Mascot Selection Committee reveals final three mascot suggestions

BOE faces questions from community members


Allison Varghese

The Board of Education held an in-person on Monday night at PV and virtually on Zoom. During the meeting, the final three mascot options were presented to the BOE.

Ilmie Xhaferi and Abby Shapiro

Pascack Valley Mascot Selection Committee student representatives Delia Collis and Vasili Karalewich presented Panthers, Green Wave, and Hawks as the final three mascots suggestions to the Board of Education during Monday night’s BOE meeting held in-person in PV’s cafeteria and virtually on Zoom. 

“Green Wave has a connection to the school colors, Hawks is a connection to the community – being the mascot for both the Hillsdale and River Vale middle schools – and Panthers is an option to the students who want a completely new approach to the mascot,” Collis said. 

Pascack Hills representatives Jacob Levin and Alexa Sipos also presented the Broncos, Trailblazers, and Phoenixes as Pascack Hills’ final three mascot options. 

“On behalf of the [mascot] committee, we would like to outrightly address the notion of not having a mascot or postponing this process until there’s less going on because of COVID, and we have firmly decided against it,” Sipos said. “Our seniors have expressed the desire to graduate with a mascot, and we anticipate that the school is excited to be part of the voting process based on the positive feedback from our committee members.” 

Voting will take place on Thursday for PV; if a winner is not selected through a majority of the vote, then another vote will be held. The final mascot decision will be given to the BOE on March 8. However, several community members, including BOE member Michael Weaver raised concerns over the selection of a new mascot. 

“When we look at the criteria, 51% of the vote determines what the next mascot recommendation will be – will 51% really unite us to accomplish the goal of unity and put a focus on our students?” Weaver questioned. 

The district should refer to both schools as Pascack, with an emphasis on Hills or Valley respectively, according to Weaver. 

“I believe it is time for us to move on from the idea of a mascot,” Weaver said. “Our student representatives have done an exceptional job reporting and asking what is in a name and reporting on the mascot issue. I wish that this board would take more time to ask that question and tease out what is [a] mascot, and [if] we really need one.”

In an interview with Gundersen after the BOE meeting, Gundersen said that the mascot selection process was set in place months ago, and students have taken “have really taken a while in coming together to finalize this process.”

“Not everything can be a motion, but [the decision to have PV and PH not have mascots] certainly could be a motion. And basically whether or not that that would pass or not, it would be a very strong statement from a Board member to go ahead then and override the process,” Gundersen said. “But I think this Board has recognized that we asked students to do something months ago.” 

Another question was raised as to whether PV’s mascot should simply be Valley, but Collis said that the committee thought the choice would not “satisfy” the student body, so the idea was set aside. 

“The question was not whether to have a mascot or not,” Levin said. “It was whether to elect to have just PH [and] PV or a symbol, such as for example, Pascack Hills Phoenix is one of the options and the Green Wave [is an option] for Valley. And we, as a committee, are not in support of the PH [letters].” 

Montvale resident Carolee Adams questioned a statement presented at a previous meeting by Karalewich, where, according to Adams, Karalewich said committee members were asked to “put our personal beliefs aside” when choosing a mascot. 

“I don’t think we need to put our beliefs aside quickly. I don’t know why we’d have to bury those beliefs,” Adams said. 

“With regards to the question about the student representatives comment – I don’t want to comment for another individual, so I’m not quite sure the context in which that was said and I wouldn’t want to comment on what someone else has said,” Gundersen said as a response to Adams’ question. 

River Vale resident Mike Zaretsky also directed a question towards Gundersen during comments from the public, asking him “what [he] would take away if the kids do not vote on the mascot.” While Zaretsky continued to press Gundersen about his question, Gundersen said that he would not “ go back and forth with” Zaretsky.  

“We have 68 members on this committee representative of all sorts of different organizations and teams and athletics. Those students are going ahead and have done a great job of putting together three options here – we’re presenting this to all the students and staff in the building,” Gundersen said in response to Zaretsky’s question. “And those who want to vote may go ahead and have their voices heard.”

BOE member Joseph Blundo said that he believed “not everybody’s voice was truly heard” during the mascot selection process.

“I’ve received countless feedback from people who have said it was absolutely driven in a certain direction. I believe in Mr. Zaretsky’s point if you gave people a choice to not vote,” Blundo said. “A lot of people might not vote and I do believe that sends a loud message.”

BOE discusses future plans

BOE member Kelly Blundy gave a Health, Wellness, and Safety subcommittee report, revealing that the district plans to proceed with holding an indoor-outdoor senior prom for PV and PH. PV is scheduled to hold its prom at the Rockleigh Country Club.

“If things go as planned, the normal date would be outside, and then we’d have to see what the limits would be if things go as we hope they will go, which is a trend in a positive direction for students,” Gundersen said. “We hope to have as many normal spring year-end activities as possible.”

Gundersen said that the district plans to hold a graduation ceremony pending any coronavirus restrictions put on the event. As of now, each student will receive two tickets for their graduation party, according to Gundersen.

“We are striving and doing what we can to create a normal year and experiences for our seniors just to expand from last year’s graduation,” Gundersen said. 

Gundersen explained that while an eighth period for next year’s schedules is on the table, there has been little discussion regarding that decision.

“Counselors are instructing the students that there may be an option to have an additional period if they like to take it as a Pascack Period,” Gundersen said.

Gundersen said that the interviewing process for a new PV principal will begin next week. There were “almost 400 respondents” to a principal search survey sent to the district on Feb. 11, according to Gundersen. 

“I’d like to thank my colleagues, members of the public, administration, and our student representatives for what just proves to be every single day, a difficult time, [but] we get out of bed and do the best that we can,” BOE President Tammy Molinelli said.