Hills students, staff voice thoughts on mascot options

The Trailblazer heard from students and staff at Hills before they have the chance to vote for their top mascot preference on Thursday, Feb. 25.

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Jared Mitovich

The choices for Hills’ mascot are the Broncos, the Trail Blazers, and the Phoenix.

Jared Mitovich

At the Pascack Valley Regional Board of Education’s Feb. 22 meeting, mascot search committee representatives from Pascack Hills and Pascack Valley disclosed the top three mascot choices for each school, a long-awaited decision following months of deliberation. The choices for Hills’ mascot are the Broncos, the Trail Blazers, and the Phoenix.

On Feb. 23, Phil Paspalas, Hills’ athletic director, emailed students and staff the committee’s rationale for each selection for the Broncos, Trail Blazers, and Phoenix. The Trailblazer emailed a survey to students to hear what they thought of these choices before they have the chance to vote for their top preference on Thursday, Feb. 25. The survey was open on Feb. 24 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Several students responded, some choosing to give their name, and others preferring to stay anonymous. The respondents shared their thoughts on each option. Some respondents expressed their opposition to all of the choices and their dissatisfaction with the mascot search process and the decision to remove the Cowboys mascot. A selection of students’ responses to the survey and staff members’ comments to the Trailblazer can be read below, lightly edited for grammar and clarity. Students’ responses are accompanied by graphics that show the most common descriptions of each mascot outside of “good” or “bad.”

Jared Mitovich

Broncos

Camilo Dickson, freshman: “Broncos sounds a lot better. Phoenix is too extra, and it sounds like you’re puffing your chest. Broncos is simple and strong.”

Amy Kimel, sophomore: “Personally, I don’t mind the mascot change. If I were to pick one of the three options, it would be the Broncos because I feel like it matches the cowboy theme that we have. Trail Blazers does, too, but the Broncos idea stuck out [to me] more.”

Larissa Aquaviva, senior: “I am considering voting for the Broncos because I think that is the option that keeps Pascack Hills’s themes. The horse logo can still be used, without the cowboy, so that keeps Pascack Hills on brand.”

Which mascot choice would you like to see as Hills' mascot?

  • Broncos (70%, 121 Votes)
  • Trailblazers (20%, 35 Votes)
  • Phoenixes (10%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 173

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Anonymous freshman: “I want to vote for Broncos. For one, it sounds good, it’s a good/intimidating mascot, and it’s Western. [The] Trail Blazers is like a carriage/wagon, which is a very bad mascot and not intimidating AT ALL. Phoenix isn’t that bad but it sounds awful if chanted. For example, ‘Pascack Hills Phoenixes?’”

Anonymous freshman: “I think that the Broncos sounds the best out of the three options because it is short and easy to say.”

Anonymous junior: “I think that we should for sure be the Broncos. The colors in the logo were still orange and brown, and I think this is the best option as a replacement.”

Jared Mitovich

Phoenix

Christine Audia, sophomore: “I really like the idea of our mascot being a Phoenix…it symbolizes resilience, which is a great thing for our school to represent.”

Samantha Macaluso, junior: “I think that I’ll go with the Phoenix.”

Mohamed Oueslati, senior: “I [vote] for the Phoenix.”

Anonymous junior: “I think Phoenixes is the best choice. Not only is it gender-neutral, but the mascot would be so cool, and the logo could have so much more potential.”

Jared Mitovich

Trail Blazers

Camilo Dickinson, freshman: “Trail Blazers is terrible for the record. If you are proud of your mascot being a wagon, then I don’t know what to tell you.”

Anonymous sophomore: “I think that I am considering voting for the Phoenixes or the Trail Blazers. I really like the idea of the Phoenix, but I do not think that it matches our current school colors (brown and orange). I think that the Trail Blazers sounds really cool, and it is something that already has to do with Pascack Hills. I am just kind of unsure of what a Trail Blazer may look like.”

Anonymous junior: “I like Trail Blazers and Broncos a lot, and I think Phoenix is cool but sounds awkward spelled ‘Phoenixes’; it would probably gain more traction as the Pascack Hills Phoenix… good ring to it.”

None of the options

Some students at Hills indicated that they do not support the mascot change.

Anonymous freshman: “I don’t like any of the options.”

Anonymous junior: “There was no valid reason for the change. This was just political; politics should be kept out of school.”

Anonymous sophomore: “No matter what option is chosen, people will still be mad.”

There were other students who did not support any of the mascot options, and they explained their reasoning below in longer submissions.

Anonymous junior: “There was no need for the Cowboys mascot to change. The administration claims that it was mainly for gender neutrality, but as far as I have seen, not one member of the student body has expressed a feeling of oppression or inequality from the school because of the mascot. The pushing for a gender-neutral mascot feels fake-progressive, like the administration wants to solve an issue that was not there in the first place.”

Anonymous junior: “I don’t entirely love the mascot choices, and I feel like the school has been trying so hard to seem progressive by finding these gender-neutral mascots. I understand the concern, and I am all for gender equality and inclusivity, but this feels forced. I don’t know anyone who was offended by being a Cowboy –– Valley changing their mascot from the Indians makes sense because that was offensive and insensitive to Native Americans, but Cowboys really weren’t. Actual cowboys had been made up of Native Americans, Mexicans, African Americans, and white settlers. There were female cowboys in history too but they weren’t as greatly recognized so the term ‘cowgirl’ wasn’t made up until much later.

“As for the new mascots, I don’t think the students as a whole were asked enough. I know there was a large committee of students and teachers and that the students were supposed to research/ask other students for suggestions but it still feels like our opinions were asked as much. The Broncos seem like an easy switch from Cowboys and wouldn’t require as much effort to change, but I know some people also just feel like if we’re keeping the Western theme by using a horse, we should just stay with Cowboys.

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“The Phoenix idea is kind of cool but seems slightly out of place. I think if it was discussed with more people and marketed better it would be a good idea. I discussed with my one teacher who was on the committee and she told me her reasoning on why she liked it and that has shifted my opinion. She said that it would be an interesting design choice and we could do a twist with the ‘PH’ [for Pascack Hills] since Phoenix starts with ‘PH’ as well. She said it’s something completely fresh and different from what we were before and the Phoenix would be a rebirth and rebranding of Hills. Her point was that it’s new and different and allows us to take more creative liberties with it and shows a sense of strength and power as well. I think if we did Phoenix we would need to change our colors from brown and white and changing the colors in general would be a fun new start for us too. 

“I really don’t like Trail Blazers and I understand wanting to associate it with our school’s newspaper/magazine but it just isn’t fitting. The wagon is dull and boring and while being called a Trail Blazer for being innovative is great, slapping ‘Trail Blazer’ on the side of a wagon just reminds people of the old white settlers that went across America to create new homes and find gold, which doesn’t seem like a progressive idea/solution. Broncos and the Phoenix are the best ideas but they should be marketed more so that the students have a better idea of what it could be like if we choose that mascot. We shouldn’t just pick a mascot without it being explored more for what it could mean to the school and be used for.”

Hills teacher uses mascots to teach students public policy

Brooks Alexander is a history teacher and football coach at Hills. In the Public Policy course he teaches to Hills seniors, Alexander shaped a lesson around the mascot process and explained it below.

Alexander: “The inspiration for a lesson or impetus to teach can originate from anywhere. The central issue in our A.P. Public Policy course is the identification of a societal problem and the eliminating or alleviating of said societal problem. It is always best to relate academic issues to the events occurring in the life of a student. The mascot issue within our school is a perfect example of a teachable moment in the realm of Public Policy. Our local Board of Education has identified a societal problem, that being the existence within our district of offensive or non-inclusive school mascots. The Board of Education has created a Policy designed to eliminate this problem.

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In this scenario, the Board of Education would be represented as ‘Players’, which is to say possessing the ability to have direct impact on the creation or passage of policy. The student body, faculty and community would be represented as ‘stakeholders’, which is to say a group affected by the policy but without power to influence the creation or passage of the policy. The actions taken by our Board of Education are a perfect microcosm of the Public Policy process within our society and illustrate the benefits of understanding and following the process. Now that the policy is in place and the school mascot must be changed, it is a great opportunity for the student body to shift from “stakeholders” in the policy to ‘players’ in the re-branding of our mascot and school logo. It is a very exciting opportunity and one which I hope is embraced passionately by all students.”

Wieland, Schwartzman urge students to vote

Hills Principal Tim Wieland urged students to vote on Feb. 25.

Wieland: “First off, I appreciate those students and staff who were part of the selection committee. The time and effort that they put forward should be commended. With regards to tomorrow’s vote, I hope everyone, students and staff alike, take the time to vote tomorrow. As Mr. Paspalas said to me yesterday that this will be a forever decision for Hills. That statement from him put things in perspective in a very exciting way. Tomorrow, we collectively make a decision that is for Pascack Hills . . . a place we all consider our second home.”

Hills Assistant Principal Charleen Schwartzman echoed similar thoughts, saying, “I want something that is going to unify us all, and I am excited that the students are an integral part of the decision-making process.”

The school-wide vote on Hills’ mascot will take place on Thursday, Feb. 25 from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. via an email sent to students and staff. A 51% majority will be required in the vote to select the mascot, and a run-off will occur the next day between the top two choices if neither exceeds the amount needed in the initial vote.