The new Rutland City School Board chairman says the “Raider” name is back on the table but the arrowhead logo is unlikely to return.
“The logo has to go,” Hurley Cavacas said Wednesday. “It has to be eliminated. That’s a certainty.”
Cavacas was elected the new chairman at the board’s reorganizational meeting Tuesday, ousting Board Member Alison Notte in a 6-5 vote. Toward the end of the meeting, Board Member Stephanie Stoodley, one of the new members elected on a platform of restoring the “Raider” team name, made a motion to do just that and the meeting promptly descended into shouting.
The board voted last year to do away with the Raider name and arrowhead logo in response to concerns they were culturally insensitive, but the move prompted a strong public backlash. The board voted in March to adopt a new name and logo, “the Rutland Ravens,” but Cavacas and the other supporters of the “Raider” name claim the vote was held improperly and Cavacas has stated he intends to use his authority as chairman to declare it void.
Amidst all the procedural arguments, action on the issue was postponed to the board’s May meeting. Cavacas hinted Wednesday at the possibility of using the Raider name, but in a way devoid of any Native American imagery and references — the school’s nickname was previously the “Red Raiders” with an Indigenous American tribal chief logo. He referred repeatedly to the Oakland Raiders.
“The ‘Red’ name is gone,” he said. “Thank God it’s gone. That was racist and discriminatory.”
Cavacas said the board should have spent the last year discussing COVID-related issues instead of the mascot, which raised the question of why the board should bring the mascot back up now.
“I would love to let it die, but I believe the voters of Rutland City have spoken by voting in three pro-mascot candidates,” he said. “Had they not voted that way, we wouldn’t have to be taking another look. ... I’d like to hear from the voters of Rutland who said they were not allowed to speak.”
Voters were allowed to speak — the board held a public forum on the issue at which numerous people spoke for and against doing away with the Raider name — but Cavacas claimed only a limited number of people were allowed to register to speak at the meeting and he believed many of those slots were taken by people from out of state.
Also, Cavacas said the board had questions about the process that was used to pick the new name, “Ravens,” saying the board was not told that in a survey of students to suggest new names, one-third wrote in “Raiders.”
Notte denied there were any procedural missteps regarding the adoption of the “Ravens” name, but did admit to botching a ruling on a motion by Board Member Erin Shimp last year.
“It wouldn’t have changed anything,” Notte said. “She didn’t have the votes.”
Notte said she was not surprised that the new members were moving to restore the Raider name, but she was surprised at how quickly they moved. She said much of the tone of the argument Tuesday was personal in nature.
“It’s about attacking me,” she said. “It’s not about the process, because they change their story every five minutes. ... You can see by his actions last night of saying he’d give me more respect than I gave him and then interrupting me whenever I had the floor — it’s a mess. ... It’s a lot of pettiness.”
Notte maintained that removing the name was the right thing to do, pointing out that marginalized populations are almost always in the minority and have trouble winning majority votes if other people don’t take their concerns seriously.
“The School Board’s mission is to be inclusive and supportive of all students,” she said.
Frustrated by a sharp rise in retail thefts on the south end of town, near Green Mountain Plaza, town and city law enforcement plan to meet with local officials and county lawmakers next week to discuss the problem.
At the Tuesday meeting of the Rutland Town Select Board, Town Police Chief Ed Dumas informed the board that a remote meeting has been scheduled at 2 p.m. April 22. Among those invited are Rutland City Mayor David Allaire, the Department for Children and Families (DCF), himself, and Rutland County’s three state senators.
In early March, the board voted to move Dumas out of his role as an investigator at the Child First Advocacy Center and onto patrol shifts for the town. Dumas spent several years at CFAC investigating sex crimes.
Since the end of last year, there has been a sharp increase in the number of retail theft complaints from the Green Mountain Plaza.
“Because of the increased activity in the Green Mountain Plaza area and the number of complaints we’ve received down there, I took it upon myself to go to the area businesses on the south end of town to speak to the managers and see how things are going,” Dumas told the board on Tuesday. He plans to share the statements from business owners at the April 22 meeting.
Also, he said he’s spoken to Cmdr. Greg Sheldon, of the Rutland City Police Department.
“They’re suffering the same issues we are from that section of town, mainly based on two Rutland places, the Quality Inn and the Holiday Inn is where our problems are stemming from, I believe,” said Dumas.
The Holiday Inn is in Rutland Town, the Quality Inn is within Rutland City.
Sheldon said the problems in the two areas are the same.
“Thefts are on the rise, suspicious activity, employees from area and neighboring businesses are scared to go to their cars at night,” said Sheldon. “One manager told me today that he often walks his employees to their cars at night because they’re scared.”
Police have been told by store managers the people stealing are being bold about it, ignoring or telling off employees if confronted.
“The same stuff is happening down at the Green Mountain Plaza, retail theft madness, people walking in and then when they’re stopped by an employee stating, ‘You can’t touch me, I know you can’t touch me, that’s the policy of your store, leave me alone,’ and they walk out the door with bags of stuff,” said Sheldon.
City police believe the problem from their end is stemming from people staying at the Quality Inn.
“We also know from the stores telling us that the people come out of the Quality Inn and walk to their location,” said Sheldon. “One store manager told me today that when he sees them coming across the lawn from the Quality Inn he just expects them to steal. It’s become a common occurrence, and he can’t do anything about it because of store policy.”
Some whom police have caught have said they’re staying at Quality Inn, or police have tracked them back to that location, he said.
“I can’t say every single retail theft in the city is a resident of the Holiday Inn, or the Quality Inn, I can’t say that, but the increase in the thefts and the boldness of them, from what the store managers are telling me, are the people from the Quality Inn,” said Sheldon.
According to the secretary of state, both hotels are owned by the same group of people. The Quality Inn is registered under Dharam Hospitality Inc., whose president is listed as Anil Sachdev. Holiday Inn Rutland is registered under Hospitality Management of Rutland Inc., whose president is listed as Sachdev also.
Rutland attorney Frank Urso said Wednesday he represents the owners of the Holiday Inn and hasn’t been told about this issue by his clients.
Dumas said Wednesday he hadn’t yet reached out to the Holiday Inn’s owners. Sheldon said police have spoken to staff at the Quality Inn about the matter.
The hotel can remove guests if they violate any rules or laws, said Urso.
“We have a strict set of rules: no fighting, no drugs, no illegal activity,” said Urso. If a guest is staying at the hotel using a voucher from the state, the hotel can ask that they be moved if they’ve violated a policy.
“We have no knowledge that any of them are leaving the inn and committing crimes,” said Urso. “If they were, we’d evict them. If we’re unhappy with the conduct of a guest who’s here on a state voucher, we fill out a notice to vacate and the state moves them. We haven’t had any complaints about shoplifting.”
A little more than half of the residents of Rutland and Washington counties have gotten at least one vaccination shot to protect against COVID-19, according to the Vermont Department of Health online vaccination dashboard.
In Washington County, the percentage is 51.7 and Rutland County is slightly behind at 51.2.
Overall, 49.1% of Vermont’s population has gotten one or both of the necessary shots.
Barbara Quealy, a registered nurse and administrative director for primary care and COVID-19 support services at Central Vermont Medical Center, said staff at the Berlin hospital was “very proud.”
She said the vaccines were first given at the hospital at the end of 2020.
“When it was hospital-based, here, we had a team working through our convergence room and even in the corner of a lobby. They had provided over 8,400 vaccines. Since we opened up the new facility over at the former JC Penney, over at the Berlin Mall, we have been ale to administer now over 8,500 vaccines for a total of over 17,000 vaccines administered,” she said.
Claudio Fort, president and CEO of Rutland Regional Medical Censer, said the staff are “tremendously excited about this milestone”
“Our whole organization has been focused on getting our community protected through vaccinations,” he said.
Rutland has been running a clinic from the Holiday Inn six days a week.
Fort described it as switching from being on defense for over a year to going on offense.
This is a positive thing we can to do bring our community back to normal and protect our community.
At the former retail store, also known as the “vaccine hub,” vaccinations are given five days a week to about 420 people a day. Quealy said there are plans to increase to 470 people a day in two weeks.
Quealy said the hub is staffed by people who the community may recognize as being from the CVMC community including physicians, nurses, health care retirees and emergency medical services, or EMS, members.
“These are community members vaccinating their neighbors, their friends , their family members and really spreading the word of the importance of this,” she said.
Fort pointed out that staff at the hospital had to work quickly to develop methods of delivering the vaccines quickly to respond to a pandemic, which was new territory.
“Really, in a couple of weeks, they came up with a plan, logistics and a distribution system for a vaccine that’s never, ever been done before. They’ve done it in incredible time, and they had the foresight to create a very accessible location that’s on the bus route, he said.
Quealy said the CVMC hub had a “small triage area” for medical oversight to address urgent concerns as they arose and a nurse practitioner or other provider on site at all times who can respond to anxiety or allergic reactions or other complex medical issues.
“Having that medical safety net as part of our program, I think has gotten word out through the community regarding the safety of the program the organization and the strong support from the hospital and our medical community,” Quealy said.
Fort said RRMC staff are “humbled” by the trust shown by the community in coming forward to get vaccinated despite the “vaccine hesitancy” seen in other states.
“Not every community has been as trusting in their health care providers to do this,” he said.
Quealy said she believed one of the keys to the success for CVMC has been the work done at the primary care practice.
She said the health care providers there connect with patients and the community, promote the vaccine and encourage patients to get vaccinated.
Both Fort and Quealy said the doctors and nurses in those primary care practices have made the effort to listen to individual concerns and answer questions.
Fort encouraged people who had questions about the vaccines to talk to a trusted health care provider rather than look at social media sites and try to figure out complicated issues without experienced help.
“Pretty much all the experts and our medical staff have said there are very, very few situations where they would not recommend you get vaccinated.”
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevision (CDC) recommended a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccines because a half dozen women developed blood clots after getting the shot. More than 6 million doses have been given.
The Rutland Regional vaccine clinic does not use Johnson & Johnson, so the issue is not expected to cause any changes there although other outlets in the county, such as pharmacies, may use Johnson & Johnson.
Because of that, Fort said the overall progress in the county may slow down because the Johnson & Johnson shot leaves a patient fully protected about two weeks after the single shot.
The other vaccines require two shots weeks apart. Vaccinations will continue, but the progress in percentage of residents vaccinated may take longer, he pointed out.
Quealy said CVMC doesn’t use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine either. She said they expect to continue to provide multiple vaccinations.
“We are looking ahead to the next two weeks. Our schedules are packed,” she said.
Fort said he wanted to remind Vermonters that now is not the time to be lax about social distancing, wearing masks and other COVID precautions. He said there had been a concerning spike in COVID cases in Rutland County recently and asked people to maintain their extra efforts a little longer as more residents got vaccinated and continue to follow directions from the Vermont Department of Health, Gov. Phil Scott’s office and the CDC.
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