The Red Raider Nickname
Time Line of Events
The timeline below details the entire process to date. Though the school committee would like you to believe this has been a public, open and transparent process it has not.
The school committee never made any effort or intended, to engage with the community to learn the sentiment of the community at large. They chose instead to sit behind their chamber doors reading emails and listening to limited public comments. Only when forced by a free petition were they forced to hold a public hearing; which was limited to 3 minutes of public comment.
The school committee already allows public comment at the beginning of each regular meeting. During public comment, community members may speak for 3 minutes. Over the course of this process, some in the community spoke against the name Red Raider and others spoke in favor of the Red Raider name. Most importantly, the largest group of people to directly speak with the school committee were Melrose High School students.
At the January 11th meeting of the school committee, a Melrose High School spoke to and delivered to the school committee, a wet-ink petition with 190 signatures of Melrose High School students supporting the Red Raider name. They were entirely ignored.
ON OR ABOUT
Principal Jason Merrill emails the Melrose School Community stating that he felt it was time:
"For Melrose High School to move away from the Red Raider mascot." The letter also stated, "This decision was not based on other people's thinking or agendas."
Mr. Merrill ended his letter by revealing his objective will be to "roll out a collaborative plan that includes our students and community in a process to phase out the red raider and identity a new mascot during the upcoming school year."
In Massachusetts, this issue falls under the jurisdiction of the school committee, not an individual administrator.
Melrose residents sent a letter to the city solicitor, school committee, and school administration, demanding the city order Principal Merrill be prevented from further individual efforts to change the Red Raider.
The letter requests that the school committee if it so wishes, take up the matter in an open, public, and transparent process.
They receive no response.
Melrose residents sent a follow-up email to their August 5 letter requesting a response from the city.
They receive no response.
Principal Jason Merrill acts on his intention to change the Red Raider by forming a steering committee. He sends an email to students, school staff, and hand-picked community members asking them to join.
The school committee has given Principal Merrill no public direction to retire the red raider or pursue a replacement.
The Melrose Transparency Initiative organizes due to the school committee and the City of Melrose's refusal to engage their electorate.
After being ignored for thirty-five days, the Transparency Initiative legally requires the city to reply by sending the City of Melrose a document request using the Freedom of Information Act.
The city solicitor responds within 7 minutes.
The Nickname Mascot Steering Committee distributes Survey I to the school community and the community of Melrose.
The survey asks only for new ideas meant to replace the Red Raider nickname.
Write-Ins: Red Raider "write-ins" were overwhelmingly the most submitted name, even though the premise of the survey was that the Red Raider name was being retired, and only asked for new ideas.
With no authority or direction from the school committee, the administration begins charging city employees with the removal, updating, and/or replacing of all banners depicting The Red Raider name.
The Transparency Initiative receives correspondence from concerned stakeholders over who has the authority to order the removal and who will bear the cost associated with new banners.
The Transparency Initiative emails the school committee a statement that they intend to read into the public record at the November 9 school committee meeting and launches its website.
Ward Hamilton of the Transparency Initiative reads the statement during public comment, imploring the school committee engages in a public, open, and transparent process.
Jen McAndrew, Chair of the school committee, responds to The Transparency Initiative's 11/9 email. Her email states that the school committee "will make the final decision as to whether to change the Melrose High School mascot-nickname and, if so, what to change it to.
The letter does not address or imply that there will be an open, transparent, or public process.
The Transparency Initiative responds to Chairwoman Jen McAndrew's email, again imploring the school committee to engage in a public, open, and transparent process
School Committee member, Jennifer Razi-Thomas reaches out to Ward Hamilton offering to meet and listen to the concerns of the Transparency Initiative.
Note: On December 6, Ward Hamilton met with Jennifer Razi-Thomas for approximately 1 hour at a local restaurant where Ms. Razi-Thomas listened attentively to the concerns of the Transparency Initiative. Nothing was implied or promised by Ms. Razi -Thomas who was open to listening to any future concerns as they arise.
A FOIA Request is sent to Principal Jason Merrill for all data related to the Mascot Survey.
The school committee announces its agenda for the 12/7 meeting.
For the 1st time in 3 months of planning and actively retiring the Red Raider name, Principal Merrill is called before the school committee to discuss the "Nickname-Mascot Project."
The Transparency Initiative emails the School Committee the statement they intend to read into the public record at the scheduled meeting of the school committee.
This statement includes a Free Petition signed by more than 50 registered voters (50 signatures is the legal requirement) for a public hearing on the retiring the Red Raider nickname.
Principal Merrill and two steering committee members address the school committee for the first time regarding his decision to retire the Red Raider name.
The school committee does not announce any public hearings, discussions, or plans to engage the community on the issue actively.
The Transparency Initiative emails Mayor Brodeur, Jen McAndrews, and Superintendent Julie Kukenberger.
The email formally details their concerns that Chairwoman McAndrews has a serious conflict of interest that calls into question her ability to preside over the Red Raider matter without favoritism shown to the administration, a student, and the Nickname-Mascot Project. The letter explicitly details the conflict and requests Ms. McAndrews publicly disclose the conflict and recuse herself from the process.
The City Solicitor responds to the Transparency Initiatives December 9 email that "my office has reviewed your email and we disagree with many of the representations and assessments made therein. However, as we do with all City Boards and Commissions, we will ensure that School Committe members' comply with all state ethics requirements."
Principal Merrill emails the Melrose School Community regarding the progress of the Nickname-Mascot Project. Mr. Merrill no longer refers to the decision to retire the red raider name as his decision alone. Instead, he writes, "Last summer, we initiated a process to recommend that the School Committee formally approve discontinuing use of the Red Raider name or imagery and adopt a new mascot and nickname more consistent with the values of our school, district, and community."
In his August 2nd email, Mr. Merrill stated this was his decision alone and that he would be rolling out a plan including students and the community. Nowhere in his letter did he announce this was going to be a recommendation for the school committee.
The City of Melrose declines the Free Petition for a public hearing on the Nickname. Out of 58+ signatures, the city writes they can only verify 49 of the required 50 signatures.
The Transparency Initiative questions several unverified signatures and ultimately decides to gather the additional signature needed to resubmit the petition.
The Transparency Initiative sends a letter to the paper announcing that they are hosting a public forum on the Red Raider issue, due to the absence of leadership from the school committee.
The Transparency Initiative shares the results of the Steering Committee's survey. The results show that "Red Raider" was, overwhelmingly, the most submitted name on both the student and community survey.
The Transparency Initiative corresponds with a member of the school committee re-sharing concerns that the Chair of the School Committee, Jen McAndrew, has a serious conflict of interest.
They request Ms. McAndrew publicly disclose her conflict and recuse herself from the process.
The concern is ignored.
In response to the false premise that retiring the name is a student-driven process, a student petition with 190 student signatures is delivered to the school committee.
The school committee has never mentioned this petition in the few public comments they have made.
The Transparency Initiative hosts a public forum to discuss the issue. Jason Merrill participates.
The Steering Committee distributes Survey II. Survey II lists 5 names vetted from Survey I. The survey asks people to rate the given names on a scale of 1-5 for likability. The vetted names on this survey include:
Red Hawks: Received eight (8) student submissions on Survey I
Highlanders: Received four (4) student submissions on Survey I
Express: Received zero (0) student submissions on Survey I
TrailBlazers: Received zero (0) student submissions on Survey I
Red & White: Received zero (0) student submissions on Survey I
Red Raider, with 39 student submissions (and 190 wet-ink petition signatures) is NOT on Survey II.
Mr. Merrill appears before the school committee and recommends the name Red Raider be replaced with "Red Hawk."
His recommendation is based on the results of Survey II.
The School Committee, under order of the Free Petition, gathers for a special meeting of the School Committee to discuss the Red Raider issue.
Many people speak in favor of retiring the name. Others speak in favor of keeping the name. All have only 3 minutes to speak.
The school committee does not engage the community at all.
Mr. Merrill appears and recommends the name Red Hawks. His recommendation is based on the results of Survey II.
The School Committee recommends an April 12 vote by the school committee.
Mayor Brodeur speaks to a referendum vote as being exclusionary to the student population's voice. This ignores the results from Survey I and the petition provided the school committee which clearly indicate the student's choice.
The Transparency Initiative emails a statement and Exhibits to the school committee which will be read into the public record, evidencing Chair McAndrews' serious conflict of interest.
Contrary to Principal Merrill's August 2nd letter the exhibits also show that both the Superintendant of Schools and Chair McAndrews were secretly involved in the original stages of this project.
The School Committee votes:
7-0 to keep the red block M Logo
7-0 to retire the Red Raider name
4-3 to take up the Red Hawk Name (3 dissenting for Red & White)
7-0 to direct the superintendent to do a feasibility study on costs, planning, etc... to transition to the Red Hawk.
Not one school committee member responds to the evidence of Chair Jen McAndrew's obvious conflict or her and Superintendent Julie Kukenbergers involvement prior to Mr. Merrill's email where he states this was his decision alone.
The Transparency Initiative announces it will gather signatures to place the Red Raider name on the ballot
The Melrose Weekly News writes a story covering the events of the April 12 School Committee meeting.