With schools gearing back up and sports teams hitting the fields, the Vermont Principals’ Association will be back in the spotlight, from the name on the state championship trophies to the organization tackling education issues in the Legislature.
But what exactly is the VPA and what role do they play in education and sports across the state?
The Burlington Free Press talked with Bob Johnson, the associate executive director of the VPA, to find out.
BFP: What is the Vermont Principals’ Association?
Bob Johnson: The VPA is a public nonprofit organization that was founded in 1915 by Vermont schools with the purpose of overseeing sports in high schools. The VPA is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) which is the national body.
BFP: What are the VPA’s primary responsibilities?
BJ: The VPA has two primary purposes. First, we oversee all sports and activities in Vermont high schools (grades 9-12) and middle schools (grades 5-8). Second, we are a professional development organization for principals in Vermont. We do this by providing leadership training opportunities including conferences and workshops.
BFP: Who is involved with the VPA?
BJ: Membership in the VPA is voluntary. At the high school level, over 90 percent of all high schools are member of the VPA. At the middle school level, it is about 65 percent and at the elementary level it is about 50 percent. In addition, individual memberships are available. Approx. 300 schools (K-12) belong to the VPA and about 500 individual members belong to the VPA.
BFP: Is there a separation between the education and sports roles that the VPA fills?
BJ: Yes. Within the VPA, two separate committees exist. The Activity Standards Committee oversees all sports and activities. The Professional Learning and Support Committee oversees professional development opportunities for Principals. Both committees are overseen by the Executive Council.
BFP: What issues in education are dealt with by the VPA?
BJ: The VPA is very active with the legislature concerning educational bills. In addition, our professional development side focuses on providing training in areas of interest for principals such as assessment, evaluation, professional learning communities, legal issues and national/state initiatives.
BFP: How are those issues addressed/dealt with?
BJ: The VPA works closely with the legislature and often times, we are called on to testify about bills under consideration. With professional development, we provide a number of workshop opportunities (including the Vermont Leadership Academy) for our members. Often times, we also collaborate with other education type organizations to provide development opportunities on a wide range of topics. In addition, we provide educational notices and materials to our members on a weekly basis.
We try to keep up with the legislatures, with things like Act 46 — the school consolidation. We are asked to lobby or take a stand on certain bills that come through.
BFP: How does the VPA go about promoting growth for people in education?
BJ: Almost all of our training can be used as educational recertification credit for people who are already certified. We also conduct a new principals workshop and a workshop for people desiring to be a Principal. On the sports side, we work closely with the Vermont athletic directors Association in implementing the VPA Coaches Education program. We also conduct new AD workshops.
BFP: In the sports world, what is the VPA’s role?
BJ: We oversee all high school sports. In addition, we sponsor all post season tournaments. In order to participate in these tournaments, you need to be a member of the VPA. The VPA is also responsible for implementing all policies and procedures (eligibility, specific sports rules, etc.). The VPA hears hardship requests (usually for an additional semester/year of eligibility for a student) and we have a investigative and disciplinary role when schools/individuals have violated policies or rules that have been set by the VPA.
One of the issues we have really been dealing with is the issue with student safety. The whole issue with concussions, heat and cold, there have all come about in the last four years.
We are also dealing with declining school enrollments, but schools still want to add other extracurricular activities.
We are looking at developing sports for underserved populations. The whole issue of alignments is always there, every two years.
BFP: How does the VPA go about setting the guidelines for sports?
BJ: All sports have a sport specific committee that is responsible for overseeing the sport and for establishing the rules. These committees are made up of principals, assistant principals and athletic directors. The committees also have representatives from the various officials and coaches associations who serve in a non-voting capacity. These committees are all overseen by the Activity Standards Committee, which is also made up of principals and assistant principals (or deans of students) and also has athletic directors representatives appointed by the Vermont State Athletic Directors Association. Rules for specific sports are developed by the sports specific committee following the rules that have been established by the NFHS.
For more information about the VPA, go to www.vpaonline.org or call 802-229-0547.