In a surprise discussion at about 11 p.m. near the end of Monday’s school board meeting, board members decided to add the Teton High School mascot discussion to a future school board meeting agenda.

The school board intends to reserve the high school auditorium for the July 8 meeting to discuss the mascot.

School board chair Chris Isaacson said the issue of the high school mascot needed to be resolved before November school board elections. She said that she didn’t want the mascot issue to become a political focus during the elections where she would rather see school board candidates focus on student achievement and the district’s strategic plan.

Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme cautioned board members that evening from stepping into a discussion about the mascot that was not on the evening’s agenda.

“The board wants to talk about it, let’s put it on the agenda,” Woolstenhulme said. “I strongly encourage you to stop talking about the mascot because it’s not on the agenda.”

School board member Mary Mello encouraged the board to move forward with placing the discussion on a future agenda, saying that the board needs to have this conversation.

“It’s not our job to pass it to other people,” she said of the school board’s desire to see this discussion grow from students and staff. “If I’m the only one, then that’s not good enough,” she told the rest of the board members.

Both school board members Ben Kearsley and Jake Kunz also cautioned about the board’s capacity to handle such a robust discussion in the next couple of months with graduation, budget issues and teacher negotiations still wrapping up in May and June.

“It is a big topic in the community. I understand the desire to have the discussion, but we need to be cautious,” Kearsley said about honoring the board’s time and efforts.

“I agree,” said Kunz. “And I would say don’t assume to know where I stand just because I graduated from Teton High and grew up here.”

Ultimately the board decided without a formal vote, but acknowledged in a general consensus to place the mascot discussion on the July school board agenda.

Exactly six years to the date the school board took up the discussion on the mascot and meeting attendees filled the Teton High School auditorium.

This press release was issued from the district on Thursday, April 11:

Board sets Teton High mascot discussion for July meeting agenda

The board of trustees for Teton School District 401 will discuss the Teton High School mascot at its regularly-scheduled meeting in July. The meeting, Monday, July 8, 2019, will begin at 5:30 pm in the auditorium of Teton High School in Driggs. Public comment will be taken on the issue at that time.

Patrons are encouraged to provide input to school board members by email prior to the meeting; all comments by email become part of the public record.

Names and email addresses of board members are:

• Zone 1 -- Mary Mello: boardzone1@tsd401.org

• Board Chair (Zone 2) -- Chris Isaacson: boardzone2@tsd401.org

• Zone 3 -- Ben Kearsley: boardzone3@tsd401.org

• Zone 4 -- Jake Kunz: boardzone4@tsd401.org

• Board Vice-Chair (Zone 5) -- Nan Pugh: boardzone5@tsd401.org

Victor resident Stephanie Crockett urged the board to reconsider changing the mascot during March’s school board meeting. The issue was last discussed five years ago.

The board set the mascot issue for July because agendas for May and June are already full, and to have time to work out needed logistics for changing the venue from the district office to the THS Auditorium.

Over the next two months, the board is focusing on budgeting for fiscal year 2019-2010; teacher-contract negotiations; end-of-school business; strategic plan review; and ongoing oversight of new construction and building renovations. (For context, the June 10th meeting will begin at noon rather than 5:30 pm to accommodate “report

cards” by the principals of all seven public schools.)

Agendas and other meeting documents are published on the TSD website (tsd401.org) the Wednesday prior to the regularly-scheduled meetings, held the second Monday

This story will be updated as information develops. For more reporting on the issue, please see www.tetonvalleynews.net.

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