DALLAS — Andy Bellando, interim superintendent for the Dallas School District, has a month to compile information about the origins of Dallas High School’s mascot.
He received the direction from the DSD board at their June 22 meeting, where they discussed how to address calls to change the Dallas Dragons mascot.
There are rumors its origins are with the Ku Klux Klan, which had a presence throughout Oregon in the 1920s and 30s.
Board chair Michael Blanchard said the district had received more than 60 comments about the mascot before Monday’s meeting. Those comments are public record and anyone wishing to see them may obtain them by emailing Juli Lichtenberger, executive assistant at the district office.
Anything received after 4 p.m. on Monday, June 22, will part of the next meeting’s public comments.
Blanchard said it seems the comments they’ve received so far are in favor of keeping the mascot.
The topic was discussed at the June 8 meeting in response to three letters the district had received about changing the mascot and they decided to discuss it more in depth on June 22.
“This has been quite an education for me,” Bellando said. “Still being new to the school district with less than a year under my belt.”
It’s been an eye-opener for him, he said.
He said when the board deals with topics that have multiple perspectives, it’s a good time to remind members of their “core values as a school district, our mission as a school district.”
A board operates as a reflection of the community, Bellando said.
“Each of the five of you have had outward mindset training,” he said.
He said that’s exactly what this topic needs.
“It means to see the views from the other person’s perspective, to be able to put yourself in the position of others, to be able to have an open-minded mindset,” Bellando said. “That’s not saying the mascot should be changed or not.”
He thinks the conversation warrants time for discussion.
“It requires a courageous conversation, in many ways, not only about what the mascot has meant and continues to mean within this school district, but also what does it stand for from a racial standpoint, from a cultural standpoint, from an equity standpoint, and frankly from a messaging standpoint,” Bellando said.
He said student voices are important to the conversation as well.
Blanchard said this topic requires a tremendous amount of transparency and openness.
“I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last two weeks,” said Board member Dave Hunt. “I’ve reached out to alumnus, people I knew, friends of color. Read all the emails. The moral and ethical stuff behind this is pretty profound and a little daunting.”
He said he was thinking the important/non-important matrix used to make decisions sometimes.
“There’s an urgency in a lot of the emails I’ve been getting, that I think is a little misleading right now,” Hunt said. “I think this is a really important discussion and the decision we need to make with the community, but I don’t think it’s urgent in the sense that it has to happen by this September.”
He asked Bellando to put together a cost analysis, “so we are very clear on just how expensive this change would be to make if we decide to make it.”
New letterhead, “paintings on the sides of our buildings,” and the field would need to be changed, he said.
“Right now we’re facing two very real crises, the extra money required by the COVID, and the budget shortfall,” he said.
He said he would like to add in the financial reality that if they decide to change the mascot, they may need to wait a year or two because of finances.
Board member Michael Bollman said he appreciated all the emails he’s received, both in favor of changing the mascot and not.
He said he agreed that they need to work through the process in a transparent manner and take time with it.