Meeting set to discuss Red Storm uniforms
SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake Central School District Board of Education set a special meeting on Jan. 11 to discuss the donation of uniforms for the varsity baseball team.
The board will hold the meeting to hear from the public and discuss the donation from alumni Neil Fortier, after Superintendent Diane Fox rejected it, saying the uniforms do not meet color specifications.
“We’re still getting a lot of information from the public, they’re still weighing in,” Fox said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I have some information I am also gathering, so we’ll get that first. The baseball season isn’t until April so let’s put all our information on the table and discuss it once we have it all.”
The donated uniforms have some yellow in addition to the school colors of red and white and specifications require uniforms to be red and white, with allowance for some blacks and grays, Fox said. She cited a 2001 resolution, which retired the mascot and name, requested the district community to develop replacements and retained the school colors of red and white.
“There is no yellow in any of our uniforms that have been purchased since the decision was made to move from Redskin to Red Storm,” Fox said. “So the uniform pictures came to me, as did some information, that said the yellow was required to be part of the uniforms in order for the uniforms to be donated because it was paying homage to players in the past, which made the connection back to the Redskin nickname.
“Every uniform on every students’ body in this district right now is purchased by our past athletic director and every uniform has red, white, and some black and some gray,” Fox said. “We have an unwritten, but obviously understood policy that our uniforms are white and red, not yellow.”
Board president Clyde Baker argued that the 2001 resolution does not work as justification for the rejection as the school has utilized black and gray in uniforms.
“You’re quoting (this resolution) that says we have red and white only and we don’t have red and white only, we have black,” Baker said. “If you’re quoting this, this says red and white and we’re not following it, so you can’t quote it because it’s not legitimate. The unwritten (policy) I don’t know where that came from because I’ve never seen it and I’ve never had a discussion on it.”
“At this point right now, we have the option to open the decision back up again, if you want to do that,” he said. “That’s why we’re having a discussion and then we’ll put it on the agenda for the next meeting, have a further discussion and get more information. The quick read I just did of this resolution doesn’t give (Diane Fox) or (athletic director) Eric (Bennett (the right to reject it, the way I read this, so that has to be interpreted, too.”
Board member Jeremy Evans added that the board should discuss implementing a policy that would set specifications for uniforms going forward.
“Now is the time for us to put this in the proper format with the proper grammar so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
The board was in agreement that the resolution passed at the December meeting approving the uniforms on the condition they met school specifications was poorly handled. Baker said “procedurally the board screwed up.”
“The way the resolution was written was ‘the high school baseball team matching all colors and styles’ which is very ambiguous and we should have had it cleaner,” he said. “The way this resolution is written doesn’t work. How we handled it, how we screwed up, approving it in the first place with this wording, we’ll have to discuss for ourselves. It doesn’t sound like it followed the policy, so we shouldn’t have done this in the first place.”
Fox said the board had approved the donation at the December meeting without information on the uniforms because they felt they were under time constraints.
“At our first December meeting, Mr. Farmer, came for the public comment portion of the meeting and brought forth, among other things, that there was a donor who wished to remain nameless that would like to donate uniforms for the baseball team,” she said. “Our policy is that when things come through public comment period we don’t act right away but I think we as a board felt like a decision had to be made right away.
“I think the board was a little uncomfortable with that because there was no other information other than someone who we didn’t know was making a donation to the district,” Fox said. “We had no parameters about what the uniforms looked like or where they were coming from.”
As part of the December resolution, the board gave Fox the authority to make final approval on the uniforms.
“I didn’t choose to make the decision, it was given to me,” Fox said. “I was directed to respond to these. I didn’t choose to, I didn’t say ‘oh, I’m going to usurp the board’s decision.’ The board instructed me at the meeting, it was clear at the meeting or at least I walked away from the meeting clearly understanding the board had put it back in my lap to make the final decisions.”
Board vice president Aurora White, who did not attend the December meeting, said the board should be the only entity with that authority.
“We should have a discussion as a board whether we’re going to reject it. It should be on this level and it should not be left on the level it was handled,” she said.
Fortier is a 1996 Saranac Lake High School graduate and former three-sport athlete who currently works as senior director for corporate partnerships for the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team. He tried to make the anonymous donation of both home, away and alternative jerseys as well as hats and pants which he says is worth approximately $15,000 on the retail market.
Fortier said the hats are either on their way or already at the school, the pants have not been manufactured, and the jerseys are being held at Majestic.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave Neil Fortier’s first name as Nick.)