At the end of Monday’s regular school board meeting, School Board member Mary Mello offered a public apology to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe and specifically to the Teton Family and Randy’L Teton, the public affairs manager for the Fort Hall Business Council.

“I personally would like to be on record for sitting silent last week when the Shoshone-Bannock tribe was disrespected, and the Teton Family was disrespected and Randy’L Teton was disrespected. I apologize for sitting silent,” said Mello.

The July 30 meeting was a working session hosted by the Teton School Board that was wrought with anger and argument over the school board’s July 16 decision to retire the Redskin name from Teton High School. During the meeting, a Civil Right Petition was presented to the board that included 52 signatures asking that the board reverse its decision an implement curriculum that would support the use of the name Redskin.

Mello said that much of the July 30 meeting was disrespectful and pointed to Robert's Rules of Order that could help support the board while they navigated difficult meetings. She reminded board members that it is the board who makes a decisions as team and while decisions are a majority vote, the vote should be respected by all board members.

“These are things I need to work on, and I’m not placing blame. After the last meeting, it felt chaotic and not productive from my point of view,” she said.

She asked that a letter submitted to the board and sent to high school principal Sam Zogg from the National Congress of American Indians be entered into the public board packet that evening as well and wondered why it wasn’t included before the start of the meeting.

The letter read, “The board’s vote to choose respect for Native people is not going unnoticed and deserves to be celebrated, for it represents a powerful example of the rapidly growing movement among schools to stand on the right side of history on this issue.”

School board member Jake Kunz also acknowledged that the July 30 meeting was difficult and he asked at what point does the school board move forward with the decision to retire the mascot.

“Why keep opening this can of worms,” Kunz said of hosting meetings that end in stalemates. “We, as a board, we have to take responsibly and move forward. I’m all about listening to people, (but) I’m interested in listening proactively.”

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 19 at 6 p.m. at the Driggs Elementary School.

Jeannette Boner

Teton Valley News