Students at Powell Middle say the conquistador motif is boring, despite its historical connection. They want to become panthers.
BROOKSVILLE - Visitors who look up as they enter Powell Middle School come face to face with the big head of a Spanish conquistador.
He is the Powell Middle School Explorer. And soon, he may be out of a job.
It seems that the old Spaniard isn't connecting with the younger generation. And students are clamoring to make the bearded old guy with the red feather poking from his helmet walk the plank.
In his place, they want some sort of varmint who might do more to strike fear in the hearts of Powell's opponents on the athletic field. The leading candidates are the panther or the puma.
Powell's School Advisory Council - a group of parents, teachers, students and others with a stake in the school - meets today to finalize a survey that will be sent out to students to settle the Explorer's fate once and for all.
Students will be asked if they want to dump "Explorers" in favor of the aforementioned members of the cat family. To rising eighth grader Nicole Schnackenberg, this is a much-needed change.
"Explorers is boring," she said. "Every other school has some kind of animal and Explorer is boring."
Nicole's mother, Kathy Schnackenberg, said she hears the same sentiments from the kids in the lunch line as she performs her duties as a cafeteria worker. The same is true of Beth Varn, a teacher who works with the student government. "They just didn't like the Explorer," Varn said.
Powell's new principal Michael Ransaw is putting his stamp on lots of aspects of life at Powell. But he says changing the name wasn't his idea.
Students came to him asking for the overthrow of the Explorer, and some asked that the panther be added to the choices, Ransaw said. So he proposed the idea to the School Advisory Council.
Factoring into the switch is Spring Hill Elementary, which feeds students into Powell Middle and already has a panther logo.
None of this pleases Ken Bonfield, who was Powell's first principal back in 1984 and was personally responsible for choosing the Explorer mascot.
"Explorers" has ties to local history - the exploration of the area by Hernando de Soto.
"With me being an old history teacher, I knew that Hernando County had been named for an explorer," Bonfield said.
And, to Bonfield, a name like panthers seems pretty boring, given that it is so common. "That's an original name, isn't it?" he said, with notable sarcasm.
Even so, Nicole Schnackenberg, whose eighth grade class will soon assume leadership of the school, isn't impressed. She says that a panther or some other animal with an attitude will make for a much better mascot costume than some old sailor with a funny hat.
"You can't have a school mascot because nobody is going to dress up like an explorer," she said.
- Times staff writer Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to email@example.com