The Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee voted on Wednesday night to drop the use of Native American imagery for Algonquin Regional High School's sports teams.
In a 9-0 decision, the ten-member committee agreed to follow the recommendation of a study group made up of students, the school principal and other community members to stop the using "Tomahawks" as their logo and nickname, which has been in place since the school's inception. One member was not present at the time of the vote.
"The debate as to whether the Tomahawk should remain the school's mascot has spanned multiple decades," Superintendent Gregory Martineau said. "Ignoring the Native Americans' opposition to the use of Native American mascots, symbols and nicknames does not align with Algonquin Regional High School's values."
Chris Covino, one of the committee members, pointed out that one of the main arguments for keeping the mascot has been that it was originally intended to honor Native Americans.
"However, if a group of individuals says that it is not an honor, then it is really not our place to say that, 'Well, it is an honor,'" he said.
The one member who was not present for the vote, Dan Kolenda, left the meeting early but expressed reservations about moving to retire the mascot without full involvement of the community.
"I am fearful that we may do something tonight that does not reflect the overall consensus of both communities," he said. "I think from what I saw, at least from the emails that have come in, it has been 2-to-1 to keep the mascot."
The discussion came a day after Wakefield residents voted, in a non-binding resolution, to keep the Native American imagery tied to their Warrior logo. Residents who attended the Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee were similarly divided.
Jessica Levenson of Southborough was among those adamant at dropping the mascot.
"As educators, administrators and school committee members of this district, you have over 4,000 students looking to you to lead by example," she said. "I ask you to do the right thing, to heed Native voices and retire the mascot without delay."
John Fouracre of Northborough said the debate has been a pressing issue to him. He wanted the school to keep the mascot.
"I would like to see you abandon your conquest to move forward on this project," he told the committee.
Similar debates are almost certain to spring up across the state as a number of schools still incorporate Native American mascots and imagery. Legislation has been introduced at the State House that could ban their use in public schools in the Commonwealth.
After the Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee's decision, now comes the legthy process of choosing another name, along with new uniforms, logos and other items.