A Rutland High School student asking to present new mascot designs to the school board is being told he’ll have to wait.
According to emails obtained by the Herald, RHS Senior Class President Giovanni Falco emailed City School Commissioners on April 26 requesting a spot on the agenda of the board’s May 11 meeting. Falco expressed his intention to present potential designs for the newly adopted “Ravens” mascot and team name created by artist and RHS alum Jon Marro, who would also be joining the presentation.
Board Chairman Hurley Cavacas denied Falco’s request in a follow-up email April 27, stating, “We will be moving forward as we should have with a committee and a thorough review of the process and name. I have set up the ad hoc committee to look into this. The board will hear a report from the committee once they have come up with a recommendation. I will not support any decision until this review is done. The board needs to focus on issues at hand.”
Falco also started an online petition supporting Marro’s designs.
“Together we are asking that the RCPS School Board take the next step in completing the transition to the new Rutland Mascot,” the petition reads.
As of Monday afternoon, it had received more than 460 signatures from current students, district staff, city residents and alumni.
Falco stated he wrote the email to the board and created the petition on his own, although Marro did provide information about his work.
He said Friday his intention was simply to present the work Marro had done.
A graduate of the class of 1996, Marro has collaborated with a number of international brands, professional musicians and TV programs, including Whole Foods, Madonna, Dave Matthews Band, MTV and “Good Morning America.”
“I wasn’t expecting a decision to be made regarding the new mascot design,” said Falco. “I just believe that transparency and dialogue are key for this kind of discussion.”
He added that, until the board takes steps to reinstate the Raider name and arrowhead, he believes the district should “keep moving forward until we have new direction.”
Falco said school officials have also stymied his efforts to show off Marro’s designs.
According to Falco, the administration would not allow him to set up a table showcasing Marro’s work at RHS over concerns any work on a new mascot needed to wait until the board provided further guidance.
“What does that show students, what does that show the community — that we’re waiting for a new decision after one’s already been made?” he said asked.
RHS Principal Greg Schillinger defended the move, explaining that it’s “premature” to start talking about designs.
“We’re not at the point of selecting a specific vendor to generate artwork,” he said. “I think when we get to that point, there needs to be an open and transparent process whereby the full student body has the opportunity to look at all of the options, not just one in particular.”
Schillinger said Falco’s current efforts are his own and are not endorsed by the school or the Mascot Advisory Committee, which selected the “Ravens” as the new mascot earlier this year.
“He expressed an interest in doing that personally,” Schillinger said.
Speaking Monday, Cavacas said next week’s meeting already has a “very packed agenda,” and all future mascot discussion would be referred to a new ad hoc committee, which he will be establishing.
He said Falco is welcome to make his presentation to that committee.
Falco said he would be happy to do so, stating, “I would appreciate any opportunity I have.”
Speaking more broadly on the issue, Cavacas said the board would not be holding a vote this month in order to give the new committee — composed of four commissioners representing both sides — time to gather information and present it to the board.
Moreover, he said he is still investigating whether or not the board vote last October to change the name and logo were done “properly and transparently, according to Robert’s Rules (of Order) and to our policies and procedures and City Charter.”
Last October, the School Board voted 6-4 to retire the “Raider” name and arrowhead logo, deeming it offensive and hurtful to Indigenous Americans. In February, the board approved “Ravens” to replace it.
However, following the election of a slate of pro-Raider School Board candidates in March, the previous name and logo are back on the table.
At last month’s meeting, freshman Commissioner Stephanie Stoodley made a motion to reinstate the Raider name and arrowhead. The motion was ultimately tabled by Cavacas.
Despite the intense and often divisive debate occurring among adults in the community, Falco said students are less heated.
“I think that from the beginning this process, the adults took it from zero to 100 in a very short amount of time,” he said.
He also noted the spread of misinformation about what students actually think.
While he said he believes a majority of students recognize that retiring the Raider name and arrowhead is necessary, he would like to see more conversations with students, as well as an official survey.
“The truth is, we don’t have that data. We don’t know how many students actually want or don’t want it,” he said. “This should be more of a current student issue than it should be a former student or community member issue. And I think that we need more input from the students in the building.”
Commissioner Ann Dages said she supported Falco’s request and was eager to see his presentation.
In an email to Cavacas, Falco and administrators, she stated her view that the board should “help foster students’ civil discourse through education and practice.”
“This is what you learn in school; you learn how to be an important member of society, and he’s doing just that,” Dages said Friday.
The Board of Aldermen adopted a “declaration of inclusion” on Monday.
The board unanimously approved the resolution, which “condemns racism and discrimination of any type and welcomes all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or disability” and dedicates the town to being “a place where individuals can live freely and express their opinions.”
Robert Harnish, who led the group who brought the resolution to the board, described seeing old news footage aired after the death of Congressman John Lewis and realizing he hadn’t really participated in the Civil Rights movement. He said he had already begun reading up on the subject when the murder of George Floyd kicked off a wave of national unrest.
He said he heard about the declaration being adopted in another town and brought it to the Pittsford Select Board, which adopted it unanimously. Since then, he said, six more towns have adopted it. He said Rutland would be the first city in Vermont to do so and that projecting a welcoming image could benefit the city economically.
That point was echoed by Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director Lyle Jepson, who said the Aldermen adopting the resolution would dovetail with work undertaking by his organization, whose board recently voted unanimously to launch an effort combating systemic racism in the local community.
“We are disturbed, quite frankly, by recent national and local events related to racism,” he said. “We can no longer keep silent.”
Jepson said the regional marketing initiative relies on the community being welcoming.
“We’ve got a social and moral obligation to lead,” he said.
Rutland Young Professionals President Kim Rupe said that organization backed the resolution as well.
A motion was initially made to authorize Board President Matthew Whitcomb to sign on behalf of the board, but Alderman Sam Gorruso amended it to have the entire board and the mayor sign on.
“I wouldn’t mind my name being signed to this,” he said.
Mayor David Allaire said he would be happy to sign as well.
There was no other discussion.
A family whose child was allegedly drugged by his day care provider is suing the provider.
Melanie McAtee filed a lawsuit last week in Rutland civil court against Stacey Vaillancourt. Vaillancourt is facing criminal charges in the death of Harper Rose Briar, who attended Vaillancourt’s day care along with McAtee’s son, Martin McAtee.
Attorney Tristan Larson said a hair follicle toxicology test confirmed that Martin, who was under a year old when he was in Vaillancourt’s care, had been drugged the the active ingredient in the allergy drug Benadryl, which causes drowsiness and is contraindicated for infants. The lawsuit said the child experienced “some or all” of the drug’s side effects, which include drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, headaches and constipation and that he was “at increased risk of developing adverse health outcomes later in life.”
“Martin is OK,” Larson said. “Time will tell about what kind of lasting effects there are. The evidence (about long-term effects of the drugs on children) is really murky for a variety of reasons. It’s really hard to do testing on negative side effects of drugs on kids for obvious reasons.”
The lawsuit also asserts the McAtee’s suffered psychological damage from the affair and that Vaillancourt breached her contract with the McAtee’s as a child care provider. It seeks unspecified damages.
Vaillancourt ran an in-home daycare on North Street until early 2019, when the six-month-old Briar died in her care. Autopsy results showed the baby had been given significant quantities of the over-the-counter allergy medicine. The lawsuit said that Martin McAtee was in the same room with Briar when she died.
Vaillancourt pleaded not guilty to felony charges of manslaughter and cruelty to a child with death resulting. The case is pending.
Larson said part of the reason for the lawsuit is to raise awareness of the dangers of giving small children over-the-counter medication.
“Misusing medication can have severe consequences,” said Melanie McAtee, who works as a pharmacist in Rutland. “In the case of Harper Rose, it caused death. As a pharmacist and a mom, people need to know they should check the label. Just because a medication can be bought over-the-counter, it may not be safe for your children.”
Vaillancourt’s attorney, Robert McClallen, declined to comment.
Suffice it to say, there are officials in some communities in Vermont that do not care they are violating the law . . .
Otter Valley pitcher Fraser Pierpont pitched a complete game shutout in the OV win against Green Mountain on Monday. B1