Santa Maria High School District hires consultant for new logo to replace controversial ship | School zone


After deciding to drop its ship logo, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School School District School Board hired a consultant at a cost of no more than $75,000 to create a replacement.

On Wednesday evening, the board of directors unanimously agreed to hire Zeste Consulting, a company based in Studio City.

In September, the council responded to calls from some members of the community to discard the image of the ship, linked to Christopher Columbus. Speakers raised concerns about the explorer’s abuse of indigenous peoples.

At the time, the board directed staff to come back with a process and timeline to replace the logo, which led to the proposal to hire the consultant. The district expects it will take approximately five months to create a motto, logo and guidelines for use.

Board member Dominick Palera said the company would do more than design a logo.

“It’s about identifying what this district means and then branding it so that everyone in this community feels really good about it, like this council feels,” Palera said.

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The school district‘s website includes the logo of the ship the school board wants to replace. (Screenshot )

“I think it’s money well spent and I like the proposal and support it 100 per cent,” he added.

“I’m excited to move forward with this process,” board member Amy Lopez said, adding that the image should be culturally appropriate.

During last week’s meeting, board members reiterated their belief that students should be involved in the process along with other stakeholders.

“We really want to involve all stakeholders,” DeBonis said. “It will be a much better process if we do. It would be negligent if we don’t.”

After researching the story, district staff determined that the origin of the district’s logo remained vague and may have come from past leaders who decided decades ago to copy the city, according to school district research.

In 1971, the City Council adopted the ship as its logo, and today it can be found around City Hall, on city vehicles and police badges, and as decorative tiles on railroad crossings.

The high school district began using the ship on letterhead in board minutes from 1976 and 1977 and on letterhead in personnel records beginning in 1979.

Research spanning 80 years, from 1901 to 1980, found that the council apparently never officially took steps to adopt the logo.

Santa Maria, the largest city in Santa Barbara County, has no connection to Columbus and instead adopted the name after dropping Central City to avoid confusion with a community in Colorado.

District Superintendent Antonio Garcia said the goal was to develop a logo that represents the district now and in the future.

Zeste Consulting will help rebrand the district, and founder/president Michellene DeBonis explained that she has done similar work for other school districts as well as businesses.

The process will involve stakeholder input, research and development of a brand strategy, followed by a second phase focused on creating three or four options for consideration.

“What really interests us is identifying an idea and a visual representation that really feels like it reflects you – not only for today, but that you are also relevant in the future and that ‘They really capture what the overall direction is of the district as a whole,’ DeBonis said.

The third phase would be to refine the logo and create basic guidelines for its use, she added.

The board has agreed to gradually replace the ship’s logo which has already been removed from the dais in their meeting room, but remains on the school district’s website and vehicles.

– Noozhawk North County Editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.


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