Kate Furbish School will open in 2020 and will serve students from pre-K through second grade. PDT Architects

BRUNSWICK — The new Kate Furbish Elementary School will be represented by a dragonfly, a mascot selected by the school board last week in a decision that is raising eyebrows and questions about fairness after the board decided to go against the mascot students supported. 

Coffin Elementary School students, many of whom will be attending the new school when it opens next year, voted Dec. 20 to decide the next mascot. Their choices were the dragonfly, the bumblebee or the chickadee. Those options were selected after nominations from the community, and then school staff selected the three finalists. 

“Students voices have been heard with an overwhelming majority,” School Board Student Liaison Tyler Patterson read at the Jan. 8 school board meeting. “The mascot will be the chickadee.” 

But school board members voted Jan. 22 to adopt the dragonfly as the school mascot, partly to unify the district’s school mascots and colors. Kate Furbish’s school colors will be orange and black to match Brunswick High School. Board member Celina Harrison was the only member present who voted against the motion.  

“I understand (students) voted, (but) I would like us to move in a direction where we are unifying the mascots from the high school down,” board member William Thompson said during the meeting Jan. 8.

According to Superintendent Paul Perzanoski, “There has been discussion around unifying the mascots and colors,” and the board “felt it would be more difficult to do that a few years from now if they left the decision the way it was.” 

In 2011, students headed for Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School selected their mascot, the bobcat, in a similar process. 

The board will likely look into changing the bobcat and the husky, Brunswick Junior High School’s long-time mascot, to be more in line with the Brunswick High School Dragons in the future, he said. 

The decision has raised questions, with several parents and teachers sharing their disappointment on social media; something Perzanoski said the board knew was possible. 

“They knew the decision could be controversial, and that’s basically what it’s become,” he said. 

Megan Angelos, a parent of a student at Coffin, said in an email to the school board that her son had been excited to vote at school. He was even more excited when his choice, the chickadee, was selected. He was crestfallen to learn that it would not be the mascot, she said. 

Angelos told the board she is concerned that the decision sends a bad message to children, teaching them that their “voices aren’t important,” that they should not be part of the decision-making in their schools, that decisions are not made by the greater community but by small groups, that an individual vote doesn’t count or matter, and that children shouldn’t participate in the ownership of their school or school’s identity, she said. 

“It may seem like a small thing to you, but it is not a small thing to our children now or in their future, as they learn what it is to be a part of a community, as they learn about democracy,” Angelos said. 

According to Perzanoski, “nothing in public service is ever set in stone,” and the board scheduled a special school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hawthorne Conference Room at 46 Federal St. for “discussion and possible action concerning the feedback received on the Kate Furbish Elementary School mascot.” 

The $20.3 million pre-K to Grade 2 school is named after botanist Catherine Furbish, who devoted over 60 years of her life to classifying and illustrating the native flora of Maine.

School Board Chairman James Grant and board member William Thompson did not return requests for comment.

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