Burlington High School and Rice Memorial High School principals have met to help unite the two schools, following a picture of a sign that was posted on social media during the Sept. 9 homecoming football game.
The image was widely circulated on social media and provoked a discussion about possible racial undertones. The sign was created by a Rice Memorial High School student. A Rice administrator saw the poster after it was brought into the game and told the student to put it away. The incident was not drawn to public focus until images were posted on Snapchat and Instagram.
Since then, the two principals have had been emailing back and forth, making phone calls and met in person at BHS on Wednesday, Sept. 28 for a tour. Rice Principal Laura Della Santa enjoyed visiting, seeing all the different buildings and meeting the teachers. The Aviation Technology program at the tech center was a highlight for her.
The principals refrained from answering questions regarding the incident, wishing to only focus on the positives.
Sister Laura Della Santa called the relationship between the two schools a positive one. Students participate in different activities together on a frequent basis.
“I think there is a lot of friendship between all of our students, Della Santa said. “I think there has always been a good relationship.”
BHS Principal Tracy Racicot, who was the tour guide on Wednesday, will be stopping by Rice in a few days to see the school for the first time. The visits and meeting are part of a greater goal to form a stronger bond between Rice and BHS.
Both principals are new to their roles this year.
“It gives us opportunity to build and really put the tone of community and positive outlook,” Racicot said. “We don’t have history that could influence how we move forward.”
She called the longtime rivalry “natural,” citing the geographical nature and comparing it to the Red Sox and Yankees.
“I think whenever there’s competitive sports, there’s the possibility of tension,” Racicot said. “I think that’s just the nature of competition.”
Della Santa agreed with her fellow principal.
“The rivalry can make things exciting,” she said. “There’s positive competition, and that’s what we strive for.”
Both principals stressed that they had spoken to those most affected and wanted to move forward.
“There’s so many positives and that’s what we’re about, bringing forward those positives,” Della Santa said.
Racicot said the growth opportunity as a result of the incident fit under the BHS graduation expectation of personal development. Rice has had discussions and is using the experience as a learning opportunity for students.
“We talk about social media and what just one snap of a picture can do,” Della Santa said. “Our students really learned that.”
Going forward, both leaders hope that something beneficial can come out of this.
“This gives us the opportunity to build intentional community,” Racicot said. “Often community is something that just happens and we don’t give it that much consideration.”