Sue Burr, executive director of California’s State Board of Education and a key force at local and state levels in guiding California through decades of education reform, is stepping down at the end of this year.
Burr, who in her current position also serves as Gov. Jerry Brown’s top advisor on education policy, announced her retirement in a Nov. 9 letter to the governor in which she thanked him for “providing a wonderful coda to my career,” but gave no specific reason for leaving other than the end of the year marking 40 years in public service.
Her retirement follows the administration’s exhausting and successful campaign to win voter support for Proposition 30, Brown’s ballot initiative to raise taxes on the wealthiest Californians and increase the sales tax to boost education funding.
“Sue brought a deep understanding of school policy and operations to her many years of public service. I thank her for her counsel and steady leadership,” said Brown in a statement.
But, as Burr noted in her letter, she’s leaving as California policymakers and educators wade into some hugely significant and undoubtedly divisive debates on implementing the Common Core standards and transforming the state’s assessment and accountability systems. “I am confident that our highly capable board members and superb staff will continue to move this work forward,” she wrote.
Her departure leaves a void in the Brown administration in dealing with those issues as well as with the governor’s upcoming budget plan, in which he will again propose overhauling education funding, directing more money to disadvantaged students through a weighted student funding formula.
Before being named executive director of the State Board, Burr served as executive director of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, chief business official for Elk Grove Unified School District and as undersecretary and interim Secretary of Education for former Gov. Gray Davis.
In naming a replacement for Burr, Brown and State Board President Mike Kirst will have big shoes to fill, said John Mockler, who called her a “consummate professional, smart, fair, knowledgeable and tough. No matter the issue.”
“And I might add California education policy will suffer a great loss,” said Mockler, who also served as executive director of the State Board and interim Secretary of Education. (He and Burr are also former members of the EdSource board of directors.)