Steven Dellinger-Pate aka a Sumo Wrestler

This article was written by Lei DeGroot, a sophomore in the journalism class here at U-32. 


Current principal and incoming WCUUSD superintendent Steven Dellinger-Pate came to U-32 in the 2014-2015 school year. He’s worked diligently throughout his tenure between COVID and more Steven has retained his ability to do hard and school centric work. Steven has had many different, little and impactful moments in his years at U-32, “I had a couple of different TA groups that I inherited when they were juniors or seniors and seeing them go off to college and being a part of their lives, I think was some of the most important things that I’ve done” said Steven.


Steven as a principal amplifies his values and willingness to be out there, “Stevens the person that you see before you walk in and the person you see when you walk out of school, and it’s gonna be such a different environment when he’s gone,” said Willow Mashkuri, a school board member and senior at U-32.


Willow knows Steven because of his experiences and having three older siblings who went to U-32 As one of the non voting school board members she has gotten the opportunity to talk with Steven a lot. Willow thinks of “Steven as someone that really shows up and for me that was seeing him outside of school at functions.” for example “He showed up to a celebration of life one time,” said Willow


During the 2020-2021 school year Steven would often be outside of the front door being the first person many students would see. ”Rain or shine…out there greeting people, being the first person they see as they come into the school…to me that really exemplifies how he is as a principal,” said Karen Liebermann, the director of the Branching Out program at U-32. 


(Steven, Karen, Geoff, Kevin, Erin M., Erin GB., Kara, Amy, and Michelle T.M. In Nepal/Karen Liebermann U-32)


Earlier this year when Karen, Steven, Geoff, and many more U-32 staff members went to Nepal they were trying to create a certain partnership between U-32 and a school in rural Nepal. During that trip they ate and cooked a lot of different traditional foods. “We also did a lot of eating. We share a love of food and we talked our way into a food and cooking workshop with Jimmy Lamas’ wife to learn how to cook some basic Nepali foods, basic traditional Nepali foods,” said Karen.


When Steven went on the Nepal trip he went to a rural middle school in the rural areas of Nepal. He went to a classroom and students at the school were very curious about what America and Vermont was like. He also got to do what he really wanted to do. “Being able to visit a 10th grade math classroom, you know, because I’m a math nerd as well,” said Steven.


Today in the school hangs a beautiful, traditional Nepali piece of art that Karen and Steven purchased. “Steven and I had got to go on a morning outing. We had some shopping time. It was one of our last days in Nepal and we were in search of a few important items. One was going to be the mandala painting…I got to be with Steven when he helped pick out the mandala painting that’s now in our atrium,” said Karen.


After purchasing the mandala painting from the art studio, Steven and Karen went to find something else, “Then right after that, we went to search for singing bowls, and we fell into this. Tibetan singing bowls are all over the place in Kathmandu, but we almost fell into a workshop where Steven was getting a demo on healing moles. And so I watched this the guy who is doing a full treatment Steven got the full treatment of the healing balls,” said Karen. 


(Steven and Karen with Tashi Lama of the painting school/Karen Liebermann U-32)


Recently, Steven and some of his colleagues went to Nepal as a partnership program between schools. Karen was one of the individuals who went on this trip, so was Geoff Green, a Democratic Roots teacher, Steven Dellinger-Pate, the principal, and many more. “I think what stood out to me is how exceptional of a traveler Steven is,” said Geoff. 


According to Geoff, Steven is really knowledgeable about Nepal and especially the food. 

“One I was amazed by his love of knowledge of Indian and South Asian food. Steven taught me how to eat Indian food with my hands. Steven’s knowledge of the spices and different ingredients in the food was really extraordinary,” said Geoff. 


As the trip came to an end, the people on the trip went to a fancy dinner with traditional Nepali dancing and acting. There were multiple courses that would come out along with dancers and one interesting thing, a peacock puppet. “He will peck you on the head until you give it money. That was one of the performances and I was sitting next to Steven as this was happening and so watching Steven get pecked in the head by a puppet peacock until he gave it a donation,” said Geoff. 


As Steven moves onto the position of District Superintendent Geoff said, “It’d be hard not to think of that when I have meetings with a new superintendent.”


The school’s librarian Jill Abair and Administrative Assistant of Printing and Supplies Tucker Cruikshank commend Steven for his efforts and style of working over the years. As the librarian position isn’t full-time and Jill, being a parent, was grateful of Steven and the school’s administration for giving her the freedom to perform her job how she saw fit, “Steven as well as the other administration here at the time, were very flexible with us teachers and they didn’t micromanage our time in the way that I’ve seen some of my colleagues in other schools,” said Jill.


Tucker Cruikshank said that he would sometimes get a little heated and Steven would have to defuse the situation sometimes. “I tend to get pretty heated about some things and there’ve been a few moments where I’ve had some heated moments and Steven has come in and had to deal with me,” Tucker said.


U-32 High School counselor Cairsten Keese came to the school at around the same time that Steven came. “We started the same year, actually. 10 years ago, we were in the same, incoming new group of staff members, which is kind of cool,” said Cairsten.


Steven’s first days at U-32 were sort of weird, “They handed me my keys and said ‘Here you go, man. So I just spent about half a day just walking around the school looking in classrooms, to see where the tunnels went, you know, all that kind of stuff and seeing what it looks like,”’ Steven said.


In late 2023, a U-32 senior Sawyer Mislak fought Steven during a pep rally in a large inflated sumo costume. “I find it really commendable when Steven last year did sumo wrestling with Sawyer in the gym,” said Jill, “not very often will you find a principal or administrator being willing to put themselves in a situation where they could get hurt. He’s a guy who’s very humble.”


Another thing that may come as a surprise to many is according to Geoff, “he is an amazing fisherman.” And that Steven loves to tell stories of him going fishing.


When Steven first came to the district he had a daughter named Grace Dellinger-Pate who went to this school, she was in the same music programs as Cricket Liebermann, Karen’s daughter. One thing that Karen was able to take from that was, “So I got to know Steven, both as a principal and as a parent…and I really liked that he had a student in the school and I think that allowed me to get to know different parts of him.” 


(Steven in France getting bread/Karen Liebermann U-32)


Also in the first years that Steven was at U-32 he went on the eighth grade Washington D.C. trip with the students and Karen, as a chaperone. Karen said, “That was amazing, fun to walk around D.C. and have long overnight bus rides.”


Looking back once again Karen and Steven went on the French Studies trip as chaperones. They went on a tour of Paris and had tons of pastries, “Steven is a big fan of potatoes. I’m a big fan of cheese. Caroline Grace is a big fan of pastries. We had lots of good picnics together,” said Karen. 


6 years after his first day on the job Steven reached a personal achievement of his. His first group of Students that came through the school had graduated. “And when they graduated, he said this was my first full graduating class,” said Karen.


Every year the upcoming graduates at U-32 participate in a tradition called Decision Day. This is where the seniors announce their plans for what they want to do after graduation. At the time of the first decision day, Steven had already been at the school for some years. He decided to make a speech about his journey. “So he came out with a lot of T-shirts on and with each layer of decision he’d take off a T-shirt and it showed the next one and he ended with a U-32 T-shirt,” said Karen.


Principals are normally ones to shut down the idea of learning and growing, which is sort of contradictory to what they are doing at a school and have to have done to be in the position they are in. However Willow sees Steven as, “always willing to learn. I think a lot of students have come to him with concerns or things like that and he really listens and works his way to fixing it.” 


Steven has experienced tons throughout his tenure, he dyed his hair for a sports team, he rode a zamboni and many, many other things. “There have been so many small moments that I cherish, but those are real, personal, like dealing with specific things,” said Steven. “I think we’re just crazy though I would say that I’ve never dyed my hair for anything in my entire life.”


However there is one thing that Steven prefers over everything else, “Just being with students during some of our hard times,” he said. “We’ve had the loss of a couple of students when I’ve been here, the death of them. And that was being with people during that time of loss, I think. Certainly, it shows how strong our community is and how important our relationships are.”


In Winter of 2017 a social studies teacher named Laure died in a snowmobiling accident. ”Even to this day, talking about it makes me very emotional. She was beloved by everyone. She was a wonderful teacher, a beautiful person, and had just the biggest heart for everybody. And so that was a huge loss,” Steven said. “Those are memories that will always kind of stick with me and were extremely heartbreaking.”


At U-32 one thing that is cherished by many is the TA system in which is the foundation of student experience and Steven, as the principal is not normally the adult TA of TAs. “I still cherish the little bit of time that I had with those groups and the friendships that I made with those students and I still am in contact with many of them and so I think that’s a really special part of this. And the opportunity just to see kids grow up,” Steven said. 


The job of being a principal dad is not all sunshine and rainbows, Steven has had some tough and sad moments being a parent and the principal. “It’s heartbreaking seeing my daughter graduate from the school and me being able to hand her her diploma is really special. Seeing her soccer team lose in the State Championship, you know, it’s just kind of part of it. And I think those moments are you know, as a father and a principal, those are those are ones that kind of just stick in your head,” Steven said.


One of Steven’s favorite parts of being the Principal of U-32 was seeing people grow up and become good members of our community. “Having the kid who says that you are 32 made a difference for them. They’re successful now because of the work we do when I run into people in the community and say they graduated before I was even here and how important the school was to them. I think it’s important and just being in the community and being a part of all of that,” said Steven, “And so that’s one of the joys of being in the local community and being in a school district. It’s convenient.”


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