On June 30, 2021

Rutland school board holds back-and-forth forum on mascot

By Emma Cotton/VTDigger

In the latest of a long-running back-and-forth over the Rutland High School mascot, residents addressed the Rutland city board of school commissioners at a forum Tuesday night, June 22. 

“We are here at this public forum to address an issue that has been on everybody’s mind,” said board clerk Erin Shimp, who led the meeting in the absence of board chair Hurley Cavacas. 

By Emma Cotton/VT Digger
Attendees at a public forum June 22 listen to speakers.

About a dozen residents addressed the board to either praise or condemn a decision made last fall to abandon the former “Raider” mascot, and four wrote letters that board members read aloud. The proposal for the change came to the board last summer through a group of alumni and students, who presented historical research showing racism in the previous mascot’s origins. 

Some confusion about the time of the meeting, which started at 5:30, caused some people to miss it, gathering afterward in the parking lot in anticipation of a 6:30 start time, WCAX reported. 

In February, the school board approved a new mascot, the Rutland Ravens, picked by students through a months long process. In March, city voters elected a new slate of school board members, many of whom ran on a Raider-centric platform. The board, with its new members, is reviewing decisions from the past six months and will decide whether to reinstate the previous mascot and name. 

The decision to switch has become one of the largest sources of political tension in the city since the fall. It prompted outcry from area residents who want to keep the mascot, citing concerns about the cost of rebranding and pride in the mascot’s local legacy. 

Proponents of the change have said a new mascot would be a symbol of forward progress for the city, which has been publicly grappling with discussions about racism for years. 

All of those opinions were on display Tuesday night. The board did not respond to any of the speakers’ comments, but Shimp said that, with meetings now in person, the decision should not take much longer.

A majority of speakers expressed support for the Ravens mascot, while around five attendees hoped the board would reinstate the Raiders.

Ric Reardon, a Rutland City resident who works in special education, referred to a recent editorial in the Rutland Herald with a headline that read, “We know better now.” He said he has watched over the years as terms that once described special ed students have taken on different meanings. 

“We are at a point now where we’re realizing that a change has to be made for the better of the new generation,” he said. “I would implore you to step away from this issue.”

Jacob Pluta, a Rutland High School alumnus who now lives in Mendon, compared the push to reinstate the previous mascot to the “Take Back Vermont” campaign, which expressed disapproval of Vermont’s decision to introduce civil unions. That topic was also particularly heated in Rutland.

“After progress was made, people wanted to go back,” Pluta said. “Look forward, and we have a country where same-sex marriage is recognized across the entire United States.”

The issue has been “really hard for the community,” Pluta said. “I just hope that we can find some peace and move on.”

Sharlyn Anderson, who moved from Nicaragua 11 years ago, said she had endured trauma before moving to Vermont, where she was welcomed. Concerned about the cost of rebranding, she said she doesn’t think the issue isn’t important enough to pursue. 

“This is so silly,” she said. “How much is it going to cost you guys to change the name? One million? Two million? Do you know what you could do with that money? Feed the kids that have no food to eat; put up a place where they could get a box of cereal to take home.”

Resident Butch Paul said the board should look to the most recent election, when the city elected board members who have fought to keep the previous mascot. He said he’s upset that the board didn’t immediately reinstate the “Raider” name after the election and was bothered when a board member told him they’ve received many requests to keep the Raven mascot.

“I will remind you that nobody speaks louder than voters,” he said.

Rutland resident Shelly Spooner, whose son attends Rutland schools, argued that the “Raider” symbol is a positive representation of Native Americans (a concept that has been refuted by most local and national Native American groups). She also criticized equity programs in schools. 

A brief debacle ensued when Shimp allowed Spooner to continue after she exceeded her two-minute time limit. Audience members called for leadership from Shimp, who told everyone to be quiet.

“I said let her go,” Shimp said. “At this point, let her finish her page and please be respectful of my decision.”

Several students took the microphone, including senior class president Giovanni Falco, who recently organized an event featuring local officials that celebrated the graduating class and the new Ravens mascot, and Sophia Perone, a rising 8th grader at Rutland Middle School.

“This issue may be small, but it makes a big impact in the end,” Perone said. “If nothing ever changed, we would still have slavery, and women would not have the right to vote. Change can be good if change is done with consideration. Change takes time and courage.”

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Eligible Vermont students to receive funds for summer meals

May 29, 2024
Vermont is among the first states to launch thenew permanent federally-funded program  Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont agencies of Human Services and Education announced May 21 that the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has approved Vermont’s Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (SEBT) plan to help feed eligible school aged children during the summer vacation months.…

Report shows trooper driving 88 mph before crash into fire truck, and up to 86 mph at impact

May 29, 2024
By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger The cruiser Vermont State Police Cpl. Eric Vitali was driving when he crashed into a parked fire truck on Interstate 89 in March was traveling at 88 mph just before the crash and between 79 mph and 86 mph at impact. That’s according to a standard crash report submitted by the Vermont…

Killington Resort exhibit in the Wonderfeet Kid’s Museum showcases mountain recreation

May 29, 2024
By Brooke Geery/Killington Resort As part of Killington Resort’s commitment to Play Forever, it sponsored a new exhibit at the Wonderfeet Kid’s Museum located in downtown Rutland on Merchants Row. Killington Resort exhibit offers the little ones a chance to be fully immersed in what The Beast has to offer during all four seasons, including…

$6.3 million in state grants to boost outdoor recreation

May 29, 2024
Nearly $1 million dedicated to local projects The Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore and the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) announced May 29 the 51 new recipients of the VOREC Community Grant Program. These projects mark an investment of over $6 million into Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy. “These grants are an investment…