WELLS, Maine — A year ago, Jim Daly was dealing with a firestorm of accusations of racism following a Friday night football game at Wells High School. Today the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District Superintendent looks around the district and notes that while the logo may have changed, the Warrior pride remains as strong as ever.
“The kids haven’t missed a beat,” Daly said. “And our fans have always been great, and the support is there just like it always has been.”
Last October, a parent from Lisbon who is a member of the Micmac Tribe accused fans of demonstrating racist behavior toward her and her son, a player for the Lisbon Greyhounds, igniting a controversy over the Native American imagery used in the WHS logo that reached across the state and beyond.
While a school district investigation into the incident didn’t reveal any racist behavior, Daly said, the incident was the catalyst for a months-long probe into the use of the Indian head mascot involving school officials, students and the Wells and Ogunquit communities.
[Wells Warriors mascot comes under new fire after claims of racist taunts]
In June, following the recommendation of the district’s Mascot Advisory Committee, the School Committee voted unanimously to remove Native American imagery from all district items and retain the use of the Warrior name.
The district quickly set to work “rebranding” the schools to eliminate the Native American imagery in favor of a big red “W” logo designed by WHS art teacher Emily Knight.
In June, school officials walked the campuses and buildings to compile a list and a plan to remove images. In July, the Native American imagery was removed from the Ronco Gymnasium wall at WHS, and the W on the walking track was repainted.
New chairs were ordered and installed in the high school gym, and new banner flags were designed and installed for the entrance to the high school. Stickers were placed on the signage at WHS to remove the Native American imagery.
In August, crews removed the Indian head and feather from the Wells Junior High School gymnasium wall and all of the sign updates across the district were finalized.
On Aug. 20, the Native American mascot was officially retired into the WHS Hall of Fame, according to Daly.
[Wells superintendent defends district after claims of racism at football game]
He said the only uniforms still sporting the old logo are the jackets for the marching band, and new ones will be ordered in the next few weeks, as soon as they know exactly how many are needed.
The floor of Ronco Gym is the final piece of the puzzle, and replacing it will be costly. Daly said following the meeting in June that the district will budget for that in the next budget cycle.
Warrior history on sale for a good cause
To finish off the transition, the district will hold a sale of all of the replaced Warrior equipment from 9 to 11 a.m. this Saturday, Sept. 29 in Ronco Gymnasium at Wells High School.
Wells High School Athletic Director Pierce Cole said the items include chairs, floor mats and small banners. The sale is first come, first serve, and items must be removed from WHS at the time of sale and cannot be brought back onto campus. Chairs are $50 and must be bought in pairs. Floor mats are $100 and banners are $50 each. Items may not be reserved ahead of time.
Daly said the district recognizes that the Warrior mascot has sentimental value to many people in town.
“We thought this would be a nice way for the community to have a piece of the history, and raise some money for someone in need,” he said.
The proceeds from the sale will go to a former WHS student who is battling cancer, Daly said.
Coming full circle
This Friday, the WHS football team will once again host the Lisbon Greyhounds. Both teams are unbeaten this season. The game will feature the annual Salute to Armed Forces event held every year during a game at WHS. The school and community will honor military veterans and active armed service members. A ceremony honoring both active and retired armed service members will precede the game. Admission is free to any veteran or active member of the military. General admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students. Ceremonies will begin at approximately 6:15 p.m., with kick-off at 7 p.m. at Wells High School, 200 Sanford Road, Wells. All veterans and active armed service members are invited to attend.
Daly is anxious to get beyond this game, but he also says he has great faith in the Wells-Ogunquit community, something he says they’ve earned during a very difficult year.
“We’re moving forward. We have great students, and great parents, and we’re excited to move past all of this,” he said.
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