At Mariani’s on May 25, Santa Clara High School principal Greg Shelby and Pomeroy Elementary School principal Tricia Ringel introduced Santa Clara Unified School District’s Administrator of the Year. When one of them mentioned that the honored individual first came to the district as the director of special education, Michele Burchfiel knew she was the chosen one. According to Burchfiel, she is the only person who has ever been the director of special education in this district who is still currently part of the district’s management team. Receiving the award at Santa Clara Unified School District’s Employee Recognition Tea was especially sweet for Burchfiel because she will be retiring on June 30 as the district’s director of classified human resources.
“I believe that in all situations, people need to be treated with respect,” Burchfiel says of her work philosophy. “I believed that way when I was working in special education. And now, whether it’s an adult or a child who has made a mistake, I think it’s important to respect them through my interaction with them.”
Burchfiel’s job duties have included overseeing the hiring of classified personnel and serving as the district’s chief negotiator with classified personnel. She also negotiated union contracts and met regularly with the union leadership of the California School Employees Association, the union for classified personnel.
Referring to her department as a branch with many fingers, Burchfiel admits that her job has allowed her to be involved in the lives of district employees when there is sad or happy news.
“When tragedy strikes, usually HR is the first to be informed; we do what it takes to make sure benefits are due to the family and all of that is handled,” Burchfiel says.
“There are happy things that people deal with too. I’m the person who calls people and offers them a promotion, for example. I also make sure employees know their rights and that they’re fully informed about their responsibilities.”
Burchfiel holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from U.C. Santa Barbara and University of Pacific, respectively. She began her career at the Santa Clara County Office of Education where she worked for 19 years. Then she spent six years in the Union School District as the director of special education and special services. Burchfiel is finishing up 19 years of service at the Santa Clara Unified School District. In total, Burchfiel has 44 years of experience in the education sector.
Now that Burchfiel is retiring, a world of possibilities awaits her.
“I don’t know what the next beginning will be,” she says. “I want to thank my husband and son who have put up with the many hours I’ve worked and have supported me.”