March 15, 2010

Name of team headed to vote



Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH — Residents heading to the polls in November can vote for a president, members of Congress and local officials and express their view on a controversial proposal that could clear the way for slot machines in town.

They'll also confront the thorny question of whether they like ''Red Storm'' as the nickname for the high school's sports teams.

Residents hoping to see the name revert to ''Redskins,'' which many American Indian groups find offensive, had been circulating a petition to put the issue on the ballot. But the Town Council is expected to decide this week to send the matter to voters, ending the need to collect signatures.

''It certainly is going to go on the ballot, I have no question about that,'' said council Chairman Jeffrey Messer. He said four of the seven councilors have signed on as co-sponsors of the ballot proposal.

Messer said the non-binding referendum will likely include language that asks whether voters want to change the nickname from Red Storm to something with a Native American heritage.

Some residents have been unhappy about the nickname since the town Board of Education switched to Red Storm seven years ago. That was the most popular option among a handful put forth after the board eliminated ''Redskins'' and rejected the students' first choice -- Titans -- because Greek mythology said the ruler of the Titans ate his children to avoid being overthrown by a son.

Bruce Bell, one of the leaders of the petition drive, said some Scarborough High School alumni have been steaming about the name change and are eager to see if a majority of town residents agree. Bell said that although he wants to see the original name resurrected, some residents are more upset because they feel they never got a full chance to weigh in on the whole question of changing the nickname in the first place.

''There's just a tremendous amount of people in Scarborough who say, 'Hey, I don't think I really feel I had an opportunity to have a say on this,' '' Bell said. ''We're at a point where we're trying to say, 'Enough. Let's move on with this.' ''

''They're taking the biggest piece of the pie out of our tax dollar, so we ought to have something to say about it, especially the name,'' said Alvin Temm, who started the petition drive.

Bell said that although he will always feel a connection with the former name, he's willing to accept another nickname as long as people feel they've been heard on the matter.

School officials, however, clearly don't like the prospect of dealing again with the name change when there are other pressing matters to address.

''It's a distraction, quite frankly,'' said David Doyle, Scarborough's superintendent of schools. ''It's the 21st century. Let's move on to what I feel are the important things.''

''We have an intermediate school that needs some work and we have a budget referendum next year and other budget pressures and we're trying to raise test scores,'' said Chris Brownsey, who chairs the Board of Education. ''Those are our priorities.''

The issue of a name ''I think is more about the adults than the kids,'' he said. The November vote will be non-binding and, in fact, the board won't even be obligated to take up the matter, let alone look for an acceptable name with a Native American connection.

Doyle said that even if the board decides on a new nickname, it will be years before Scarborough's adoption of a new identity is complete.

He said the uniforms with the old nickname have been replaced on a normal schedule, but that left a freshman boys' soccer team with some out-of-date uniforms last year.

''There were parents that were very upset that their sons were forced to play in a shirt with what they considered a very derogatory nickname,'' Doyle said, so the district bought some T-shirts with the Red Storm name a little ahead of schedule.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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