Porterville City officials and the Porterville Chamber of Commerce hosted a lavish social mixer together with the Burton School District, for the ribbon cutting and dedication of the Burkey Center on Thursday.

As attendee’s walked into the Burkey Center central doors, they were greeted by Burton middle and high school students and heard music from the 40’s and 50’s being played by the Summit Charter Collegiate Academy Band. 

There were fabulous specially made appetizers, vegetable crudités, ceviché, and elegant looking homemade cookies.. Suzanne Hatwig is the Burton District Chef and has been cooking for the district for 28 years, and BSD Board President Obdulia Guzman Alvarado and Board Member Daniel Figueroa both said, “the food is delicious and everything is made from scratch.”

Monte Reyes, Porterville Chamber President, thanked everyone for attending the Chamber mixer and announced there would be a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Burkey Center with honored guests Carolyn Burkey, her son Chris Burkey and his wife; daughter-in-law Marie Stephens, Michael Burkey’s widow, her daughters, and her husband Craig Stephens.

Sergio Mendoza, Burton School District Superintendent, was greeted and congratulated by representative Rachel Ray from Assemblyman Devon Mathis office, who presented Mendoza with a Certificate of Recognition for the Burkey Center from Mathis, and Mendoza thanked her warmly.

“We are honoring the past and the future today, “ Mendoza said. He spoke with emotion about how John and Michael Burkey both had a passion for learning and spent countless hours working for the Burton School District and district personnel, John on the Board of Directors and Michael teaching. 

“But John saw the mission and the opportunity we had to use this building, and it is full every day. And I feel blessed to be here.”

Carolyn and Chris Burkey spoke about John and Michael, to whom the Burkey Center is dedicated, and their pictures are proudly displayed on the reception room wall.

Carolyn, John’s widow, said, “When I go by the Burkey Center, it fills my heart with joy. John served on the board for over 25 years, and he was committed to providing a great education to students in the Burton School System. He loved attending the California Board Association meetings. 

“John was a learner, and he received the Friend of Education Award in recognition for his support of public education. It is a cherished momento.

“John enjoyed visiting classrooms and especially handing out diplomas at graduation.

“I want to thank the school district for this wonderful gift and the opportunity for this facility to become available. Thank you so much.”

Chris Burkey, John and Carolyn’s son, and Michael’s brother, spoke before cutting the ribbon, and said,

“My Dad loved to teach things he was interested in. He liked to share hobbies. Hearing that he would always go to the classes and interact with the kids, it was really touching. 

“He always wanted to improve things, and to make a difference to the district.

“Michael was a friend to everyone. He volunteered his time to help people. I thank you for dedicating this building to Michael and my Dad.”

Chris cut the ribbon among great applause and a many-not-dry-eyes amongst the audience members.

With a smile, Reyes said, “Now that it’s official, we’ll write all our names on the ribbon.”


After the ceremony and circulating among the crowd, Guzman Alvarado, who worked closely with John, said, “It was an honor, because John Burkey was my mentor since 2002. He was president of the School Board several times. We shared a passion for education. And we felt that every child should have an opportunity to have a great education at the Burton School District.

“John made a real difference in the BSD district. He will never be forgotten.”

“It was an honor to have worked with both Michael and John when I was here at BSD as a Director,” said Mendoza, “So to come back today and honor the family, and the dedicating of the Burkey Center was a blessing and an honor. That is what is so cherished by the Burton Community, and the community as a whole.”

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