The reorganizational meeting of the Rutland City School Board descended into shouting Tuesday after one of the board’s new members made a motion to immediately restore the Raider nickname and arrowhead logo.
Board member Hurley Cavacas became chairman at the top of the meeting, ousting incumbent Alison Notte by a 6-5 vote. Erin Shimp bested Ann Dages for secretary by a similar margin — Assistant Superintendent Robert Bliss said he was missing one vote but Shimp had the six she needed without it. The board heard presentations on various anti-discrimination efforts and other activities before Cavacas recognized Board Member Stephanie Stoodley, who made the motion that touched off the shouting.
Stoodley said a vote to adopt the new “Ravens” team name had not been done under proper parliamentary procedure, that the Ravens name was being “pre-emptively used” and that evidence presented regarding the name change was “skewed.”
“The community at large has spoken and wishes for the Raider name and arrowhead logo to be restored,” she said, moving to do so effective that night and to have all materials related to the change made available to the board for review.
The board narrowly voted to abandon the Raider name and arrowhead logo — which were replacements for the “Red Raiders” team name and Indigenous American tribal chief logo the school used previously — in response to concerns from students and alumni that they were culturally insensitive. The move triggered a fierce backlash, and Stoodley was part of a slate of candidates opposed to the change, who successfully ran for School Board seats in March.
“I’m a little concerned,” board member Kevin Kiefaber said. “If the process that was done before was not thorough enough, then voting on this tonight would be even worse than what we did last time. ... If we’re going to consider it, I think we should take more time and do it right.”
Cavacas said he took this as a temporary restoration of the name while the process was examined.
“I think five of us were blindsided by a very well-orchestrated movement last March,” Cavacas said.
Notte raised a point of order, saying the subject was not on the agenda as an action item, and a two-thirds vote of the board was needed to act on the meeting that night. Tempers began to flare from there and board members began to talk over one another, with Cavacas saying that process was not followed at previous meetings and Notte saying Cavacas should call a recess and consult Robert’s Rules of Order.
“Miss Notte, I will certainly do it, and I will treat you much better than you treated me,” Cavacas said.
Discussion when the board returned from recess was full of raised voices and members talking over each other, primarily Notte on one side and Cavacas and Shimp on the other as proper procedure was argued.
“The law’s the law, honey,” Shimp said at one point to Notte after holding up a copy of Robert’s Rules and saying she could not find the rules Notte referenced.
At another point, Cavacas talked over Notte while promising he would not mute her as she did to him at a previous meeting, an accusation she denied.
Eventually, Cavacas ruled that he would put off the vote on Stoodley’s motion until the next meeting, at which it would be a warned action item, and he intended to invalidate the vote adopting the “Ravens” team name after consulting with school district attorney William Meub.
After that, the board went into executive session, came out and voted to authorize the superintendent to proceed with negotiations discussed in the session and then adjourned.
The next board meeting is scheduled for May 11.