[UPDATED] Steven’s Secrets

Article updated on 03/07/24

 

This article was written by the members of the Journalism class.

 

On Thursday, February 1st, Steven Dellinger-Pate sat down with the journalism class to answer questions about the most up-and-coming topics around U-32. This is the fourth article in an ongoing series called Principal’s Presser. 

 

2/1 Topics:

 

  • Steven Dellinger-Pate is Wary of Budgetary Concerns
  • A Disappearing Summer (Snow Day Policy)
  • Improvement of Education in Central VT
  • Newly Available Superintendent Position in WCUUSD District
  • PCBs at U-32
  • The Issue of School Choice
  • Education of Foreign Policy at U-32
  • The Dilemma of Early College and Dual Enrollment
  • Bathroom Renovations

 

Steven Dellinger-Pate is Wary of Budgetary Concerns

By Lei DeGroot and Elise O’Brien 

 

In our district budget cuts are having some effects on students in our schools, but Steven said, “there are no major cuts” to programs or staff at U-32.

 

Though there are no major cuts, one position will be eliminated.  Steven said, “We have a grant-funded position in the Middle School, which is one of the middle school counselors.” 

 

Steven had two main goals to keep in mind throughout this process. “The first goal that we’ll always have is to keep the programming so that we have as much as possible,” said Steven. Keeping as many programs as possible would ensure that students have access to lots of experiences, such as clubs like Pep Squad and Green Team, and sports such as basketball and soccer.

 

Keeping these sports and clubs is very important for student life.  As he put it– “Maintaining our co-curricular to a level that we can have as many students participating as possible.”

 

The administration aims to maintain student life to the best of their ability but also has to acknowledge possibilities for the future.  Steven said, “We may have to have conversations in the future about which programs are serving the most students or serving our students the best.”

 

A Disappearing Summer

By Drew Frostick and Avery Ryan

 

This year, U-32 has dug into its contingency days due to Vermont’s weather. Summer is becoming shorter and shorter for students, as weather gets in the way of commuting safely to U-32. In fact, it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that U-32 had a full 5 day school week without there being a two-hour delay, early release or snow day since mid-November.

 

According to Steven, the district’s superintendent is ultimately responsible for making the call. After consulting with the road crew, they decide whether there should be a 2-hour delay, a snow day, or if the school district is comfortable weathering the storm. If the roads are passable and the buses can get down them safely, it’s a go.

 

When it comes to road conditions, ice is the deadliest. Snow is a little more manageable. “We have to kind of balance out the safety along with the need to just continue to have school otherwise we would never be in school,” said Steven. Though the road conditions are inconvenient, Steven acknowledged that having bad weather is inevitable since we live in Vermont.

 

As with other decisions, the school administration has received both positive and negative feedback. “There are some people who think that we should go to school no matter what, and then there are some people who, no matter what weather, think we should cancel,” said Steven.

 

For a large part of students, school is not only for receiving an education, but it also provides kids with access to clean water and a meal every day, as well as a warm place to stay during the Vermont winters. The school district attempts to find a balance between student and faculty safety and the need for students to be in school. “This is the warmest place and so we want to keep kids here if we can,” Steven said.

 

Improvement of Education in Central VT

By Ari Chapin and Daniel Yaeger

 

Although merging U-32 and Montpelier could be beneficial, Steven said, “There is no possible merger with Montpelier at this time.”

 

Steven Dellinger-Pate had a new take on the possible merger with Montpelier. “We need to have a broader discussion about education in Central Vermont…we cannot just talk about Montpelier and U32,” Steven said.

 

Steven was not worried about education in the two districts but rather about bringing excellent education to other schools in our area. “If we’re going to talk about the two wealthier districts merging without talking about a district that has a lot more struggles in Spaulding [then] we’re not having equitable conversations about what we should be doing in this area,” said Steven. The idea is to bring together not only Montpelier High School but also Spaulding High School and the tech center, to create equal opportunities for all students in the Central Vermont area. 

 

According to Steven, while mergers are a viable way to deal with the decreasing student population in Vermont, the real challenge is “how do we create opportunities for kids if they are in small schools.”

 

Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to this question. “If you close an elementary school, you’re talking about the center of some of our communities,” said Steven.

 

These places are very important to people in our community, and to Steven, the best way we can do this is by considering everyone’s view. 

 

The decision to merge any school with U-32 will ultimately be in the school board’s hands, but the real problems are at the state and international levels dealing with overpopulation, inequitable transportation, education, and overall opportunities. Steven said we have to “wrestle with [the fact] that there is no plan right now.”

 

Newly Available Superintendent Position in WCUUSD District

By Josie Haley

 

“I’ve been a part of this community now for 10 years and I want to see it continue to grow and thrive,” said Steven. He is considering applying for the available position as superintendent of the WCUUSD district. This is a role he’s familiar with, given that he’s worked closely with many superintendents himself over the years. “[Meghan Roy] is my fifth superintendent that is leaving,” he said, “we’ve had a pretty big turnover in superintendents over the last several years.”

 

When considering this position, Steven is thinking primarily about the future generations of students and families involved in our community. “There’s some little kids that are going to be entering kindergarten next year who want a school system that is every bit as wonderful as the one you’ve been apart of,” Steven said. If he takes on the role of superintendent he would not only oversee the operations of U-32, but of all the elementary schools in the district (East Montpelier, Berlin, Calais, Middlesex, and Worcester). 

 

Steven said he will “make sure that we as a community, the five communities, really work to provide.” He plans to maintain the positive elements of the district that may be threatened by declining numbers in student size. These elements include academic and extracurricular offerings for students. Additionally, he said, “what would interest me is seeing the work that we’ve started, continue to help our district improve.” 

 

“If I were to put my name in, there’s a whole competition for it,” said Steven. There’s a lot of factors for him Impto consider, especially since he’s the principal, an important member of the U-32 community. Along with that, adjusting to a new role may not be of interest to him. “I’m considering, but I have not made a decision about whether or not I’m going to put in my application for it,” said Steven.

 

PCBs at U-32

By Elsie Koger and Maia Pasco

 

“We ingest more PCBs in the food that we eat than you will inhale in your time here at U32,” said Steven. 

 

According to the EPA, PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) are man-made organic chemicals consisting of carbon, hydrogen, and chlorine atoms. PCBs are not always dangerous; it depends on the levels of them. 

 

After the PCBs were discovered at U32, Stone Environmental Inc. began testing for them in different locations. “They’re starting with testing spaces that have already been air sampled and found to have PCBs in them,” said Steven. After that, they will continue to to test to find out where the PCBs are coming from. Steven said, “It can be literally anything in the room; the adhesives under the floor behind those little black things on the bottom corners, it could be the ballasts and the lights. We don’t know where they are.” 

 

“Once we identify [what is] causing the PCBs and where they are located, I think then we’ll have a better idea of how we are able to remove them to [create] a level that’s safe for all of us,” said Steven. They will know where the PCBs are located in the next couple of months after the testing is sent to the lab and they review everything. Steven said, “I will be giving regular updates in my weekly newsletter about where we are in the PCB testing, and what we find.”

 

“Our levels are not so dangerous that we need to abandon any rooms. We’re not anywhere near the levels of Burlington High,” said Steven. Burlington High School (BHS) levels prompted them to shut down the school. “You have to take action if there’s more than 100 parts per million in a space,” said Steven.  The highest levels at U-32 were around 130, whereas in BHS the levels were in the 8,000s. Luckily for our community, Steven said, “We’ve been assured that we can occupy our spaces without any concerns for our long-term health.”

 

The Issue of School Choice

By Dillon Cox

 

“This is a topic I could talk to you about…for another month,” Steven said regarding school choice. 

 

Steven believes school choice is a complex subject. School choice may solve the current crisis of declining school enrollment.” We will, over the next three years…have 100 fewer students in this building as our enrollment drops…” said Steven. 

 

Steven sees a myriad of difficulties regarding school choice,” I think U-32 would ultimately be a winner in that kind of situation.” said Steven, “If kids from the region were told that you can choose which high school you go to…” said Steven. “Which means that there’s another school out there where kids aren’t choosing and they have declining enrollment and their opportunities may be limited…There were definite pluses and minuses to it.”

 

With the massive increase in educational cost on the school board’s mind, school choice does not seem to be the primary concern. “I think this morning’s news was we’re looking at a 20% increase in our property taxes for the next school budget.” said Steven. “There’s a lot of legislation that has to happen for the money to follow kids.” 

 

Education of Foreign Policy at U-32

By Cody Young

 

Currently, at U-32, foreign policy is not explicitly integrated into the curriculum. “I think that if we were talking about classes that incorporated foreign policy into it, that would be more important,” said Steven. While believing foreign education is an important topic to cover in school, Steven also knows that many branches could be taught. 

 

Balancing foreign education in the U-32 curriculum could be challenging. Steven said, “Because it may not just be in social studies that you talk about those kinds of things…education would need to be integrated into the curriculum directly.” 

 

“I wouldn’t want to limit it to one class…I mean, think about down in [the] middle school, we have the World Peace Games,” said Steven. The World Peace Game is a national large-scale project, dedicated to finding various interpretations and compromises of world peace through roleplay. This education is being used in the middle school department and is currently the only way in which foreign policy is taught in U-32.

 

There are important parts of foreign policy education to be included in the school, but Steven still wouldn’t want to limit the possibilities of education in a singular taught class. “I think there are so many aspects of foreign policy. We can’t touch on everything,” said Steven. “You would want to talk to the department directly…or the department heads.” 

 

For the implementation of this type of education in the curriculum, it would be best to talk to the social studies department about what types of foreign policy education be taught. This could range from foreign relations to political perspectives. 

 

The Dilemma of Early College and Dual Enrollment

By Elly Budliger and Evelyn Rocha

 

“[At U-32] We could reach a situation in which we have too many kids taking college classes and early college classes, for us to be able to have a viable class size to run some of our programs,” said Steven Dellinger-Pate. As years go on more and more students are deciding to spend their senior year at early college and student enrollment is decreasing. How will this affect the programs offered at U-32?

 

Many U-32 students seek rigorous courses but declining enrollment could result in programs being cut. There are two solutions to this problem. “If we run into a situation where, and we’ve had some classes that are getting close, there’s just not enough kids to run the programs effectively, there’s two things we’ve looked at in the past,” Steven said, “One of them is we can share students with Montpelier or Spaulding.” This helps to keep class sizes up by getting a few students from each school to create a class. 

 

Another solution is, “VTVLC which is one virtual learning cooperative, or through VHS which is the virtual high school program,” said Steven. VTVLC and VHS have classes that aren’t offered at U-32 and since they are online they can be taken in the summer or outside of a student’s regular schedule. Steven acknowledges, “ [That] They’re not always the best options… but they do at least give us some additional options.”

 

Additionally, Dual enrollment can be a replacement for AP classes. “We work on stuff like dual enrollment for some of our programs, as opposed to just AP because that can attract some more kids into those kinds of classes.”According to the Vermont Agency of Education, For dual enrollment Vermont high schoolers can choose from a long list of courses taught at CCV, UVM, Champlain College, Norwich, Saint Micheals, and many more. Dual enrollment can help with dwindling class sizes as well. Early college isn’t the only option for U-32 students. Steven said, “Because you don’t have to go to early college to be able to get college credit.” 

 

Bathroom Renovations

By Biruk Alfarone and Zephyr O’Neill 

 

The bathrooms at U-32 have been criticized by many, including our principal. “I’d love the water to be a little bit warmer…It’s the coldest place on earth,” said Steven.

 

Past experiences with renovating U-32 bathrooms showed they take a while. “The renovations that we did recently [to the gender-neutral restrooms] took six years,” said Steven.

 

U-32 completes renovations on campus in an organized manner by following something called a Capitol Improvement Plan. “If you need to know more, we have a Capital Improvement plan for the district and for our building. That’s a 5-year plan. It may be on that plan,” said Steven.

 

The goal with renovations is to plan when they happen. The boy’s bathroom near the cafeteria will take time. “We have to look down the line because we can’t do everything in one year,” said Steven.

 

U-32 has a lot of needs right now such as the baseball field, PCB work, and regular maintenance. “Repairs happen as quickly as we can do them and depend on supplies and personnel,” said Steven. Although the bathrooms may take some time, the baseball field this next summer will have renovations done to it. “We are going to actually make it so that it will drain,” said Steven.

U-32 principal Steven Dellinger-Pate working in his office.

This still leaves a sense of optimism for the future, but for whoever doesn’t enjoy the bathrooms now, you’ll have to sit tight!

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