Marin Superintendent Mary Jane Burke Won't Seek Reelection

·3 min read

MARIN COUNTY, CA — Mary Jane Burke began her career as a Marin educator in the early 1970s, a very different time in incalculable ways.

Asked to reflect on the differences, Burke spoke to the similarities.

“The times have changed, but as educators our mission is the same,” Burke told Patch.

Maybe so, but Marin won’t be the same a year from now.

The county’s leading educator for most of the last generation announced earlier this month she would not seek reelection as Marin’s superintendent of schools, a seismic development for the community. Her current term ends Dec. 31.

Burke is currently serving her seventh term as superintendent since 1995. She has served the district as an educator since 1971.

“Over the course of her career, Mary Jane Burke has done more for kids and families in Marin than just about anyone I know,” Novato Mayor Eric Lucan told Patch.

“Although she is retiring as Superintendent, I know that she will never retire from being a tireless advocate for Marin's youth.”

Burke is the oldest among her county school superintendent peers – as is Marin Sheriff Robert Doyle. Marin’s top law enforcement officer last year announced plans to step down at the end of his term in January, 2023.

But let’s get one thing straight from the start.

The 69-year-old Novato resident is adamant this isn’t the end of an award-winning career that includes her being selected as the 2021 State of California Woman of the Year by the state legislature for her COVID-19 response leadership.

I’m not retiring,” Burke told The Marin Independent Journal.

“I’m just not running for county superintendent again.”

Burke is credited with collaborating with Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis with helping Marin become among the Bay Area’s first communities to reopen its schools last spring. The district’s schools have remained open amid omicron.

“I have really appreciated Mary Jane’s leadership navigating all the stages of the pandemic,” Fairfax Mayor Stephanie Hellman told Patch.

“She communicated clearly and with transparency in a climate of great uncertainty and anxiety.”

Hellman cited Burke’s decision to distributed testing kits to students before winter break as an example of her acting swiftly and decisively to put children’s safety first.

“As a parent of 3 kids in school during this time I am deeply grateful for her contribution,” Hellman said.

Burke in a statement announcing her retirement acknowledged she was mindful of the moment, two years into a relentless pandemic that’s left school districts across the country facing unprecedented challenges.

Many districts, including Marin’s, were facing staffing shortages before the pandemic, which have since grown worse.

She expressed an upbeat vision of a future Marin that advances the community’s shared goal of creating a more equitable learning environment that reflects the community’s diversity.

“We need to recruit teachers and staff who are bilingual, bicultural and who look more like the students we serve,” Burke said.

She said Marin’s “will, determination, and commitment of our education community” would help it endure challenging times.

“I enter 2022 with excitement, anticipation and hope,” Burke’s statement said.

“It is the same way I felt when I stepped into a classroom in my first job at the Marin County Office of Education as an instructional assistant 50 years ago.

“I am excited because our schools are successful and striving to be better. I have hope because we have a talented and innovative education community and a strong team at the Marin County Office of Education that will meet opportunities and challenges head on. I look forward to supporting this work during 2022, which will be my last as superintendent.

“I also look forward with excitement, anticipation and hope to January 1, 2023. On that day, our community will have the opportunity for new leadership and a new commitment to what is best for students from the next person to have what I have long known is the greatest job in the world, Marin County Superintendent of Schools.”

This article originally appeared on the Novato Patch

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