First Branding Committee Meeting ‘Productive’

By Halie Barger

The Talawanda School District’s study of whether or not its “Brave” mascot should be changed is in the hands of a committee intentionally comprised of members in support of and opposed to such a change.

The branding committee organized itself in a meeting Monday afternoon intended to introduce the 16 members to one another, break the ice and begin mapping out a strategy for dealing with the issue. The district did not provide public notice of the meeting.

Holli Morrish, Talawanda’s director of communications, said the committee, chaired by Superintendent Ed Theroux, will meet every two weeks. A different member will act as facilitator at each meeting, she said.

“The goal is [that] we will create this process as we go. The people on the committee are leading that work,” Morrish said.

The committee was formed in response to recent complaints that the “Brave” perpetuates stereotypes about Native Americans. The school board received a letter from the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), saying that the mascot should be changed. 

Many Oxford residents have taken to social media to express their views.

“I’m monitoring social media on this subject very closely,” Morrish said. “You’ll see people encouraging people to send letters to the school board and the superintendent sharing their point of view, and that’s happening,” said Morrish.

Theroux nominated committee members from the community, administration and staff. He sought a balance of those who have spoken in favor of a change, those who indicated they oppose a change, and others who are not committed to either position.

Lois Vollmer, a former Talawanda board member and current member of the branding committee, said she is going into this process with an open mind.

“My feeling on the branding issue is sit, listen, see what the opinions are,” she said.  

Vollmer said that, as a former board member, she knows that making everyone in the community happy won’t be an easy task, if it is possible at all.

Tamise Ironstrack, another committee member, expressed concerns about the impact of the mascot on her children, who are members of the Miami Tribe.

“I felt it [the meeting] was pretty productive,” Ironstrack said. “It was just introductory–you know, no major revelations–but I left feeling fairly optimistic.”  

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Talawanda High School Media Center. It will be facilitated by Kathy McMahon-Klosterman, who presented the NARF letter to the board during its June meeting.

The committee will continue to meet twice a month until its members agree upon recommendations for the school board.

Morrish said the board is the only entity in the district that has the authority to approve changes to the mascot.