We shouldn’t be surprised that the Teton School Board wouldn’t make a decision with regard to the high school mascot at Monday’s meeting.
The meeting was unsurprising in many ways if you have been following the local news. Members of the community spent almost five hours expressing in detail why they supported the mascot or why they wanted to see it change. It’s been five months since the first mention of the mascot was met with mixed feelings around changing what some consider heritage and what others consider racism.
Setting a working session on July 16 just further delays the inevitable — that the school board needs to lead, they need to make a decision on this issue. It’s the only way for this community to move forward and to begin heal from an otherwise painful period in Teton Valley’s history. Monday was a huge missed opportunity.
But why are we not surprised at the inaction of the school board on Monday? Because they have demonstrated this lack of leadership from the onset.
Since 2013, the mascot issue has remained an unhealed wound in the Teton Valley community. Anyone serving on the school board, whether just appointed or re-elected, should be privy to this history in our district. This community couldn’t handle the discussion in 2013, so what made the school board think we could handle it in 2019?
In April the school board sat with hands folded and put the decision on the community, and specifically on the school staff and students. Without much leadership from Teton High School administrators who did not want to touch such a hot button issue, the students and staff were left to fend for themselves often at the mercy of social media attacks — yes, even on students who expressed opinions both in support of change and against change — while perpetuating mistrust, anger and overt hatred in this community.
That’s a difficult charge to levy at five public servants, but these are the consequences to our inability to do our jobs. Board Chair Chris Isaacson’s hand wringing at Monday’s meeting only allowed the can to be kicked harder down a dark road.
This has been sitting on the school board’s plate since it was added to the official agenda in April. Since then, they have had every opportunity to research the issue for themselves and meet with constituents. Public comment has been pouring into their inboxes for months. There have been two Native American forums and official statements from two Idaho tribes on the issue. All of this in, addition to Monday’s meeting, what more could the board possibly glean from a working session? The only reason to delay a vote was lack of information regarding cost. It was a predictable question that was certain to come up, so for the superintendent to not come prepared with a cost estimate was disappointing at best.
While we understand that there was no promise of a decision Monday evening, Tuesday morning’s mascot hangover has left this community even more exhausted.
While many have questioned the time and energy that has gone into this issue when there are many other worthy issues in the district to tackle, our position has always remained that this has been an exercise in district leadership and we continue to fall short.
— Jeannette Boner, editor, Teton Valley News