Southern Hancock schools need in unity in name as well as community

To the editor:

Southern Hancock schools’ plan to essentially create two new buildings next season — moving a middle school into its former home and turning the current middle school into an intermediate school — also presents a great opportunity to create a new, unified identity for the schools in the community.

This is why I am in support of the Southern Hancock school board’s consideration to name two buildings New Palestine Intermediate and Junior High School.

As the community has experienced exponential growth – with more to come – it has developed a common identity. When our youth compete against those from other communities, they do so under the New Palestine name.

With all of the district’s students coming together in the fifth grade, it makes sense to create a common identity. It makes little sense for our students to have to switch identities and be Bucks or another mascot through the eighth grade.

Rallying the schools and community around a single name and mascot will help create a sense of community cohesion and pride all the way from the elementary grades through the high school. It also creates a greater sense of connection among all of our buildings. I know how much my elementary-age sons look up to high school students, cheer for their teams and look forward to the day when they can be Dragons.

Being able to call themselves Dragons when they get to the fifth grade will go a long way in helping deepening a love of their school and a sense of school pride – not just in their specific building, but all schools in and representing New Palestine and the Southern Hancock community. That pride carries throughout a person’s educational journey through the intermediate, middle and high school levels.

New Palestine is currently an outlier in giving our middle school a different identity. Every other middle school in the Hoosier Heritage Conference carries the same name and mascot as its high school. Almost every other school district in central Indiana with one middle school feeding one high school has the same name and mascot as its high school.

To answer the inevitable about their location, yes, the two buildings are not physically located within the town of New Palestine, but the community has grown to the point where New Palestine is considered not to be just the town that centers on U.S. 52 but nearly all of the school district that spans Sugar Creek and Brandywine Townships.

It’s time to create a unified identity and brand in our community and give all of our students the opportunity to take pride in that identity as they join as one class in the fifth grade. It is wise, and overdue, for the New Palestine community to have one singular identity at the point all students come together in the same grade.

With fifth- through eighth-grade students all moving into new homes next year, this is the right time to create that singular, common identity that represents our entire community, that of the New Palestine Dragons.

Andrew Smith

New Palestine