started in 1978 for the purpose of assisting VSBA members with the purchase of insurance related products and services. Today, VSBIT makes available a series of insurance, risk management and related management support programs and services for Vermont schools.
Charlie Nichols retired as the executive director of VSBA in 1981. Since 1981 the association has had 6 executive directors. The longest serving director since Charlie Nichols was John Nelson, who began as associate executive director in 1989 and then executive director in 1995. Nelson served from 1995 until 1997 and from 2003 until 2011.
In 1995, the VSBA board of directors voted in favor of providing funding for the Brigham v. State of Vermont case brought by the Vermont ACLU. The VSBA was the lone organization to offer financial support to the landmark lawsuit, which found the prior education funding formula unconstitutional, created a statewide obligation to ensure educational equity for all students, and paved the way for Act 60 of 1997. Since Brigham, the VSBA has continued to demonstrate a steadfast commitment to equity of opportunity and a strong, sustainable public education system.
In 2012, under the leadership of executive director Steve Dale, the VSBA, in partnership with the Vermont Superintendent’s Association, developed the Agenda for a World-Class Education System. The Agenda set a bold and visionary course for public education in Vermont, reaffirming the VSBA’s position as a leader in Vermont’s critical and ongoing discussion about how to ensure equity of opportunity for every Vermont child.
Today, Vermont’s school board members continue to rise to meet the challenges facing our systems, and to chart a positive course forward for public education in Vermont. As the demands of school board members evolve over time, the VSBA will continue to evolve as an association, striving to respond to the professional development needs of our membership.