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Contentious public comment over Marfa Shorthorn logo redesign pushes school board to table decision on rebranding

Marfa Shorthorns

It was branding cattle of a different kind in Marfa on Tuesday night.

The trustees of the Marfa ISD school board held a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss website rebranding. School board meetings are often sparsely attended by the public, but this meeting played to a packed house.

The debate over updating the school logo, the head of a shorthorn bull, became especially heated over the past week. The talk was stoked by social media discussion and letters to the editor of the Big Bend Sentinel, Robert Halpern, who is also the school board president. New designs for the classic shorthorn bull had been prepared by Marfa graphic designer Buck Johnston, who was in attendance.

At the meeting, the trustees got an earful. Fourteen residents spoke in favor of the current logo, which was hand-drawn by Sammy Garcia, a student who died in 1979. His drawing was based on the cover of the 1947 Shorthorn student yearbook. Since that time, many versions of the logo have been used. One of the goals of the current administration was to bring more uniformity to school branding.

Sammy's nephew, John Michael Fierro, class of 2009, opened the public comment section. He cited remarks on Facebook, which had been the source of contention over the past week. Mando Garcia, Sammy's father, in a strongly worded statement, warned that the school board trustees were risking their re-elections by seeking a redesign. Lucy Garcia, Sammy's mother, offered documentation claiming to show that the current icon was the "official school logo."

One of the featured speakers was Carl Robinson, a former superintendent, trustee, and principal, who graduated with the class of 1949. The school cafeteria is named after him. Robinson recalled how this logo was prominently featured in Hunter Gym during its remodeling in 1984. He addressed the school board, saying, "you're not obligated not to change it."

Other speakers were Tita Nunez, a former teacher; Bailey Walker, a current student; Gabby Catano, a 2002 graduate; and Brenda Garcia, Sammy's sister. Sara Vasquez called the rebranding a "low," while Janie Walker offered that the logo could be "cleaned up," but shouldn't be changed.

The board tabled its decision until a later date.

In other business, the school board approved the sale of the Vo. Ag. building to Neil Chavigny, a resident of Marfa and Marathon.

The board appointed Katherine Shaughnessy Michael to the trustee seat vacated by Zach Moerbe, who is leaving the district. Cosme Roman made the motion to appoint Shaughnessy to the 11-month position, which the board approved in a 6-0 vote. Ironically, Moerbe had narrowly defeated Shaughnessy in her bid for re-election in 2012. There were 6 candidates for the seat, who all spoke at the meeting.

Former KRTS/KXWT News Director