By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
SHREWSBURY — The Shrewsbury Public School District wants your feedback on whether it should keep its mascot, the Colonial.
This conversation arose last fall after a student petitioned the School Committee to change the name.
The School Committee may make a decision on the mascot as soon as its June 23 meeting, according to a timeline presented by Superintendent Joseph Sawyer during the May 26 School Committee meeting.
Colonial mascot sparks modern debate
According to a history of the mascot created by the district, Shrewsbury began using the Colonials name in the mid-1940s.
The name was given by the cartoonist Al Banx, who some thought gave the town the nickname because of its role in the American Revolution.
In November of last year, though, Shrewsbury High School student Louisa Scott submitted a petition, asking for the mascot change. In her petition Scott wrote about the history of colonialism.
“Colonialism, with its slavery, servitude and [destruction] of indigenous populations, is nothing to be proud of,” she said. “Do we ever hear words like colonial or colonialism used in a good light?”
After Scott filed her petition, a counter petition opposing changing the mascot was submitted in email by residents Peter and Ani Manolakos.
Another petition on Change.org was created by Paul Dellovo to keep the mascot.
“This is a long standing tradition in Shrewsbury,” he wrote. “We are the Colonials. Please help protect our mascot and tradition from this political correctness gone too far.”
Committee works to evaluate options
An ad hoc committee to study the mascot was created in response to these conversations.
According to Sawyer, the committee was made up of Shrewsbury students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni.
Sawyer said the committee has met throughout the year.
Shrewsbury has estimated that it may cost between $430,000 to $790,000 to completely change its mascot. Half of that cost involves replacing athletic uniforms.
How much it will cost, though, depends on the process of replacement.
For example, Shrewsbury leaders reported that changing only the logo would cost less than the changing the logo and the Colonials name. Additionally, the district could budget for the change if it was phased out over time.
“The study group was committed to asking the community to share its thinking about the issue,” Sawyer said.
Online forum open for public feedback
People can voice their opinion about whether to change, upgrade or keep the mascot on an online forum. Once a participant shares their opinion or questions, they will be able to see others’ opinions.
Sawyer said, May 26, that a majority of respondents have been respectful. The software running this forum can filter comments and people can report inappropriate comments, he added.
“We’re trying to model, of course, for the community that we can have a thoughtful approach to this under a very divisive issue that many people disagree on the particulars of,” Sawyer said.
The committee will present a report to the School Committee on June 9 before convening again for that possible decision on Wednesday, June 23.