Franklin High to be the Quakers no more
Franklin High School will have a new mascot, following a unanimous vote by the Portland Public Schools board on a long-running parent-initiated complaint.
The Quakers nickname and mascot for the Southeast Portland school now violates a district naming policy revised and approved April 12, which forbids the naming of school after a religious group or individual.
The policy revision was in response to a growing movement at Franklin High School against the name. The effort was spearheaded by Franklin parent Mia Pisano, who is a member of the Quaker faith. She joined several others in bringing a formal complaint to the district, which was resolved with the newly approved board resolution to enter into a year-long process to choose a new name.
In board testimony May 8, Pisano said this was not about any one person's hurt feelings but rather about the responsibility of the district to root out systemic discrimination.
Pisano noted that during the recent major renovation of Franklin High School, part of the gym floor was repurposed as a cafeteria floor with the Quaker name prominently displayed.
"The result is that every day without knowing or thinking or intending to, students are literally walking on the name of a religious group," Pisano said. "No religion belongs on the cafeteria floor."
Lisa Zuniga, another Franklin parent, joined with Pisano's efforts in 2014 and will be head of the school's parent-teacher-student association (PTSA) next school year.
After the modernization of the building, Zuniga said, "the time is right for the modernization of our mascot."
Susie Silva-Strommer led the PTSA during a school-wide discussion of the name-change in 2016. There was one unanimous vote at a well-attended meeting in September of that year and another overwhelmingly positive vote in October to change the school nickname, Silva-Strommer said.
Board members likewise thought the name was due for a change, recalling similar updates at their schools.
School board member Paul Anthony said when he went to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, the mascot was the Fighting Missionaries.
"And — I'm not making it up — the athletic chant was: 'Missionaries, Missionaries, we're on top."
The college's mascot was later changed to the Blues, after the nearby mountains.
Board chair Julia Brim-Edwards praised the activists for not letting the "grind of the large institution deter you from insisting on the school district doing the right thing." The complaint has gone through several iterations in recent years.
Brim-Edwards represents the zone where Franklin sits. "Tradition doesn't trump doing the right thing," she said. "It's time for a new chapter in Southeast Portland and as a Southeast Portland community member, I'm excited for the opportunity the community has to shape its new identity."
According to school board member Mike Rosen, the last time the district changed a school name was the 1988 Cleveland High School change of its mascot from the Indians to the Warriors.
The board will hear from district staff on a plan for organizing the renaming process at the May 22 regular meeting.