Regional School Committee votes to retire T-Hawks mascot (Updated)

Above: Last night, the official decision was made to “retire” the Tomahawks as the symbol for the school and Athletics. ARHS Athletics has already replaced it’s former header photo on twitter (up top) with the photo (bottom) of the football field.

Last night, the Regional School Committee voted to support the recommendation to retire Algonquin’s Tomahawks mascot. As I previously reported, the Committee was scheduled to vote the decision up or down. The length of time it will take to fully retire the mascot wasn’t on the agenda. (Read about the potential 5-7 year timeframe here.)

While I missed last night’s zoom meeting, the school’s newspaper, The Harbinger, recapped the discussion:

Near the beginning of the meeting, [Superintendent Gregory] Martineau gave his official recommendation to the RSC, which was instrumental in this decision.

“Ignoring Native Americans’ opposition to the use of Native American mascots, symbols and nicknames is not aligned with Algonquin Regional High School’s values,” Martineau said during the meeting. “Continuing the use of the mascot reinforces negative stereotypes and overshadows past and present contributions, perspectives and struggles of Native American people. I support the Study Group for Mascot Review’s recommendation to retire Algonquin Regional High School’s current mascot.”

Before Martineau shared his recommendation, the RSC heard from several community members in the audience who explained their perspectives on the issue. These perspectives were fairly divided, with some in favor of keeping the mascot and others fervently opposed to it.

“Instead of making tangible progress and responding responsibly and empathetically to requests from numerous Indigenous organizations to stop using their likeness and cultural items as mascots, we have as a district chosen to allow a predominantly white school committee to vote on their civil rights,” audience member Jessica Levinson said during the meeting. “I ask you to do the right thing—to heed native voices—and retire the mascot without delay.”

With the audience perspectives and Martineau’s recommendation in mind, RSC members proceeded to discuss their thoughts on the issue. Most members articulated their agreement with Martineau’s recommendation.

“I believe that the mascot is something that expresses the values and characters of the school,” RSC Vice Chair Sean O’Shea said during the meeting. “Having a mascot that’s hurtful to some and polarizing to others does not accomplish that goal for me. [The mascot] should respect the quality of education the students receive, the relationships that are built and the accomplishments of the students, and for those reasons, I support retiring the mascot.”

Click here for the full article.

WGBH coverage included:

Chris Covino, one of the committee members, pointed out that one of the main arguments for keeping the mascot has been that it was originally intended to honor Native Americans.

“However, if a group of individuals says that it is not an honor, then it is really not our place to say that, ‘Well, it is an honor,'” he said.

The one member who was not present for the vote, Dan Kolenda, left the meeting early but expressed reservations about moving to retire the mascot without full involvement of the community.

“I am fearful that we may do something tonight that does not reflect the overall consensus of both communities,” he said. “I think from what I saw, at least from the emails that have come in, it has been 2-to-1 to keep the mascot.”

Click here for that article.

According to Wicked Local, Kolenda tried unsuccessfully to table the vote for 30-60 days.

Although Audience Sharing wasn’t on the agenda for prior to the vote, Chair Joan Frank recommended adding one based on strong, last minute community interest.

The meeting has been posted to YouTube courtesy of Northborough Cable. You can watch the public comment portion starting here and the committee’s discussion starting here.

Updated (4/30/21 8:47 am): I found Wicked Local’s and WGBH’s coverage of the decision. Based on their stories, I added in some more context, including a clarification of Kolenda’s stated position.

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