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PTS, United Way partner on Rosa Parks commemoration

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PTS partners with United Way for Rosa Parks bus seat commemoration

PHOENIX ― The Phoenix-Talent School District has partnered with United Way of Jackson County to celebrate Black History Month by commemorating Rosa Parks’ courageous activism every day of February.

The district will be placing placards on seat number 5 on 13 school buses from Tuesday, Feb. 1 through the last day of the month, Feb. 28. The seat number has a special significance ― Parks refused to give up her seat in the fifth row to a white man on that fateful day in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955, and was subsequently arrested and fined $10. Parks’ brave stance led to a boycott of Montgomery buses by a community organization called the Montgomery Improvement Association, whose membership included a then little-known minister named Martin Luther King Jr.

The placards include a photo of Parks sitting on a bus seat. Above the photo a message reads: “This seat is reserved in honor of Rosa Parks.” Below the photo a message reads: “In honor of Black History Month, Phoenix-Talent Schools salute Rosa Parks, whose calm strength made a seat available for everyone.”

Phoenix-Talent SD, Medford SD, St. Mary’s School and the Rogue Valley Transportation District are participating in the campaign, which was spearheaded by the United Way of Jackson County. Besides Phoenix-Talent’s 13 buses, Medford SD will place the placards on 13 buses, St. Mary’s School on three and Kids Unlimited on two.

The campaign was orchestrated by the United Way of Jackson County, which is the mobility manager for RVTD and the Oregon Department of Transportation. After the plan to place the placards on RVTD buses was already formed it was suggested during a Transportation Impact Committee meeting on Jan. 6 to reach out to local school districts to see if they could do the same.

United Way of Jackson County CEO and executive director Dee Anne Everson emailed Phoenix-Talent superintendent Brent Barry on the afternoon of Jan. 6 to ask if his district would like to participate and five minutes later Barry responded emphatically: “Um …Heck Yes!”

Barry said any form of anti-bias education and Black history awareness is welcome in the Phoenix-Talent School District, noting that 49% of the district’s students are minorities, including 40% Hispanic/Latino and 7% multiracial.

“This is a great opportunity to help raise awareness for Black History Month,” he said. “Thoughtful campaigns like this can spark questions that our students may raise in their classrooms or in their homes, and that’s where learning begins. Phoenix-Talent is honored to be a part of this important effort and I hope it becomes a Black History Month mainstay here.”

The pilot program may be expanded to include more local districts in the coming years.