Tammie Burnaford takes over as super at BASD

Tammie Burnaford

BELLEFONTE — Schools may be closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t stop the Bellefonte Area School District from moving forward.

On Wednesday, the district released a statement announcing that assistant superintendent Tammie Burnaford would be taking over for retiring superintendent, Dr. Michelle Saylor. Burnaford will take over in an interim role.

The statement came from school board president Jon Guizar. It read:

“The Bellefonte Area School District is announcing that, effective immediately, Tammie Burnaford will be assuming all responsibilities for the distance learning program. This appointment will carry the district through the remainder of the school year, at which time Burnaford will become the district’s interim superintendent to replace Michelle Saylor who is retiring.

“The board of directors have paused the superintendent search process due to the inability for in-person interviews and community involvement in the decision. This change also allows for an appropriate transition to take place now as the planning and decisions for the future are underway. We appreciate the public’s continued patience and hope that community members will join in welcoming Burnaford into her new role — now and again in July. Burnaford has served the district as Pleasant Gap Elementary School principal, and then assistant superintendent since 2016.”

Burnaford said that she’s excited to take the reins.

“I am very excited to step up and serve the students, families, staff and everyone in the Bellefonte Area community,” Burnaford said. “This is my 17th year in the district and I know how many truly awesome people there are here. It’s truly an honor to not only be a part of the district, but also to provide leadership … as much as I can offer.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Burnaford is not taking over under ideal conditions.

“Of course, the pandemic and all of the complications and implications for our students, families and schools will be one of the biggest challenges. We don’t know what the future holds, and we don’t know what directives we will get from Harrisburg, but I know that we face these challenges one day at a time and we will focus on solutions that keep the best interests of our students at heart. We will continue to build partnerships and relationships and understand we are all in this together,” Burnaford said.

One of the challenges the district will be faced with almost immediately is the 2020-21 budget.

“The pandemic created a great deal of economic pressure and distress on our communities and specifically on our district. Our budget challenges are not unique to Bellefonte or even school districts, as the pandemic has created economic issues in nearly every aspect of our lives. We must work through the district budget process with many unknowns, while trying to maintain or improve the educational programs for all of our students next year and probably for the next few years to come,” Burnaford said.

Board vice president Jeff Steiner said that Burnaford brings a lot to the table.

“Mrs. Burnaford has great experience, a positive outlook and genuine commitment to the district,” Steiner said. “We are fortunate that she is able to step into this role during such a challenging period for our community.”

A native of Centre County, Burnaford graduated from Bald Eagle Area High School in 1980 and then attended Penn State University to major in elementary education, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1985. Burnaford went on to teach elementary school students in Bald Eagle Area School District for 12 years. At Bald Eagle Area, she taught fifth grade at Clarence Elementary School and taught fourth and sixth grades at Howard Elementary School, where she served as head teacher.

She earned her principal’s certification from Penn State and was named principal at Wingate Elementary before taking the position as principal at Pleasant Gap Elementary. In 2006, she earned her master’s degree in educational leadership from Penn State University. She was named interim assistant superintendent in 2016 before the district dropped the interim tag from her title.

As assistant superintendent, it was Burnaford’s job to work closely with curriculum and instruction for the district. She was also in charge of induction for new teachers at Bellefonte. Burnaford is also heavily involved with the district’s bocce ball team, which caters to special needs students.

“I have been so blessed to work in the best places with the best students, families and staffs my entire career,” Burnaford said.

The Bellefonte School Board will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5 via Zoom.


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