Sports teams will have new names this school year
SCHUYLER COUNTY--In response to what has been a growing conversation about school mascot names and symbols, The Odessa-Montour Central School District will be embracing a new image for sports teams in the upcoming school year. This followed discussions between school leaders, students and representatives of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Odessa-Montour will now be the Grizzlies.
"It has been a topic of debate for years," said Christopher Wood, superintendent for the Odessa-Montour Central School District. "I invited the Seneca Nation out to look at our depiction and usage of the mascot- our depiction was historically inaccurate. We were not 'honoring' the Natives as we thought we were."
While teams that play solely under Odessa-Montour will be the Grizzlies, Odessa-Montour's combined teams with Watkins Glen will also be undergoing a rebrand and will now be known as the Schuyler Storm. This will impact football, baseball, wrestling and swimming.
"We have been discussing this for two years," Wood stated. "We had discussions with the Seneca Nation, students, did surveys and put communications out through our website, local media and school newsletters. It was a very thorough and time-invested process."
The topic of changing the names of sports teams and mascots has occurred in national leagues such as the NFL, along with smaller minor-league teams and schools across the country. Imagery and caricatures historically used in conjunction with sports teams with Native American mascots often do not accurately portray the group or are exploitative.
"It is an opportunity to re-brand our district while doing what we think is proactive and right," added Wood. "We have used the same model of gathering student input as we did when we merged sports in 2015 and when we renamed those teams this year. Engaging, empowering and educating our students is our mission statement, we did just that."
Watkins Glen will remain the Senecas, in reference to lake only, though the conversation about whether or not to rebrand will continue going forward. When contacted for comment, Watkins Glen Superintendent Kai D'Alleva referred the Review and Express to the district newsletter where he wrote extensively on the subject.
"Regarding our next steps, the district will shift its imagery to our unique geography," D'Alleva wrote. "We will focus on Seneca Lake, which remains a historic and important part of our school community. We will seek input from students and the board of education to ensure that our name and image [are] reflective of our district's vision, mission and values, and our policy on diversity, equity and inclusion."
D'Alleva added the district will work to ensure that all Native American imagery, including human likenesses, arrows, hatchets, spears, and feathers, will no longer be used on any material representing the Watkins Glen Central School District.