Redhawks, Sasquatch, Rip Tide: Students have three choices for new Port Townsend High School mascot
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Peninsula Daily News
Whatever Port Townsend High School students decide next month, the high school gym will get a mascot remodeling.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A student vote at Port Townsend High School this week selected three possibilities for new mascot names, marking the beginning of the end for a two-year process to replace Redskins, which was retired by the School Board in July.

The three names chosen Tuesday, in order of student preference, were Redhawks, 237 votes; Sasquatch, 131 votes and Rip Tide, 104 votes.

Runners up included Thunder, 77 votes; Marauders, 73 votes; Red Tide, 30 votes and Rising Tide, 19 votes.

The top three names will appear on a schoolwide ballot during the week of April 7, following spring break.

The winning name will become the school's new symbol at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

Superintendent David Engle has said that all of the names are acceptable and is expected to approve the students' choice.

The School Board is not involved in the decision process.

After the name is approved, Engle will meet with the alumni association, but he doesn't anticipate any resistance.

“I think it will be a coronation and not a crucifixion,” he said.

Once the new name is approved, the school will move forward in the development of supporting art and graphics.

The gym floor will also be resurfaced, with the Redskins logo being replaced by the new mascot.

The names emerged after a series of 16 weekly student meetings where the names were discussed and vetted.

Athletic Director Scott Wilson, who conducted the early morning meetings, said that 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.

“During the process, people would stop me on the street and suggest names for me to pass along which I didn't want to do.

“I didn't think we should have a name that didn't come from the kids.”

That didn't happen exactly as Wilson would have liked, as at least one name on the list — Rip Tide — was suggested by a parent for a child to bring forward.

Since that name passed the approval process, Wilson felt its presence was acceptable since it passed student review.

He was less tolerant of a graphic posted on several Facebook pages that read “No MASCOT is Better than a LAME one” and featured a cartoon of a man wearing a Native American headdress on a psychiatrist's couch saying, “Well, for most of 88 years I felt good about myself, then I walked into a Port Townsend School Board meeting.”

“The only thing I'm not happy about is how social media was used to try to influence the kids,” Wilson said.

The school has used the Redskins mascot since the 1920s, with periodic efforts lobbying for its replacement.

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 and returned with a recommendation to change the mascot.

A naming committee was assembled at the beginning of the school year, and while it was intended to have three elements — staff, community and students — it evolved into one with an emphasis on students.

“It's been a great process,” said high school Principal Carrie Ehrhardt.

“It's taken two years, but we are in the final phase.”

While Wilson didn't take a position in the mascot selection, he thinks that any of the choices would work well.

“The school needs a mascot that is a brand they can really rally behind,” he said.

“It should have some kind of meaning and should be fierce in a sense.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 26. 2014 6:19PM
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