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James “Jim” Day, the retired principal of Brattleboro Union High School.

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Former BUHS principal Jim Day dies of cancer

Commons News Editor Randolph T. Holhut contributed to this report.

BRATTLEBORO—James T. “Jim” Day, who served as principal of Brattleboro Union High School from 2003 until illness forced him to resign in June 2011, died in Florida on April 19 after a long battle with prostate cancer and significant spinal disease. He was 67.

Day led the school through a turbulent time, guiding students and faculty while a $55 million makeover of BUHS, the Brattleboro Area Middle School, and the Windham Regional Career Center took place. At the time, the school project was the largest and most expensive in Vermont history.

Robert “Woody” Woodworth, chair of the BUHS #6 School Board, whose time on the board overlapped with Day’s tenure as BUHS principal approximately five years, remembers Jim Day as a principal who always stood up for his students.

“‘Dedication’ is the word that stands out for me,” he said.

Day was supportive and a constant advocate for the kids during board meetings, said Woodworth.

“I always thought he was fair,” he said of Day’s dealings with disciplinary issues.

Day possessed years of experience in education, said Woodworth, and was never afraid to make a tough decision.

“Jim had very strong values and worked tirelessly to support those values,” he said.

Those values were honed in New Hampshire. The Keene native and Plymouth State graduate began his education career as a high-school social studies teacher in Bristol, N.H.

He served as an elementary school principal in Rumney and Canaan, N.H., before taking over as principal at Keene Elementary School. He held that post for six years before becoming the middle school principal in Keene.

He led the Keene middle school for nearly two decades, less three years he spent as assistant superintendent in the Keene School District, before coming to Brattleboro in 2003.

Despite his extensive years in education and school administration, BUHS District #6 Vice-Chair Ricky Davidson said that Day “never forgot that everyone in the building was there for the kids.”

Day strove to impart that ethos and student-centric value to the whole community, he said.

Teenagers can feel disenfranchised on a good day, said Davidson, who works with young people as unit director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Brattleboro. Day had a natural ability to cut through students’ sense of isolation, he said.

He made a point to get to know everyone, so all students felt included and part of a bigger community, Davidson continued.

According to Davidson, Day instituted the “House system” at BUHS as a way for kids to feel like they belonged to a smaller community within the larger BUHS school.

Under the system, students are alphabetically divided in groups, or “houses,” named for colors. A school administrator heads each house. In good times and bad times, students can go to their house administrator for support, said Davidson.

Day also worked to make the school better and imparted this “make it better” value to the community as well, Davidson said.

When Day stepped down as principal for health reasons, he made the school’s transition successful and healthy, said Davidson, who observed that the former principal also left people behind who could continue his positive initiatives.

“So he will be missed, but what he brought to the school won’t be because it’s still moving,” Davidson said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #302 (Wednesday, April 22, 2015). This story appeared on page A6.

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