COXSACKIE — The final three choices for a new mascot in the Coxsackie-Athens Central School District are in and voters have until 4 p.m. Monday to have their say.
The three mascot choices on the ballot are the Eagles, Bluejays and Riverhawks.
The board of education voted June 17 by a 6-3 vote to retire the district’s long-time mascot, the Indian, citing cultural insensitivity to Indigenous people. Supporters of eliminating the mascot said it is derogatory to Native peoples and opponents argued the mascot is a part of the district’s heritage and is intended to be perceived as a positive symbol of strength and determination.
After the decision to retire the mascot was made in June, the board’s Rebranding Committee set about coming up with a new mascot. Nominations were submitted by people in the community and 14 were presented for a vote taken in August to whittle the choices down to three.
“We had almost 2,000 people vote,” Board of Education member Tara Bachner, who chairs the Rebranding Committee, said Monday.
People in the community were able to vote and students were encouraged to cast their ballots after school started last week.
“We opened it for students to vote last week in school,” Bachner said. “They got their school tablets back and were sent a code to open the ballot so they could vote.”
The response from the community was strong, she said.
“The community was really engaged in this and the kids, from what I heard, were excited about being a part of it and couldn’t wait to hear what the next set of voting was,” Bachner said.
She did not immediately have the number of votes for each mascot name, but the top three received strong support from voters.
“The top three were very popular in the community — it wasn’t even close,” Bachner said.
District Superintendent Randall Squier said the committee determined that mascot choices that accounted for a cumulative 33% of total votes would be included in the final round of voting.
“The top three choices made up over 33% of the total first round vote,” Squier said. “The fourth and fifth ranked choices had vote counts 20% below the third choice.”
Bachner is expected to provide the board of education with an update on the status of the mascot decision at Thursday’s board of education meeting, but no vote by the board will take place until all community votes are tallied.
People can vote online at the district website cacsd.org and ballot boxes have been set up at Coxsackie Elementary School, 24 Sunset Boulevard, and Edward J. Arthur Elementary School, 51 Third St., Athens.
“There has been a lot of discussion about the mascot and I hope everybody was able to be a part of the process and that was certainly the committee’s intent,” Board of Education President Michael Donahue said.
Online voting began Monday at 9 a.m. and will conclude Sept. 20 at 4 p.m. The committee has been trying to get the word out so everyone in the community has the chance to make their voice heard, Bachner said.
“The hardest part has been making sure people know the times so if they go online afterward, it’s not that we don’t want to hear from them, but we have to stop voting at some point,” Bachner said. “Voting ends at 4 p.m. We want as many people as possible to give their input on these top three so the mascot can represent what the community wants moving forward.”
The Rebranding Committee has led the effort on the mascot issue from the beginning, Donahue said.
“They put a great deal of work into this,” he said. “I thank everybody who worked all summer on this and everybody who voted, for all their efforts.”