New superintendent settling in at Brentwood
Amy Burch, pledged to always live in the town where she worked. Now, after a career that's taken her as far as Atlanta, Burch is ready to settle down.
“I'm home,” said Burch, 40, who has worked as Brentwood Borough School District superintendent since July 1.
Burch, who served as the principal of Elroy Elementary for the last six years, was hired in June to replace eight-year Brentwood Superintendent Ronald Dufalla, who retired June 30. Burch has a five-year contract with a starting salary of $116,000.
Burch is spending her first three months on the job getting to know Brentwood leaders.
A 1992 Franklin Regional Senior High School graduate, Burch, who received her bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies and master's degree in the art of teaching both from the University of Pittsburgh, admittedly had “never been anywhere before.”
But after graduating in 1997, Burch and a friend moved to Atlanta and taught in the public school system in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood, where there was a large immigrant population.
“It was a bit of a culture shock. I hadn't been exposed to many different races and ethnicities and cultural backgrounds,” Burch said.
After two years in Atlanta, Burch moved back to Murrysville and taught fourth grade at Sloan Elementary in Franklin Regional for six years. She received her principal's certification from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2005 and the next year was hired as the principal of Carnegie Elementary in the Carlynton School District.
Burch promised her daughter, Reneè, a fourth-grader at the time, that with her next job, they would “settle down.”
In 2008, Burch was hired as the principal at Elroy Elementary.
Residing in the town where she works is important for Burch, she said.
“You have to understand people and in order to understand them I feel like you have to live where they live and see the challenges and the problems and the wonderful things that they have going on in that community,” Burch said.
When Dufalla announced his retirement, Burch sought her family's advice before applying for the job. Reneè, now a sophomore at Brentwood High School, had a simple answer: “Go for it!”
“I didn't want to go anywhere else,” Burch said. “I'm personally invested, as well as professionally invested, in the community.”
Burch said she wanted to bring the programs and resources she worked on at Elroy to the district. Elroy was the first building in the Brentwood Borough School District, thanks to grants and parent teacher group support, to have wireless Internet school-wide to use for Promethean boards.
When Burch has a plan, she always sees to getting it accomplished, said Brentwood coordinator of curriculum, instruction and professional development Lindsay Klousnitzer.
“She's always focused on the task at hand,” Klousnitzer said.
Burch worked with Klousnitzer to design a nautical compass that symbolizes Brentwood's vision. It will appear on all district documents to remind district leaders of the end goal, Burch said.
The focus is for every decision to be made with the words: reasoning, connecting, transforming and creating, in mind.
“We need to be exposing our students to opportunities that are going to prepare them for the 21st century,” she said.
She also wants to make Brentwood stand out and no longer be known as a “hidden gem.”
“I want other district's to say, ‘Wow, look what Brentwood's doing,'” Burch said. ‘”I want to be a leader in the educational world.”
Before he left, Dufalla gave Burch a note scribbled on a small piece of paper — given to him by former Brentwood Superintendent Anthony Chiappetta — with the words: “Please take care of my Brentwood.”
“It's an obligation, but it's an obligation of love and dedication and belief in a system,” Burch said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.