BOSTON – Who wants to be a millionaire? Not most students at a school in one upscale Massachusetts town.
While arguments over whether to keep or drop Native American-themed high school mascots have divided communities across the U.S., Lenox Memorial Middle and High School is having a nickname debate of a more peculiar kind.
Students voted by a 2-to-1 margin at the end of the school year that they would like to retire their Millionaires mascot because it's divisive, leads to bullying from athletes at rival schools and doesn't reflect the economics of the community.
The nickname dates to the 1950s, when a local sportswriter used it to describe the school's athletes. It refers to "cottagers," wealthy out-of-towners who owned second homes in the picturesque community in the Berkshire Mountains. The affluent western Massachusetts town includes Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which plays outdoor concerts to people who picnic on manicured lawns.
"The term Millionaires has become associated with the top 1 percent of our country, which excludes and burdens a very large majority of the population and currently plays a large role in the division of the United States," student council member Julie Monteleone told the school committee at a recent meeting, according to The Berkshire Eagle newspaper.
The effort to change the nickname has sparked debate in the town of about 6,000 and on the "You Know You're From Lenox If ..." Facebook page, where most people are in favor of keeping the mascot.
While acknowledging that the student council members were "articulate, knowledgeable and respectful," they're way off base, school committee member Francie Sorrentino said.
Four generations of Sorrentino's family have graduated from Lenox Memorial, and she considers herself working class. A proud member of the class of 1977, she's never been offended by being called a Millionaire.
"Some people say it's snobbish, but that's not true," she said. "This is a wonderful community and nobody is treated differently whether they're rich, middle class or poor."
School Superintendent Tim Lee included a question about a mascot change on the district's annual strategic planning survey that's sent to everyone in town, as well as faculty and staff. Lee says he has no stance on the mascot either way, and will let the process play out.
Sorrentino, noting that there have been several efforts to change the mascot in the past, would like to see the issue go to a townwide referendum.
"Some people wanted to change it to Lions a few years ago," she said. "Who's ever seen a lion in Lenox?"