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Lancaster students roll out timeline for picking new mascot before graduation

Since dropping the “Redskins” mascot last month, the Lancaster School District has represented its students with simply an “L” or just “Lancaster.”

Now, it’s up to the students to come up with a new nickname or mascot. Middle and high school students have been given until May 1 to submit ideas for a new logo and mascot.

Students at the schools will then cast ballots for their choice in at least two rounds of voting. But the School Board will have to give final approval to the new name.

Student leaders are pushing to have a new mascot in place before the school year ends and 488 graduating seniors receive their diplomas on June 26 at Kleinhans Music Hall.

“It will be the last of the old, and the first of the new,” said Jacob Doyle, a senior and Student Union officer.

He is one of 21 students selected to be part of the high school’s organizational committee that is helping outline and guide the mascot-selection process.

Committee members insist they are not involved in making the decision. They also said they were not handpicked, as some community members have suggested, and that they have not discussed as a group any potential new mascots.

Senior Lauren Budzich, who is a member of the student committee, said it’s important that members of the Class of 2015 are what they want to be.

“We want every senior to graduate how they want, and they can be whatever they want,” she said.

Many students are “ready to have something happen,” added Brooke Tryjankowski, a senior and committee representative. “I think everyone is waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

“This committee is giving the voice back to the students. That’s important, where many felt they lost their voice,” said Gabriella Folsom, a junior.

Students got their first look at the process when it was officially rolled out Thursday by the organizational committee. An explanatory video was shown and a packet was distributed to all middle and high school students.

Students were told to keep their mascot ideas appropriate and make sure they have “NO connection to the Redskins name or the Native American community,” according to the handout. Students also were provided with a list of mascots from 29 area school districts to avoid duplication.

The students will vote a few days later on the top five suggestions. Middle school students will vote May 5-7 for their top five, while high school students vote on their five favorites May 8.

The top five designs from both schools will be displayed at both schools May 26; ballots will be passed out May 27 to vote on the top design.

Bubble form sheets, with machine-scored voting – and student identification at least at the high school level – will be used to ensure that the process is fair and that no student votes twice.

The Board of Education has a target date of June 8 to decide on the students’ selection, after it is conveyed through Superintendent Michael J. Vallely.

Student leaders said they formulated a nomination and voting process that will be fair to students.

Just two districts in New York State, Oriskany and Canisteo-Greenwood, still have Redskins mascots. Lancaster’s School Board voted unanimously March 16 to retire the mascot immediately due to racial and ethnic concerns.

Many students interviewed before school Thursday indicated there is a mix of opinion in the school, though many are ready to move forward and embrace a new mascot. Much of the anger and disbelief resulted, they said, because of how quickly the board’s decision was made. Students said they are still allowed to wear their Redskins apparel to school, including “senior” shirts. That’s despite rumors that the administration was not allowing the clothing in school.

Student leaders and school officials are aware of the passion surrounding the nearly 70-year-old mascot and name and say it will not be forgotten. An official retirement of the old mascot is planned for June 15 at the high school; the entire process for a new mascot is to be completed by June 24.