ELKHART— Elkhart school board members heard from a local student about an effort to change the mascot of the district’s new Elkhart High School.
Elkhart Central senior Patrick Yeakey approached the board with the proposal during Tuesday’s meeting.
The petition comes after students at Elkhart Community Schools voted last year on the identity of the district’s new unified school – a merger of Central and Memorial high schools. They selected Elkhart High School as the name, royal blue and gold as the colors, and “Mangy Lion” as the mascot – the name of a trophy the two schools exchanged over the years in a storied crosstown football competition.
School board members were on board with the school name and colors but expressed concern about “Mangy” and how it would be perceived by outsiders, amending the mascot name to the “Lions.”
Yeakey, president of the superintendent’s student advisory council for Elkhart Central, told the school board members that he’s met with the council at Elkhart Memorial. He said both councils feel the amended mascot has no history or background to either of the schools. Furthermore, the chosen mascot is already used at Bremen High School, which is part of their conference team.
To that end, Yeakey said that both councils would like to unify the mascot names of both high schools and change it to the "Charging Blazers."
“We want to keep Mr. B’s history while including memorials mascot as well,” Yeakey said.
Board member Rocky Enfield asked Yeakey about students who may feel his proposal is disrespectful to those who voted in favor of the Mangy Lion.
Yeakey replied he started a petition on change.org which has generated 365 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon from people are in favor of changing the mascot to the Charging Blazers
Board member Rodney Dale said he agreed with Yeakey’s proposal. He brought up former Elkhart Central Football Coach Tom Kurth, who in a Facebook post said that he believed Charging Blazers would be the best representation of the new unified high school.
“If there’s some way to change (the mascot) I’d be for that,” he said. “I agree with Mr. Kurth. The whole Lion thing didn’t sit well with me either, I was trying to be unified, but you’re right.”
Babette Boling, a newly elected board member, said she’s open to investigating the process of how the names were decided for the new unified high school, but said it’s a move that would have to be prompt.
“I’m not going to be one of those that’ll close a door, but I do think we need to look at what was done, how it was done. But something major will have to undo it if it was done well,” she said.
Defending the committee, board member Sue Daiber said the naming committee was comprised of an equal number of current and former students, current and former staff, parents and community members who spent nine months to ensure the decision was made properly.
“So I don’t want anyone to think these folks did not – we had an actual retired judge lead that team of people,” she said of that committee.
“But your point has been taken tonight,” she told Yeakey. “Obviously a lot of people are excited for you.”
Moving forward, Yeakey said, he and organizers will continue to gather signatures until Feb. 21 and will be prepared to bring the matter to the board at a later date with the assistance of Elkhart Central principal Frank Serge.