SKOWHEGAN — The first of two school board subcommittees charged with narrowing down the suggestions for a new school mascot have agreed upon four possibilities: Phoenix, Riverhawks, Sturgeon and Badgers with Phoenix and the meaning behind the mythical bird prompting the most comment.

The Education Policy/Program Committee convened Tuesday evening and was tasked with coming up with three to five suggestions for the new school mascot. On Thursday the Support Services Committee will meet to do the same. Each group is expected to bring up to five options for consideration for the School Administrative District 54 mascot, which serves the communities of Canaan, Cornville, Mercer, Norridgewock, Smithfield and Skowhegan.

Though the public is welcome to attend these meetings, there is no opportunity for public comment. By the end of the week, a list of six to 10 names will be ready for students to vote on, with input coming from both committees.

Two subcommittees of the SAD 54 school board are in the midst of narrowing the choices for a school mascot that will be presented to students for their approval. Morning Sentinel file photo

Each subcommittee member was asked to arrive at the meeting with a list of up to 10 names taken from the list of suggestions given out at the board meeting last week. When those suggestions were gathered, a new list was made and the committee members were asked to discuss what names they favored and then to vote again on up to five suggestions.

Though at first committee members were not set on one mascot, they all supported the four options, with the Phoenix the most heavily discussed.

By the end of the subcommittee meeting, the group settled on its four suggestions: Phoenix, Riverhawks, Sturgeon and Badgers.

A general consensus formed around Phoenix, with many in favor due to the meaning behind it. The group briefly entertained the idea of not selecting a mascot at all, but ultimately decided to leave that idea behind.

Lynda Quinn was the first to suggest the Phoenix, saying that her granddaughter, a recent graduate of Skowhegan Area High School, pitched the idea to her because of the meaning behind the mythical bird. Quinn told the group about her granddaughter’s reasoning behind her suggestion, citing the symbolic nature of rising from the ashes.

“This has burned down to a mess and a Phoenix would be something rising up out of this mess that we’ve left behind,” Quinn said of her granddaughter’s reasoning.

At the beginning of the selection process, Quinn said that she originally wanted to choose to not have a mascot, but it doesn’t offer anything for students to rally behind.

“Originally I wanted to just keep it Skowhegan,” Quinn said. “But it doesn’t have a ring to it, and you can’t do anything with it.”

Committee member Peggy Lovejoy also supported the Phoenix, noting that it is a part of the Harry Potter books, which many students are interested in.

“Phoenix is the one that jumped out at me, and it wasn’t on my original list,” Lovejoy said. “It is Dumbledore’s bird in Harry Potter, and I think that kids do gravitate toward that … It has very lovely colors and you can do a lot with it.”

The group also considered the Senators to pay homage to Margaret Chase Smith, but thought it could be interpreted as being political and not seeing it as something that students could rally behind.

“I like the consensus around the Phoenix,” Michael Lambke said at the meeting. “I didn’t like it at first … I like that it’s a mythical animal and it is unique like the name Skowhegan.”

Committee members also acknowledged that while there were several names on the initial suggestion list that they liked, they didn’t want to pursue them because they knew that students would not find them interesting. Several times during the meeting, the group acknowledged that they wanted to pick options that students would be excited about.

“I did try to look at it from a student’s point of view and what a mascot is and what they would want to do with it and what would be fun and exciting to bring back that positive side,” committee member Christy Johnson said. “I kind of looked at it like that. The students want to have fun with it.”

Member Sarah Bunker acknowledged this, saying that some suggestions would be nice to consider because they recognize local industries, but could not see students rallying around a mascot like “sugarmakers.”

“A lot of the ones that I personally liked were based on local industries, then I realized that’s probably not what kids are going to be focused on, so I think my ideas are more flexible and I think having a character in the mix is a lot more fun,” Bunker said.

The Support Services Committee will meet on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. in the Skowhegan Area Middle School gymnasium to go through the same process and come out with three to five name suggestions.

The process began in Jan. 15 when paper and online suggestion forms became available.  The portal was closed on Feb. 24. The process of soliciting ideas for a new team name was the start of a multi-step process introduced by the MSAD 54 board last fall after the “Indians” nickname was retired last March. The process was temporarily halted when school facilities closed as administrators were working to shift to remote learning and making sure students and families were receiving meals and educational opportunities.

In March, Superintendent Jon Moody told the board that 1,627 suggestion forms were received. The list was then whittled down to 306, and at the July 16 meeting, the school board was presented a list of 147 options, listed in three categories: inappropriate, not recommended and recommended.

Once the suggestions are trimmed to between three and five from each committee, the proposals will be shared with students in grades six through 12, who will be asked to provide feedback through an online form.

After that, the two committees will reconvene to review the feedback and make final recommendations to the board, which will then vote on the finalists.

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