Outreach is planned to begin soon to Marysville Pilchuck High School and Totem Middle School community members for the two school’s mascot change process.
Due to a decision from the Washington state legislature, schools that use Native symbols will have to remove them by the end of the year.
In Marysville that means Marysville Pilchuck High School will have to remove use of the tomahawk symbol and Totem Middle School will have to leave behind the thunderbird mascot.
“We’ve got the mascot steering committee well underway at Totem Middle School,” said J. Marie Riche of Ideal Communications, during the Sept. 15 school board meeting.
The steering committee is meant to build a larger committee that will lead the process.
“They’ve identified who is being invited to that committee and working together to make those invitations,” said Riche.
A survey has been released for the Totem Middle School community.
“We’ve got a survey going out at Totem to identify values that students and parents would like to see reflected in the new mascot,” said Riche.
The survey also invites community members to share memories about what the school means to them.
“Reading through other people’s stories is a great place to be inspired about what could be chosen to represent us collectively,” said Riche.
School board member Chris Nation was glad the group was gathering stories. He said that unlike picking a mascot for a new school, this decision has to be made while considering the already established history.
“We have to take into account those historical stories and how they bring the community together,” said Nation. “I look forward to what the community comes up with."
Riche said they plan to send out more communications for that survey.
“We’ll be getting more steam over the next couple of days,” she said.
The Totem Middle School group will also invite some community members directly to gather their experiences.
“We are in the beginning to schedule some listening opportunities,” said Riche.
The Marysville Pilchuck committee is planning to follow a similar model as the Totem Middle School group.
“They will, in some ways, get to lean on some of the organizing efforts that Totem is starting,” said Riche.
In addition to surveys, the committees are planning for online meetings to hear community feedback.
“Meeting together in person would really be our preference,” said Riche, however the increasing COVID-19 case rate in the county is preventing responsible gathering.
“Since we’re having to do so much electronically, we want to find ways we can safely personalize the dialogue that is going to happen,” she said.
By law, schools have to make a decision on new mascots and symbols to use before the end of the year.
“Because of the legislature we have a shortened timeline to do this, but I think you guys are doing a diligent job,” said Nation.
The current plan is to present to the board on Dec. 1.
The state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will provide schools some grant funding for mascot changes, although local officials say the current amount budgeted will not cover most schools.
There is some effort from OSPI to the state legislature to grant more funding for the process though.
“[State superintendent] Chris Reykdal specifically noted that OSPI is submitting an updated budget request with an increased amount to help schools with the mascot change process,” said Riche.