EducationThe Putnam Examiner

Mahopac Hopes to be Reimbursed for Costs Changing District Mascot

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Mahopac School District officials are hoping to be reimbursed for the estimated $500,000 it will cost to change the Indians mascot the district has used for decades.

State Assemblyman Matt Slater (R/Yorktown) held a press conference at Mahopac High School Friday to announce legislation has been introduced in the Assembly and Senate to provide financial relief to all districts statewide that are being forced by the state Board of Regents to eliminate using Native American mascots, team names and logos.

“If Albany wants it, they should pay for it,” Slater said. “My biggest issue is the inability of local officials and school officials to have a say in this. It’s fundamentally wrong.”

Last week, the Board of Regents voted unanimously to adopt a regulation reinforcing the Education Department’s position on The Dignity for All Students Act that addresses using Native American symbols or depictions. The Education Department first recommended the changes in 2001.

The Mahopac School District is one of about 2,000 nationwide that still use a Native American as a mascot, and one of about 60 in New York. School district officials are in the process of choosing a new nickname. On May 16, students are scheduled to vote on one of three yet-to-be selected options, while the Board of Education will make a final determination in June.

“The state put this on Mahopac. This is the hand we have been dealt with,” said Board of Education Trustee Tanner McCracken. “I understand the passion of the community about this change. The state is bringing this burden on Mahopac. They should bear it.”

Mahopac Superintendent of Schools Christine Tona said the largest expenses with the mascot change are with signage, uniforms and field alterations.

Last December, the Board of Education decided to only put an “M” on the new artificial turf field being installed, instead of the “M” plus arrow and feather the district has used for several years since it dropped headdress imagery.

“We were looking to at least maintain the logo. We wanted to keep something of pride,” said Tona, stressing the district will comply with the state’s mandate and not risk losing $38 million in funding.

School districts have until the end of the 2024-25 school year to remove all Native American references, but can request an extension if needed.

Slater and other local elected officials said the Education Department should concentrate on helping students in the classroom.

“We have Albany dictating to us, but they don’t send us a check,” said Carmel Councilman Frank Lombardi. “Stop with the nonsense. They should be focusing on educating our children.”



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