Adopting less offensive and more inclusive team mascots will cost the Pascack Valley reigonal school district $300,000.

Superintendent Erik Gunderson pushed back at criticism of the cost and speed of the rebranding and said the board fast tracked the repainting of the football field end zones.

"At the end of the spring I talked about the different options. I said that we did not have to replace the end zone. I said that we could do a rebranding over many years. It was this board after a lot of consideration in the summer and in the fall that suggested we do this now," Gunderson said.

The superintendent said that the cost of rebranding will be coming from funds not spent because of the pandemic.

The Board of Education voted in June to change the names of their two high school teams, the Pascack Hill Cowboys and Pascack Valley Indians, in order to foster "an environment where no one is persecuted or marginalized," the district said in a written statement.

"Our intent is to educate our district community on the mutual contributions of all races, genders, religions, and cultures accepting, respecting, and learning from one another."

Board member Kenneth Ralph said at the time that the names were chosen to create the perception of a rivalry between the schools but said they now should act to unify the district.

The Board of Education on Monday approved by a vote of 5-4 the top vote getters of a student poll: Panthers for Pascack Valley and Broncos for Pascack Hills.  But controversy continued over the process and cost.

Some residents felt the process was "unfair and rushed" despite six meetings held by a student committee.

"I feel the voting should take place after the kids come back to school in person so there can be more student involvement. It's really hard to connect with people when it's all virtual," Hillsdale resident Alice Erbiel said.

A parent from Riverdale compared the name changes to the spread of  "cancel culture." He also said that the perhaps the change could have waited until after the pandemic.

"We're in a pandemic we all have full plates. We should be focused on nothing more than the well being and education of our kids and you threw something into the mix that we just didn't need right now," he said.

Board member Kristin Martin said she heard from many who felt they were not part of the process.

"I do feel the students were not heard in this process. The vast majority were not part of it. Even people who were part of the committees recognized that, so if we truly want to let the students decide that has not happened up to this point," Martin said, adding that "none of the above" should have been an option along with the three names presented to each school's students during the vote.

 

Students will also select the images that will represent the new mascots although it's not clear if they will also get to design them.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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