Posted Date: 11/10/2020
Union Public Schools to Discontinue Use of Redskins Mascot
Union’s Board of Education voted unanimously to discontinue use of the Redskins mascot and logo, in response to a recommendation made by a 35-member board-appointed committee that was tasked with studying the issue.
“After two months of study, the committee recommended a change, with 88.9 percent voting in favor of dropping the Redskins mascot,” said Superintendent Kirt Hartzler. “Without question, this name is one that has become increasingly divisive. For many, it has been a symbol of pride, honor and tradition. For others, it has caused pain. We received an overwhelming number of requests from Union insiders calling for change. With a name like Union, we can’t hang on to things that cause division.”
A 35-member committee was appointed by the Board on August 10 and included student leaders, teachers, support personnel, administrators, parents, members of the district’s Native American committee, alumni and representatives from each board district. Four members of the committee were non-voting, including two tribal representatives and two board members.
“Our committee spent a significant amount of time in discussion and research relating to Union’s mascot,” said Chris Payne, chairman of the committee and Chief Communications Officer for the district. “This decision is not one that was made easily or lightly. Outside of Union circles, the name is widely considered an offensive term. Inside Union, there has also been a significant shift in thinking among alumni, parents and students, and the call for change grew considerably in volume. We knew it was time to revisit this name.”
Union’s Board last considered the mascot issue 17 years ago during the 2002-03 school year. At that time, the Board made the unanimous decision to retain the mascot name. The main reason cited for keeping it was that it was “outside forces” [people outside the district] seeking the change.
“That is no longer the case,” said Payne. “Over the last year, 70 percent of emails we’ve received asking us to drop the mascot have predominately come from inside the Union family. More than 1,200 people – Union alums, parents, teachers and students – joined a group called Union United for Change and signed an online petition. It’s clear that opinions have changed dramatically since the last time this issue was considered.”
Other reasons cited by the committee for dropping the name:
Payne said, “We took a serious look at research related to Native American mascots and the effect on students, both Native and non-Native, and none of it is positive.”
Research reviewed by the committee showed harmful effects of Native American mascots on Native American students that included:
“We have been having conversations internally for quite some time about the possibility of making a change,” said Superintendent Hartzler. “Today, I am pleased we have made that decision. I encourage our students, staff, alumni and supporters to get behind it, as it embodies the values Union has always held dear.”
Hartzler said the district will likely take a “pause” before considering another mascot. “I suspect we will just be comfortable being Union for a while. Later, we may consider potential mascots.” He said the district will need time to fully implement the change, as there are uniforms and related imagery associated with the mascot that need to be evaluated. Hartzler expects this would happen by August 1, 2021.
Union Public Schools first used the Redskins mascot during the 1924-25 school year. At the time, it was the same team name used by Oklahoma A&M (today’s Oklahoma State University). Interviews with alumni revealed that students selected the name to honor the football team’s star players Clarence Drew and Clarence Haikey, both Creek Native Americans.
Board Considers Policy Revisions
The Board of Education on first reading Monday, November 9, considered various board policy revisions, which may be viewed here. The Board will consider final approval at its next meeting, Monday, December 14.
Some of the policy changes under consideration are as follows:
Board Accepts Bids for High School Stadium Project
The Board of Education accepted a bid of $1.2 million from Crossland Construction Co., for work at the stadium now underway at Union High School.
The work in this bid will include walk ramps and a grand entrance to the stadium, installation of interior cabinetry and millwork and exterior metal panel systems.
Board Approves Benefits Stop-Loss Program
Board members approved a recommendation to a stop-loss program for the district’s self-insured PPO Medical Indemnity Plan, effective January 1.
Jay Loegering, executive director of Human Resources, said, “The district is facing an extremely tough marketplace on stop-loss and the insurance committee recommends the District remain with Symetra, which is currently the best option at the attached rates.
The fixed cost will increase $50,315, which is a 6.5 percent increase, he said.
Union to buy more iPads, interactive display panels
Board members approved the purchase of 400 iPads for $131,580.
This decision will provide 50 iPads for Ellen Ochoa Elementary, 25 for other elementary sites and 50 for back-up use to replace lost or damaged devices.
The Board also approved the purchase of 120 interactive panels from Trinity 3 for $216,835. These will be used to replace outdated equipment, which is 10 to 15 years old throughout the district.