Published March 24, 2021
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Opting not to wait for the results of a non-binding referendum question on the April 27 Town Election ballot, the School Committee went ahead last night and voted 5-2 to eliminate the Wakefield Warrior logo with its Native American imagery, but opted to retain the “Warrior” name.
First, Superintendent Douglas Lyons reviewed the results of a community survey and a student survey conducted by the School Department, both of which revealed an almost even split of strong feelings both in favor of and against the logo.
Then, School Committee member Colleen Guida, who is not running for re-election, made the motion to eliminate the logo and to discontinue its use on official school materials and apparel. Her motion allowed, however, that it was acceptable to use the Warrior name as long as it was “decoupled” from Native American imagery.
Guida’s motion also called upon the Policy and Communications Subcommittee to formulate a more detailed plan for decommissioning the logo.
Guida also apologized to Native Americans on behalf of the Wakefield Public Schools for any harm the logo may have caused.
School Committee member Mike Boudreau said that he struggled with the best way to improve the lot of the American Indian. He said that in his view, education would be the best way. He wondered if eliminating a logo would make a meaningful difference in improving the lives of American Indians.
School Committee member Suzy Veilleux supported eliminating the logo. She said that she did not endorse immediately ripping out the logo from all fields and other places where it is currently displayed, but supported a “phased approach” to removal.
Committee member Greg Liakos said that the committee had “learned the harmful effects of racist stereotypes on children.” He noted that the Youth Council, the Human Rights Commission as well as other groups and individuals have encouraged elimination of the logo.
“Why would we risk damaging our reputation as a School Committee by keeping the logo?” he asked. “No tradition is worth such a price,” he added.
School Committee chair Aimee Purcell noted the high level of tension on both sides over the logo issue. She said that it is “important to respect and accept all opinions, even if we don’t agree.”
But Purcell added that she believed that all voices deserved to be heard and that that would not happen until the vote on the ballot question in the April 27 Town Election. Because all voices have not yet been heard, Purcell said that she would not support the motion to eliminate the logo.
School Committee member Darci Burns said that she always supported eliminating the logo, but had concerns along the way about the process. However, she said that she felt that the School Committee had gone through a successful process of gaining public input.
“We have to move forward,” she said.
Committee member Thomas Markham euphemistically supported “retiring” the Warrior logo.
“I don’t believe it’s elimination,” he said. “It’s retirement,” adding that the logo “deserves to be remembered with pride, but it’s time to move to something new.”
In the end, Liakos, Markham, Guida, Veilleux and Burns voted in favor of the motion to eliminate the Warrior logo.
Purcell and Boudreau voted against the motion.