Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the Essex Westford School District requesting emails that board members sent or received regarding affinity groups from January 1, 2023, to April. Affinity groups are groups of people segregated by their characteristics, such as race and sexual orientation. PDE received several emails that the Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) sent to the district’s board members promoting an affinity group.
On January 17, 2023, the VSBA sent board members an email stating that it had received a “grant to support school board affinity group(s).” The VSBA was able to start this affinity group initiative due to a grant from the McClure Foundation. The VSBA states in the email:
Because it’s essential that board members of color have a voice in identifying and removing barriers and developing solutions to create more equitable student outcomes, VSBA’s first affinity group will bring together school board members who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC).
The goal for the affinity group is to allow “racial equity transformation.” The McClure Foundation’s website explicitly states that it provides grants for an “affinity group for VSBA members of color.”
In an email to board members on January 24, 2023, the VSBA explained that board members would need to meet specific criteria to join the affinity group: “If you or one of your fellow board members meet the criteria to participate in this group, be looking for more information about this in the next two weeks.”
In an email to board members on January 31, 2023, the VSBA provided a link to a form for potential members of the affinity group to complete.
In an email sent to board members on February 7, 2023, the VSBA explained that the affinity group “exclusively for BIPOC School Board Members” would be meeting on March 3.
On February 14, 2023, the VSBA sent another reminder to board members about the affinity group in a newsletter.
On February 21, 2023, the VSBA provided board members with another reminder.
On February 28, 2023, the VSBA sent board members a reminder again.