UPDATE: Albany School District dumps "Rebels"

The student body will pick a new name by the end of the school year.

Posted: Apr. 23, 2018 8:15 PM
Updated: Apr. 23, 2018 11:50 PM

UPDATE: The Albany School District has decided to drop the "Rebels" as its mascot.

Officials say the school board on Monday gave the superintendent and principal the authority to make the decision.

The student body will pick a new nickname by the end of the school year which will take effect in the fall.

ALBANY, Ore. -- After nearly 50 years, a school in Albany could be changing its mascot.

There's a meeting Monday night to talk about whether the Rebels should continue to represent South Albany High School.

Some said it's part of the school's history, others said it's time for a new mascot that's more inclusive.

"It's time to change the mascot and to move away from the ties that the mascot has had with the Confederacy," said Sam Sachs, who  graduated from South Albany High in 1986.

"I scored the winning touchdown against West Albany my junior year, 7-6. After the game, I ran around the field with the Confederate flag...had no idea the significance of what that flag meant to communities, athletes, parents, and people of color," said Sachs.

Instead of touchdowns, he now runs a non-profit called The No Hate Zone focused on ending hate and racism in Oregon. He's hoping the district will remove the Rebels from his school.

Some current students said they'd like their mascot to stay: "I feel like it's kind of a pride thing...and if we take that away, it's kind of taking our pride away from a lot of students here," said Jordan Park-Smith, Junior at South Albany High.

The school was built in 1970 to meet the demands of a growing community. Before that, there was only one high school in the area called  Albany Union High School (which is now known as West Albany High).

Since they formed a new school, district officials said South Albany High decided to call themselves the Rebels and use the Confederate flag, along with the image of a Confederate soldier.

That flag and soldier are no longer being used but because of the mascot's ties to it, the Principal started holding community meetings last year to talk about changing it.

"Lots of wonderful things at that school and we didn't want people thinking that the only thing about that school to remember is the nickname," said Jim Haggart, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent of the Greater Albany Public School District. 

They said they want a mascot that represents all of the great things happening there.

"The graduation rate is well above the state average. The drop out rate is much better than the state average. Both those rates are very, very good...better than state average for students of color. The school has also implemented an AVID program," said Haggart.

Haggart said South Albany High also has accomplished sports teams and clubs. H said if they choose to move forward with a new mascot, several school items (such as jerseys) will have to go. He said that'll cost them a little more than $100,000.

"It's a substantial cost but that's not the real driver here. The real driver is, what's the right thing to do?" said Haggart. 

"This is an opportunity for the school to create a different history, a different legacy," said Sachs. 

Haggart said there has not been any talks yet on what the new mascot would be, if they choose to move forward with this.

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