Shirley M. Burtch

Oriskany mourns loss of educator, board president

Published Aug 17, 2017 at 4:10pm

ORISKANY — Long-time educator and Oriskany Central School District Board of Education President Shirley M. Burtch passed away unexpectedly Monday.

Burtch, 84, and her husband, the late Kenneth Burtch, had lived in Oriskany since 1956. However, she began working as a librarian and substitute teacher for Oriskany Central School in 1955 and eventually became a social studies teacher at the high school, according to her obituary. She retired in 1992, joining the New York State Retired Teachers Association.

Burtch was elected to the OCS Board of Education in 1999 and was appointed to the BOCES Board of Education in 2008. She was still serving on both at the time of her passing.

“Shirley’s voice and passion for advocating for all students, and ensuring that we continue to foster a school environment that makes us in Oriskany proud, will be sorely missed,” said OCS Business Administrator Alicia D. Koster. “I, as well as the rest of the Board of Education, are thankful to have known her and work by her side on behalf of the school district.”

Former Superintendent Gregory K. Kelahan, now superintendent for Watkins Glen Central School, said today the passing of Burtch is a great loss not only to the school district, but to the entire community.

“There was nobody who embodied the spirit of Oriskany more than Shirley — she was the quintessential Redskin,” Kelahan said.

“She was equal parts conviction and compassion. She cared about kids to her very core, and she was my greatest ally when appropriate and had no problem being my critic when it was warranted. She was not going to tolerate what wouldn’t be the best thing for the greatest number of kids — she was just the champion of children.”

Kelahan continued, “It will be a huge loss for that community. She had such a sly wit and a twinkle and wink in her eye when she knew she was pushing buttons, and I just loved to see that twinkle and wink. It was awesome. And title alone doesn’t really indicate what a historian of a community truly is in all essence of the word. Shirley understood the culture and fabric of Oriskany like nobody, and this is such a terrible loss for the school and community.”

In addition to her passion for education, Burtch was involved in several civic and community organizations. She was past-president and member of the New Century Club in Utica. And throughout the years, Burtch also served as the Oriskany village historian and deputy registrar of vital statistics.

Burtch was a past member of the Oriskany Library Board and member of the Friends of the Oriskany Library. Also before its closing, Burtch was heavily involved with St. Stephen Church in Oriskany, her obituary said.

Calling hours will be held 4-7 p.m. Friday at Dimbleby Funeral Homes, Inc. at 40 Main St., Whitesboro. Services will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart & St. Mary Our Lady of Czestochowa, 201 Main St., New York Mills, with burial to follow at Oriskany Cemetery.