School Choice & Charters Opinion

Remembering Judy Burton, a School Reform Pioneer

By Charles Taylor Kerchner — May 24, 2017 1 min read
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Judy Burton with students from the school named in her honor.

Updated 5/25/17

Judy Ivie Burton had revolutionary patience. She came up through the ranks in the Los Angeles Unified School District, was a local district superintendent, and assistant superintendent of the LEARN school reform effort in the 1990s.

Her soft-spoken demeanor masked a strong will as she attempted to protect the schools that had signed onto the reform program from counter forces inside the district. Our book, Learning from L.A., describes the challenges faced by inside-the-district reformers, including Burton’s pushback against the district superintendent.

Frustrated, Burton left the district to head the Alliance for Public School Reform charter founding and management organization. Dan Zatzir, the current Alliance president, recalls:

Judy spent her life dedicated to ensuring all students, but in particular students of color from our most economically disadvantaged communities, had access to a high quality education. She was a fierce and courageous educational leader her entire life, and her moral compass pointed all of us at Alliance in the right direction. You never doubted any decision she made was in the best interest of students.

In multiple interviews as we were writing LLA, she shared her deep knowledge of the district and of the tensions reforms creates. In doing so, left behind a valuable legacy about how to improve urban schools, as well as a dedication to the task.

Burton died May 20. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on June 3 at the school named in her honor, Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School at 10101 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90003, RSVP here.

Howard Blume at the Los Angeles Times, has written a full life-story obituary about Burton: beautifully written and richly detailed.

Photo: Alliance Schools

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