Gundersen: Indians nickname off the table

District Superintendent clarifies statement made during Monday’s board meeting

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Abby Shapiro, Staff Editor

Could the Indians nickname really come back?

Apparently not.

District Superintendent Erik Gundersen clarified his statement from Monday night’s Board of Education meeting in which he said that the Indian and Cowboy mascots remain options for the mascot selection period. 

“While everything is open for discussion in our meetings, based on the criteria that are set forth [about equity and inclusivity], [the Indians and Cowboys] are not viable [mascot] options,” Gundersen said in a prepared statement during an interview with The PV Student Publication. 

Gundersen’s statement on Monday left some people confused since he said “there is no reconsideration,” of the decision to retire the Pascack Valley Indian and Pascack Hills Cowboy mascots during a BOE meeting on June 25.

In the weeks following, many community members on both sides of the mascot debate continued to argue their viewpoints on the subject, yet the decision was never rescinded.

When contacted for comment, PV Athletic Director and organizer of the PV Mascot Selection Committee Shawn Buchanan referred all questions to Gundersen. Assistant Principal John Puccio, organizer of the PV Mascot Selection Committee, and BOE President Tammy Molinelli were contacted via email but did not respond.

The decision to retire the mascots took many community members by surprise, as a number of people openly commented during the June 22 board meeting, stating that they felt the decision to retire the mascots was not widely promoted by the BOE before the decision was made.

The schools’ previous mascots were brought up for discussion during the latest BOE meeting, allowing multiple board members, including Molinelli, Joseph Blundo, and Michael Fronte, to present their thoughts on the subject. Molinelli said that she wanted to justify why she made the decision to vote for the removal of both mascots from the district.

“We heard from hundreds of students from the district to talk about the pain that they personally felt with the attachment of the mascot,” Molinelli said during Monday night’s BOE meeting. 

Though a handful of the community expressed its desire to reinstate the mascots, Gundersen said during Wednesday’s interview, that both schools’ new mascots will need to promote a positive image and an inclusive nature which will also not be identified by any gender or race.

Gundersen also stressed that board meetings are nothing more than a discussion between community members alluding to the past discussion on PV and PH’s mascots.

“What individual board members say or what I comment on [during] the board meeting does not necessarily mean that decisions are made, or that the board as a whole is mandating [a decision],” Gundersen said. “When board members have an open public discussion, it is [only] a discussion, it’s not the rule of law.”