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Secretary Saunders's 100-Day Plan

April 30, 2024

Message from Secretary Saunders

I am truly honored for the opportunity to serve as Vermont’s Secretary of Education at a time when the Agency of Education (AOE) needs strong, consistent leadership and stakeholders across the state are aligned in strengthening our public schools. I recognize that our public education system faces many challenges and that the work ahead will not be easy. However, I believe that together we will develop consensus on a path forward, building on the strengths of our public schools and Vermonters to create an even brighter future for students.

In my first two weeks on the job, I have traveled across the state to familiarize myself with the education landscape. I have enjoyed meeting with superintendents, principals, teachers, and community members who all share a deep commitment to our public schools.

I’ve heard a few key themes so far, which have informed my 100-Day Plan.

  • First, there is a great interest in developing a unifying vision for the future of education in Vermont. This has been an overarching theme, touching on issues of education finance, education quality, enrollment, facilities, and workforce development.
  • Second, there are questions about how we can balance Vermont’s motto of freedom and unity, as we strive to achieve shared education goals while celebrating local control and customization.
  • Third, the issue of mental health has emerged as we grapple with ways to meet students’ expanding needs.
  • Fourth, our public school system has experienced significant upheaval over the past five years. Our educators have exhibited resilience in responding to the challenges of the global Covid-19 pandemic and now are adjusting to a series of large-scale policy changes that impact operations, curriculum, and budgeting.

These topics require us to think strategically about how to provide equitable learning opportunities and support, increase academic achievement, and ensure sustainable education financing for the future. Spending time in the field has also reaffirmed my belief in the strengths of Vermont’s education system. I take great pride in our commitment to personalized learning, active community involvement, and inclusive approaches. As a mother of two school-age children about to enroll in Vermont’s public schools, I deeply understand the importance of my role in guiding the AOE.

My 100-Day Plan prioritizes listening, learning, and tackling emergent needs. I look forward to hosting town halls and focus groups across the state. These forums will create an opportunity for all of us – teachers, non-instructional staff, principals, superintendents, students, parents, and community partners - to come together to discuss our educational priorities. I recognize that there are also immediate needs related to issues such as compliance, data availability, and field support. Within my first 100 days, I will seek input on how the AOE can help support the field’s immediate challenges while building a strong foundation for the future.

I am a passionate believer in public education and trust that, together, we will elevate our public school system to new heights, making Vermont a national exemplar of educational excellence from early childhood to career. The best is yet to come.




Zoie Saunders, M.Ed.

Secretary of Education

100-Day Plan


This plan provides a roadmap for my first 100 days as Secretary of Education. It is my intent to listen and learn as much as possible. The activities outlined will help me collect information, analyze strengths and challenges, build productive working relationships, and synthesize findings to direct long-range strategic planning.

Orientation to the Field, AOE, Partners and Policy Makers (April; Completed)

  • Meet with AOE staff and division leaders to get to know team members, align project plans, and identify time-sensitive issues and potential compliance concerns.
  • Meet with legislators to discuss educational priorities statewide and within their respective districts.
  • Meet with key education stakeholder groups, including leadership from the Vermont Superintendents Association, Vermont School Boards Association, Vermont Principals Association, Chambers of Commerce, Building Bright Futures, Vermont Student Assistance Corp., Community College of Vermont, among others.
  • Engage with the State Board of Education, including participating in the April meeting.
  • Host all superintendents calls to meet and greet state education leaders.
  • Conduct field visits to gain a broad understanding of the education landscape in terms of geography, governance structures, and educational programs. Visits and outreach included the White River Valley Supervisory Union, Colchester School District, Winooski School District, Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union, Windham Southwest Supervisory Union, St. Johnsbury School District, and Hartford School District.

Target Support and Outreach (May)

  • Analyze academic and non-academic data to develop a comprehensive understanding of statewide performance.
  • Gather initial feedback on the impact of recent policy changes and the need for AOE technical support moving forward.
  • Evaluate emergent needs of the field and process improvement priorities within the AOE.
  • Mobilize AOE teams to provide targeted field support in coordination with superintendents and school boards.
  • Conduct a review of State Education Agency compliance with federal requirements and federal grant utilization across Local Education Agencies.
  • Engage key stakeholder groups to develop the listen and learn tour, building on existing convenings, outreach channels, and knowledge of effective engagement strategies.

Listen & Learn Tour (June-July)

  • Conduct focus groups with superintendents, principals, teachers, non-instructional staff, early education providers, afterschool providers, technical training providers, higher education institutions, health care providers that interface with schools, and the school safety center.
  • Host regional town halls to gather broad input on education priorities across the state.
  • Prioritize training and technical support to prepare for the 2024-25 school year.
  • Organize summer planning for the field and gain feedback on most pressing needs related to AOE reports, tools, and support.

Capture Educational Priorities & Plan (August)

  • Publish a report of findings from the first 100 days, capturing the educational priorities and how the information will direct future planning and AOE initiatives in the 2024-25 school year.