Storm comes to Sleepy Eye

School board oks mascot change

SLEEPY EYE — By a 6-1 vote Wednesday, the District 84 Board of Education approved changing the school mascot from Indians to Storm Wednesday.

Board member Joleen Dittbenner cast the dissenting vote following a motion by Brian Nelson, seconded by Casey Coulson to accept the storm mascot board members favored 4-3 over the Bearcats. The nickname Phoenix was also considered by the board.

Earlier in the meeting, Dittbenner said she opposed the mascot change to Storm, saying students should decide the mascot name change.

Superintendent John Cselozszki said the Storm mascot will be created by an artist and he will report back to the board on it later this year.

Last month, English teacher and mascot committee member Caitlyn Pietig said a survey showed 97% of students favored changing the mascot name to Bearcats. Pietig said school staff were divided on the mascot name change.

She said 55 mascot names were submitted for committee consideration including Lakers, prairie wolves, wildcats, wolverines, sturgeon, owls, orioles, Bearcats, lions, ravens, sunsets, dragons and legends, to name a few.

Legislation that became law last year banned Minnesota school mascots from depicting or referring to American Indian tribes prior to September 2025.

Cselovszki said Senate File 3478 would provide replacement grants for public schools authorization and appropriation for American Indian mascot removal.

The bill would provide grant funds for necessary costs to remove and replace American Indian mascots used on school facilities such as a school building facade, gym floor, athletic field or school signage. Funds may not be used to costs including uniforms or stationery.

“I hope to get legislative support for $500,000 to recover our cost. There is no companion bill in the Minnesota House. I’m not sure how we would pay for this unfunded mandate,” Cselovszki said.

Also at the meeting, the board unanimously approved action items including a community survey proposal by School Perceptions, an independent education research firm.

School Perceptions Project Manager Daren Sievers of Lake City presented meeting information on Zoom regarding a proposed city/school facility project idea approved by the board last month. The Sleepy Eye City Council unanimously approved spending up to $5,000 for half of the survey costs Tuesday.

“People are more likely to support a (project) plan if they understand it. Our survey would ask opinions by random sampling via booklets mailed to school district taxpayers and through online information.

Sievers said an eight-week survey process would ask respondents their age but not their name and their interest level in the facility project.

“Our survey data matched what happened at the (voting) polls,” Sievers said about previous projects his company worked with.

“I feel good after meeting with him (Sievers). The City supports it. We need to know what the public thinks. This data is what we’re looking for,” Cselovszki said.


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