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March 7, 2013

Cooperstown to retire Redskins

By Michelle Miller
The Daily Star

---- — Cooperstown Central School soon will no longer be referred to as the “Redskins.”

The school board voted, 6 to 1, Wednesday night to retire the nickname as it pertains to interscholastic athletic, extracurricular and academic programs. 

The official retirement of the name Redskins will take place June 30. The vote also included keeping the school colors of orange and black along with the school district emblem being maintained.

Board President David Borgstrom said a timetable for making a decision has not been set.

“Moving forward I want to make sure all the board members get the opportunity to work through this process,” he said. “We will continue to review all nicknames and new nicknames that have been suggested and any others that may come forward.”

Borgstrom said the goal is to narrow suggested nicknames down to three to five options that would represent the school “appropriately” and have a public forum with students and any interested community members and move forward from that.

“I think we need to take whatever time necessary to prepare for deliberation to make sure any options that would come forward would be appropriate to the best we can consider in both the short term and the long term with any potential ramifications of any human being,” he continued.

According to school officials, the name “Redskins” dates to the mid-1920s.

Board member Anthony Scalici, who sat on the board when the issue was brought forth in 2001, voted against the retirement of the name. He said: “In all the debate I have heard, both times around, both for and against, they are all set in opinion, projections, emotions and shades of moral judgment. That is very thorny stuff.

“The only certainty that I have concluded from any of the evidence and all of the evidence is that the Cooperstown people, past, present and the future never gave or would project any meaning other than endearment and pride for the use of Redskins.”

Scalici said his vote is rooted in that certainty and has been cast to represent the many who would hold on to what they believe to be an honorable nickname for the school.

Barbara Tongue, a Cooperstown native whose family name Averill dates back to the 1700s, said she went around various places in the community to get people to sign a petition against a name change. She said she was disappointed by the board’s decision, but felt her petition of more than 700 signatures was a success, given she had little time and that there is not much community activity in the village in the winter months.

Before the first public comment portion of the board meeting, Borgstrom said the pace at which the board addressed the name change has not been ideal.

“We learned the time to get the additional input was necessary,” he said.

According to school officials, the process began when students discussed their concerns with the nickname Redskins with administration and board members.

Officials then began the process of reviewing the potentially negative message associated with the term. The topic was publicly broached at the Jan. 16 board of education meeting.

Following that meeting Cooperstown Student Council members were asked to assist with gathering suggestions and feedback for potential alternatives to the nickname. Students in grades seven through 12 were given the opportunity to weigh in.