Regional School Committee accepts Algonquin mascot options, students to make final choice soon

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Principal Sean Bevan listens to teacher and Mascot Study Group member Jonathan Cahill during the Dec. 15 Regional School Committee meeting. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – Algonquin Regional High School students will be voting on a new mascot in the new year.

That decision will come after the Regional School Committee voted 7-1 to accept the five final options — the Eagles, Falcons, Nor’Easters, Thunder and Titans — during its Dec. 15 meeting. 

The Eagles had the most ranked choices throughout the process, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Keith Lavoie said.

“That had the most number one choices when we did do the community survey. That was the one that would rise to the top,” Lavoie said.

Background of the decision

The Regional School Committee voted to retire the Tomahawk back in April. 

The decision came after a petition asked to change both the ARHS school name and mascot. 

“The Algonquin name in conjunction with the Tomahawk mascot — which is an ax-like weapon — perpetuate racist stereotypes, classifying Natives as violent and barbaric,” the petition said. 

A study group was formed to study the school’s mascot following the petition. 

In April, the group then recommended to retire the mascot. 

The Regional School Committee affirmed that vote at a subsequent meeting. 

Push to keep Tomahawk 

Some community members have advocated in recent months to keep the Tomahawk mascot unchanged. 

Before the School Committee formally accepted the mascot recommendations, School Committee member Daniel Kolenda moved to add the Tomahawk to the list of options. 

“In deference to all of the alumni who have reached out to me over the number of months since this process has started and in deference to all of the current students and recent alumni who have reached out to me over the last number of months, and to be inclusive of their voices as well, I would add an additional mascot — that of the Tomahawk,” Kolenda said.

His motion died when it was not seconded.

Study group work

Teacher and Mascot Renaming Study Group member Jonathan Cahill told the School Committee that it’s been “awesome” to hear the students’ opinions. 

“It has been great to have the students specifically be part of this,” Cahill said.

Cahill, Lavoie and Principal Sean Bevan recalled the work of the study group over the past several months.

Principal Sean Bevan speaks during the Dec. 15 Regional School Committee meeting. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

The study group has a set list of criteria that the new mascot should meet, including that it should be void of appropriation. All five options met those criteria. 

In the summer, the group sought community feedback on what the new mascot should be. The group whittled the decisions down to the five options that were presented to the committee.

“Narrowing that down slowly but surely was not easy work, but it was very rewarding work,” Cahill said. “Getting to hear what the community had to say, I think, was the best part of it.” 

Cahill said the group divided into smaller groups and had conversations before bringing their discussion back to the larger group. The process flowed naturally and led to the group’s recommendations, he said.

“We didn’t always agree on everything, and I think that was important to have people in the room that were giving different opinions,” Cahill said. “As a group, though, we made decisions to move forward at each meeting and lead us to the final recommendation.” 

The study group is currently working with a graphic design group on depictions of the mascot options, which will be given to students. 

Superintendent Greg Martineau thanked the study group and Lavoie’s leadership.

“This was not an easy task or an easy charge for any group to take on. They were very thorough, thoughtful and I think they did listen to dissenting opinions,” Martineau said.

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