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Cambridge Central School Board Postpones Decision On The Future Of Its “Indian” Mascot

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An update now to a story we brought you yesterday about the fate of Cambridge Central School's Native American mascot and moniker. A final decision is still some time off.

The Washington County community has been debating whether to drop its Indian logo and mascot, after several professional sports teams banished their old images and associations as part of the national racial reckoning. People living in the district remain bitterly divided over whether the Indian should be retired.

Native American activist John Kane attended CCS from the third grade until he graduated from high school in 1978. He appeared before the board last fall, and says it looked at that time like a solution was in the works.

"They had laid out a process which would involve three months of receiving emails, letters, you know, or whatever information the community or others wants to send them about the issue, and that the board would evaluate that information and from what I understand, it's like over 900 pages of information they've received. And they would evaluate, the board themselves would evaluate that information. And then they would plan to vote in March as to whether they would retire the mascot or not, and adopt a process for selecting the for how they would phase out the old mascot and how they would choose a new one."

The school board addressed the issue during Thursday evening's meeting. They stopped short of an imminent change.

After an hour of discussion, CCS Superintendent Doug Silvernell presented and fine-tuned a motion:

"Be it resolved that the Cambridge Central School District Board of Education hereby directs the superintendent to develop a process to engage outside facilitation, to facilitate community conversations, to provide the board with an understanding of all stakeholder beliefs around the use of the term 'Indian' and the use of Native American imagery, to inform the Board's decision to retire or not retire the use of a race-based mascot by the close of the 2020-2021 school year."

All four board members approved the motion. A mediator is expected to be chosen within the next week.

2010 graduate Gordon McQuerrey emailed WAMC expressing his displeasure with the outcome, saying in part:

"This is a sad day, not only for indigenous advocacy or the integrity of academia, but for the children at CCS who will continue to experience the wedge being driven deeper into the bedrock of our community. This is by no means the end. We will never relent, and even if we cannot bring out the better angels of our neighbors, I believe NYS will mandate an end to race based mascots within the decade. It's just unfortunate that we missed another chance to be on the right side of history."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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