Webster Parish School Board OKs North Webster Knights
Webster Parish will lay claim next year to the Knights of North Webster High School. The collaborative effort among the students attending the four schools that will be consolidated next year has proven that you don’t need a round table to work together and to establish a sense of community – you just need the right attitude.
“And it was amazing to see (students) work, talk and create together,” Webster Parish School Board (WPSB) Secondary Supervisor Morris Busby said. “There was a wonderful atmosphere and there is no doubt they are going to get along.
“I met with the four principals that currently serve the four schools (Springhill, Shongaloo, Sarepta and Cotton Valley),”
Busby continued. “One of the requests was to work toward a new name, mascot and new colors.”
New colors will include black, purple and silver.
Busby said work shops were held so that equal representation of students was taken from all four schools who will attend the high school located in Springhill next year.
“The State executive director of Student Councils came in and did a workshop with the kids,” Busby said. “Nominations were taken from the students to develop a new school name. Then a ballot was developed from those nominations and sent to all four schools in grades 8 through 11.”
The process was repeated for mascot and school colors.
“The only perimeters we gave them was that no one school’s colors could be used entirely,” Busby said. “We let them pick and take it back to their student bodies for a vote.”
There was some opposition from Webster Parish Police Juror Steve Duggan who spoke to the board. His concerns focused on the cost to implement the changes.
“All of the sporting activities in the schools are self funded,” Duggan said. “The school board contributes no money to these organizations.
“We are concerned about how we are going to find the money to buy new uniforms for football and band,” he continued. “It is sort of an unfunded mandate that is being put on the schools.”
Duggan suggested leaving the mascots names and colors until schools and organizations can find a way to fund the changes.
He also said that the Springhill School Band received a matching grant three years ago from International Paper that allowed them to purchase $23,000 to $25,000 in uniforms. New football uniforms were also purchased. He said that to order replacements would cost approximately $25,000.
“By asking to change the colors and mascot, you basically ask the parents and community members that helped raise funds to buy these things, to just throw them away.” Duggan said, also noting the football and basketball teams’ funds are operating in the red and the band and baseball teams are nearly breaking even.
Duggan said organizations such as the Quarterback Club will continue to help raise money and support the teams, but the organization lacks the funding to implement the changes immediately.
WPSB President Charles Strong asked Duggan what he thought the stance of the other three schools (affected by the reconfiguration) might be.
“What consideration have you given to the other varsity athletic programs and their supporters at the other three campuses that will be joining (the Springhill campus)?” Strong asked. “(They) have made their own comparative investments at their schools.”
Duggan said he preferred to leave all the mascots in the four schools as they are.
WPSB Superintendent W.W. Butch Williams feels that the students are willing to accept the change and have a great outlook toward next school year.
“The kids loved it, and loved everything that happened (during the workshops),” Williams said. “They are excited about the new school, but the adults get involved in it. I feel like the adults create issues and that’s why there seems to be such a problem.”
Busby agreed the students are looking forward to the positive side of changes being made to the parish schools and communities, and that there could be potential negative effects if the students do not feel involved in the process.
“I really feel like if the board does not pursue name, color or mascot change, we are going to have a bigger headache than we thought existed, as far as these kids coming together,” Busby continued. “The students in the other three schools, who are coming in to Springhill, are going to think that they have really been slapped back.”
After nearly 45 minutes of discussion among the board and those speaking from the audience, the decision to make the changes to the school – not with a set time line but with a goal of implementing the changes as swiftly as possible – was made through an unopposed vote.
The junior high school name, mascot and colors are currently in development through the same process used to develop the Knights of North Webster Parish High School.