The Cooperstown Board of Education made no decision about the school’s mascot at its meeting Wednesday, but board President David Borgstrom did make it clear that it is the board that will ultimately decide.
“These people up here are elected officials. We answer to the voters, and it is our job to make this decision,” he said.
Superintendent C.J. Hebert read to the board a list of the most popular replacement names, which were voted on by the Cooperstown middle and high school students Monday. The names that got the most votes, read in alphabetical order, were Coyotes, Deerslayers, Hawkeyes, Pathfinders and Wolves. The number of votes each name received was not disclosed. Hebert said that he wanted to let the board know that the name Redskins, which was not on the ballot, did receive a number of write-in votes.
“The board will take these names to heart and make the final decision,” Borgstrom said.
More than 100 people attended the meeting, including more than a dozen students. Many alumni also attended, and several spoke out against the name change. Some alumni said they felt like they had not been consulted on the issue.
“This needs to be a discussion,” Cooperstown alumni association president Ryan Miosek said. “Speaking for the alumni association, we feel this has not been discussed with us, but this has been dictated to us.”
Impassioned speeches were made on both sides of the issue, and the public comment section of the meeting lasted nearly two hours.
Rebecca Burk-Sciallo read a letter to the board from Native American writer Doug George. “Let no one believe that the mascot is somehow an honor to the Mohawk people,” the letter read in part. In fact, George wrote, the use of the term Redskin was tied to genocide and terrorism, and was one of the most offensive words used to describe aboriginal people.