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Critics: Missile misses mark in school d cor

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Plans call for suspending the 1,000-pound, 26-foot deactivated missile, which is at G&R Welding in Pandora, in the lobby of the $12.6 million school that is under construction.

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PANDORA, Ohio - Call it a rocket. Paint it up like a rocket. To some people, it still will be a missile.

Some residents of the Pandora-Gilboa Local school district are upset about a plan to hang a deactivated, 26-foot missile in the lobby of this Putnam County district's new school.

“It seems to be very contradictory with all of our efforts to teach our kids in our schools in this post-Columbine era to resolve conflict constructively and then we hang in our lobby this symbol of mankind's inability to resolve conflict constructively,” said the Rev. John Dey, pastor of Grace Mennonite Church. “We tell our kids not to bring weapons to school and then we hang a retired weapon in our school. It's very inconsistent.”

Mr. Dey and other residents took their concerns about the missile to the school board this week. While some suggested the missile might be better placed outside by the athletic fields, tentative plans call for suspending the missile in the lobby of the $12.6 million school under construction here.

Several residents defended the use of the missile as a mascot to represent the school's teams, the Rockets. Its use as a military weapon cannot be overlooked, they said, but it symbolizes the fight for freedom all citizens enjoy.

With Superintendent Joanne Kerekes' permission, a resident of the district acquired the missile earlier this year through his uncle, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. Ms. Kerekes did not return phone calls yesterday.

The missile arrived at Rex Ketzenbarger's sandblasting business east of town a few months ago. Mr. Ketzenbarger said he was not involved in bringing the missile to Pandora but offered to clean it up and paint it. “It sits right along the road. Most people think it's kind of neat,” Mr. Ketzenbarger said.

But Mr. Dey said that when his sons, ages 10, 6, and 4, saw the missile, they couldn't imagine what it was doing there. “The middle one expressed concern about what it might be used for.”

Mr. Dey said he is not opposed to having Rockets as a nickname. His high school in Rochester, Minn., had the same mascot, but its logo looked like an Apollo mission rocket and the school's theme was “Fly farther, soar higher.”

“One of the things I like about the rocket image as a symbolic image or mascot is the fact that it does not lend itself to the conquest motif,” he said. “When you think of a rocket, you think of space exploration. It doesn't lend itself to the idea of conquering or slaying our opponents.”

He fears that would change if a 1,000-pound missile greeted students every morning. “Their hope is they'll kind of baptize it as a rocket and it won't have any impact on school spirit or attitude and maybe it won't, but I still think it's a threat to the makeup of the school, the character and spirit of the school,” Mr. Dey said.

Tim Basinger, president of the Pandora-Gilboa school board, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The only other high school in northwest Ohio or southeast Michigan that calls its team the Rockets is Oak Harbor High School 25 miles east of Toledo. There, Principal Karla Spangler said the 20-foot rocket perched outside the football field is just part of the scenery.

“This rocket was at the junior high when the junior high was the high school, so it's been around a long time,” Ms. Spangler said. “It's just a part of the place.”

The University of Toledo, whose teams are also called the Rockets, has a rocket outside its football stadium.

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