Printed below is the text from Cooperstown Board of Education President , Dr. David Borgstrom's address to students in grades 7-12 on Thursday, January 24, 2013.
Student Assembly Address, January 24, 2013
Times are changing. Our culture continues to evolve.
Some of you were first hand witnesses to the second inauguration of the first African-American President in our nation’s history.
Locally, we have been through much in the last four years. CCS has made significant efforts to recognize change, diversity, cultural sensitivity, character and leadership.
There have been presentations from SUCO, an Anti-Defamation League Presentation “A World of Difference”, Dignity for All Students, faculty development, a conversation Helen Sperling and her reflections as a Holocaust Survivor, the wonderful Habitudes presentation you just had, and many more to come.
It has troubled me for some time that we recognize the importance of this character education, make a commitment to it, and espouse a need for cultural sensitivity, while supporting a school nickname that is the antithesis of this philosophy. What would the Board ofEducation response be, if ever asked to justify our commitment to cultural sensitivity education and the nickname “Redskins?” If any of you came before the Board and asked this of us, I would have no reasonable response.
In April of 2001, Richard Mills, Commissioner of the New York State Education Department, informed school officials throughout New York State that the “use of Native American names, symbols, and mascots is such a significant issue that it is being looked at in other states, in professional sports, at the collegiate level, as well as at the local level in some New York school districts.”
He called upon school officials to notify their communities of this issue by charging them - “We have an obligation to inform communities so that they might come to understand the pain, however unintentionally inflicted, these symbols cause.” He asked school district administrators to lead their communities “in a discussion of the right path to take.”
It was addressed in this community 11 years ago without any action taken. Cultures evolve and change, as must ours.
Recently, several students came forward to relate specific conversations with people unfamiliar with our school. When the issue of school mascot nickname came up, they felt uncomfortable and embarrassed about the issue.
I am convinced the time has come to make a change. We cannot continue on a path of recognizing the importance of diversity education, and cultural sensitivity and continue to be called the “Redskins.”
This issue is a Board of Education responsibility. We cannot continue to turn our backs on this topic. This is NOT an administration responsibility. This is NOT a student body responsibility.
I have brought this forward to the Board of Education, as an issue we must address now. There is much on our plate already this spring with ever increasing fiscal concerns, but we can no longerignore this issue and put this off into the future for others to address.
Precedent is important, history is important, community ties are important, but in the context of today, they may have a different importance.
Research done in 2001 suggested the name “Redskins” dates to the mid 1920s. Some have suggested it relates to “Red” Bursey. It seems to predate his influence. If the name was a reference to native people, it was surely done to honor them. I respect that. Further, I recognize the history of the school and the emotional ties to the name “Redskins”. The issue is not so much the origins of the name, who it may have honored, or the various visions and emotions it may stir up. What is at hand is how it reflects Cooperstown Central School culture and philosophy of education.
I have asked the CCS Student Council to help the Board come up with several alternative nicknames. With input from the student body, the Board of Education will then act, to make an appropriate change.
CCS Mascot Ballot
The following is a list of new mascot names proposed by the High School Student Council. Please rank your top three choices from 1 to 3, with 1 being your top choice. Note that you are only voting for a mascot name. School colors and the emblem/logo will remain the same.
Student Council will tally all votes from the school community and present their findings to the Board of Education.
You may write-in your own suggestion on the “other” line. If you feel that the current nickname of "Redskins" is appropriate, please indicate your choice on the write-in line. In each of these cases, please be sure to include them in your 1 to 3 ranking.
all information taken off the Cooperstown Central School website.