A community coiled, and a proposed mascot for Fort Mill’s third high school bit the dust. At least for now.
The Fort Mill School Board voted 3-3, with member Michele Branning abstaining, on whether to chose Rattlers as the new mascot for the coming Catawba Ridge High School. Meaning it didn’t pass. No clear alternative emerged as the board discussed the mascot at length Monday night.
A survey of more than 1,300 people brought Rattlers with the Vegas gold and green color scheme. Online comments to a recent Fort Mill Times article on the final recommendation and other feedback overwhelmed some board members, they said.
“I’m getting a lot of feedback from the public on this,” said board member Tom Audette, who with members Scott Frattaroli and Wayne Bouldin voted against going with Rattlers. “The mascot, it’s huge. There’s a lot, a lot, of people rebelling against this.”
Members Kristy Spears, Patrick White and Diane Dasher voted in favor. Spears said she received 76 emails Monday alone, but as a member of the group that came up with Rattlers she supported it as the best option. She did say she understands there was considerable negative feedback, but also students and others excited about the snake concept.
“We saw some negative feedback from that,” she said. “There was definitely some reaction to the snake concept from the beginning.”
Other names tossed out throughout the process include War Birds, Rapids, Catamounts and Copperheads. Catamounts was closest to a second choice among the group recommending Rattlers.
District officials say it isn’t critical a decision that needs to be made in coming days, but it is important. It will help with color schemes and other elements of designing the new school. Which is happening now.
Frattaroli has introduced four prior mascots when, as a staff member or principal, he helped open district elementary schools. He didn’t like the different pronunciations of Rattlers, and how it seemed like a “compromise” to the Copperheads mascot proposed by students. Frattaroli said he understands some negative feedback almost always is to be expected, but reactions in the past were “nothing like this.”
“The top four, none of them were Rattlers,” he said. “It evolved to that.”
Lisa McCarley, a Fort Mill Town Council member who spoke only as a parent Monday, said she consistently supported the school board and school efforts over a lifetime in Fort Mill. But she, like others, had concerns with Rattlers.
“It’s very hard for me to run an athletic booster club with a mascot that you can’t pronounce the name consistently,” she said.
So the question becomes, what next? The board discussed whether to take the top several names that didn’t make the cut and get more feedback on them, or open the process again entirely. Then, on whether to include Rattlers in the process.
Tommy Schmolze, assistant superintendent of administration and student services who presented the Ratttlers mascot, said the district should be wary of a total popularity contest. As early questioning in the Catawba Ridge process itself showed.
“We had a lot of llamas,” he said. “We had a ton of llamas. We had flaming doughnut holes that got 58 votes, or whatever. A vote may not be the way to go.”
Yet enough board members said, for now, the response to Rattlers simply was too strong.
Now, they have to figure a way of naming another mascot.
“I don’t know of a good plan to do anything different,” Bouldin said.