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Day offers apology; won't resign

A handful of residents outraged over a racist comment made by Medford School Board member Jack Day in January demanded his resignation during a meeting Tuesday night.

I feel the racial discrimination that goes on in this school, said Central Point resident Velma Meiners, a Hispanic mother whose child attends school in Medford.

With that feeling, I wonder if you don't feel the same way about me, she said, punctuating her remarks with examples of derogatory words.

Although Day continues to apologize for the remark, the 20-year school board veteran said on Tuesday he won't step down until his term ends in June. Day announced several months ago that he would not seek re-election because all his children had left the Medford school system.

During a private conversation with members of the watchdog organization Medford School Watch on Jan. 28, Day used the phrase, n***** in a woodpile. Watch chairwoman Loretta Francis didn't respond the comment, but contacted the the next day to report the incident.

Day did not deny using the phrase, but said the remark was meant to be a metaphor, not a racial slur.

He publicly apologized for his actions Tuesday night, and added he should have known better than to use the phrase he learned during a previous era.

It was a very poor thing to have said to anybody. It was an error on my part, said Day. It's a very ugly subject for our community to have to deal with.

But Phoenix resident Rhonda Haney wasn't soothed by the apology. Haney suggested that the entire school board take diversity classes, and asked Day to step down.

Words of hate cannot and will not be accepted by constituents, said Haney, who is African American.

Medford resident Renard Maiuri said although the remark was unacceptable, Day has worked hard for the district during his tenure.

He's put a lot of heart, time and money into bettering this community, Maiuri added.

I think the past actions of this board has encouraged diversity, said board member Lois Thorson. As unfortunate as was said, I don't think it reflects the attitude of this board.

I was shocked and embarrassed and angry, board member Pat Knudson said of her initial reaction. She added that the board should have made a public statement following the remark, although Knudson said she agreed with board Chairman's comments to the media that the phrase was offensive and unacceptable.

I feel if we don't take an action, it is tolerance, she added.

Sixth-graders will stay in middle school Although it would ease overcrowding, the Medford School Board on Tuesday voted to keep a program that places 20 percent of the district's sixth-graders in middle school.

The majority of middle schools in the state include sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders but Medford middle schools don't have enough room for all three grades.

Medford kicked off a voluntary pilot program in 2001 allowing a small number of sixth-graders to attend middle school. This year, more than 240 sixth-graders attend Hedrick and McLoughlin Middle Schools. The program has grown so successful administrators routinely turn away applicants.

But the program was in danger after a November bond measure that would have paid for a much-needed third middle school failed.

Eliminating the pilot program would have eased overcrowding at middle schools by retuning students back to elementary. However, the decision would have placed a greater burden on elementary school currently bursting at the seams.

Personally, I think it's one of the greatest thing done by the district, said board chairman Mike Moran. Every sixth grader should be in middle school.

Reach reporter Jill Briskey at 776-4485, or e-mail