By Michelle Miller
---- — Cooperstown Central School students will be pulled out of class on Monday to be polled about whether the school should retain the nickname “Redskins,” which according to school officials dates back to the mid-1900s.
According to Superintendent C.J. Hebert, students, faculty and staff will complete a survey indicating their preferences for as many as three nicknames among nine offered to them. Keeping the Redskins nickname will be an option, and space will be provided to suggest a name that is not listed. The three most popular choices will be presented to the board of education at a 5 p.m. meeting Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Borgtrom said the student council was called upon to help come up with the alternative names, and it suggested Coyotes, Deer Slayers, Hawkeyes, Hawks, Hunters, Leatherstockings, Pioneers, Red Hawks and Wolves.
Borgstrom made the announcement to middle and high school students last Thursday, following a leadership assembly.
“Why?” Borgstrom asked rhetorically. “Times are changing, and our culture is continuing to evolve. Some of you were witnesses of the inauguration of the second term of the first African-American president in our nation’s history. Locally, we have been through a lot in the past four years. We have put in a lot of effort to recognize change, diversity, cultural sensitivity and character.”
According to Borgstrom, students have come forward to relate specific conversations with people unfamiliar with the school. When the issue of the school mascot nickname came up, he said, the students said they felt uncomfortable and embarrassed.
This is not the first time the school has considered a change.
State Education Commissioner Richard Mills sent a letter to school boards in April 2001, asking them to change Indian-related mascots and logos as soon as possible.
An ad hoc committee was formed by the Cooperstown Board of Education in response to the letter. A public meeting was held to gather public opinion about the continued use of the Redskins image, nickname and mascot. About 30 people turned out for the hearing, but only about 10 spoke, according to The Cooperstown Crier.
The Crier reported in January 2002 that CCS was the only district left in the state still using Redskins as its nickname, according to a list compiled by the state Education Department.
Borgstrom said that although the issue was discussed years ago without any action taken, he thinks culture has evolved and changed, and so must CCS.
“I am convinced the time has come to make a change” he said. “We cannot continue on a path of recognizing the importance of diversity education, and cultural sensitivity and continue to be called the Redskins.”
This is a Board of Education responsibility that cannot be put aside, Borgstrom said, adding that he recognizes the importance of precedence, history and community ties, but in the context of today, they may have a different importance.
More details are to be discussed at the district’s next board meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 6.
A link to Borgstroms’s full address can be found at the district’s website, cooperstowncs.org.