Months after becoming superintendent of Burbank Unified, Jan Britz is still riding the learning curve at the helm of a district faced with unprecedented budget cuts and the hard decisions they demand.
All fine by someone who describes herself as a “change maker.”
“In this day and age, you have to create the vision and then get people to believe in it and then make it happen,” she said. “You can’t settle for less.”
When Britz was growing up on a farm in Michigan — the third oldest of seven children — she didn’t settle for mediocre grades, knowing they were her path to college and a career when most of her family hadn’t graduated from high school.
“If I wouldn’t have worked for good grades, I would not be where I am today,” she said.
She would work three jobs at once while attending Eastern Michigan University on a full scholarship.
After marrying at 23, Michigan teaching jobs were scarce. So in 1977, Britz and her husband moved to California, where she was eventually hired at Simi Valley Unified.
She began as a middle school math teacher, and then taught the same subject in high school before spending several years as a high school principal. During it all, she raised two sons, now 24 and 28.
She landed in Burbank Unified in 2006, one year before earning her doctorate at USC.
After the departure of former Burbank Unified Supt. Stan Carrizosa in July 2012, Britz was selected as his replacement, making her the first female superintendent at district since it was established more than 100 years ago.
Even so, Britz won’t allow it to be her legacy.
“I would really rather have the legacy of being a good superintendent. What I really want to earn is my work, my leadership,” she said. “My vision is something that makes all of us better, both inside the school district and in the community.”
Among the challenges: the district’s switch from state standards to federal standards by fall 2014 and the $110-million bond measure campaign for updating facilities and technology.
“The pendulum has swung us to an area where we do need the help of the community. I think they’re loyal. I think they’ll be there. We want them to be,” she said.
Tom Kissinger, director of elementary education, said Britz works in the early mornings and through the weekends as “a role model pulling the weight” of the district as she confronts the district’s financial reality.
“These aren’t fun things to talk about, but they are part of the reality in which we live now,” he said. “She’s done a very good job in being out in front of that. An excellent job.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.