Onteora District School officials continue to move forward with plans to remove the Indian Mascot by painting over the Indian Chief breaking out of a brick wall that was displayed in the gym. The Indian image at the press box near the football/track field, and the scratched up totem pole painting in the cafeteria will eventually get painted over. According to Interim Superintendent Victoria McLaren, due to all the building work taking place, she is unsure, when the last two symbols will be painted over. The August 2, Onteora district Board of Education meeting at the Middle/High School was sparsely attended, and three people spoke in protest to the removal of the Onteora Indian Mascot and replacing it with an Eagle. The Mascot topic was not on the agenda and trustees did not discuss it.
During public commentary Doug Eighmey said following a conversation with Trustee Kevin Salem, he researched Seneca Nation, the tribe of Native Americans who released a statement calling Indian symbols derogatory and racist. He said following repeated phone calls, he was never able to speak with the author of the statement, however learned that the Seneca tribe never had anything to do with the Onteora district. He added, “All those who think the Indians are so oppressed, they own land that they didn’t buy, they don’t pay taxes on it, they don’t pay gasoline tax, they don’t pay cigarette tax and they’re allowed to own casinos and make millions of dollars and nobody is allowed to do that. So I don’t think they are oppressed.” He called to keep the mascot for, “a little while, and wait to see what the public does, wait to see what the students do, see if they come back with another petition.”
Based upon State recommendations, in 2000 the Board of Education voted to remove the Indian Mascot. Following a harsh backlash and non-binding referendum to overturn the decision, the mascot was allowed to stay. Over the years, the symbol has been removed from uniforms and when the gym floor was replaced, the Indian symbol that once decorated it was never replaced. The three Indian images left are now down to two.
Shared Decision Making…
A committee spent a year updating a new Shared Decision Making plan that will be implemented this coming school year. According to State Mandate all schools are required to have a Shared Decision Making committee at each school. Included on the committee would be the building principal, up to two parents, two teachers, one ONTEA member and at the secondary level, up to two students. Members serve one year, but those terms can be extended. Responsibilities include formulating yearly goals for each building that will enhance student achievements. This may include communication, school culture and climate, health and safety, and course offerings.
The Energy Performance Contract (EPC) is finally seeing its fruition as the Board approved a financing agreement of $2.9 million with Banc (spelling is correct) of America Public Capital Corp, at a 2.03 percent interest rate. The Facilities Committee began discussions of an EPC prior to a five-year facilities review in 2012 and following its findings brought in Ameresco for an energy audit. It took two years, longer than expected for the State to approve the contract that is considered, “cost neutral,” through energy savings.
Upgrades will include continued replacement of lighting, windows, and upgrading the buildings management system. Phoenicia, Woodstock, the Middle/High Schools and the transportation garage will be affected by energy upgrades.
In current building renovations, Interim Assistant Superintendent for Business Don Gottlieb updated the Board on the changes taking place. Asbestos abatement is always a problem with older buildings he explained, and it will often slow down progress. Sidewalks, ceilings, boilers, new LED lights, and windows, are just a few changes. The most visible are the new windows that can be seen at Woodstock Primary School. Phoenicia Primary School will soon have a new energy efficient pellet boiler system. McLaren and trustees gave a thank-you and goodbye as this was Gottlieb’s last day as interim. McLaren will be resuming her role as Assistant Superintendent for Business as Bruce Watson becomes Onteora’s new Superintendent on August 22.