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Wednesday, June 12, 2013: Redskins nickname causing new uproar

   Leading off today: What's in a name? Well, in the Canisteo-Greenwood school district, the answer is "plenty of contentious debate."

   More than 70 residents jammed into the Canisteo-Greenwood school board room Monday to criticize the district's decision to eliminate the Redskins nickname from school teams and to express displeasure with how the choice was explained, The Evening Tribune reported.

   There were nearly as many mea culpas from administrators as there were people in the room. Interim superintendent Charles H. Clemens, who's become the subject of a Facebook page calling for his departure, was cut off several times as he tried to speak, but three times confided, “I screwed up,” the paper reported, and board President Michael L. Nisbet also apologized several times for the process that led to premature explanations to students.

   According to the YNN cable news network, school administrators said they received a letter from a state agency expressing concern the school's mascot was offensive. The newspaper said an official from the New York State Office of Native American Services (formerly the Bureau of Indian Affairs) called former Superintendent Jeffrey Matteson last month about the matter.

   Canisteo-Greenwood “doesn’t want to be the last school district in New York State with that name,” the official told Matteson, according to Clemens.

   Cooperstown relented this spring by switching to Hawkeyes and an Idaho school made news Tuesday with a decision to switch, but the Lancaster and Oriskany districts still use the Redskins name. Approximately 40 other districts across New York use the Indians nickname, which has also come under criticism at times.

   Civil rights and educational groups have been among those labeling Native American names and logos as demeaning and racist. Others say the names reflect respect for Native American bravery. Recent examples of changes by districts include Penfield (from Chiefs to Patriots) and Irondequoit (Indians to Eagles).

   Contrary to what was earlier believed to be the case, Nisbet said the Canisteo-Greenwood board has made no decision. "Our decision was to investigate the issue," he said. "We probably should have sought public input.”

   The issue will likely be taken up at the next board meeting July 8. "If we look at all sides and the majority wants (to go) one way or another, that will be my preference,” Nisbet said.

   Speakers unloaded on the board for the better part of an hour before agenda items were addressed. The board was told one teacher told a classroom of young children the term Redskins is “racist and derogatory,” while others said they found out via students' Twitter accounts an assembly was held to discuss the name change.

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       “Who are you to teach my kids about what’s racist and derogatory? That’s my job,” one parent said in lashing out.

       Nisbet said the board and interim superintendent “miscommunicated.”

       “Everything will be scrapped” that has been accomplished, including nominations for suggested name changes, Nisbet said.

       Changes announced: Tom Nowak, the second-winningest coach in Section 5 girls basketball, is retiring from Elba, where he has gone 457-133 with eight sectional crowns and one NYSPHSAA championship.

       “You can’t stay forever,” Nowak told the Democrat and Chronicle. “There’s just so many things to do out there in the world ... at some point you have to decide to step back and do those other things.”

       Nowak, who began coaching in 1977, is a member of the Section 5 football hall of fame with a resume including 10 league and two sectional championships.

       Kevin McGoff is the new executive director of the Southern Tier Athletic Conference in Section 4 following the retirement of Carlton Gaffney, who has been involved with the 17-member league since its founding in 1966.

       “It doesn’t mean the end, I’d like to think I’m still an advisor,” Gaffney told the Press & Sun-Bulletin.

       Also on the move: Andrew Russo, a fourth-team all-state running back in Class AA for St. Joseph-by-the-Sea last fall, has transferred to Tottenville, reporter Dylan Butler tweeted this week. Russo rushed for 1,293 yards (5.7 per carry and scored 22 touchdowns last season.

       Corning wrestler Jimmy Overhiser is leaving the state to continue his education at Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania. He was fourth in the state Division I tournament at 106 pounds as a freshman in 2012 and went 36-5 last season but did not advance out of Section 4.

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