Pasco High ROTC students beg School Board to keep their teacher
About an hour of public comment at the Pasco County School Board meeting Tuesday was devoted to one man: Dimitri Delgado.
Dozens, many in uniform, surrounded the 51-year-old retired U.S. Coast Guard commander to ask Board members to let Delgado keep his job at Pasco High School as Junior Navy ROTC director. Each person had a three-minute time limit to speak. Nearly all speakers were cut off a little after three minutes.
An early comment belonged to a Pasco High student and sister to a young man in the ROTC program. She pleaded with Board members to listen to the comments. Students' opinions, she said, are rarely considered by school administration.
"We're just students," she said. "We are never heard."
The school district has said it would not renew Delgado's contract. Repeated cases of "poor judgment," including riding in a parent's personal car and drinking an alcoholic drink during a school trip, were among the reasons cited. Delgado did not deny the allegations, but said he believed his actions did not constitute poor judgment. Read the district's disciplinary letters for details.
Students in ROTC uniform proudly gave similar testimonials on Delgado's behalf. Many said, high school began with low grades, few friends and a general lack of confidence. ROTC provided a "family" and Delgado's leadership turned their lives around, they said.
Delgado sat patiently in the audience as his students gave heartfelt comments. When they finished speaking, he too stood to address the Board.
"I'm a little put off that I could work in counter terrorism and be brought to tears," he said.
Delgado thanked the Pasco community for providing him with a "hometown," something he said he never had during his military career. He said he didn't want to take responsibility for the ROTC success stories. "They're
the ones doing this," Delgado said. "I'm just setting the table."
Delgado implicitly referenced the allegations by saying complaints came from families of kids who "did not survive."
He said he is touched by the outpouring of support, saying it's "not about me."
"It's not my job to get them ready for the military," he said. "It's my job to get them ready for life."
The Board said it would take the comments into consideration but did not hint at any changes to the contract.
Delgado is a no-party candidate for the District 1 seat on the Pasco County Commission.
Pasco County does not have written policy regarding transgender students' use of school bathrooms. The issue was expected to come up during public comment at Tuesday's three-hour meeting, but instead, only one person mentioned the word "transgender."
United School Employees of Pasco County President Kenny Blankenship briefly addressed President Obama's order that transgender students in public schools should be free to use the bathroom of their choice as an issue "in the press," but his comment reflected medical insurance for teachers, not students using bathrooms.
There has been a push from employees to look at medical insurance for those who are "addressing transgender issues," Blankenship said. He said bargaining is under way.
"I hope that we will address these issues in a way that is morally and ethically sound and right for the employees," Blankenship said.
The district has indicated that it will assess the issue on a case-by-case basis. About a year ago, the district responded to a request for a transgender high school student's bathroom use. A small number of people
called in, mostly to ask what was going on.
Recently, Pasco County School Board member Alison Crumbley said she's seen little evidence of problems with transgender student rights, and wondered why the Board would be "worrying about bathrooms."