Core Equity Team to be Reconstituted

by June Pichel Cook

CRAFTSBURY – The select board issued a statement last week detailing the reformation of the town’s core equity team (CET). The board formed a CET late last summer following a rally on the Common that drew several hundred people and a Zoom meeting with over 70 participants.

A Black Lives Matter painting on the road in front of the Craftsbury Academy was welcomed by some community members, but other community members said they found it upsetting. The road painting was removed after several weeks.

The statement notes that the earlier CET served its purpose by laying the groundwork for the next steps in the process. Discussion at the board meeting involved reviewing work performed by the earlier CET and the formation of a new CET with the guidance of an equity consultant.

Linda Ramsdell, who helped spearhead the formation of an equity team, asked that the October board minutes be amended to reflect that the core equity team has been disbanded. The October minutes were not clear, she said. The core team of seven people had dwindled to two: Ramsdell and Rudy Chase.

In a phone interview, Ramsdell said the core group has dissolved.

“It was disbanded,” she said, “to make way for the next step in the process.”

She added, “The core equity team and select board came to realize that we needed to have a different process to form an equity team.”

In a separate interview, Chase said: “The original team was always looked at as a core and not the final version of what Craftsbury hoped to do and was not the type of representation that Craftsbury needed to move forward to make sure all groups were covered. It was a misnomer.”

“Representation was an issue,” he said. “We didn’t feel we had a good cross-representation. I am proud of the town for taking the steps that we have. It is an important matter and it’s important to get good representation. I am proud of the town and select board. Maybe I can serve down the road.”

Ramsdell reiterated a similar sentiment: “I really appreciate the select board and core team. They got us to this point and am looking forward to the next team forming.”

Hilary Maynard, an equity consultant, drafted a statement that the board reworked and accepted. The statement outlined the transition to the next phase. In reworking the draft, Board Chair Bruce Urie was troubled by the implication that the core team had not been formed through an equitable process.

He said the core team had people from diverse areas of the community, each with something to offer, and represented the town as a whole. Telling them that they were done and no longer needed was not acceptable, he said.

“We did have a representative group and a group able to reach out in the community to get things going,” he said.

Urie said some people were upset because they were being told, “we don’t need you anymore.”

“We have an equity team,” he said. “We haven’t given up on the idea of doing something and this is just a pause.”

The board accepted the following statement: “On behalf of the select board of the town of Craftsbury, Vermont, this statement is an effort to build transparency in our process and update you regarding the formation of the Craftsbury Equity Team. Having listened to voices of people in the community, the select board unanimously decided that the core equity team that had been formed this summer could have been formed through a more equitable process.”

The statement continued: “The select board appreciates the contributions of that initial team, and although it is now disbanded, we are grateful for their help in getting to this point in the process of forming an equity team. We acknowledge how important it is to hear from the most marginalized identities in the town of Craftsbury, specifically BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) folks, to understand the impact of our actions in forming an equity team, as well as an opportunity to learn more about the impacts and experiences of living in our town. Listening to the experience of others is essential to building a community of care, dignity, and belonging for all, and is a step to take before forming a team. Thus, the select board, with encouragement and support from community members, has decided to work with an equity consultant to approach this process with just practices. We aren’t exactly sure what that looks like yet, but it will begin with reaching out to and creating spaces for marginalized people in Craftsbury who have stories to share. It will be incredibly important to hear these stories and perspectives both before and during the formation of a committee to serve in building safety and belonging for all.”

Maynard thanked the board for its willingness to accept the reworked statement. Board member Susie Houston indicated in an e-mail that a time frame for the new CET has not been set.