PASO ROBLES — Rumors were flying this past week that the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent Chris Williams had suggested changing the colors and possibly the mascot of the Paso Robles High School Bearcats. The rumors were bolstered by an Aug. 26 Facebook post by local resident Lynne Newhouse.
“Calling all Bearcats!!!” the post from Newhouse read. “I have learned from several reliable sources that the superintendent has changed the color of the Bearcats from the Crimson and the White to the Cardinal Red and the White. He originally wanted black and white.”
Martha Clayton, Public Information Officer for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, has unequivocally confirmed that the claim is nothing more than a rumor, saying, “It is absolutely not true. Crimson and white, those are the bearcats and they shall remain crimson and white bearcats.There has been zero conversation about ever changing the colors, ever.”
Moments later Superintendent Chris Williams contacted the Paso Robles Press directly and stated, ”I thought I’d go on record for you because KPRL (radio station) was kind of stirring it up this morning. So unequivocally there has never been discussion of school color changes, mascot changes at any board meeting or any other discussion at all so ultimately wherever that source of information came from it has not ever been validated, no one has ever contacted the school district to my knowledge.”
He continued, “Secondly, the big piece is, where the black came in at, our students raise money on an annual basis for Make a Wish Foundation and selected black for their spirit shirts for the Homecoming Spirit Week, which they are doing again this year. The students pick whatever the theme is for that week through our leadership class with the purpose of raising money and awareness for the Make a Wish Foundation and to impact the lives of kids.”
And finally, Williams concluded, "There was also a rumor that I heard that Kevin Will reported that we’re going to become the Cougars, which honest to God, I have no idea where they come up with their news at... we have never had any discussion with our staff, our board, anything at all, so it’s unfortunate that any of that came up but we are pretty excited to continue what we’re doing for the kids, we love our Bearcats, love our crimson and will continue to be through and through.”
On Tuesday morning the Paso Robles Press received an email from KPRL’s Dick Mason stating that Chris Williams lied to the press and indeed did ask the board for the color changes, writing in said email, “Williams told the school board he wanted to change the school color from crimson to black. The board rejected it. That’s what I was told by a trustee.”
When asked who the trustee was Mason replied, “I don’t reveal my sources.”
When all seven members of the board were asked to confirm or deny whether the former was true, all of the board members with the exception of Dave Lambert, responded via email.
Board member Joan Summers replied, “Mr. Williams has never asked the board to change the school colors to black and white and the mascot from the Bearcats to Cougars. Dick Mason of KPRL is not telling the truth and continues to spread fake news about the district. A radio station has the moral and ethical responsibility to report accurate news to the community. There are so many positive things that are happening in our schools to report. I am very proud of our staff who work so hard to help our students be successful.”
In a phone conversation with Chris Bausch, Bausch had a recollection that could shed some light on where the rumors started:
“Yes, there was a discussion that took place at a Rotary lunch and it was not well received by members at the table,” Bausch said. “The coach’s shirts had been changed to black and there was a question as to whether or not there was more to come. So there was discussion, yes, (but) as far as it ever being a board item, no.”
As for the rumor about changing the mascot from Bearcats to Cougars — Bausch said with a laugh, ”We did talk about,’what the heck was a bearcat?,' (at the Rotary meeting) and Cougars came in there somewhere, so anecdotally yes, but formally? No.”
And then we heard from another board member, Joel Peterson, who said, “I can unequivocally say that Superintendent Chris Williams has never asked the school board about changing the school colors or school mascot at Paso Robles High School. That rumor has no truth to it. I’ve heard about this rumor over the past 24 hours and it is very concerning to me (that) this is even a subject. Our superintendent is dedicated to serving our students, improving education and enriching the lives of our children, not something as silly as changing colors. He’s been the biggest positive agent of change in the district in years and the successful results are tangible and evident. There’s a concerning trend here recently of people reporting complete mistruths in regards to our district and it needs to stop. The individuals need to check their facts, attend board meetings, walk our halls and see the positive changes this district has seen over the past three years.”
Board member Timothy Gearheart replied, “This seems to be the season for ridiculous assertions by people who should know better. THIS CHARGE IS ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT, as is Mr. Dick Williams (sic) of KPRL, whom I usually have had confidence to check his sources before making such claims. Even though ‘fake news’ like this is bantered around in some news media, I do believe that Mr. Mason of KPRL tries to check the validity of stories before broadcasting them, which begs the question, ‘Who is their source for this crazy story?’”
Dr. Kathleen Hall stated, “I have absolutely no idea why Mr. Dick Mason would make such a false claim, but I can tell you there is absolutely no truth to either of his statements. The claims would be funny if they were not so childish. Our colors as always are crimson and white and we are forever the Bearcats. We are fortunate to have a great school district; a high achieving student body, a hard working and dedicated staff and probably one of the finest School Superintendents in the State of California. I have no idea how such a rumor would start and it is unfortunate. KPRL has been a fine radio station but in this instance they owe Mr. Chris Williams an apology.”
When the Paso Robles Press informed Mason that six out of seven board members wholeheartedly denied the claim, with the exception being Lambert, Mason responded, “Well it was Lambert that said it. If you’re not going to talk to Lambert…” He was promptly reminded that the press had reached out to Lambert via phone and email and had yet to receive any response.
“I went to the meeting, I was there at the meeting. You weren’t. Okay?” Mason said. “They’ve got a transcript and if you want to you could go and gain access to the transcript but what it seems that, what this is all about, is that you’ve somehow got this agenda to make KPRL look bad and I think the truth is going to come out and if you guys want to continue being the mouthpiece for the school superintendent then so be it. I have no control over you guys.”
As for the sixth board member to respond, President Field Gibson, representing the board as a whole, stated in writing, “I can absolutely confirm that Chris Williams has never asked the Board to consider changing the high school colors or mascot,” Gibson said. “That simply has not happened. Unfortunately it appears to be yet another example of KPRL spreading false news to stir people up and make people angry for no real purpose. If Kevin Will, Pete Dakin, or Dick Mason of KPRL continue to assert this false news, perhaps they can present the board agenda where this was discussed. They will not be able to do so because it did not happen. We are a one high school town and regardless of whether we grew up here or moved here later on, or which elementary or middle school our kids attend or attended, we are all proud to be Bearcats.”
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