San Marcos Rebranding Feuds Are Result of Misunderstanding

How Student Idea for New Logo Exploded into Alumni Anger

Photo: CourtesyThe current logo for San Marcos High School, established 1958

A student-initiated project to rebrand San Marcos High School exploded into contention between the school’s alumni and the school administration — with some alumni going as far as calling for first-year Principal Kip Glazer’s resignation.

But it all turned out to be a misunderstanding.

“In October [2019], I was going to update the school apparel and the website,” said Andy Nguyen, the Associated Student Body (ASB) president who graduated in May. “The current school logo was not up to quality so it looked poor on the website and poor on clothing, so I asked Dr. Glazer about updating it.”

He said he tried to draw up a logo of his own in November 2019, but nothing clicked until Glazer approached him with a rare opportunity: a professional designer to help with rebranding. Cya Nelson Drew, both the wife of a San Marcos teacher and the mom of a current student, offered her branding expertise for free if the ASB approved.

Drew, who runs her own design business, gave a presentation on potential designs, and the students voted overwhelmingly to go forward with exploring design options with Drew. They took the proposal to the student house of representatives, which also voted to go forward with design ideas. A branding committee was formed and held its first meeting in March 2020, right before the pandemic hit and shut down district campuses. 

“I want the community to know that my first focus now is to make sure staff and students are safe and receiving the highest quality education,” Glazer said in response to allegations she is prioritizing rebranding over the emergency. “If I have to work 24 hours a day to make that happen, then I will.

“… But we believe in student agency,” she continued. “This opportunity lets students put down their mark, and that is their pride and spirit. And especially now, this gives the kids something positive to focus on.”

This was Drew’s motivation, she said, when she brought the branding project back to Glazer’s attention after the pandemic had put it on pause. Though the project began months before the shutdown, both Drew and Glazer realized that the project might be even more impactful to students who are having to spend their high school years stuck at home instead of socializing.

“My intent was absolutely heartfelt and coming from the best place,” Drew said. “Having an incoming senior and knowing the loss she has experienced, I saw this as special for them. The kids expressed a desire to have something positive to look forward to.”

One of several draft versions of possible logos, designed by Cya Nelson Drew

Despite the good intent behind the project and the rebranding committee’s inclusion of a handful of San Marcos teachers and alumni with plans to solicit more feedback, rumors flew last week when Activities Director Aaron Solis, who is not an alumni but has taught at the school for decades, sought out information about the history of the school’s current logo from alumni in their Facebook group. 

Solis was present throughout the project’s process and was aware that the rebranding committee was still in a draft phase when he made the post in the alumni group. In his inquiry about the logo’s history, Solis wrote that “the school is about to change the logo and I am not in favor of it, so I am looking for some background information.”

He said that he realizes now his post didn’t contain context, so it came as a surprise to many alumni, who quickly reacted in anger.

“I was just looking for information about the logo that’s been here a while,” Solis said. “I went about it the wrong way. I worded it totally wrong when I posted it. I already talked to Kip [Glazer] and owned up to that mistake.”

Glazer said that she still intends to go forward with the rebranding process as long as the students agree. She addressed several of the rumors that alumni have asked about since learning of the project. For starters, the rebranding is aimed at improving apparel and digital platforms, she explained, so the large logos in the gym, the Greek Theatre, and the football field would stay in place. 

She also clarified that the school is not spending money on rebranding. Nor is she prioritizing it over handling the pandemic’s effect on classes. She confirmed that the work is all Drew’s volunteer work, and that the idea came to fruition months before the pandemic and it has become a lesser priority since the pandemic hit. 

To alleviate misplaced anger, Glazer and Drew are holding a Zoom webinar with alumni to give more detailed information about the project and its current status at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Glazer said the student-led project will continue to involve alumni and teacher input every step of the way. Alumni will be able to submit their feedback to Glazer in writing after the presentation.

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