There is an old saying in sports popularized by the late Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra: "It ain't over till it's over." And it appears the controversy over a name change to the Rutland district school sports mascot and imagery may not be over just yet.
Last October, the Rutland City Board of School Commissioners voted to retire the "Raiders" name and arrowhead logo, deeming it offensive and hurtful to Indigenous people in the United States. And in February, the name "Ravens" was approved to replace it. But now the board of school commissioners has formed an ad hoc committee to investigate the process by which the Raider name and mascot were dropped.
Mitch Wertlieb: Who called for this ad hoc committee? And why are the board members looking, again, at this issue of the mascot name change, when a decision to make the change was already approved?
Jim Sabataso: The newly-elected board chair, Hurley Cavacas, was the one who called for this ad hoc committee. He gave them a charge to investigate the process that the board went through, to approve this. And along the way, he's alleged that it wasn't followed to a T, and Robert's Rules of Order may not have been followed appropriately, in which case, he argues that the vote should be invalidated.
Well, I have to ask an indelicate question here, then: Is board chair Hurley Cavacas an opponent of the mascot name change on principle? And is this seen as an effort to get the decision overturned on a technicality?
Mr. Cavacas has been a little dodgy on committing, one way or the other. It seems that he wants to perhaps bring back the the [Raiders] name, but abandon the arrowhead logo. That idea was floated at an earlier meeting this year. But the committee really seems to be looking for, possibly, that technicality, and finding a way to undo it that way, rather than actually hold a vote at the board level.
Well, if it does turn out that Robert's Rules of Order were not followed to the letter, and that Mr. Cavacas is right about that? Could there not just be a revote on the issue, following the orders the way they were supposed to go, and see if the name change could still be approved?
There could be. There's been a lot of getting in the weeds on what you can do about Robert's Rules of Order, when a process isn't followed exactly, and whether or not you can go back and invalidate past actions on the board, and if you're allowed to do that.
And that's where the committee is right now, is looking to bring in a parliamentarian who can provide some expert guidance on what exactly you do in the event that a past action was done improperly. So they're really at the beginning stages of, how are we going to approach this, and looking at the charge that Mr. Cavacas gave them, and seeing how they can possibly move forward with some expert advice, the committee themselves, the board members that are on the committee acknowledging that they're not experts in this. So they really need to seek somebody who can really provide proper guidance.
That first meeting of the ad hoc committee, I'm assuming it was done virtually, perhaps by Zoom. Was the public allowed to watch that meeting? And did you watch it yourself?
I did. Public was was allowed to be there. Nobody opted to speak, everyone was given an opportunity to, if they wanted to. But I think a lot of people were listening — about, I'd say, close to two dozen people, a little over two dozen people, including additional school commissioners and school administrators.
This is a hyper-local issue, Jim, but I understand that it has drawn some national attention as well. What can you tell us about that?
It has, yes. So this all started when the Rutland chapter of the NAACP, as well as a couple other organizations, issued a statement saying that other school districts shouldn't participate with the Rutland City School District if they revert back to the Raider mascot, and essentially boycott the school because of it.
That prompted a letter from an organization called the Native American Guardian Association, which is pro-Native American imagery and logos. They support the use of these, they think that it advances Native American culture and visibility by allowing schools to have these mascots.
And, in turn... that prompted a letter from the National Congress of American Indians, who sent a letter to the school board and to school administrators stating that they maintain their support of the school district's decision to retire the Raiders mascot.
So you're seeing very much a back and forth here, at the national level, but it's definitely drawing that attention.
Finally, Jim, when can we expect a ruling on whether this issue was properly voted on?
I think people watching this ad hoc committee are wondering if this is really an effort to kick the can down the road, to put it off of the board having to make a decision and take a vote.
I know the committee members have expressed that they don't want it to drag on for a long time, and they'd like to really get through the work. It seems that, possibly by the end of the summer, present something back to the board that action can then be taken on it.
Yeah, I mean, you'd think something would have to happen by then, because next school year, when the sports teams get back out there, they're gonna wanna know which jerseys to put on, Ravens or Raiders?
Right. And as it stands right now, Ravens is the the adopted name. I mean, that vote from February still stands. So, it would be a matter of reverting back to the Raiders. But currently the official, as adopted by the school board in February, the official name remains the Ravens.
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