Shaker board votes to keep ‘Red Raider’ mascot

BELMONT — After listening to a presentation similar to one given to community members about the Red Raider logo in April, the Shaker Regional School Board voted 4-to-1 against changing it.

Voting against the change were Belmont members Donna Cilley, Vice-Chair Sean Embree, Gretta Olson-Wilder and Richy Bryant. Voting to get rid of the logo was Canterbury member Robert Reed. Abstaining was Canterbury member Jill Lavallee. Chair Heidi Hutchinson of Canterbury did not vote.

"I don't want to vote on this," said Cilley who was the first to suggest the district voters be the one who make the decision.

Most of the members of the board said they thought it was something that the School District should decide at its annual district meeting in March. This was the reason Lavallee chose to abstain.

"We should vote 'no' and leave it up to residents to bring it up at the meeting," said Bryant, suggesting that the people who support changing the logo to something other than a side profile of what appears to be an American Indian could file a petition for the next district meeting.

Reed voted to change the logo because he said the important thing was not that the people who support keeping it aren't offended, but that it could be offensive to others. "It's how it looks to those Indian people — the Native Americans," he said.

Embree voted against changing it, but said he had done some of his own research and echoed Cilley by saying that it is something the whole district should decide, not just the School Board.

The subject of changing the mascot came from a social studies class discussion and found its way to the Belmont High School Student Council. After conducting research into the use of American Indian names, mascots, and logos, the members of the council began a campaign to change the logo to something else but keep the name Red Raiders along with the school colors of red and white.

Principal Dan Clary wanted it noted that the Student Council tackled a very controversial issue and that some of its members had gotten some negative feedback from their fellow students. School Board members said they appreciated the fact that, regardless of the outcome, the council members did some excellent research and dared to take on a topic that was far from easy.

Student Council members Andrew Bragg and Taylor Becker presented the board with the results of the poll held after the April meeting and noted that 12 people voted for changing the logo and 56 voted against it. Apparently other polls, including one done on-line by Selectman and Belmont High School Alumni Ron Cormier had comparable results.

Bragg and Becker said they polled the high school staff recently and learned that 37 of them supported changing the logo while 11 didn't.

Bragg and Tucker said that a high school-wide poll showed 73 people for changing the logo, 191 against changing it and 11 who had no opinion. In all, 275 of the 414 high school students weighed in.

The room at the Belmont Elementary School library was packed with students – most of whom were dressed in some kind of Red Raiders uniform or jacket and who stood behind one of the smaller bookcases that traverses the library.

Cassie Contigiani was still wearing her softball uniform complete with some evidence of a recent slide into base. She presented the board with a petition to keep the logo that some student athletes passed around school earlier in the day. She said about 75 percent she asked signed.

Another recent former graduate Elizabeth Yelle said said she saw the Raider as a "source of pride."

"I never thought of it as something not to be proud of," she said.

He sister said both of her older siblings were Red Raiders and she had waited four years to be able to wear a Red Raider jacket.

For the logo to be changed, a petitioned warrant article written in the affirmative must be presented to the Shaker Regional School District before Feb. 4, 2015, said Business Administrator Deb Thompson.