Gill Montague School Committee faces questions after mascot vote

  • The sports fields next to Turners Falls High School feature signs stating the school’s former mascot, the “Indians.” recorder file photo

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/2/2017 10:48:05 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Members of the Gill-Montague School Committee faced more questions and complaints about the mascot vote from parents and students this week.

The board had agreed to take a two meeting break from the issue after the committee voted to change the mascot from the Indians, but the public can bring any issue to the public comment portion of school board meetings.

So, several parents raised concerns about how the vote was taken, because the School Committee had voted to suspend its planned process to vote on the mascot issue.

Marisa Dalmaso-Rode, a parent who is part of a group that operates a Facebook page about saving the mascot, said there are still a lot of unanswered questions from the School Committee surrounding the choice to not bring in a pro-Indian mascot Native American group to speak to students. She said the committee should release more information about the vote or the town will not be able to heal.

“I think that if there is any healing that is going to be going on, if there is any opportunity to repair a situation, the relationship between the students and school, because that is who you are serving, then you have to be truthful, you have to be honest,” she said.

Dalmaso-Rode said her group had sent the committee and Superintendent Michael Sullivan the names of several Lowell-based Native Americans who would have been interested in speaking to the committee in support of the mascot, but did not hear back from the committee.

In an email on Wednesday, Sullivan said that in the weeks ahead of the Jan. 10 meeting, they were not able to find any regional speakers. During the Jan. 10 meeting, the committee had decided to limit the criteria to local speakers and hold off on considering the distant speakers that had been found by Chris Pinardi, who also runs the “Save the TF Indians logo” Facebook page. Sullivan said that by the next meeting on Jan. 31, the committee had decided to end the review process. That process included contacting speakers to present. Riley Wood, a student at the high school who is the liaison between the Student Council and the School Committee, also asked several questions of the board during his regular update to the board.

“I think the biggest question on the minds of the student body that’s upsetting people is why you went ahead with your vote before we did our survey, because we planned to do our survey, like the next day.”

Before the School Committee took the vote at the previous meeting, Wood had said in his report that the Student Council planned to send out a survey the next day.

School Committee Chairman Michael Langknecht said the vote that night was somewhat unplanned so each committee member may have a different reason for why they chose to vote that night, but that there was not a coordinated effort to prevent the students from having a say. “There was no discussion beforehand about other issues going on or scheduling,” Langknecht said. “It was more spontaneous than that.”

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