By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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About 40 people attended a Monday meeting at which the Port Townsend School Board was expected to discuss the process of selecting a new mascot for the high school athletic teams.
About 10 people spoke, with seven favoring retaining the mascot.
After hearing the comments, School Board Chairwoman Jennifer James-Wilson said the board has no intention of reversing its decision.
“We know you feel strongly about this and take this loss very seriously.
“But we convened a committee, we heard testimony about how strongly people feel about how it's divisive.
“This is not my agenda.,” she said. “This is not the board's agenda. Rather, we need to find an acceptable process to retire the name.”
The process for replacing the mascot will be developed in private meetings between the board chairwoman and the superintendent of schools, and will be presented to the entire board for discussion later this summer.
“We are going to take some time to see where we will go from here and then bring it to the board in August,” James-Wilson said.
She met with school Superintendent David Engle on Tuesday morning to begin the process.
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 is controversial, with some defending the mascot, while others say the name is offensive.
On Monday night, School Board members heard criticism both of their decision and of their spending time and resources on the matter.
Among those speaking was Rebekah Logue, a 2007 Port Townsend High School graduate who is involved in a petition drive in support of the Redskins mascot.
“We have more important issues to deal with than waste our time on what a team should be called,” Logue said.
On Tuesday, Engle characterized this attitude as “disingenuous.”
“They are saying we should be paying attention to other matters, but they are forcing us to attend to their concerns,” Engle said.
“They are making a lot of noise, and I'll push back if the noise gets in the way and ends up hurting the kids.”
Engle said there was no estimate as to how much the conversion would cost, nor could he quantify the amount of time or money spent on the mascot issue.
Several commenters submitted lists of questions about the cost of the process, as well as the stated intent by the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe to award a grant for that purpose.
“I really hope that our school district isn't taking money from that tribe to change the name,” Logue said.
“What are we teaching our kids when we are taking money from people who aren't part of our community?
“What do we think of when we look at the S'Klallam tribe? Well, honestly, I think of the casino and what happens at the casino: gambling, excessive alcohol, nicotine use and fireworks.
“I believe that we are teaching our future kids that we can be bought. We can be bought out by money,” she said.
Engle said the nature of the S'Klallam contribution hasn't been determined, whether it be “financial, moral or social,” and the comments reflect a double standard.
“All the boosters come in and wave money around to support the athletics, but we get criticized when we try to find alternate funds to support student programs,” he said.
James-Wilson said all the questions submitted Monday would be addressed in writing with the answers posted on the school's website at www.ptschools.org before the next board meeting, scheduled for July 22. It will be at 6 p.m. at the Gael Stuart Building, 1610 Blaine St.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.