School board creates task force for aiding Turners mascot decision

Recorder Staff
Published: 8/22/2017 11:37:17 PM

TURNERS FALLS — The decision on a new mascot for Turners Falls High School will be made with the help of a community task force created by the Gill-Montague Regional School Committee.

The School Committee discussed the mascot selection process for about an hour and a half during its Tuesday night meeting, where it landed on the creation of an advisory task force that would be a mix of students, high school staff and community members — without district administration or School Committee members.

The task force will include up to eight students, four staff members and six community members: three from Montague, two from Gill and one from Erving.

School Committee members also discussed possible steps or actions the task force would be charged with, but did not settle on consensus and plan to discuss further at future meetings. Suggestions made during the meeting included that the new group could ask for submissions for a new mascot, check to see if those meet the criteria and narrow the possible mascots down.

The committee appeared to be split on who would make the final decision on the new mascot: the task force, the school committee or a possible community-wide vote.

Once it is determined what the task force will do, the district will put out requests for volunteers from the staff and community, and the high school will select the student members.

Chairwoman Timmie Smith opened the discussion with a statement calling for the board to move on from previous conversations and get into the business of determining how to select the next mascot.

“We do not intend to review our past decisions on this matter,” she said. “This is where we are, and now we move forward.”

The board was in agreement about the creation of the task force and who should be on it, but did not settle on if and when that task force should check in with the committee on approval of the criteria. 

April Reipold, Montague representative, said she would prefer the school committee make the final choice, especially since high school students would be serving on the task force, and she worried that they may be bullied for their public comments or decisions.

“If anyone is going to get yelled at for making the choice, it should be us,” she said.

Others were concerned that if the process did not end in some sort community-wide vote, that residents would feel excluded from the process, which was a common complaint the board heard about the removal of the former mascot, the Indian, earlier this year. Christina Postera and Cassie Damkoehler, both Montague representatives, suggested a vote.

“I just don’t want that to cause more of a divide. I’d really like to see this be more a community decision,” Damkoehler said.

Postera said the greater community needs to be connected to the process.

“They need to be part of this and they need to be comfortable,” she said.

The board agreed that if it received more than the allotted number of volunteers for a certain category of the task force, it would select from the volunteers at random.

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