SCHOHARIE — Schoharie Central School District will soon find a replacement for its decades-old warrior mascot.
Potential substitutes for the “Indians” — the Hawks, the Coyotes, the Storm, the Titans and the Vale — were put up for vote on the school’s website last week.
Voting ends on April 4 and the winning name will be be unveiled the following day.
SCSD is setting aside more than $70,000 for rebranding. Part of the cash pool will go to an outsourced logo designer.
“I don’t really have any graphic artists in the district and our student artists might be really good, but I don’t think they’re ready for this challenge,” said Superintendent Dave Blanchard.
The name change stems from an edict issued by the state Education Department last year calling on districts to part ways with Indigenous-themed branding, or lose funding.
Some school districts fought against the mandate, notably Cambridge Central School District in Washington County and Fonda-Fultonville Central School District, which attempted to keep the “Braves” name after getting permission from local tribe leader Thomas Porter.
Meanwhile, Schoharie began phasing out items associated with the “Indians” name four years ago. The district’s recently completed $20 million capital project is void of themes related to the mascot, according to Blanchard.
Blanchard has long expected the issue to come to a head as NYSED has again and again over two decades insisted that school districts ax what some have perceived as offensive imagery.
“The mindset was that [we] won’t pay any taxpayer money for something that’s going to be legislated away because it appeared that the Indian mascot was going to be legislated away,” Blanchard said.
Opponents say the mandate bows to political correctness, upends long-standing traditions and, by threatening aid, rides roughshod over local school decision-making. Proponents argue that the branding is racist and outdated.
That divide has been prevalent in the Schoharie Valley school district between the pro-change Schoharie Central New Alma Mater and Mascot Collaboration group and the anti-change Change it from Mascot to Mentor and Keep it Schoharie Indians group.
“I am offended by people telling me that [sic] my school mascot is offensive and we have to change it and erase all history as though the school just popped up for the people that were offended,” Esperance Town Councilwoman Barbara Sharpe commented on the latter coalition’s public Facebook group.
Schoharie schools’ coverage area predominantly stretches across the towns of Schoharie, Esperance and Wright. Fewer than 10% of students come from adjacent communities, including Duanesburg, Charleston and Middleburgh.
From community feedback, final selections were picked earlier in March from a local committee based on their relevance to regional culture, “fighting” spirit and rarity in the region, according to Blanchard.
The district received about 300 name suggestions, including the Hochuls, the Rednecks, the Revolutionaries, the Tomahawks and the already-in-place longtime name.
“We, right from our initial forum, had moved on from the idea that we were going to have an Indian name or Indian theme as a new mascot,” said Blanchard.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected] Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or Twitter @TylerAMcNeil.
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