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Redskins mascot issue rears up again at first board meeting of new school year

Lancaster’s first School Board meeting of the new school year turned into a deja vu moment, with renewed criticism about the district’s recent mascot change to the Legends.

Some demanded that a community vote be held on the issue.

The debate reignited Monday during the public forum portion of the board meeting. Former board member Mary Kless said she attended a recent reunion of old classes and said many graduates, including herself, remain upset with the process of how the mascot changed. “We are wondering why we, as taxpayers, are paying for uniforms and equipment,” she said. “The taxpayers should have been at least allowed to have their opinion, instead of just the students voting. I think the people of the community have been cheated. We are paying for this and had no say.”

Those who back the Redskins mascot sported new T-shirts with black with white lettering: “I’m The Warrior.”

Superintendent Michael J. Vallely explained that the football team’s new uniforms have an “L” placed on them for Legends, but said changes were paid for by the students. Any additional sports uniforms ordered with the Legends “L” were part of the district’s regular rotational system to retire aged uniforms and done at his direction to the athletic director.

Board President Patrick Uhteg said the process that played out for the mascot change was “not perfect.” “I readily admit that,” he said, noting it was the first time it was done. However, Uhteg said, he was not ashamed by his behavior and said the district is charged with creating an open climate for culture. He defended the student process that ultimately led to the students designing and voting on a new mascot that was then formally approved by the board.

“I am fully confident in the decision we made,” Uhteg said. “There is never the wrong time to do what is right.”

Redskins supporter Brian Gerasimowicz challenged the board about its talk of respect and compassion. “Practice what you preach, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, referencing the five remaining board members who voted for the new mascot. “This is not going to go away unless you put it up for a vote. Put it up for a vote.”

The crowd erupted in loud applause.

The reaction was tempered by comments from Jim Wendell, who praised the board for its decision. “Stay tough. Stay strong,” he said. “The old men and women can go home and cherish their history ... The young kids today are still creating history.”

Afterward, pro-Redskins supporter Michael Bulera said: “We don’t vote people into positions to make changes for the many.”

email: krobinson@buffnews.com