In accordance with Act 1, a recent law designed to help tackle bias, discrimination and inequity in Vermont schools, the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools appointed 11 members to the newly formed Ethnic and Social Equity Standards Advisory Working Group, including Celilo Bauman-Swain of Charlotte and Barbra Marden of Shelburne.

Members of the group will review educational standards and policies in Vermont schools and create suggestions for improvement that may be adopted by the state board of education to be used by local schools. The appointees will be supported by the Coalition through their journey and will be able to collaborate with communities on the ground thus channeling stories and concerns to the working group.

Bauman-Swain is a 16-year-old sophomore attending Champlain Valley Union High School. She has played the cello since the age of 4, before being diagnosed with hearing loss. According to the Coalition, throughout her musical journey, Bauman-Swain was drawn to advocacy through her experience in music.

Originally from Uganda, Marden lived in Italy for several years before coming to the U.S. in 2001. She holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Vermont and is fully engaged in the Shelburne community and school system. A member of the town of Shelburne Social Services Committee, she serves as the membership chair and on the board of her congregation and is a representative for the Champlain Valley School District Board.

The other nine appointed to the working group include Infinite Culcleasure of Burlington, Asma Elhuni of White River Junction, Bruce Pandya from U32 High School, Cynthia Reyes of Williston, Vera Sheehan of Westtown, Miakoda Schultz of Bennington, and Maxwell Barrows, Mark Hage and Mara Iverson of Montpelier.

The Coalition reports that Vermont has one of the highest per-pupil spending rates in the nation, but also one of the least diverse teacher populations, with the most recent survey by the National Center for Education Statistics indicating that over 97 percent of teachers in Vermont are white.

The new appointees reflect the diversity of racial and ethnic groups across the state and include community members representing Abenaki, LGBTQ+ and individuals with disabilities. Two of the working group members are youth, an indication of the law’s conscious decision to elevate student voices.

In addition to students, the working group also includes one faculty appointee and is designed to be accountable to the communities it represents. In addition to the 11 members appointed by the coalition, nine members will be appointed by Vermont state agencies and organizations.

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