On April 17, 2024

New Secretary of Education sees opportunity in Vt schools

By Zoie Saunders

Editor’s note: The following is a message addressed to Vermont educators, students and families from incoming Education Secretary Zoie Saunders, who was appointed to the position on March 22 and began April 15, the Senate is expected to take up her confirmation hearing April 23.

I am delighted and honored to be joining this incredible community, and I’m eager to begin the work to build lasting relationships with our students, families, educators, and civic leaders. As I step into this role as the new Secretary of Education for Vermont, I’m confident that together we will build upon a strong foundation and lift Vermont’s public schools to new heights. On a deeply personal level, this new role provides me an opportunity to be near family and to lead a state education agency that my own kids will count on.

I have spent my entire career working to improve student outcomes, open pathways to post-secondary education and training for all students, and to make sure that every student has access to a great public school. I was raised with rural roots in a union family that valued collective action and community support. This upbringing helped shape my personal and professional outlook. From the start of my career, I have been unwavering in my commitment to foster and expand an environment where equity, access, and opportunity are at the forefront of our educational agenda.

I do not expect the work ahead of me to be easy: nothing worth doing is. Like many other states, Vermont faces challenges — some of which were exacerbated by the pandemic and others that are compounded by national and regional economic challenges. Working collaboratively, I’m confident that we can turn challenges into opportunities and provide every child in Vermont with pathways to a bright future, every educator with support and resources to grow in their profession, and every district leader with the empowerment and trust to lead. 

I promise to be all in with you on this important work and to commit my professional time and energy on priorities that center around students. 

To our students, you are the reason we are here. You will be a central part of my focus and my most important advisors.

To our educators and school staff, I cannot overstate how important you are to Vermont’s educational success and economic competitiveness. Your commitment to our students is a foundational investment that drives our state’s workforce creation, job growth, and every other measure of quality of life. I promise to support your work and to celebrate your success.

To our school building and local district leaders, I promise to always be accessible and to be a trusted partner in your leadership. I firmly believe that Vermont cannot be successful unless every school and every district in our state is successful.

To our parents, I pledge to bring my perspective as a Vermont public school parent into every meeting I attend and every policy we consider. 

And to our education partners, I commit to working with you to prepare our students for success throughout their educational journey, from early childhood to career.

I cannot wait to start working with you. I know that when we come together as a community, our students’ potential is limitless. I look forward to earning — and keeping — your trust.

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