Shared from the 6/4/2020 Centre County Gazette eEdition

BASD’s Burnaford moves into superintendent role during challenging time


Photo provided by BASD

TAMMIE BURNAFORD will be taking over as Bellefonte Area School District interim superintendent, effective July 1. In April, she took over all responsibilities for the district’s distance learning program. Burnaford has worked at the district for more than 17 years — as Pleasant Gap Elementary School principal followed by her assistant superintendent role, which began in 2016.

BELLEFONTE — It’s been a hectic couple of months for Bellefonte Area School District Assistant Superintendent Tammie Burnaford. And, it doesn’t seem that her workload will ease up anytime soon.

In April, district brass announced that Burnaford would immediately take on all responsibilities for the distance-learning program until the end of the school year. On July 1, she’ll become the district’s interim superintendent, replacing Dr. Michelle Saylor, who served the district in the superintendent position for the last four years.

The Centre County Gazette recently had the opportunity to chat with Burnaford.

CCG: This must be a hectic time for you as you are making this transition. How has it been going? What have been the biggest challenges? Why did you decide to move to the new position?

Burnaford: The transition has been going well. We have an amazing administrative team and awesome teachers who have gone above and beyond to help students and families within our distance-learning program.

The biggest challenges include trying to meet the varying needs of all of our students, parents and families and staff that have so many different circumstances, trying to provide equity in education for all students, and trying to do the best we can for our students — academically, socially and emotionally from a distance. I was asked to move to this new position by our board of directors. I strive to be a servant leader and welcome the opportunity to serve the district in any way I can.

CCG: Teachers have been working hard to stay connected with families and students through the school’s Continuity of Education Plan. What has worked well with that plan? Did you learn anything during the process that you would like to plan for better in the future?

Burnaford: The teachers have been incredible in reaching out to our students during the early weeks and during the Continuity of Education Plan. They found ways to connect with students via technology, phone calls, or good old fashioned letter writing. Their dedication to their students has been remarkable.

In terms of specific aspects of our Continuity of Education Plan, I think the format that we used allowed some flexibility for parents and families. We offered educational activities and assignments, instruction that included review and enrichment and new learning of concepts found in the curriculum, and formative feedback for each student’s work. From the beginning, we tried to be mindful of the stress that our families were facing and to be as supportive as we could be.

CCG: Seniors in the district are set to graduate on (June 5) with a drive-through ceremony. What would you say to them as they take the next step during this uncertain time?

Burnaford: I was asked to provide a short graduation speech that was recorded and will be shared in the virtual graduation video. I will thank them for their patience and commend their perseverance through these difficult times. But, I also would tell them that their educational journey, that started 13 years ago, is not defined by the last two months. I would suggest that as they begin their next journey in this uncertain world, they should take with them the memories, the laughs and the tough times they’ve had and keep them close to their hearts so they will always remember that life is truly about the love that is shared with the people around them every day.

CCG: Looking ahead to the next school year, what kind of plans are being made? Do you expect students to be back in the classroom in the fall? If so, with what kind of changes? What kind of efforts will be made to ensure that they stay on track academically after a long break, especially if schools remain closed?

Burnaford: We have formed a task force — a committee — that will begin planning for the next school year as soon as possible. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is expected to roll out a toolkit for reopening schools. Reportedly, the toolkit will include recommendations and options for schools and will allow districts to create specific plans that will focus on the safety and wellbeing of students and staff and will meet the needs of students as best as can be.

Last week, Governor Wolf announced that schools will reopen in the fall, but schools and education may look different. Our district task force will take all of the information we can gather and formulate a plan that both keeps students and staff safe and optimizes learning for students. Our task force will divide into subcommittees, which will include a committee of teachers who will analyze and evaluate instructional approaches and delivery to help students either get back on track or remain on track academically as we begin next school year and throughout next school year. Our teachers also will continue to engage in professional learning opportunities to increase their repertoire of teaching strategies in virtual or distance learning should we revert to that type of instruction in the future.

CCG: When you look at the response from the district, from students to parents to staff to the community at large, throughout this whole ordeal, what gives you hope for the future? What makes you proud to be a part of this school district?

Burnaford: The amount of collaboration between students/parents/staff/ community that occurred is inspirational. The positive, can-do, supportive attitude in all aspects of education was evident throughout the entire time. I’ve always known that Bellefonte Area School District is a very special place with amazing students, staff, parents and families in a supportive community. But these trying times brought that all to the forefront even more. I’m so proud of and humbled by the experiences I’ve had over the past few months and really over the past 17 years that I’ve been a small part of this district.

CCG: As she retires, what kind of legacy does Dr. Saylor leave behind at Bellefonte Area School District? Is there anything that you learned from her that you will keep with you as you continue on as interim superintendent?

Burnaford: Dr. Saylor provided leadership that was positive and supportive for all staff and students. Over her eight years in the Bellefonte Area School District (assistant superintendent for four years and superintendent for four years), she brought new, fresh and very creative ideas to the district for students and staff. Her legacy is her inspiring students and staff to think outside the box, to embrace challenges and to learn from and support one another. This legacy will be evident in all that crossed paths with her in the Bellefonte Area School District these past eight years.

I’ve learned a lot from Dr. Saylor, including the importance of looking at issues and challenges from all perspectives. This is something I will strive to do as I continue on to my role as interim superintendent.

See this article in the e-Edition Here