Incumbent school board director Dixie Ring was re-elected in Town Meeting voting Monday in Canaan.

Ring, the chairwoman of the School Administrative District 54 board of directors, will return to office for a three-year term.

She received 104 votes, according to Canaan Town Clerk Denise Stetkis.

“I’m relieved,” Ring said in answer to a social media message Monday night. “I’m happy and prepared to get to work.”

Canaan resident Scot Dunbar had offered his name as a write-in candidate for the seat, according to social media posts. Dunbar is among those who want to revisit a recent vote by the school board to retire the “Indians” nickname for SAD 54 sports teams. Ring voted to change the name.

“I have been on the board for nine years,” Ring said prior to Town Meeting. “I have done a good job in those years for kids and always worked to put out a responsible budget.”

Stetkis said in an email to the Morning Sentinel that “there were 73 write-in names.” There were 198 total votes cast.

“We tally just the write-in number,” Stetkis said. “If the total is more than the candidate on the ballot, then we go back and tally the actual names. We did not have to do that, because for school board the candidate Dixie Ring’s total was more then the total write-ins.”

Also on the Canaan ballot Monday, the three incumbent selectmen — Garrett Buzzell, Jeffrey Clarke and Daniel Harriman — were returned to office for a one-year term. Michael Gilbert Sr. was the lone challenger on the ballot.

As school board chairwoman, Ring has moderated all of the district board meetings since the “Indians” issue was first raised in 2015. On March 7, the school board voted 14-9 to retire the “Indians” nickname, which some say is a racist mascot and others say is an important part of their local heritage.

With the votes weighted according to town population, the final tally was 558 to retire the nickname and 441 against doing so.

The breakdown of voting by member was as follows:

Dana Edgerly, center, receives his ballot from Canaan election clerks Winnie Hayden, left, and Anne Herrin during voting at the town office on Monday. Right behind Edgerly are Dana Jr. and Destiny Edgerly. Morning Sentinel photo by David Leaming

YES — total: 558
Sarah Bunker, Mercer, 16 votes
Maryellen Charles, Mercer, 16 votes
Jeannie Conley, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Derek Ellis, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Haley Fleming, Norridgewock, 46 votes
Theresa Howard, Cornville, 30 votes
Christy Johnson, Smithfield, 27 votes
Desiree Libby, Norridgewock, 46 votes
Peggy Lovejoy, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Brandy Morgan, Norridgewock, 46 votes
Dixie Ring, Canaan, 43 votes
Amy Rouse, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Darcy Surette, Cornville, 30 votes
Kathy Wilder, Norridewock, 46 votes

No — total: 441

Mark Bedard, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Harold Bigelow, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Jean Franklin, Canaan, 43 votes
Goff French, Smithfield, 27 votes
Richard Irwin, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Jennifer Poirier, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Lynda Quinn, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Karen Smith, Skowhegan, 53 votes
Todd Smith, Skowhegan, 53 votes

But those who support keeping the “Indians” nickname pushed back, holding rallies and gathering signatures to bring the question to a public referendum vote.

At a March 21 school board meeting, attended mostly by “Indian Pride” supporters, Rep. Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, stood to tell the school board that he had petitions signed by 4,000 people “to maintain the Skowhegan Indians name.”

Stetkis said the board vote, possibly meant to quell discussion on the controversial subject, had “quite the opposite effect.”

Stetkis asked that a moratorium be imposed on action on the March 7 vote until the public is able to vote in “a free and fair” referendum on the issue.

Leading up to that March 7 vote, which was attended by dozens of people from both sides of the question along with many Maine news media outlets, groups and government offices had weighed in on the question.

The staff attorney for American Civil Liberties Union of Maine sent a letter in December to the school board urging them to “do the right thing” and drop the “Indians” nickname. The Maine ACLU later proclaimed the state the first in the nation to retire all Native American mascots and imagery for sports teams after the March 7 vote.

The chairman of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine’s Committee on Indian Relations wrote a letter to the SAD 54 board of directors, asking the district to discontinue the use of “Indians” as the Skowhegan Area High School mascot.

The church was echoing the Bangor chapter of the NAACP, which in 2015 asked the district to drop the nickname.

Gov. Janet Mills also has weighed in, encouraging the SAD 54 board to discontinue use of the nickname.

“I will work to remove once and for all, offensive names for teams, schools and mascots that have no place in our modern-day society,” Mills wrote in her campaign platform.

In 2005, the American Psychological Association publicly called for “the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots” because they teach “misleading, and too often, insulting images of American Indians.”

In April 2015, a month before the SAD 54 board voted 11-9 to keep the nickname, 10 representatives of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet and Micmac Indian tribes — the Wabanaki federation, the federally recognized name for Maine’s four tribes meaning People of the Dawnland — addressed a school board subcommittee. Tribal representatives said that being an “Indian” does not mean being a sports mascot.

Most recently, Maine’s Department of Education on March 1 urged schools “to refrain from using mascots and logos that depict Native American tribes, individuals, customs or traditions.”

Also recently, Rep. Benjamin T. Collings, D-Portland, sponsored a bill that would ban use of such nicknames or mascots. The bill, L.D. 944, has been referred to the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. There are several co-sponsors of the bill, titled An Act To Ban Native American Mascots in All Public Schools.

The bill would prohibit a public school in Maine from having or adopting a name, symbol or image that depicts or refers to a Native American tribe, individual, custom or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead or team name of the school.

A hearing was held Monday on the bill before the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. The bill next will be brought to a work session, where the committee could vote to pass the bill to the full Legislature for a vote.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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