Former Glendale schools superintendent Burtis Taylor dies

A former Glendale schools superintendent who at one point was the chief executive for Glendale Community College and the school district at the same time has died. He was 96.

Burtis Earl Taylor — who died on May 30 while in hospice care in Irvine — served as superintendent from 1968 to 1982, and was known as a champion of students, said current Supt. Dick Sheehan.

During Taylor’s tenure, Glendale Unified was recognized for its supplementary reading, Artists-In-Schools and career and vocational education programs, Sheehan said.

The late administrator guided the district through the passage of Proposition 13, legislation that dramatically changed the funding of public schools from the local to state level. And it was under his leadership that Glendale Community College and Glendale Unified formally separated, Sheehan said.

“During his tenure as superintendent, the district was made up of approximately 40,000 students — 21,000 community college students and 20,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade,” Sheehan said. “At one point, Glendale was the only school system in the state to share a superintendent between a Unified and Community College District.”

Born Feb. 26, 1915, in City Hill, Kan., Taylor graduated from Fort Hays State University in 1938. He joined the Navy and served in World War II before pursing his doctorate in education at the University of Denver.

Taylor worked as an assistant to the Colorado State Supt. of Schools, as an assistant superintendent in the Riverside Unified School District, and as superintendent for Arcadia Unified.

In 1968, he was hired as superintendent of the Glendale school system, which included the community college and the K-12 schools. Among his biggest contributions was construction of the administration building at 223 N. Jackson St., which was dedicated in 1972. He also oversaw the closure of five district schools due to declining enrollment and budget shortfalls.

Taylor built an extensive network of professional colleagues and personal friends during his time in Glendale, family members said.

“He just loved being busy,” his daughter, Mary Ann Farmer, said.

The Glendale Community College library is named in Taylor’s honor, and Glendale Unified bestows the Burtis E. Taylor Community Education Award each year in recognition of an individual or community organization that contributes to the excellence of local schools.

Taylor was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Opal, and daughter Linda Green. In addition to Farmer, he is survived by daughter Jane Fickling, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Public services are planned for 3 p.m. June 26 at Regents Point Senior Living Facility in Irvine.

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