Waltham School retires mascot referencing Native Americans

Replacement mascot still pending

The Waltham School Board approved the change of the mascot on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.

Waltham Elementary will have a new mascot. The board retired its former mascot Wednesday with no replacement mascot yet identified.

The Utica-area school simply will be Waltham Elementary for the rest of the school year.

There was no discussion before the unanimous vote. Superintendent Kristi Eager confirmed a replacement mascot remains pending. One proposed replacement, the Redhawks, had been prominently discussed at past meetings.

The Pokagon Band Representations Outreach Board would like to commend Waltham Elementary School for their efforts to retire their mascot.”

—  Madolyn Wesaw, chairwoman, Pokagon Band Representations Outreach Board

A group that advocated for a mascot change hailed the vote. The school’s former mascot was defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “offensive – used as an insulting and contemptuous term for an American Indian” and by The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as “slur, offensive, old-fashioned, taboo – a very offensive word used for Native American.”

“We are extremely appreciative of the school making this a priority and expediting the retirement of the current mascot,” said Melinda Magerkurth, a member of the Waltham Mascot Re-Brand, one of the groups who pressed to change the mascot.

Magerkurth also furnished a copy of a letter printed on the letterhead of a Native American group. Though not dated, Magerkurth said she received the letter from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi on Feb. 15.

“The Pokagon Band Representations Outreach Board would like to commend Waltham Elementary School for their efforts to retire their mascot,” wrote Madolyn Wesaw, chairwoman of the outreach board. “Their actions demonstrate a commitment to providing a safe learning environment for all of their students.”

In other matters, the school board:

Announced enrollment sits at 258, increased because of two new students

Confirmed graduation remains set for Wednesday, May 22

Announced registration fees will remain unchanged, save for a $5 increase in preschool fees. The milk bid is pending, however, so milk prices may yet be adjusted

Next meets Wednesday, March 20