ROTTERDAM — It is expected to cost upwards of $200,000 for the Mohonasen Central School District to replace all imagery associated with its “Warriors” nickname, according to Superintendent Shannon Shine.
Shine informed stakeholders of the potential cost in a Friday letter addressing where the district stands in complying with the state Education Department’s policy prohibiting all public schools from using imagery — including mascots, nicknames and logos — associated with Indigenous cultures. The policy was first handed down last fall and officially approved by the Board of Regents in April.
In his update, Shine said the district has stopped purchasing items with the Warrior name and the district’s two logos — including the letter “M” with a spear through it, and another depicting a silhouette of three Native Americans. The latter is intended to represent the three Indigenous nations that the district derived its name from: the Mohawk, Seneca and Onondaga. Under the state regulations, school districts and school buildings with Indigenous names are permitted to remain in place.
Shine said the district has stopped buying items continuing the logos and is in the process of using supplies, including letterheads, folders and award certificates that are emblazoned with the district’s logos. New materials will feature with just the name Mohonasen or a plain M.
The district has started to replace signage, including athletic banners, carrying the soon-to-be-prohibited logos, which is expected to cost upwards of $35,000, according to estimates the district has received.
“Wherever possible we are covering or repurposing such items as opposed to simply discarding signage that is in good shape,” Shine said.
Shine said the district is also in the process of obtaining quotes to replace logos painted on the high school gym floor, but initial estimates show the project could cost between $13,000 and $18,000. The gym floor is due to be refinished and has already been budgeted for, but painting the floor with new logos would represent an additional cost.
The greatest expense the district is facing is removing the Warriors name from its turf field, a process that involves unstitching the end zone material and replacing it with new material depicting either the Mohonasen name or a future moniker or logo that has yet to be decided. Initial estimates put the project at $150,000, according to Shine.
The district is hoping it can complete the renovated turf field in a future capital project, but it’s unclear whether the state’s deadline to retire Indigenous-inspired imagery will allow for that. Under state regulations, districts have until the end of the 2024-25 academic year to comply with the order or risk losing state funding and other repercussions.
All together the district is looking at between $198,000 and $203,000 to comply with the state order, based on initial estimates.
Shine said the district is tracking expenses in hopes of advocating for additional state funding, but noted that “it remains to be seen if any of those efforts will be successful.”
When handing down the regulations, the Education Department pushed back on claims that the policy was an “unfunded mandate,” noting that school district’s were recommended to drop the use of Indigenous imagery 20 years ago by then-Education Commissioner Richard Mills.
“Most of these expenses could have been avoided by phasing out team names, mascots, or logos decades ago,” the department wrote in an assessment of public comment released at the same time at the regulations.
The regulations note that nicknames like “Warriors” and “Braves” aren’t necessarily linked to Indigenous cultures, but said the history of the names must be examined. In the case of Mohonasen, the Warrior nickname is undoubtedly linked to Indigenous culture.
Several area school districts have already started the rebranding process, including Glens Falls and Lake George. Others, including Niskayuna, Stillwater and Mechanicville have been slower to act.
The Schoharie Central School District was quick to retire its “Indians” moniker, which the superintendent there attributed to a desire to incorporate new imagery and logos into turf fields that were replaced during the summer. The district, which now goes by the “Storm,” has set $75,000 aside to rebrand.
It’s unclear how exactly when or how the Mohonasen district will move forward with its rebranding process.
The district is currently waiting to act while other schools consider legal action against the state in hopes of reversing the policy, and school board members have yet to formalize a plan to rebrand once the process begins.