WISCASSET, Maine — Wiscasset High School Principal Matt Carlson on Thursday night unveiled to the Regional School Unit 12 board of directors potential logos for his school’s sports teams, which soon will be called the “Wolverines” after that name was chosen in an online vote to replace the long-held “Redskins” mascot.
While no high school students or townspeople spoke about the name change during Thursday’s school board meeting at Wiscasset Primary School, adults with close ties to the high school community offered mixed reaction to the new mascot after the meeting.
The issue has been controversial since September, when representatives of the Maine Indian Tribal-State Commission requested that the “Redskins” name be dropped because Maine’s tribes find the term offensive.
Wiscasset High School student council adviser Deb Pooler told reporters after leaving Thursday’s meeting that students at the school are warming to the new name.
“There’s been a shift at the high school,” Pooler said. “Many more kids now are saying, ‘Yeah, Wolverines.’ They’re saying, ‘Wolverines are kind of cool.’”
But Chet Grover, a vocal supporter of retaining the “Redskins” mascot and coach of the high school’s baseball team, said students he interacts with share a different opinion.
“I’ve got 15 kids on my baseball team who say [the name] ‘Wolverines’ is a joke,” he told reporters after leaving Thursday night’s meeting.
Mary Tardif, who was also on hand Thursday night, told The Times Record that her father is a full-blooded Indian, and she has had three kids attend classes at Wiscasset High School. With their heritage, Tardif said her children thought of the “Redskins” name as “an honor.”
“They feel like they were raked over the coals [during the mascot debate],” Tardif said of her children.
The RSU 12 board voted in January to cease using that name. The board at that time also changed the mission of a previously appointed committee — which had been researching whether to keep the name — to instead suggest a new mascot for the school.
At its March meeting, the board voted to allow the use of “Redskins” through the end of this academic year, and asked that the committee bring forward the new name at the board’s meeting on May 12 — Thursday.
Carlson, who served as chairman of that committee, reported to the board Thursday night as requested, describing the process by which the “Wolverines” name was chosen. The committee set up a suggestion box at the school in January, he said, then solicited additional suggestions from alumni in February.
On March 18, the committee narrowed its list of suggestions to nine, then a vote of the student body whittled the list down to three finalists. Those finalists were subject to an online vote from March 24 through April 7, he said, and “Wolverines” was the most popular with 143 votes.
Another 118 people voted for “Red Hawks” and 83 picked “Rebels,” Carlson said of the other two finalists.
The principal said the committee then put a call out to students to submit logo designs, but only two offered suggestions. He then said submissions were sought from alumni, and two more people responded with logo ideas.
Carlson on Thursday brought the board a series of possible logo images he said were designed by alumnus Ted Clausen, including two similar variants featuring a red wolverine face baring its teeth alongside a capital “W,” and one in which a muscle-bound wolverine stood clad in a basketball uniform spinning a ball on its finger.
Mascot committee members Grover and Pooler both said after the meeting that, because committee meetings on April 25 and April 29 were canceled for different reasons, the committee never saw or officially voted on the logos presented to the board Thursday.
The full RSU 12 board on Thursday night did not take a vote to adopt the new mascot or its logos, as chairman Thom Birmingham suggested the board does not typically implement mascots at schools in the eight-town district. However, the board did consider a nominal motion of support for the mascot committee’s work, and 15 of the 17 members in attendance voted in favor of the motion.
Only Gene Stover of Wiscasset voted against the motion. Blake Brown of Palermo abstained.
RSU 12 provides public education for Westport Island, Alna, Chelsea, Somerville, Whitefield, Windsor and Palermo in addition to Wiscasset.
Superintendent Greg Potter thanked the committee for its work Thursday, calling the last several months “exceptionally stressful.” He characterized the mascot decision as a “difficult, emotional issue.”
Approximately half the high school’s student body staged a walkout the morning after the board’s January vote, then the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen subsequently sent a letter to the RSU 12 board urging its members to rethink the move.
In early March, a nonbinding referendum at the polls in Wiscasset found that 279 out of the 335 residents who voted supported keeping the “Redskins” name. That referendum came on the heels of a more informal survey taken at the polls last November in which 503 out of 665 respondents said they wanted to retain the Redskins mascot.
“My beef is that 143 votes [online for ‘Wolverines’] is trumping 700 or 800 total votes for Redskins,” said Chris Teel, father of a Wiscasset High School senior, after Thursday’s meeting.
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