Kenneth Burnley, the innovative former superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11, passed away suddenly on July 2, shocking former colleagues. (Read more here.)
Now, Burnley's many local friends and former coworkers will have a chance to remember a man they said was dedicated to improving children's education.
A memorial for Burnley will take place on Aug. 12. Here are the details:
A memorial service to celebrate the life of former Colorado Springs School District 11 Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Stephen Burnley will be held in Colorado Springs on Friday, August 12 at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist Church, 420 N. Nevada Ave.
Dr. Burnley, who was named the 1993 National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators, was District 11 superintendent for 13 years, 1987 to 2000. He died at the age of 69 on July 2 after knee replacement surgery in Alaska, where he had been for the past year superintendent of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, 35 miles north of Anchorage.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Dr. Kenneth Stephen Burnley Memorial Fund for college and vocational education scholarships for students of Colorado Springs School District 11, Mat-Su Borough School District, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, and Detroit Public Schools.
Donations may be made on www.ksbfoundation.org or at any Wells Fargo Bank (memorial donations) in the United States.
As superintendent of School District 11, Dr. Burnley initiated many innovative programs designed to improve student achievement, build community partnerships, support employees, and bring in additional education dollars.
During Dr. Burnley’s first year at District 11, he organized the Student Performance and Achievement Initiative, a community taskforce to improve education. With his educational team, he also developed a model that used student achievement as the measure for restructuring, then implemented the International Baccalaureate program, the one-of-a-kind West Intergenerational Center, the move from junior high schools to middle schools, a family literacy program, and a variety of other educational programs designed to improve student performance. Students were free to enroll in these programs/schools outside their attendance area.
“By the time Colorado enacted legislation for Charter Schools, School District 11 had already implemented a variety of innovative programs to give our customers more choice,” said Dr. Burnley in a 10 year report to the community, “ and the district led the state in implementing Charter Schools.”
When Dr. Burnley arrived at D-11, the voters had not approved a tax increase in about 25 years. He first reduced expenditures within the district. Among many innovative ways he found to bring in more money were implementing the first—in-the-nation district-wide advertising program, converting to self-insurance which saved about $1-million/year, contracting for food services, which moved the program from being subsidized to paying the district about $500,000 per year; forming public/private partnerships, which brought in both financial and human resources valued at over $2-million each year; and self-funding workers’ compensation, which saved about $1-million/year. Every year of Dr. Burnley’s tenure, District 11 won the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, which is awarded to fewer than 10% of school districts in the nation. Working with staff, he also initiated a multitude of public/private partnerships. Among them were the Apple Computer Technology Planning Institute for District 11 employees and parents; GrandFriends, which facilitated seniors volunteering; the Community Resource Bank, which brought employees from over 100 businesses into schools to mentor students and provide expertise; and a Career Link program with the Chamber of Commerce.
To further get ready before going to the public to ask for badly needed additional tax revenues after the school district lost $45-million under the new Colorado School Finance Act, Dr. Burnley worked with the Colorado Springs Teacher’s Association to improve relations. He then launched Project Open Book, in which D-11teachers, other employees, and volunteers knocked on doors to personally invite people to visit schools and learn more about all levels of the school district. A community task force identified critical needs in the district, and in 1996 voters approved $99.8 million to improve aging school buildings and build new ones. The voters also approved a tax increase to implement a technology program.
Dr. Burnley facilitated a spirit of entrepreneurship to take advantage of exceptional teachers and other employees. District 11 was the only school district in the nation to have five recipients of the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching, and teachers won countless other awards. Many came with grants that teachers used for such things as a initiating a summer reading clinic for elementary students and to integrate academic and employability skills with vocational education.
Dr. Burnley formed a coalition of state school districts to seek equitable state funding of public education, formed a coalition of local governments, social service agencies and institutions of higher education to collaborate to save money, and he served on a variety of community boards and committees for such organizations as the U.S. Olympic Committee, Chamber of Commerce, and United Way.
From Colorado Springs, Dr. Burnley became the chief executive officer of Detroit Public Schools, then senior resident fellow at the University of Michigan before becoming superintendent of Mat-Su Borough School District. He came to Colorado Springs from Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in 1987.