Principals Press 03/07/2024

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

 

On Thursday, March 7, Steven Dellinger-Pate met with the journalism class to answer questions about the most up-and-coming topics around U-32. This is the fifth article in the ongoing Principal’s Presser series, Steven’s Secrets. 

 

3/7 Topics:

  • Budget Failure
  • Eclipse Day
  • Teachers’ Extended Absences
  • Guest Speakers
  • Statewide Phone Policy 

 

 

U-32 Budget Failure

By Elsie Koger, Elise O’Brien, and Avery Ryan

 

U-32’s budget failed for the first time on Town Meeting Day. “30% of all of those school budgets in the state that were up for a vote yesterday (March 6th) failed,” said Steven.  Not all school’s budgets were voted on, leaving about half the schools in Vermont without budgets for next year.

 

The school budget could drop significantly from this year’s current budget if the community cannot agree on a budget. “We could only have a budget that is 87% of the current year’s budget to work with,” said Steven. The state would fund this budget.

 

The state financing of education changed this year and has raised taxes. “People are going to see their taxes rise somewhere between 15% and 25% in our district,” said Steven. 

 

Regarding the budget failure, Steven said, “It’s certainly a backlash from the voters over the rising cost of education in our state.”

 

On Wednesday, March 13th, the school board met to address the failed budget. They plan to draft a new budget by April 3rd. The revote will happen on May 7th.

 

Steven and the school board are figuring out what the next steps are for the budget.  “It’s going to be hard to tell what’s going to be a budget that will be approved by our voters right now,” said Steven. 

 

After the 16.7% increase in spending was turned down by voters, the school board has three options to consider moving forward. They must either increase spending by 6%, 8% or 10%. Each percent increase still represents a cut from the originally proposed amount. This means cuts of 3.2 million, 2.5 million, or 1.9 million respectively. 

 

To achieve any of those cuts, Steven believes that the school needs to focus on the critical needs of the school. This includes emotional and social-emotional health resources for the students. He said these will be their priorities when creating the new budget.

 

“If the cuts are really deep, we’ll have to decide what programs we need to keep and what programs we might have to cut,” said Steven. Though this is a last resort, the possibility of cutting programs is something they have to consider. “We’ll first look at are there places where we can cut because of a decline in enrollment,” said Steven.

 

Steven counts on pulling through, though it’s going to be difficult. Steven said, “It’s going to be a hard time for us, but I believe in our school and I believe in our community.” 

 

U-32 Dealing With the Solar Eclipse

By Cody, Drew, Lei 

 

On April 8th there will be a total solar eclipse, and U-32 will have a half-day due to heavy expected traffic and the timing of the eclipse, beginning in Vermont at around 3-3:30 p.m., according to NASA. “The eclipse would occur when you’re on buses in the afternoon…which can be a little bit ridiculous…to keep you longer,” said Steven. 

 

If faculty wants a half-day, Steven said, “They have to take a personal [care] day…so it’d be a full workday for them otherwise.” Currently, WCUUSD isn’t giving faculty a free half day. However, Steven said, “We’ll let people go early enough if they want to get to see [the eclipse].”

 

Bus routes may have traffic issues due to people from all over New England coming to Vermont for the eclipse. Steven said, “We don’t know what the traffic issues are going to be. So we just don’t want to [take] a chance with it.” 

 

Vermont estimates a minimum of 200,000 additional people coming to see the eclipse, according to Green Mountain Club. “The path of totality is going across Vermont, we are the closest to New York and Boston, so people [will be] coming up from either of those places,” said Steven. There is a chance that highways will close on April 8th. To this, Steven said, “For us, once you go out to the back roads there’s not going to be [much traffic compared to] Berlin buses [and] Middlesex buses.”

 

Despite being a figure of authority as a principal in U-32, Steven will be enjoying the eclipse as much as students will. “I have some friends from Maine who are coming up [to Vermont]…I’m gonna be right at the edge of where totality is [at] my house [in Barre Town],” said Steven. “if we were a little further north, [it] would last a little bit longer.”

 

Extended Teachers’ Absences Leave Faculty Scrambling

By Maia Pasco and Evelyn Rocha

 

“We are in a position right now in science and in math where we have not been able to hire (staff or teachers),” Steven said. “There’s been no applicants for the long-term sub positions that we have.” 

 

Teachers’ extended absences have left U-32 short-staffed and scrambling for long-term coverage. 

 

While Christine Fitch, U-32’s Earth Science Teacher, is away on maternity leave, Randy Brown, Physics and Computer Science teacher, has to cover one of her Chemistry classes. Amy Urling also has to cover her Earth Science classes.

 

There are other absences the school has to plan for. “We have another teacher that’ll be going out soon in math,” said Steven. Steven and other math teachers will be covering the classes. 

 

Teachers’ contracts allow them to teach five classes in one semester and six in the other. “Teachers, as a part of their contract, can be asked to teach that 6th assignment,” This means that these teachers are not getting paid to cover the extra classes. 

 

“The teacher who’s out is already receiving a salary if they have sick leave.” He also says, “There’s not a big pot of money that we hold on to that’s for all the long-term subs…we have a sub-pool of money that we use.” However, this pool of money does not extend to current teachers covering for absences. 

 

Guest Speakers

By Biruk Alfarone and Zephyr O’neill

 

Guest speakers enlighten our community. U-32 has a process to decide who gets to be a guest speaker, but it hasn’t been on the top of Steven’s mind. “I hadn’t really thought about it to be fair,” said Steven.

 

Instead of speaking to the entire school, guests usually speak to small class groups. Programs like Seeking Social Justice and BLAMM bring in these speakers. For them, regular classrooms or the library classroom provide a good setting. The auditorium works well for those needing a larger venue, but “we don’t do a whole lot of big school assemblies,” said Steven

 

Sometimes, the school reaches out to speakers. However, clubs in the school are most often the ones putting in the work.

 

The most recent guests, the “Black Opry Group,” reached out to Steven about performing a program for the school in celebration of Black History Month. Steven allotted the auditorium for the performance.

 

Guest speakers visiting the school for big assemblies are not on Steven’s radar, at least when it comes to the students’ interests. Steven said, “There’s all kinds of people I’d like to hear speak, but it might not be great for you guys.”

 

Statewide Phone Policy Proposal

By: Elly and Josie

 

In February, Vermont legislators introduced a new proposal (S.284). If passed, S.284 would significantly affect the WCUUSD school district. “The bill would require schools to create policies banning student use of personal smart devices and cellphones, prohibit teachers and school officials from using social media in lessons or for announcements, and allow students to opt out of using electronic devices, the internet, and more,” reports Vermont Biz

 

“I wouldn’t be in support of the bill as it is written,” Steven Dellinger-Pate said,“I think that bill is a little draconian, their intentions are good, but…it’s pretty extensive.” Some of the details in the fine print would require administrators and faculty to rework classroom styles and enforcement completely. “Our job isn’t to enforce a bunch of laws. We just want to educate kids,” said Steven.

 

A school day fully devoid of technology differs from the current offerings at U-32 which include Chromebooks and cell phones. As of now, Chromebooks are available to all students and used in most classrooms. 

 

In the 2023/24 school year, U-32 adopted a new phone policy. Cell phones are now completely prohibited in classrooms although the enforcement is up to the teachers. “The feedback I’ve heard from teachers and kids is that classes are going better now,” Steven said. Furthermore, “Teachers are reporting getting through more curriculum this year than they have in the past several years.”

 

Given that the current phone policy at U-32 is effective, Steven believes the state doesn’t have to step in. “If they create something so onerous that we have to develop new systems, that’s problematic, that’s why I don’t support the bill in its current form.”

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