By Curt Peterson
Keri Bristow, Windsor Central Unified Union School District board member of Woodstock chaired the second official Zoom meeting of the board’s recently created district renaming committee on Jan. 24.
Unlike some school district rebranding projects, WCUUSD doesn’t have any controversial ethnic or racial issues with either the district name or its athletic mascot. Superintendent Sherry Sousa said changing the name shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, as it was chosen for purely geographical reasons, most campuses being in the middle of Windsor County. Killington is an outlier within the district, as it is in Rutland County.
Sousa’s meeting notice cited the board’s strategic plan mandate to “name and brand the district and campuses to build a shared identity enhancing district pride, and [design] and [disperse] promotional materials highlighting district programs and outcomes,” as the rebranding directive.
A quick survey of attending committee members, including three current students, produced a few common goals for a new name, including sensitivity, social justice, inclusivity, supportiveness, and reinforcing district values.
Jen Stainton, district curriculum coordinator, said WCUUSD is often confused with Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union, generally referred to as “the Windsor district.” The renaming, she said, should end the mix-ups.
Bristow shared slides from a Dartmouth College Tuck business school project with guidelines for district renaming, based on studies of various similar projects across the country.
There are three parts to the committee’s strategy: To identify and recommend a district name change, to consider possibly changing the mascot of the district’s athletic teams, and to create appropriate symbols that complement the new district name. Bristow suggested working on the district name first.
The committee’s first meeting, according to Sousa, produced a draft two-page survey to be distributed to students and their families, alumni, staff, and members of those who may not otherwise have a direct current connection to the schools. There will be a link to the final survey on the district website that, Bristow said, could be interactive.
The survey will be emailed to everyone who has a stake in the project and a known email address, she said, and posted on local internet forums and social media sites.
“And I hope there will be a link provided in the local newspapers,” she said.
The general public, particularly education-focused groups both within the schools and the community will be asked for ideas, and opinions.
Committee members suggested possible genres that might be considered, such as local physical features —a mountain, a river, a valley. Sousa mentioned that some districts, such as Slate Valley in Rutland County, are named for local industries.
Stainton will invite Jason Drebber, a 2017 Woodstock Union High School graduate and current University of Vermont student of geomorphology, to provide input at the next meeting regarding local features that might be appropriate.
She said the committee shouldn’t assume everyone will be in favor of changing the name, and suggested a direct question to that effect on the survey, which the committee plans to start distributing following the next meeting on Feb. 9.
“We’ll keep promoting it for several weeks before we tally the results,” Bristow said.