BOE introduces mascot selection process


Abby Shapiro

Pascack Valley Athletic Director Shawn Buchanan and Pascack Hills Athletic Director Phil Paspalas presented their plan for the new mascot selection process to the Board of Education during Monday night’s BOE meeting held virtually through Zoom. Assistant Superintendent Barry Bachenheimer also showcased the 2020 Assessment Data Presentation.

(Editor’s Note: As of July 1, Barry Bachenheimer has changed his title from Director of Curriculum to Assistant Superintendent. A previous version of this article stated that Bachenhiemer is Director of Curriculum.)

Pascack Valley Athletic Director Shawn Buchanan and Pascack Hills Athletic Director Phil Paspalas presented their plan for the new mascot selection process to the Board of Education during Monday night’s BOE meeting held virtually through Zoom.

“The primary focus for the initial task will be to zero in on ideas, circulating in each of the buildings, with possible mascots,” Buchanan said. “The ultimate goal that each building will have is that the student advisory committee will be able to generate three top options.”

The process will take place separately but in parallel at both PV and PH, and it will begin with a select group consisting of students from different clubs and sports. This group will be known as the Student Advisory Committee. A committee consisting of faculty and coaches will also be selected to facilitate the work done by the Student Advisory Committee. 

“I want to make sure that the students are really the ones who are owning this initiative because, at the end of the day, that is the number one central most important theme,” BOE President Tammy Molinelli said. “The fact that the students are the center of this strategy is a very healthy and very important aspect of what it looks like moving forward.”

After the committee has narrowed it down to three mascot options, the Student Advisory Committee will present its mascot plan for BOE consideration. Once approved by the BOE, both current students and faculty will get an opportunity to vote on the selection. The same process will be used to decide the graphics that will represent each school.

Spencer Goldstein

During Comments from the Public, some community members called in to express their disapproval of the mascot selection process. 

“Despite your encouraging words, you [District Superintendent Erik Gundersen] yet again, are pushing the subject of forcing the issue of the mascot,” Montvale Resident Maria Geanopulos said. “The vote was taken when classes were over and there was no reason for any of us to expect our mascots would be removed, without any say from any of us, except the ones that were told.”

Other community members expressed their desire to push the mascot process until the BOE elections were over.

“I think with next month’s election and the possibility of four new board members, that the process [of selecting the mascots] shouldn’t be rushed because there is a good chance that the whole thing will be revisited,” PV alumni Michael Cuffe said.

Assistant Superintendent Barry Bachenheimer also showcased the 2020 Assessment Data Presentation, explaining the results of standardized tests and College Board assessments such as AP tests. There are no SAT or ACT score reports, as spring and summer 2020 administrations of the tests were canceled due to the pandemic. 

“Every year we are required, by statute, to present to the Board our results for standardized testing, specifically for the New Jersey State Assessment Results,” Bachenheimer said. “This year is going to be a little different [as] due to the pandemic, we don’t have as many results.”

Out of the 478 AP exams taken at Pascack Valley, 410 exams had scores of 3 or higher and Bachenheimer said that the district has scored “significantly” over the state and national averages on AP tests in 2020. 

“One thing that we’re really proud of as a district is the number of courses we are providing to students who want to take a college-level experience,” Bachenheimer said. “Whether it is an exam placement, dual enrollment, or certainty in our internship program, we provide these experiences for students to have college and worklike experiences before they even go to college.”

Hillsdale Resident Chris Martin spoke in regards to a complaint that he filed to Molinelli against BOE member Arnold Scher. Martin said that Scher photographed his home and posted it to social media “to discredit and harass” another Hillsdale resident. 

“[BOE meetings] are not a forum for political dialogue. Everyone has the opportunity to vote, but I’d just like to share with everyone who comments that this is not a place where politics happen,” Molinelli said.  

While Molinelli said that Gundersen shared the protocol of how to file a complaint about BOE members, Scher said that he contacted the Ethics Commission and they did not receive any complaints about him. 

Gundersen also spoke about the community’s handling of the transitions between in-person and virtual classes.

“I recognize the educational and mental health benefits that go along with coming to school, and it is my sincere hope that we can return to school quickly, without further setbacks,” Gundersen said. “The challenges being thrown at us now are significant, but I can not be prouder of our staff, our students, and our community for acting in a way that demonstrates that we truly are all in this together, and we will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.