The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 12:53 am

Views on Redskins get heard

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

For Matthew Burd, a 1993 North Side High School graduate, being a North Side Redskin represents 88 years of tradition, pride, history and honor.

Burd’s father and four siblings were Redskins, his wife graduated from North Side in 1989 and his daughters are due to graduate in 2016 and 2017.

"For generations in our family, we’ve taken pride in it. It’s an honor thing, not derogatory," Burd said before the Fort Wayne Community Schools board meeting Monday.

But while Burd is upset that the district is working to change the mascot for the high school that opened in 1927, there were others who spoke up for it.

Chad Thompson, an IPFW linguistics professor who also teaches Native American folklore, and his wife, Helen Frost Thompson, both addressed the board, advocating for the name change.

Helen Frost Thompson said after the meeting that she and her husband have friends in the local Miami of Oklahoma tribe who also would like to see it changed.

"The name really is hurtful," she said, though quickly added that the moniker "does not mean it was ever intended to be disrespectful."

The Thompsons, who were the only other members of the public to speak on the matter besides Burd and former board member Lisa Olinger, said they asked that the district reconsider the name 10 years ago. That the request went back that far was a matter of contention for board member Glenna Jehl.

"I’m a bit surprised that we’re going forward with the change of the North Side High School mascot," Jehl said. "The board at least should be given an opportunity to vote on this issue." Jehl said she also believed that the administration had made up its mind to change the mascot.

The name change will not be up to the board, but an administrative decision with input from students, teachers, administration, PTAs and even the local Miami tribe, said Mark GiaQuinta, board president. If the board were given these types of decisions it would lead to decisions on hiring coaches and "what pop to serve in the vending machines," the kind of board authority that can lead to stifling administrative innovation, GiaQuinta said.

There is no timeline to change the mascot name. That has been left up to North Side principal Chad Hissong and Debra Faye Williams-Robbins, the district’s assistant superintendent secondary, FWCS School Superintendent Wendy Robinson said.

In the meantime, GiaQuinta repeated a concern he has previously voiced that the name does not match the district’s core values.

Board member Becky Hill agreed. "This name does not jive at all with our mission," said Hill, who brought the Thompsons’ request to the board 10 years ago.

Robinson said that people who want to suggest new nicknames can go through the district’s Let’s Talk! website or contact the alumni association.

Meanwhile, there is a Facebook page "Save the Northside Redskin Mascot" page that had more than 3,000 likes as of Monday, said board member Anne Duff. A North Side graduate, Duff said she wasn’t sure how she felt about the issue, but would not "lose sleep over that."

On the Facebook page, there is an announcement of an Aug. 5 Parent Teacher Student Association meeting with Doug Peconge representing the local Miami tribe. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the North Side auditorium.

The Elkhart Truth reported late Monday night that the Goshen Community Schools board voted 5-2 to retire the Redskins mascot Jan. 1.

In other matters, the board approved the appointment of Hoch Associates P.C. of Fort Wayne as the project architect for the Student and Family Support Center on East Douglas Avenue downtown. The project’s estimated cost is $2.5 million.

A construction contract for the renovation of the construction trades building on Murray Street was awarded to Michael Kinder & Sons, Inc., Fort Wayne, for $499,000. The work is expected to be finished in November.


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