To the Northborough/ Southborough School Committee, ARHS Mascot Renaming Committee and ARHS Community:
With 2 sons at the high school, I have followed the mascot issue fairly closely. I feel strongly that this mascot change is an exercise in empathy, and I am supportive. I appreciate this statement from the mascot study group:
“The Group is confident that the process of choosing a new mascot will serve to unify Algonquin students and families…”
I became concerned when an email from Keith Lavoie dated August 18th disclosed that Heard Strategies, an outside marketing firm previously not mentioned, was brought in to give an opinion on the results of the mascot survey. Remarkably, Heard Strategies only approved 8 of the top 20 responses, none of the top three, with no explanation given to the community. When were they given a seat on the committee? Who made that decision? Even if their opinion is not binding, I feel that giving Heard a seat on the committee as a mascot expert compromises the integrity of the committee’s decision.
We in favor of mascot change should recognize that this has been a closed decision process. A plurality of survey responses supported keeping the tomahawk. Notably, the survey was sent after the decision was made to retire the tomahawk. A grieving process will accompany this change. As the committee so aptly quoted Maulian Dana from her 2019 Ted Talk, “If we tell you something hurts, you don’t get to decide it doesn’t.”
The committee has frequently used this quote by Zaretta Hammond, “Culturally responsive teaching means reflecting and being willing to listen and change in order to respond positively and constructively.” Are you willing to listen to the community response and change accordingly? If unity is the goal, open up the renaming conversation to the community. Provide us your research materials on each option before they are voted on, and allow for another community vote. Slow down! Let’s compromise like the school district in Washington that retired their mascot, “Chinook” replacing it with a chinook salmon. The actions you take, or do not take, at this point will determine whether this mascot will unify this community.