The new Onteora Central School District mascot, the Eagle, would be created by a student or students, according to a proposal from Student Government on its creation. At the Board of Education’s meeting September 27 at Bennett Intermediate School, new student representative Gabrielle Raphael brought forth the idea. “We discussed in our last student Government meeting about holding a mascot image contest of the Eagle,” she said. “We thought it would be good to open it up to every grade from seven-to-twelve. We feel that it would be really good and supportive of our artists in the school, which we have plenty of and very talented ones at that.” She continued, “And we would like it to be submitted through electronic means or through paper and we would choose a few of those drawings and hold it as a school vote.”
Moving forward on a new mascot has had its hiccups following a contentious debate last spring when the Board of Education voted 5-2 to remove the Indian mascot, an image some people found offensive. Trustee Valerie Storey who voted against removing it said at the recent Homecoming, “when the Onteora Eagles was announced there was a massive amount of boos…and that was from a lot of our students.” She said the district has had a “rough couple of months,” following the death of two students and that changing the mascot would cause division when unity is needed. “I don’t think it’s a good idea at this point, to move forward with this because we’ve had a very difficult few months,” said Storey.
Trustee Kevin Salem wasn’t surprised by the reaction. “Regarding the booing, I heard about that,” he said. “I find it disappointing, but not unexpected. I think we are a very strong community, I don’t know if that’s what is going to tear us apart, but if so, we all need a little mentoring in that regard.”
Trustees mulled over ideas on how to go about holding a contest. It was eventually decided that the students would have free range on how to go about creating an Eagle mascot, including a new mural. This would be followed by a community outreach search for a graphic arts person, for the purpose of a logo (tee-shirts, water bottles, etc.) and the administration handling the legal process on its use.
Newly appointed Superintendent Bruce Watson called it a, “two phase” process, and gave his blessing on allowing the student government to proceed with a contest. Watson said, “This is not going to be easy, I hear people on one side, people on the other side, and I say, ‘holy mackerel, this is not easy!’ but the stake is in the ground to a decision, and to sit here and do nothing is not what you want to do.”
Trustee Dale Allison said she agreed with Watson that it’s time to move forward even though she voted against removing the Indian. “A lot of people felt it was unfair to change the mascot with 600-700 kids, only 170 kids voted on it. I agree it should be planned in the hands of the kids and maybe it will redeem itself.”
In other news…
The Student Government has organized a memorial for Madison Creagan, who succumbed to an untimely death due to a car accident, on October 6. “We will be planting a pink flower and cherry tree in honor of her memory,” said student rep. Raphael, “and the Onteora community is invited to attend, and the tree will be planted by the Woodstock Land Conservancy.”
Watson said that last week the State released a draft on changes to the Common Core State standards and Onteora directed teachers to look at the draft and provide input. Interim Assistant Superintendent for curriculum Marystephanie Corsones said teachers throughout the State worked on the changes during the summer. “SED and the Commissioner now want teacher input in response,” she said. District teachers will have an opportunity to look at the changes and provide feedback. Watson called this, “good news,” based upon previous standards that had no input from educators who work directly with the curriculum.
In order to galvanize more public awareness about substance abuse, High School Principal Lance Edelman said there would be an October 25 follow up to last year’s drug forum. Drug and Alcohol awareness speaker Ken Bartolo will be giving three (age appropriate) assemblies to Middle/High school students during the day, followed by an evening assembly for the public. Additionally there will be an informational fair provided by several organizations throughout the county before and after the presentation. Bartolo was a High School star Lacrosse and football player with scholarship offers for colleges and universities. He tells the story of how he lost it all to drugs and spent 27 years struggling with addiction.