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Posted Oct 27, 2011, 12:53 pm
Longtime Tucson Unified School District Governing Board member Judy Burns died of an apparent heart attack overnight, district superintendent John Pedicone said Thursday.
Burns, a TUSD volunteer since 1985, was first elected to the district's leadership in 2000, in her fifth run for a seat on the Governing Board.
Burns, who was 63, was a strong supporter of the district's Ethnic Studies program.
A replacement for Burns will either be appointed or a special election may be called, at the discretion of Pima County School Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian. Burns' current term ran through the end of 2012.
Pedicone said an appointment is likely, as a special election could cost the district as much as $250,000.
Burns had announced this spring that she had decided to run for another term on the board.
Fellow board member Adelita Grijalva said Burns was "a dedicated champion for the children of our community and her voice will be greatly missed."
Pima County Democratic Party chair Jeff Rogers praised Burns' work for education.
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"Hers was a measured, thoughtful voice of reason that will be missed, particularly in these tumultuous times," he said in a press release.
Ethnic Studies supporter and former Governing Board candidate Miguel Ortega said Burns "openly and courageously advocated for our youth. She was a public servant that did not hide her passion or soften her voice for what was right."
Calling Burns "as compassionate a public education leader as I’ve ever known," U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (himself a former member whose daughter, Adelita, sits on the board now), said in a press release that "her advocacy for better schools, which began years before she joined the governing board, set an example for the community and her peers, and her contribution will be felt for many, many years to come."
Burns' death is a personal and professional loss, Pedicone said. "It's a tremendous loss for the district."
"I've known her for 15 or 20 years," he said. "She was a remarkable person, with her commitment to the underserved. She was a voice to them."
A Detroit native, Burns moved to Tucson in 1973. She is survived by husband, Ben, and two children, John and Mariah.