LOS ANGELES — A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 3 for Judy Burton, the founding CEO of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, the largest network of charter schools in the region.
The service will be held at the school named in Burton’s honor, Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School at 10101 S. Broadway, South Los Angeles.
Burton, who dedicated more than 45 years to improving the local education system, died on May 19 from complications of liver failure. A few years ago, she was about to start a new venture with the Los Angeles Unified School District to head a technology task force when she fell ill.
Burton started her education career with the LAUSD and headed its central reform efforts in the 1990s.
“She had an extremely high level of intelligence, an ability to learn quickly and to teach others,” LAUSD school board member George McKenna said. “You could trust her and she had the courage to speak her mind about things that were not always politically correct.”
Burton was born in Ft. Worth, Texas, and moved to Los Angeles when she was a child. She went to Washington High School, an integrated school, where she was in student government and involved in an organization called the Pagers. She was one of the first African Americans in the program.
“Judy was a person who tried to make a difference with her life from the time she was a young child,” said her brother, attorney Rickey Ivie.
“So when she started with LAUSD, it’s not surprising her mission was to make it better.”
Burton went to UCLA and majored in Spanish. Her aunt, Merlin Daggett, an elementary school teacher, influenced her decision to pursue education. She eventually became a principal.
In 1993, she was chosen to lead Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now (LEARN). Its goal was to give more control to the administrators and less to the district.
She retired from LAUSD in 2003 to take a top position at Alliance. It opened small schools in low-income areas and offered a longer school day and school year. There also was a summer bridge program for incoming students.
Under her leadership, the charter schools became some of the best in the state. The majority of students graduated in communities where rates usually fell below 50 percent. Eventually, Alliance named a school after her in South L.A.
“She accomplished a lot of the things that she started out with and intended to do with the Alliance, but not fully to her satisfaction,” Ivie said.
“She believed education should be left to people who have specialty in education.”
She left the Alliance in 2015. According to the Los Angeles Times, it was due to pressure from board members and teachers. Then LAUSD Supt. Ramon C. Cortines asked Burton to head a technology task force, but she had to leave when her health declined.
“She always believed it was not the students who were defective, but the defect was in the system and the people who worked within the system in their ability to implement the best practices,” McKenna said.
In addition to her brother, Burton is survived by a sister, Tamanika Ivie.
“She was the best big sister anybody could ever hope for. When I look back on her she was just an angel,” her brother said.