The man who took on the challenge of following a beloved superintendent, but eventually left a legacy rivaling that administrator has died.
The Burton School District announced the death of Dr. Gary Mekeel on Thursday night. Mekeel served two terms as Burton's superintendent for a total of 19 years. He served from 1990 to 2004 when he retired but came out of retire to become Burton's superintendent again from 2008 to 2013.
Mekeel replaced the beloved William R. Buckley as Burton's superintendent in 1990. “It is with profound sadness that we learn of the unexpected passing of Dr. Gary Mekeel,” the Burton district stated in a released statement.
Under Mekeel’s leadership, the district saw exponential growth in enrollment and the district went from 3 school sites in 1990, to 8 with the 9th site in its early stages of development at the time of his second retirement.
Mekeel was also instrumental in the creation of the Burton Educational Partnership Foundation in 1992. The Foundation provides scholarships to graduates of the Burton School District as well as provides Mini Grants to teachers to purchase additional resources for classrooms. When the Foundation started, it raised $200 in its first year; as of today, the Foundation has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants. Mekeel and his family continued to support the Foundation to the present day.
“His love and commitment to the students, families, staff and community will never be forgotten,” the district stated. “Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to his loved ones and all who knew Dr. Gary Mekeel.”
At the time of Mekeel's retirement in 2013, there were four elementary and middle schools, one day-school and three charter schools with a fourth charter school in development.
Today, there are four elementary and middle schools, three — and soon to be four — charter schools and one day-school. The enrollment in Burton tops 3,790 students.
Mekeel led Burton through the process of developing charter schools which now includes the two Summit Charter Schools that serves grades K-12.
During his second tenure, Mekeel took over during tough economic times in 2008, but while many other districts had to lay off employees during that time, Burton under Mekeel's leadership was able to avoid having to lay off any employees.
“Burton Elementary School District is deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Mekeel.,” current Burton superintendent Sergio Mendoza said. “Under the support and vision of Dr. Mekeel Burton grew in enrollment and was able to build multiple schools.
“Dr. Mekeel was a great leader who provided opportunities for growth and development in each and every leader who worked with him. His words of encouragement and motivation will always be a part of our memory.”