WINCHESTER - At Tuesday’s School Committee meeting, the committee discussed the use and name of the Sachem logo. Although no decisions were made, per the Select Board, ultimately the School Committee is the body that holds the sole responsibility of this matter in Winchester, but the use of the name and logo by non-school based organizations on town property could fall under the review of the Select Board. Because of this, the Select Board wants to discuss this further with a joint meeting with the School Committee sometime in August.
Liora Norwich, the Executive Director for the Network of Social Justice in Winchester, gave a presentation on the need to change the mascot/logo to the committee. Norwich shared a quote with the School Committee by Faries Gray, Sagamore of the Massachusetts Tribe which stated that “It is a bit frustrating, but that’s how it is to be Indigenous in America. They say their mascots are honoring us and we say it is not. It should just be enough that we say it is not, but it never is.”
Norwich went on to state how native peoples have declared that native mascots do not honor them, but dehumanize and denigrate them, hurt and cause physiological and psychosocial harm. Mascots hurt native peoples by making them invisible, placing them in the past instead of raising their voices as contemporary figures in our society, added Norwich.
Student passion is driving this change such as former athletes, alumni, longtime residents, parents and key stakeholders who have all spoken out in favor of this change. Hundreds of native organizations have spoken up to support this work as well. Furthermore, other towns are also considering mascot change such as Braintree, Barnstable, Pentucket, and North Quincy. Towns that voted for mascot change include Nashoba Regional School Committee (July 1, 2020), and Grafton School Committee (July 14, 2020).
Even prior to the School Committee’s discussion on Tuesday night, dozens of residents called in to the Zoom meeting during the public comment period and pushed for the town to make the change. This included a former School Committee chair back in the late 90s/early 2000s who said he brought forward this very topic 20 years ago, but the town rejected his suggestion to move on from the Sachem.
Another caller outlined the history of the Sachem name and logo saying the word Sachem only became Winchester’s nickname in the 1950s and the Sachem logo only became Winchester’s in the late 1970s thanks to the work of a high school student.
In fact, according to several callers, the word Sachem has apparently been mispronounced this whole time. The correctly pronunciation should be, according to them, sock-em.
This change of mascot name/logo aligns with Winchester’s foundational commitments, per Norwich. Winchester’s mission statement is to “foster healthy social and emotional development.”
Norwich believes “the evidence-based research on the negative impacts of social and emotional development of all students make the case for replacing the Sachem name and logo with words and symbols we can all be proud of.”
Brian Vernaglia, Chair of the School Committee and graduate of Winchester High School, indicated he doesn’t feel as if his pride would be diminished if the mascot was changed. He added how pride is not in a mascot.
The joint meeting with the Select Board will be in August so that all sides can discuss the change, noted Vernaglia. The School Committee hopes to have a date shortly for that meeting as they want to move fast on this decision to change the name and the logo.