Former elementary school classmates Mike Dulin and Debbie Chadwick are working side by side—still in an elementary school—but, now, on the other side of the principal’s desk.

Former elementary school classmates Mike Dulin and Debbie Chadwick are working side by side—still in an elementary school—but, now, on the other side of the principal’s desk.

Dulin, formerly associate principal of Clayton Elementary School, was appointed principal upon the December retirement of Stan Borowski, and his longtime friend Debbie Chadwick soon followed, becoming associate principal.

“We’ve been together since elementary school,” Dulin said.

Both Dulin and Chadwick attended Smyrna Elementary School, where they were in the same fifth grade class.

“Wes Jones is one we both look up to quite a bit,” Dulin said of their fifth grade teacher. “I probably have more memories of that fifth grade year than any other.”

That’s probably when the witty repartee began between the pair.

“I used to whoop him at baseball,” Chadwick said, smiling.

At Smyrna High School, Dulin was on the wrestling team and Chadwick was a cheerleader. They both graduated in 1971 and went on to Delaware State University, Chadwick for elementary education and Dulin for health and physical education.

After college, both educators returned to Smyrna, where they have spent their entire careers, even coaching their former sports—wrestling, baseball, and track for Dulin and cheerleading for Chadwick. 

“This is home,” Chadwick said. “This is the greatest place.”

Before becoming administrators at Clayton Elementary School, Chadwick taught third graders and Dulin taught physical education at North and at Clayton elementary schools.

“I think we’ve pretty much been in the same building for 80 percent of our careers,” Dulin said.

They used to joke about “What would we do if we were in charge?’” Chadwick said, never knowing if it would become a possibility.

Now that it is a reality, “We’re a team,” Chadwick said.

“Teamwork is the only way I know how to work, she said. “We work together for the students.”

Although Dulin is always full of jokes for his colleagues, he spoke seriously about the value of having Debbie Chadwick at Clayton Elementary School.

“For me, it’s just a dream having Debbie here with us,” Dulin said. “She comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience with the curriculum.”

A teacher for more than 30 years, Chadwick brings a lot to the table, but said she misses her students.

“The hardest part was leaving my classroom midyear,” Chadwick said. “They cried. I cried. Mike’s been very kind letting me go back over from time to time.”

“It’s not from being kind. I just want to get rid of her,” joked her old friend.

Although it was difficult leaving her third graders, Chadwick said she likes her newest challenge.

“I like to see the sequence of the grades and how they grow and learn,” Chadwick said. “I like being support for the teachers, and I love curriculum. It’s just a bigger classroom with more kids.”

In addition to their fifth grade teacher, both said they were influenced by former Clayton Elementary administrative team Larry Dickerson and Debbie Wicks.

“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Dulin said. “They would always see the good qualities and bring it out in you.”

Chadwick said Dickerson and Wicks’ encouraging words are what influenced her to go back to school for the classes she needed to become an administrator.

“She [Wicks] would always say, ‘You’d be a really good administrator,’” said Chadwick.
As principals, Dulin and Chadwick have hopes for updating technology, providing support for teachers, and improving morale among staff. 

“We want to go the extra mile because we want Clayton to be successful,” Dulin said. “I want this to be a place where everyone wants to be,” Dulin said.