OLD TOWN – With much relief and little fanfare Wednesday night, the Old Town School Board formally adopted the Coyote as the high school mascot, replacing the Indian symbol that some contended was inappropriate.
“I’m glad it’s completed,” said board Chairman Jim Dill after the vote endorsing the Coyote, which beat out the Riverhawk and the Ironhide – a reference to a bull – to be top dog as the school’s mascot. “It’s been an interesting process.”
There was no opposition on the board and none voiced by the audience of mostly school officials, one of whom sounded his approval in an appropriate fashion.
“Awoooo,” John Keane, principal of the J.A. Leonard Middle School, gently howled after the unanimous vote was taken.
The board’s decision followed the recommendation last week by a steering committee of students, staff and community members established last fall when the school board decided to remove the Indian as the mascot.
Although Old Town’s teams have been called the Indians since the turn of the last century, in recent years the name has come under fire as being an affront to Indians, including the neighboring Penobscot Indian Nation, which sends some of its students to Old Town High School.
An Old Town High alumnus acknowledged that it might take time to get used to the change after the long association the Indian has had with the school.
“I just think with something that is kind of ingrained in your head for that long, it’s going to be really difficult to think of it as anything other than the Old Town Indians,” Adam Boynton, a 1998 graduate who is now the school’s co-swim coach, said recently. “But I don’t have a problem with the Coyotes.”
Old Town High School senior Jacob Shanley, a member of the swim team, said he would have preferred another name, something more identifiable with the school and town.
“It could have been worse,” he said. “It doesn’t really have anything to do with Old Town, but the other options weren’t any better. We should have gone with something like the Lumberjacks. That would have been cool.”
The name change will prompt some other changes at the school. Although the athletic uniforms have no mention of a mascot, a stone sign outside the school is engraved with a picture of an Indian in a headdress.
Old Town High School Principal Joe Gallant said an anonymous benefactor has agreed to have the engraving removed and replaced by the Coyote once a mascot image has been determined.
Even though the image will change, the school isn’t about to completely erase the significance that the Penobscot Indians have had in the area, Gallant said.
Two art panels depicting a pair of Penobscot Indians painted by a former student will be moved from the gymnasium to another part of the school where they will be more visible and appreciated, Gallant said during a break in the school board meeting.
Although the board approved the name change for the high school, Keane said the middle school still needs to adopt its own mascot, a process he hoped would be completed by the end of March.
“The kids could decide to go along with the high school or choose to adopt their own mascot,” he said.