Hillsborough schools forges ahead with Native name changes

Hillsborough County Public Schools is moving ahead with changes for six elementary schools that have Native American mascots.

The superintendent ordered the mascots changed last month after an advisory group of parents made the recommendation.

During a meeting Tuesday, the school board declined to take further action, calling the whole dustup a matter of poor communication.

Several Native American speakers addressed the board beforehand.

"Our ethnicity, our race, as a mascot? We are in the 21st Century," one person said.

Six schools had names changed from things like Braves, Chiefs, and Indians to things like Sharks, Eagles, and Panthers.

The Ramos family, from Brandon's Brooker Elementary - where students voted to become the Bolts - insisted students and alumni had been attached to the name Braves.

After they presented an online petition with hundreds of signees, the board last week agreed to discuss it on Tuesday. 

"It has been a very positive and uplifting and honoring symbol," insisted Jessica Ramos, who has two children at the school.

But board members were mostly angry at what they called a lack of communication, saying that they were not brought into discussions with the Native American parent advisory groups.

"Let's be more careful moving forward when we make these controversial decisions to be more inclusive of the community and the board," said Melissa Snively, who signed a petition saying she was opposed to changing the name.

The Ramos family confronted the Native American speakers in the hallway after the board declined to take it up any further:

"You did great in doing a good job of erasing what was once honored, now you don't even have the opportunity to teach the community and the children," one of them said.

The superintendent said he would go back to all six principals to make sure they're still OK with instituting the new mascots before the school year starts, leaving even some Native American speakers feeling a bit empty.

"Why do we need to wait? Why do we need to be patient? Why do we need to take time?" asked council member Jaymie Perez. "If it was any other culture standing before you today, it would have been changed yesterday."

The district says they may leave up several murals at certain schools to afford teaching opportunities about the school's history.

It will cost $75,000 to make the changes, which the district says is well worth it.