Mask debate ends potential mascot debate in Cambridge

[anvplayer video=”5092028″ station=”998132″]

A group of maskless protesters caused the Cambridge Central School District board to adjourn their meeting Wednesday night.

As NewsChannel 13 has been reporting, the district and community have been going back-and-forth about fighting the state to keep the Indians mascot. Last November, Education Commissioner Betty Rosa ordered the school to get rid of its ‘Indians’ name.

Wednesday’s meeting could have settled what action the board would take on a resolution, but a mask debate ended the meeting before it started.

A group of parents and community members refused to put on masks. Board President Jessica Ziehm asked them to put them on, but several dozen refused.

The board repeatedly let the group know that the governor’s mask mandate is still in place for schools, and said they had no choice but to comply. But the group would not mask up, so the board went into recess, then returned and adjourned the meeting.

“The overreach and the mandates, it’s practicing medicine without a license,” said Renee Mcevilly, a Cambridge resident who came to protest masking in school.

Mcevilly said she’s homeschooling her kids this year, but said she came because the masking issue was an important issue on which to take a stand.

“The mascot issue, it is what it is, and it’s been ongoing, and I believe that issue has really clouded a lot of what is the big issue,” she said, referring to issues and fears she said kids have about masking up in the classroom.

Wednesday, the school board would have voted on whether to hire a law firm out of Albany to fight the education commissioner, so they could keep the Indians mascot. A resolution outlined the potential for a legal appeal to the state’s order that they drop the mascot. The resolution calls the commissioner’s order “beyond the lawful authority of the commissioner.”

Several people who were at the meeting supporting the mascot vote were concerned the end of the meeting would disrupt the resolution’s passage.

“I absolutely support the parents that are here and want their children unmasked, nobody likes wearing the mask, I think they have a lot of valid points, it’s just unfortunate that they chose tonight to do their protest which inhibited the vote being able to happen,” said Dawn Case, a former district parent who was born and raised in Cambridge and came to support keeping the Indians’ mascot.

"There’s so much frustration in the community, there’s so much distrust amongst everybody, that I feel like it just continues to create bigger and bigger wedges between everyone, even people who are looking to get the same result in the end," she said.

District Communications Specialist Chris Crucetti said there would be another meeting virtually to get the vote done before a deadline to appeal the state’s order to drop the mascot.

“There is a deadline that the board is bound to, I believe it’s a four-month deadline, so the board has until March, so there is still time for that to take place, but the board plans to conduct all the business that it would have conducted tonight at the meeting virtually next week,” said Crucetti.

The board assured the crowd that the meeting would follow the same agenda.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story included video of an individual who was at the school board meeting to speak regarding the mascot issue, not the mask issue as originally reported.