Financing of the turf field and scoreboard at Oregon City's Pioneer Stadium may hang in the balance of controversial discussions over the return of the high school's mascot.
Mandy Philpott, the newly elected school board chair, pushed for the Pioneer Pete proposal along with Mike Canchola, the board's newly elected vice-chair, reigniting previous tensions among the newly elected, four-member majority who took office this summer and the three members elected in 2019. Canchola's assertion that Pioneer Stadium is property of Oregon City High School was later contradicted by the superintendent.
"That stadium has been part of the high school and continues to be part of the high school because we never spent the money when we built the new high school for a high school track," Canchola said.
Interim Superintendent Kyle Laier said that Oregon City High School's Pioneer Pete mascot deliberately wasn't placed on the Pioneer Stadium field in part because of its regular use by several other schools, including Clackamas Community College and the Clackamas Academy of Industrial Sciences.
"The district has viewed it as a community stadium, and that was something important we heard from the community as we were getting ready for the 2018 bond effort," Laier said.
During their meeting in September, School Board members ended up tabling the proposal in a 6-1 vote, with Canchola dissenting, but they directed district staff to determine the feasibility of installing Pioneer Pete and return to the discussion at a future board meeting, possibly on Oct. 11. District officials have hired a company to research the feasibility of the installation, but a district spokesperson said that company has not yet provided a report.
Laier said Pioneer Pete was mistakenly ordered and briefly installed in opposition to the direction of a previous set of board members. Fundraising for Pioneer Stadium that is falling short of expectations may continue to depend on the community perception of the stadium as a community asset, not just for the high school.
"We knew that that was going to have to be paid for through sponsorships and others, and that is an area we will have to continue looking at, because we have not met our goals in funding that through the community," Laier said.
OC School Board member Pamela White said she didn't put much stock in hundreds of people advocating for the use of Pioneer Pete at Pioneer Stadium when there are thousands of students in the district. New board members worked to generate interest in the proposal, while the veteran board members said they were surprised by the addition of a Pioneer Pete agenda item three days before their meeting.
"It's interesting to me that so many people knew that this was going to happen," White said.
District officials noted several other potential issues with the installing Pioneer Pete at the stadium:
1. Pioneer Pete's image on the field looks familiar to Oregon City residents when viewed directly from above, but when viewed from most of the seats in Pioneer Stadium, Pioneer Pete's image becomes flattened and much less distinguishable.
2. Pioneer Pete is often pictured holding a gun or a knife, weapons common to pioneers of the 19th century, but prohibited for use by students in contemporary educational settings.
3. When placed on the field, Pioneer Pete could look "like he's in jail" because of the yard lines that extend across or close to his figure. In consultation with the Oregon School Activities Association, the school district might be able to remove lines at the 50-yard line and the two 45-yard lines.
4. It's unknown how much it will cost to install Pioneer Pete on the turf field or what condition he's in after years in storage. District officials said the cost to reinstall would likely be over $10,000.
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