Student representative Raegan Loheide updated the Onteora District Board of Education on how High School student government has addressed a possibility of eliminating the Middle/High School Indian Mascot. At its May 3 meeting at Woodstock Elementary School, Loheide explained to the that recommendations would be made to them once an idea for a new Mascot was chosen. “We are moving ahead with the Mascot contest so we made flyers, we are putting those up tomorrow, we have a student government billboard we are putting up in the school.” She continued, “The poster basically says, ‘student government is sponsoring a contest to propose ideas for a new mascot to the Board, so submit your ideas be creative, try to think of things that are central to our area.’”
Trustee Rob Kurnit asked, “Not having seen the poster is it somehow where people can say, ‘I don’t want to change it’ and can write that in as well?”
“People can submit if they don’t want to change it,” Loheide replied.
Even though this is a student led effort, the Board ultimately carries the final decision on keeping or eliminating the Indian Mascot. Loheide said ideas for a new Mascot would be submitted via email to Mascot@Onteoraschools.org with a deadline of Friday, May 13. Loheide thanked High School Principal Lance Edelman for helping them out and creating the email site. If people cannot submit via email, she said an alternative would be figured out.
In 2000, attempts to remove the Indian Mascot caused a great deal of community controversy and division. The Board of Education voted to remove it by a narrow 4-3 margin, a decision that was met with a wall of contentious protests, physical altercations and threats of violence. The board decision to remove it was overturned by newly elected trustees after a public referendum in which the public voted to preserve it.
Across the United States, colleges and High Schools are retiring the Indian Mascot as a sports logo and sports apparel companies such as Addidas, offers financial incentives to schools that drop the Indian mascot. Additionally the National Congress of American Indians website lists its opposition of Indian Mascots calling it, “derogatory and harmful stereotypes of Native People-including sports mascots-in media and popular culture.” Some, like the NFL’s Washington Redskins, have refused calls to change.
No budget comments at public hearing
The 2016/17 Onteora district budget public hearing was held with no feedback coming from an audience that consisted mostly of students from civics class and school officials. Interim Superintendent Victoria McLaren presented the proposed budget of $53,222,778 or an increase of 3.03 percent in spending. The tax levy, if approved by voters on May 17, will have an increase of 1.16 percent.
McLaren also reminded people that the ballot for the May 17 election will additionally have a Capital Reserve Proposition for the purpose of putting aside $8 million over a term of seven-years. The money is not collected at one time, but will be piecemealed over the term and used for district capital projects. Voter approval would also be needed to free up the funds at a future date during budget referendums.
Trustees approved a new position of Director of Technology that was incorporated into the budget. Additionally, trustees agreed to funds for an SRO (student resource officer). No cuts were made to the budget this year. Junior Varsity Football will also be restored, although Varsity football will continue its participation in the Kingston High School program, due to lack of Onteora participants.
The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. and ended by 7:40 p.m., and someone in the audience complimented School Board President Bobbi Schnell and said it was a record achievement.