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Originally posted August 17, 2012
Union Superintendent Cathy Burden retires at school year's end
BY KIM ARCHER Tulsa World Staff Writer
(Reprinted with Permission. This is not an endorsement.)
After 19 years of heading Union Public Schools, Superintendent Cathy Burden announced to teachers and staff Thursday that she will retire after this school year.
"This has been the highlight of my career. I am Union through and through," she told the Tulsa World. "No doubt I love this job. It's been a joy." Burden said she wants to spend more time with her grandchildren after 41 years in education.
She announced her retirement during the yearly kickoff program for teachers and staff Thursday. More than 1,700 employees packed the Union Performing Arts Center.
The district's school board has already selected Associate Superintendent Kirt Hartzler as her successor. He started his Union career as a teacher and coach 26 years ago.
Hartzler's succession will allow the district to avoid disruptions that can accompany national searches, she said.
Burden began her career by creating a learning disabilities program in Norman as she attended graduate school.
She was then a school psychologist at Tulsa Public Schools for 12 years. She worked at Jenks for eight years, six of those as an assistant superintendent. In 1994, Burden was hired as Union superintendent.
Her last day will be June 30, she said.
The ability to fight for public education in the face of criticisms "makes my job even sweeter," Burden said.
"It's been a good fit. People don't fully appreciate the function of public education. Public education is a bedrock of democracy. Without it, we would lose something very important," she said.
In her last year, Burden said she will continue to speak out when some try to chip away at public education.
"I am not backing down," she said. "This is a difficult time for public education. Poverty is expanding the gulf between society's haves and have-nots. The world economies are shifting, and America is desperate to maintain our superiority in all areas. People are looking for scapegoats to blame for a myriad of social problems, and public schools have become an easy target."
Hartzler said he plans to continue Burden's fight when he steps into the superintendent role.
"Public education is definitely what has made this country great, and it's what is going to continue to keep it," he said.
As for Union, Hartzler said there is still more to do.
"We have a belief about us. Our belief is that when we say 100 percent graduation is our goal, we mean it," he said. "We believe in the potential of all our students regardless of demographics."
Earlier this year, Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard and Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman also announced they would retire June 30, 2013. Sapulpa Superintendent Mary Webb retired in June.