by Becky GINOS
FARMINGTON—Construction is well underway, the boundaries set, school colors and the mascot have been chosen – so why is a controversy still brewing?
Most people thought the issue of the new Farmington High mascot had been put to bed, but apparently the Phoenix is rising again. This time it’s not a resident with an online petition, it’s the Farmington mayor who is causing a ripple.
“I stood back for quite a while and didn’t make comment on the colors or mascot,” said Farmington Mayor James Talbot. “Then that petition came out with more than 3,200 signatures. Most are probably Farmington residents and kids who will be going to Farmington High School. They’re vested because they’re going to live it. Having had that many sign, I thought maybe we should look at it again.”
The controversy started a few months ago after one man suggested the plural of Phoenix could have a crude connotation and set up a petition to change the mascot. However, the school district stood by the name, having taken a student and parent poll with Phoenix garnering the most votes.
“I was getting a lot of emails about it and people would stop me casually and tell me they thought we should change the mascot,” said Talbot. “Close friends that I truly believe would not lead me wrong told me to change it. I was getting a lot of feedback that it needed to be changed. I thought ‘if it’s an issue to them, as mayor it’s my issue as well.’ Maybe I shouldn’t ignore this.”
Talbot said it came up a few times during meetings with Superintendent Reid Newey and Farmington High School Principal Richard Swanson but they said they didn’t want to change it.
“They said the kids are mature enough to make the decision,” he said. “But I suggested it might be wise not to leave any stone unturned and to put it back out there.”
Ultimately, after talking to city council members, Talbot decided to write a letter in the Farmington City newsletter expressing his concerns about the mascot. The newsletter went out to residents last week.
“I decided to do the article, not because Mayor Talbot or the council thought it ought to be done, but if it’s an issue we should change it,” he said. “From the first bell that rings to the last when a student starts school it should be a great experience. I had great pride in my high school and was proud of my mascot and colors. These are really impressionable years. We want kids to really, really be proud. If there’s a cloud when they open the doors it will prevent that. If there’s not, we’ll move forward.”
Chris Williams, Director of Communication & Operations for the district, said the issue is resolved. “We’re moving forward with the mascot being the Phoenix,” he said. “Principal Swanson sent out a letter to parents and the response was overwhelmingly positive by a ratio of 10-1 to keep it. The designs of the mascot have already been done and it’s in the works for uniforms, the basketball court and football field. We’re pretty far down the path, so to speak.”
In June 2017, the school board approved the name of the school and decided to allow the students to choose the mascot, said Williams. “They’ve stuck with that ever since. We can find no reason to change our mind,” he said. “The mascot is very legitimate. We’ve found several other entities that have used it. There are 16 British ships and five U.S. ships that are called the Phoenix. There are sports teams around the globe that use the Phoenix as their mascot. There was even a space probe named the Phoenix.”
However, Talbot believes it would be worthwhile to take another poll now that new information has surfaced. “If a resident called me about a particular intersection where the trees hung over the stop sign so that it was hard to see we would say that was a safety issue and we’d go out and look at that,” he said. “I’m concerned about the safety of the kids both verbally and physically. If something needs to be trimmed or changed we ought to do it.”
Talbot said he respects the district. “I’m not trying to be a school board member or the district, he said. “But as mayor of the city where the high school will be I’m bringing something to the forefront. It’s an emotional thing. If we’re going to make a change let’s do our best to do it before school starts. There may be costs, I understand that, but the school is going to be around for 100 years.”
The mayor is ready to accept what comes though. “If it stays the Phoenix I’ll be supportive,” he said. “I’ll work to make it the best school I can. This high school is going to be fabulous, second to none. I’m the biggest cheerleader.”