Former members of Edina High School's dance team, including former Minnesota First Lady Mary Pawlenty, pleaded with the school board on Monday night to reverse a recent administrative decision to change the name of the 53-year-old dance team from the Hornettes to the Hornets.

"Do not mistake this as a small concern over a name change," said Pawlenty, who was a Hornette in the late 1970s.

Wearing pink "Save the Hornettes" name tags, a standing-room-only crowd packed the board meeting room demanding to know why high school administrators changed the name in the first place, calling the move "a bad policy" and a "flawed decision-making process."

School officials have said they made the change to strengthen the school's "brand consistency" and to unify the band, dancers and cheerleaders under a common name. They said the changes were part of a broader schoolwide effort to align programs wherever possible.

In addition to the name change, high school administrators decided to give other dance teams the opportunity to perform at halftimes, a move parents of current Hornets said they interpret as cutting back on their team's time to dance.

"The way I see it, bringing school spirit is just as important as winning state titles," said Ali Mooty, a current dance team member.

The school's explanation about what's driving the changes isn't sitting well with parents of the current crop of Hornets, some of whom contend that a few administrators have a long-standing grudge against the team.

They said they suspect the move was in retribution for an alleged hazing incident that occurred last summer involving the Hornettes. Administrators confirmed the incident, but declined to discuss it.

Other Edina High School alumni have said that the Hornettes have had a long history of hazing new members, even writing the words "fat" on their bodies with markers.

Parents of current dance team members have said those kind of practices are no longer tolerated.

Edina Fire Chief Marty Scheerer, whose daughter Brooke is on the dance team, asked whether administrators were planning on changing the name of the school newspaper and yearbook to promote the Hornet brand.

"Can anyone tell me why the name has changed?" he asked.

The team's supporters also presented the board with a petition with more than 1,400 signatures asking that the old name be reinstituted. They also asked the board to appoint a task force to delve into the issue further and come back with a recommendation.

The issue was not on the meeting agenda, and the board neither took action nor made any comments.

Pawlenty, who brought her 93-year-old mother to the meeting, said that Edina was a vital part of her family's past and that the Hornettes and their name have always been a vital part of the community.

Like others, she described the name change as a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

"Long live the Hornettes!" she said to a standing ovation.

Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469