By Emma Cotton/VTDigger
RUTLAND — Flanked by stacks of pizza and a paper mural with notes about community inclusion, several dozen people gathered Monday night, June 7, at “a celebration for the RHS Ravens of 2021,” which supported permanently changing the Rutland High School mascot to the Ravens.
“It is time to embrace our new mascot and move forward as one Rutland community, and we hope you will join us in doing so,” Senior Class President Giovanni Falco wrote in his invitation.
A contentious debate over the mascot, formerly the Rutland Raiders, has roiled the city since last summer. The Rutland School Board originally voted to abandon the mascot in the fall, but after March elections, the board, with a new composition, may overturn the decision.
Falco said he decided to organize the event after he and others became frustrated that the School Board is entertaining the reversal.
“With some of those fireworks that happened recently, kids would come to school and say, did you see what happened on the School Board meeting? Did you see so-and-so?” Falco said. “That’s happening at a high school level, so I couldn’t imagine the impact that’s having on the younger levels.”
Falco invited the city Board of Aldermen, the Rutland City board of school commissioners and members of the high school’s administration.
State Sen. Cheryl Hooker, D-Rutland; Rep. William Notte, D-Rutland; and Alderman Devon Neary each spoke Monday night.
Neary referenced a statement of inclusion that Rutland’s Board of Aldermen adopted May 3 and said he felt hopeful that division in the city could be mended.
“I think the Board of Aldermen has done this with intention to show that differing opinions and working relationships aren’t mutually exclusive but rather are necessary for what really matters — the future of Rutland,” he said.
Hooker thanked students for their work on inclusion over the past year.
“We’re moving forward to a new normal that will be different for those of you who are going off to school, those of you who are staying here to work on issues within our community,” she said. “I want you to know that Rutland will always be your home and that you can always come back, and you will always be welcome.”