Dr. Gary Burgess At a Glance
All children are our children
Dr. Gary L. Burgess, Sr. is a native of Inman, South Carolina, the second child of the late Edward D. and Willean H. Burgess. Burgess is married to the former Quintella M. Howard of Chicago, Illinois. They have three adult children: Lee, Alexandra, and Nathan; Darian, a great-nephew who was reared in their home, and one god-daughter, Joycelyn Hardy, MD.
Burgess is a graduate of Wofford College, Converse College, and the University of South Carolina at Columbia where he earned his doctorate. Burgess served as Assistant Superintendent of Schools and Superintendent of Schools in Anderson County School District Four, located in historic Pendleton, South Carolina from 2002 to 2008. In 2005 he successfully campaigned for a 26.8-million-dollar bond referendum in order to build a new elementary school and renovate the existing schools in Anderson County School District Four. This referendum passed at a time of soaring gas prices, Hurricane Katrina, and when citizens across South Carolina were rejecting such referendums. He left the district in excellent financial shape with a significant cash reserve fund.
Dr. Burgess worked as an adjunct professor with Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, and the Citadel in Charleston, SC. He has been recognized by numerous local, state, regional, and national organizations as an educator. Burgess was honored as the Secondary Principal of the Year for the State of South Carolina in 1996 and was named a Milken National Educator in 1999-2000. Former South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges appointed him to South Carolina's Juvenile Parole Board and to the John De La Howe Board of Trustees.
Dr. Burgess’ journey and educational success were propelled from a place of humble beginnings. Throughout his childhood and formative years, he experienced the effects of poverty first-hand, living in a working-class home and community. He witnessed how the institutional perception of one’s social-economic and ethnic status negatively impacts formal learning; creating and perpetuating institutionalized academic underperformance. Informed by his experiences, Dr. Burgess has worked tirelessly to undo these inequalities throughout South Carolina, the United States, and internationally. Through education, Dr. Burgess has strived for self-betterment. A path informed by his faith, he works to lift his fellow man. Burgess is a selfless leader called to leadership through education in guiding others on their path for “better.”
Dr. Burgess was invited to the University of Cincinnati as a guest lecturer in 2019 to address the university’s music education students. He was tapped by Wofford College, his Alma Mater, to assist with the 2015 celebration commemorating and honoring the history Wofford has shared with the African American community since the school’s founding - The 1854 Campaign. In March 2013, he was named the court-appointed receiver for the South Carolina Public Charter School District, divesting the assets of the de-chartered Mary L. Dinkins Charter School and vesting those assets in the Lee County School District and the Sumter School District in South Carolina. Burgess served on the Transition Assessment Team for South Carolina’s Superintendent of Education in 2010. Currently, he serves on the Anderson County Board of Education as an elected public official. Burgess is C.E.O. and president of BRAG - the Burgess Research Action Group. He served as a consultant with American Educational Consultants of Beachwood, Ohio.
In 1988, Burgess co-authored an article published by the National Association of Secondary School Principals titled: “College Start: A Smooth Transition for Minority Students.” His dissertation, "Navigating the Mainstream: The Perceptions of Working-Class African American Males of Barriers to Academic Success in Their Local School Cultures", addresses the challenges facing black male students as a group. His 2009 book with Star Books of Baltimore, Maryland, "Distorted: Restoring the Intellectual Image of Students of American Slave Descent", speaks to correcting the negative psychological and social conditioning of black students. Burgess is often a guest columnist in various regional and statewide news publications as a result of his advocacy. His motto is simply stated but profound, ”all children are our children”.
Burgess has served on the board of the National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and has served as the corporation’s Chief Operating Officer. He has served as the principal researcher for the South Carolina Caucus of Black School Board Members. Burgess has been engaged as a national site visitor for the United States Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools Program; in addition to serving as a site visitor for South Carolina’s Exemplary Writing Program and the Palmetto’s Finest Program. He is a past chairman of the South Carolina Agricultural Education Committee.
In 1999, Burgess was recognized by Visions Magazine as one of the Top 25 African-American Influencers in South Carolina. He is a former consulting editor with Clearing House: A Journal of educational research, controversy, and practices, in addition to having served on the editorial board for Education Issues. Burgess is a contributor in the book "Curriculum, Religion and Public Education: Conversations for an Enlarging Public Square", published by Teachers College Press. He was a guest columnist in PC Teach It, a national educational magazine. Burgess is highlighted in the HOPE (Harnessing Optimism and Potential through Education) Foundation’s video series entitled “Failure is not an Option.” He served on the board of the Wofford College National Alumni Association. Burgess was recognized by Wofford as the Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year in 1997, the first African American to receive this distinction in the college’s history. In 2006, he was one of five Anderson County citizens to receive the coveted “Pointing the Way Award” given by the Anderson Independent-Mail newspaper. Burgess was recognized as a “Hometown Hero” in February 2013, in the Anderson School District Four area which he represents.
Dr. Burgess speaks on the local, state, regional, national, and international circuit. He addressed an interdenominational faith youth group on the Lewis Islands in Stornoway, Scotland in May 2000. In September 2000, he was one of two principals in the nation to address the National Blue Ribbon Schools Ceremony held in Washington, D. C., sponsored by the United States Department of Education. The following year Burgess (the only principal in the nation), along with former First Lady Laura Bush, addressed the October 2001 National Blue Ribbon Schools Conference held in the nation’s capital. That same year he presented at the National Educational Policy Fellowship in Miami, Florida.
Burgess has completed numerous seminars and conducted various workshops and school improvement forums. He worked with the National Dropout Prevention Center, housed at Clemson University, on a Program Assessment and Review Team to evaluate the Elmira City School District middle schools in New York in April 2002. Burgess addressed the National School Reform Conference held in Cleveland, Ohio in June 2002. He presented, in December 2002 and 2003, at the National Education Reform Conference in Orlando, Florida at Disney World. In July 2003, he completed a Superintendent’s Leadership Seminar at Columbia University in New York City. In April 2008, Burgess conducted a forum, during a national institute in Reading, Massachusetts, addressing how educators might successfully engage students of poverty in the academic culture of their own schools. Most recently he served as a principal organizer of the National Moving Forward Together Summit held in Columbia, South Carolina in 2016 and 2017, and in 2018 and 2020 he attended the Center for the Education and Equity of African-American Students National Conference, sponsored by the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Burgess was elected to the Wofford College Black Alumni Association Board of Directors in June 2017.
Burgess has an impressive action-oriented history regarding school reform as a reflective practitioner. He personally experienced the effects of poverty growing up in a working-class home. He witnessed how the institutional perception of one’s social-economic and ethnic status negatively impacts formal learning; thereby, creating and perpetuating institutionalized academic underperformance. Burgess understands the difference between learning and “schooling.” He knows learning is the most important outcome; therefore, learning should not be constrained by the traditional school structure, the traditional school facility, the traditional school day, or the traditional school year. Burgess works with organizations that are transforming how students learn the prescribed formal curriculum. He has influenced and overseen the transformation of suburban-middle-class schools, schools with rural-mill-village backgrounds, and urban schools. Burgess has a strong commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of the students and the communities he serves, whether it is in the classroom, the administrative office, the board room, or the House of Faith.
In November of 2010 and November 2014, the citizens of Anderson County elected Burgess, with over 70% of the vote in both elections, to the Anderson County Board of Education. He was re-elected to the board in 2018 without political opposition. This board has fiscal responsibility for the public-school system in Anderson, South Carolina. The Anderson County School Board elected him as secretary of the board, and he serves on the Budget Committee.