Tensions bubble over at Rutland School Board over mascot replacement

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 12:18 AM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - It was a tense Tuesday night at the Rutland School Board meeting after commissioners and community members got into heated debates over the Rutland school mascot.

After months of heated negotiations, the mascot was changed back in February from the Raiders to the Ravens, but Tuesday’s meeting shows there is still tension in the community.

At the top of the meeting, Board Chair Hurley Cavacas, clerk Erin Shimp, and Superintendent Bill Olsen went into another room to discuss an agenda typo with legal counsel.

Five people requested the conversation about bringing back the Raiders name be an action item on the agenda rather than unfinished business. Cavacas announced the recommendation from the board’s lawyer. “We will move this off the agenda this month. We will put it on the agenda in January as new business in January,” Cavacas said.

That was met with frustrations from people who thought there may be a vote to bring back the Raiders name at Tuesday’s meeting. Board Member Alison Notte pointed out the entire board should have been privy to the conversation with the lawyer, which began a disagreement between her and Shimp, who said she and Olsen were there as witnesses.

After a short recess, the meeting devolved into further name-calling and arguments, eventually forcing Cavacas to suspend the meeting until January 11.

The majority of the room was full of teachers and support staff to ask the board to renegotiate their contract and discuss the health and well-being of the students -- items that never were discussed. “The fact that it was overshadowed by all of this divisiveness, when we have really pulled together in an incredible way during this pandemic, it just makes me sad and incredibly disappointed,” said Rutland Education Association president Sue Tanen.

The board still needs to submit a school budget in January for the city of Rutland to vote on in March.

The next scheduled meeting is on Jan. 11.

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