Design rendering of the proposed signage to be added to the Galloping Ghost statue in front of Kaukauna High School.

KAUKAUNA — The Kaukauna Area School District Board of Education on Monday is expected to vote on a plan to add signage to the Galloping Ghost statue at the entrance to the high school.

The statue has been at the heart of a brewing controversy after a group of students expressed concern that the statue looks like a hooded Ku Klux Klansman and gives the wrong impression to visitors about the values of the district.

The students never asked the school board to drop the mascot, but to move the statue from the front of the school.

In response to the students’ concerns, the district in March proposed three options:

  • Maintain the presence of the statue as is
  • Maintain the statue and enhance it with signage
  • Relocate the statue away from the front entrance of the high school

The board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 23, 2022, in the Kaukauna High School Library.

If the board approves the signage resolution, the statue will remain in front of the high school.

According to a memo included the the board meeting agenda, the new signage has two components, a single sided letter sign installed on a curved base in front of the Galloping Ghost statue, and a Daktronics LED Message Display adjacent to the statue.

The sign in front of the statue has an estimate of about $20,000 while the LED sign comes in at about $32,000.

The installation is expected to take place by mid- to late-summer.

The statue represents the school mascot, most likely named after football star Red Grange of the early 1900s who was known as the Galloping Ghost, according to a history from the Kaukauna Public Library.

But its similarity in appearance to a Klansman has always followed the mascot.

When the tradition first began in the 1940s, the phantom rider that presented the game ball at the beginning of football games was dressed in all white, but in recent years was changed to its current black cape and hood.

The students made their request to the board in January and said they understood that the intent of the statue was to promote and honor the pride of being a Kaukauna High School Galloping Ghost and that there was no intentional symbolism alluding to a Ku Klux Klansman.

However, they also noted that instead, the statue creates confusion for visitors and leaves them wondering about the values of the high school and the community boasting a statue, even though unintended, of a racist symbol.

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By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.