The Board of Aldermen will discuss changing the city charter to make “Raiders” the official nickname of Rutland High School.
The board voted 6-5 Monday to send the proposal to the Charter and Ordinance Committee. Should the full board endorse the charter change, it would go first to a public vote and then to the Vermont Legislature for final approval.
The School Board voted last year to retire the Raider name and associated arrowhead symbol in response to complaints that it was offensive to Native Americans — similar to the concerns that previously prompted to school to change the name from “Red Raiders” and abandon the Native American head logo in favor of the arrowhead. The board subsequently voted to change the mascot to “Ravens” before a newly elected slate of board members began a drive to reinstate the Raider name.
That question has been put in front of an ad-hoc committee of the School Board. DePoy, who previously tried to get a referendum on the change placed on the Town Meeting Day ballot, brought the issue back before Aldermen on Monday.
Alderman Thomas Franco asked if there was any precedent for addressing school issues through the charter. DePoy said the charter addresses municipal and school district governance. Franco responded that the charter outlines the powers of the School Board, which was where he thought the issue of what the sports teams are called should stay.
“I don’t think this is the path we should take,” he said.
Alderman Devon Neary argued that Aldermen had set a precedent last year of leaving the subject to the School Board when it voted down DePoy’s referendum proposal.
“They just formed this (School Board ad-hoc) committee,” he said. “Let’s see where that goes. ... I really caution against overreach over the School Board.”
Alderman Sam Gorruso countered that discussing issues like this in the Charter and Ordinance Committee is the whole reason Aldermen have a committee structure and that he supported putting “almost anything” in committee.
“Will it die in committee?” he asked. “Only the committee will know. Only the good Lord will know.”
Alderman Michael Talbott said he found it “incredibly unlikely” the Legislature would approve the change, making the discussion an “exercise in futility.” Alderwoman Sharon Davis claimed in response that the Legislature tends to be driven in such cases by whatever the people have voted for.
“We have sent things to committee that I have no idea why they’re there,” she said. “Maybe it’s time for a vote. I don’t know. But it’s time to put it to rest.”
Alderwoman Carrie Savage and Alderman Michael Doenges voted “no” alongside Neary, Franco and Talbott. DePoy, Gorruso, Davis and Aldermen Paul Clifford and William Gillam voted “yes” and were joined by Board President Matthew Whitcomb to break the tie. The committee will meet at a date determined by the chair.