- Associated Press - Monday, May 9, 2016

SELMA, N.C. (AP) - Eagles, bulldogs, tigers.

Furry or feathered but also fierce, those three are among the most common school mascots in the United States

Less common is the spider, especially the black widow, whose black body and bright-red hourglass have become synonymous with venom and vengeance: The female black widow will sometimes eat the harmless male after mating.

But for decades, the black widow was the mascot for Micro High School, which closed with consolidation in the early 1960s. And now she’s back as the mascot for the new Micro Elementary School.

Micro High graduates and the community at large are proud of the long-ago mascot, and they’re happy to see her return, said Carla Personal, principal of the new school.

“The black widow is a piece of history for Micro,” she said. “People are really happy to see it come back.”

The Johnston County Board of Education recently signed off mascots for Micro Elementary and its sister school, Pine Level Elementary. They are currently one school - Micro-Pine Level - but will become separate when a new K-5 campus opens in Micro in August.

In another nod to history and tradition, Pine Level Elementary will be the Green Hornets, the mascot of Pine Level High School until it, too, gave way to consolidation into North Johnston High. Come August, the Micro-Pine Level Wildcats will fade into history.

Personal said she’s been gathering history on the Black Widow mascot, including how it was portrayed over the years. Community members have brought her a re-created spirit stick, a cheerleader uniform and a stone market commemorating the Micro High class of 1936.

Allen Sasser will become principal of Pine Level Elementary after leading Micro-Pine Level. He too has been researching the new school’s mascot.

“The Green Hornets mean a lot to this community,” Sasser said. Even today, he noted, the Micro-Pine Level media center has an illustration of the Green Hornet Grill, a popular gathering spot for Pine Level High students.

Community members have brought Sasser jackets and sweatshirts emblazoned with different depictions of the Green Hornets.

Over the years, the Hornets and Black Widows varied in their depictions - from bold outlines to caricatures, from true-to-life insect and arachnid to cartoons with smiling faces.

“Graphics changed frequently at that time, sometimes every year,” Personal said. “Some were drawn by students.”

Micro athletic teams often wore a large capital “M” on their uniforms rather than sport the spider. Personal has considered a design where a spider web and widow drape over the letter.

Both Sasser and Personal are keeping in mind that students will be elementary age, not teenagers.

“I think in high school you can have the tough, scary mascots because they represent sports teams,” Personal said. “At the elementary level, though, it’s more a symbol for the school and its students.”

But Personal she’s heard nothing but positive feedback about the widow’s return. “Not one person I’ve spoken with didn’t want it to be the Black Widows again,” she said. “You can tell it’s important to them.”

Micro Elementary is considering a slogan such as “Caught in a web of learning” to emphasize education while highlighting its new eight-legged mascot.

The school board chose Black Widows at the request of the Micro Board of Commissioners.

“What else would it be?” Micro Commissioner Russell Creech said, laughing. “The widow is Micro and Micro are the widows. It’s simple as that.”

Micro’s school colors will be black and gold, and Pine Level’s will be green and white.

Both schools are planning special displays to commemorate their origins.

Micro-Pine Level, soon to become Pine Level Elementary, already has a trophy case full of memorabilia, including a diploma from one of the first graduates of Pine Level High School and a class ring. Micro Elementary will have a similar trophy case, Personal said.

The new mascots will appear on signs, T-shirts, bags, letterheads, and other items, the principals said. The designs also will be incorporated into the schools’ websites.

“We’re very excited to bring back pieces of history to these communities,” Sasser said. “The hornets and the black widows mean a lot to the people in Micro and Pine Level.”

Community residents with memorabilia they would like to donate to the schools should contact the principals. They can reach them through EdChat at johnston.k12.nc.us/edchat.

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Information from: The News & Observer, https://www.newsobserver.com

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