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Nome Public Schools Debate New Mascot Ahead of October Election

The Nome-Beltz Nanooks won the Nome Classic Invitational cross country meet this past weekend. Photo: Laura Kraegel, KNOM.

With Nome’s October election looming, last Tuesday marked the school board’s final meeting in its current form. Board president Betsy Brennan and board member Paula Davis have both decided not to run for re-election.

Nancy Mendenhall and John Tidwell are competing for Brennan’s spot at Seat C, while Keith Conger is running unopposed for Davis’ position at Seat D.

While new members will be sworn in next month, there’s already a fresh face on the school board. Samuel Cross is student body president at Nome-Beltz Jr./Sr. High School. He joined Tuesday’s meeting as a student representative.

“At these meetings in the future, I’ll be representing Student Council and also the student body in general,” Cross said. “It’s really important for the youth to become involved and learn from others around them.”

The high school senior will deliver reports on issues affecting the school and cast an advisory vote on action items coming before the board. Cross’ fellow board members assured him that his official nameplate is on its way.

Official names were also in the spotlight as the board continues to mull over the elementary school mascot. In August, principal Kevin Theonnes suggested changing the mascot from the wolverine to something more similar to the Nome-Beltz Nanooks.

At the elementary school’s recent open house, students, parents, and staff members voted on the proposed replacement — the Nanauyaat, which mean little Nanooks or polar bear cubs in Iñupiaq. Superintendent Shawn Arnold said 140 voted in favor of the new mascot, while 70 voted against it. Despite the wide margin, Arnold said the district is still debating the change to make sure the right decision is made.

“Sometimes, the mascots at schools — they’re forgotten about. But it does kind of help with school spirit and school pride,” Arnold said. “And we want to make it so kids are proud when they come to school, regardless of which campus it’s at — up at Beltz or down here at Nome Elementary. It’s a small thing and it’s a small change, but it can have a big impact.”

During the meeting, the school board also recognized PTA president Julie Kelso with its Partner in Education Award, approved three teacher contracts, and discussed the need for long-term substitutes. The current board will convene for one more work session later this month before welcoming new members on Oct. 19.