Consolidation — even if logical and necessary — isn’t easy for anyone.
We’ll give this much to the people loyal to the schools in Ashland and Lineville: The merging of traditional rivals Clay County High and Lineville High is an emotional, deeply personal issue that may be hard to truly comprehend unless you’re in the middle of it, Panthers on one side, Aggies on the other. It’s understandable that people are taking this as the serious, heartfelt issue that it is.
Last week, emotions reached a slow boil when the Clay County School Board unanimously selected the new, yet-unnamed school’s colors and mascot. The school’s athletic teams will wear red, white and blue, and they’ll be called the Volunteers.
A few points: While patriotic color schemes are admirable, they’re not terribly inventive; something more original or unique might have been better. And though the new school will share the Volunteers mascot with another Alabama school, Jefferson Davis High in Montgomery, at least it carries some value in Clay County, which, according to that county’s Chamber of Commerce, is referred to as the “volunteer county of Alabama” in part because of residents’ willingness to chip in and help when needed.
All of which are minor points, perhaps.
What isn’t minor is that the slow boil bubbled up because (a.) consolidation is, by in large, an upheaval of traditions and educational patterns that span generations, and (b.) the school board didn’t choose the colors or mascot suggestions that a hand-picked group of students from Ashland and Lineville provided.
At the request of the board, the group of 14 students selected three color schemes and three mascots. Students at Clay County and Lineville voted on those selections; “Longhorns” was the winning mascot, burnt orange, black and white was the winning color scheme.
Problem is, too many Clay County residents thought the students’ picks were dreadful. “Everybody said it looked like Halloween,” board member Denise McDonald told The Star. State Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, apparently didn’t approve of the students’ selection, either.
So students who were asked to be involved in a quasi-democratic process to develop the visual and athletic images of their new school were told, in essence: Be involved, but realize that your say isn’t really as important as you think it is. Adults — and politicians — still run the show.
The better option for the Clay County School Board would have been to develop a list of approved colors and mascots, and then let the students make the selections. That way, everyone’s involved and everything’s fair.
Remember, this new school has no name. Countless decisions about staffing and other matters still have to be resolved. Emotions may boil up again. If so, let’s hope they won’t derail the positive feeling that comes with birthing a new school for a worthy community.