By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Votes for the new Port Townsend High School mascot were counted Wednesday after students made their choices in an election Tuesday.
The final vote was Red Hawks, 256; Sasquatch, 106; and Riptide, 41.
The students’ choice is expected to be final, since the School Board has delegated responsibility in the matter to Superintendent David Engle.
“Our students have selected a mascot that I am approving,” Engle said in a letter emailed to board members earlier Wednesday.
The letter was to let School Board members know of the decision before Engle made a formal announcement on the district website, www.ptschools.org, today, board member Anne Burkart said.
An announcement also was made on the Port Townsend High School website Wednesday afternoon.
The new mascot will become the school’s symbol at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, replacing the Redskins mascot that had been in place for 88 years.
Engle said Wednesday he will lead a discussion about the selection process and next steps at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, set at 6 p.m. in the Gael Stuart Building, 1630 Blaine St.
The student vote comes after a two-year process, which included a committee to study the issue and a student committee that was charged with narrowing down the choices.
Since the Redskins mascot had been in use, there had been periodic efforts lobbying for its replacement.
The change was prompted by a district parent writing a letter to the School Board in June 2012 saying the mascot was offensive and inappropriate.
After a committee’s yearlong study, the board unanimously voted June 24 to retire the name of Redskins “with honor and dignity” and conduct a “student- and community-based process to replace it.”
The decision remained controversial, with some defending the mascot and others saying it was offensive.
The issue received increased attention due to a controversy about the Washington Redskins, whose owner has said he will not change the team’s name.
A total of 403 students voted Tuesday, a smaller number than the 430 who voted March 25 to eliminate from consideration the names Thunder, Marauders, Red Tide and Rising Tide.
The previously decided next steps include the development of supporting art and graphics and the replacement of the large Native American head emblem on the gym floor with a symbol to be determined.
The district also is expected to provide a curriculum that promotes understanding racial issues, which is under development.
The names voted on Tuesday emerged after a series of 16 weekly student meetings.
Athletic Director Scott Wilson, who conducted the early morning meetings, said he didn’t get involved in the decision-making and “was only there to help the process along.”
Wilson said attendance at the meetings varied from a high of about 30 students to as few as two or three.
“This was their decision, and the beauty of this is that it reflected the decision of the kids without adult interference,” Wilson said.
Prior to the vote, football coach Nick Snyder posted a list called “Top Ten Reasons to have Squatch as our Mascot.”
This included “Redskin mourning- What better way to get over our old mascot then by getting a mascot that is so bizarre that we forget the Redskin pain” and “Squatches are supposedly vegetarians- a great example for student athletes!”
Snyder, a 1984 Port Townsend High School graduate, said he didn’t make his preference known to the students.
“I was trying to fire people up, but no one was getting excited about it,” he said.
“It was the kids’ decision, so I didn’t interfere, and they couldn’t get on the page to see what we were saying.”
Students cannot comment on the page, located at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Alumni, but it is viewable by the general public.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.