School committee discusses process after study group narrows Algonquin mascot list

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Regional School Committee member Daniel Kolenda speaks during the meeting. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH/SOUTHBOROUGH – Regional School Committee member Daniel Kolenda recently asked if there was a desire for voices who want to keep the Algonquin Regional High School’s “Tomahawk” mascot in the meetings of a study group currently working to narrow options to replace the mascot 

“I would suggest that they’ve been told that we voted the Tomahawk out,” said fellow School Committee member Paul Butka, in response. “If they were talking about the Tomahawk, there would be some level of time wasting on their part. They’ve been told it’s gone.”

That exchange took place in a recent School Committee meeting, Nov. 17, as school leaders continued discussion of the mascot and its proposed replacement.

Study group seeks student feedback

The list of replacement options was recently reduced to nine choices, months after the Regional School Committee voted to retire the Tomahawk in response to a recommendation from the mascot study group.

That group of students and adult school community members had, in turn, been convened in response to a petition to remove the mascot last year.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie updates the school committee. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

Working to narrow its nine possible replacement options further, the study group has sought feedback on the options, particularly from Algonquin students, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie told the School Committee.

Therefore, Lavoie and Algonquin Principal Sean Bevan recently met with class presidents to gauge their responses about the options and to hear any feedback those presidents had heard from their classmates. 

“That was a very uplifting part of our process, so far, and it was an excellent conversation that we had,” Lavoie said.

Study group members discuss process

Prior to his comments about voices in study group meetings, Kolenda asked why a recent survey on the nine remaining mascot choices didn’t include an option for people to offer suggestions outside of those nine choices. 

Some people may be coming to the process late, and others are in favor of keeping the Tomahawk, Kolenda said.

“I’ve received emails,” he said. “I’ve received phone calls. There are people who feel like they haven’t been heard, and they feel like they have been silenced again.”

Regional School Committee member Karen Ares sits on the Mascot Renaming Study Group. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

Karen Ares and Cathy Kea, meanwhile, are the two Regional School Committee members in the study group. 

Ares called the process “enlightening” and said it is going well. 

“I think that, throughout the whole process, what we have been tasked with, we know, is change, and change is certainly not something that anyone takes lightly and it’s hard for everyone,” Ares said. 

She reiterated that there are criteria in place that mascots should meet, such as reflecting the student colors and being void of cultural appropriation.

She added that, while the study group had discussed the topic of keeping the mascot unchanged, they had decided that such an option was not part of their task following the school committee’s vote to retire the Tomahawk.

Community members speak against mascot change

John Fouracre, who graduated from Algonquin in 1960, voiced his support for the Tomahawk. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

As this discussion took place, the Nov. 17 School Committee meeting also saw two community members voice their opposition to replacing the Tomahawk in the first place.

“I’m a proud Tomahawk,” said John Fouracre.

Fouracre, who graduated from Algonquin in 1960, talked about the history of the school and the changing of other names in the school, such as the name of the school newspaper.

“It was just unbelievable how we took these two towns and put them together. It took a couple of years for everybody to meld, both parents and students, to become part of this school,” Fouracre said, reflecting on the creation of Algonquin as a high school for both Northborough and Southborough. 

In time, Fouracre said Algonquin became one of the strongest regional high schools in the area. 

Michael Sciacca addresses the Regional School Committee. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

He talked about his own success, connecting it back to his experience at Algonquin. 

“For you to make a decision like this, it’s a sad day because in many opinions, it’s a disservice to the school and the communities of Northborough and Southborough,” Fouracre then said of the mascot change.

Michael Sciacca spoke after Fouracre. He said that when people were surveyed about what should replace the Tomahawk, the “overwhelming” response was to keep it the same. 

“Instead of reflecting on the will of the people, you have continually shut down these voices. Ignored them,” Sciacca said. 

Next steps

As of the school committee’s Nov. 17 meeting, Keith Lavoie said that there had been nearly 1,400 responses to a survey asking community members about their preferences from the new mascot list. 

The survey closed Nov. 19, and Lavoie said he intended to bring the results and other feedback back to the study group for their next meeting on Nov. 22. 

The new mascot will ultimately be selected by Algonquin students.