By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“The kids are all taking this quite seriously,” said Athletic Director Scott Wilson, who is overseeing the student portion of the selection process. “They want to create an identity that is appropriate and everlasting.”
“It will create an identity, and we want to have a mascot that kids can rally around,” Wilson said.
The students are one of three groups considering new names after the Port Townsend School Board unanimously voted June 24 to retire the name of Redskins “with honor and dignity” and conduct a yearlong “student- and community-based process to replace it.”
Staff and community members also are discussing possibilities.
The final name will be submitted to the School Board to consider approving it at its June 2 meeting.
While the community representatives have met only once and the staff twice, students have met about 10 times.
Wilson, who is overseeing the student effort, said most seemed to like “Redhawks.” “Riptides” also was discussed.
“Red Tide” was discussed but has negative connotations, and “Sasquatch” was mentioned but discarded because it was frivolous. “Marauders” is another possibility.
“This will be how they create their identity, how they brand themselves, so we can’t have a silly name,” Wilson said.
Port Townsend High School Principal Carrie Ehrhardt, a representative of the staff members discussing the issue, said the staff met and selected three possibilities, which she declined to disclose.
The original plan called for each of the three groups to submit their choices to the School Board for final determination, but Ehrhardt decided to change the process and submit the staff choices to the students.
“We didn’t want to submit something to the board that the students were against,” she said.
“They should have a new logo and mascot that they can be proud of and take into the future.”
A community committee met once before the winter holidays and expects to meet again, with no date yet scheduled, said Superintendent David Engle.
The school has used the Redskins mascot since the 1920s — and sometimes came under criticism for it.
The current controversy began in June 2012, when a district parent wrote a letter to the School Board saying the mascot was offensive and inappropriate.
The matter was discussed at several School Board meetings, with some defending the longtime symbol as a source of pride and others advocating its replacement.
The district then commissioned a task force that met during the 2012-13 school year that returned with a recommendation to change the mascot.
When the School Board unanimously voted to retire the name of Redskins, it also decided to have a curriculum that teaches the history of Native Americans and is meant to promote racial sensitivity.
Wilson said the students started with about 50 different names, narrowing it down to about a dozen they really liked.
The process is to winnow it down to six and then three, submitting the finalists to the students for a vote.
The students’ meetings at 7 a.m. Thursdays have drawn between three and 25 students, Wilson said.
They began in a large group, throwing out names indiscriminately, writing them down on the blackboard and then narrowing them down to reflect a connection with the community and appeal to the students.
Wilson said he is only guiding the process and is not attempting to affect the decision itself.
“I will not influence this decision,” he said.
“My role is only to make sure what they select is appropriate. My role is to help the kids grow and make decisions for themselves.
Wilson said there is an “undercurrent” of students who disagree with the decision to change the name. Even so, they respect the action and are ready to move on.
“Some of the kids don’t care about this,” Wilson said.
“But the ones who are involved in finding a new name are responsible, mature and sophisticated people who really care about this and want to make the right decision.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.