Tag Archives: eugene

Meet UO Alumni Association Employee: Susan Burton


Shortly after donning a cap and gown at her college graduation, UO alum Susan Burton decided to ship out to sub-Saharan Africa and work in HIV outreach for the Peace Corps.

Burton, who now works as the Assistant Director for Student and Alumni Relations for the UO Alumni Association, knew she wanted to join the Peace Corps after college. She had done HIV outreach while at the UO, and was accepted into the Peace Corps to work for Community Health Outreach Program (CHOP) after she applied. The program combined both of her top choices for area of work as well as her choice of ideal location. Immediately, she expressed very little hesitation for her journey to begin.

“My parents were a little concerned, but being my parents, they never told me until I was there,” Burton says.

While she was volunteering for the Peace Corps, Burton was particularly inspired by the South African motto Ubuntu—which means that a person is a person through other people. Burton explains that the people she met truly live by that style of life, and that everyone that she met would always make time for the people that surrounded them.


Although she was originally hired to be an HIV outreach worker, she ended up mainly working with NGO (non-governmental organization) development because her organization didn’t yet have the capacity to be doing health promotion. As such, Burton spent much of her time working on building the organization to the point where they could begin their outreach program for the following year.

During her second year, however, she ended up doing similar fieldwork because the program let go of their entire management due to misappropriation of funds. Burton ended up training and hiring new staff for her second year before she moved to the capital city for her third year, focusing mostly on hiring a volunteer from the Peace Corps ready to do health promotion and training care.

Burton’s favorite work during her 38-month commitment was her job while working at schools. There, she focused on after school programs, youth camps and various day-to-day office tasks and assignments.

“A lot of Peace Corps volunteers feel that their main contribution was through changing the lives of the children that they worked with,” Burton says.

While much of the impact made by Peace Corps volunteers are not detectable until long after the volunteers have left, her favorite memories from the trip include daily visits from a group of about six to eight children. The group would come to her house to work on homework and watch movies; their favorites were X-Men and Transformers, and they were particularly obsessed with Wolverine.

The children, and all of the other villagers in Makhushane, called her Karabo—which translates to “The Answer” in their local dialect.

“When you name someone that, it’s because you’ve been praying for something for a long time and they’re the answer to your prayers,” Burton explains. “So, not much to live up to at all.”

After working with kids, Burton also realized that many of the children in South Africa have very similar interests to the children in America: they enjoy hanging out with friends, talking on the phone and playing video games.

While her service with the Peace Corps finished in April 2013, Burton and a friend spent three months traveling through ten countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. The purpose of the trip was to interview youth from each nation, and they now have eighty interviews archived. Her favorite interview that she conducted was with a young man that, upon graduating high school, opened and now successfully operates the first Internet Café in his village.

Today, Burton is in the process of pitching the compilation of stories to an e-book publisher in Scotland, with the hopes of marketing their product to schools across the world.

Burton explains that one of the most valuable lessons she learned on the trip also applies for much of the work she now does for the UO Alumni Association, where she works to help students create a lifelong connection to the UO. Working with students, she says, many are often be sidetracked with midterms or the various crises of being a college student.

“One of the things I really learned was flexibility,” says Burton. “You realize that you just have to go with the flow, because nothing is going to work out how you wanted it to.”

Rural Lane County School Districts Affected By Loss of Eugene 4J from Lane ESD

Source: KEZI

The Lane Education Service District was notified on November 1 that the Eugene School District plans to opt out of their contract and seek financial independence for the 2014-15 school year. 

Each year, the sixteen districts in Lane ESD vote on what educational services they would like to see provided. The options vary each year, depending on what is needed at each district. The districts then select which services they want at each school based on a unit cost. 

The decision for Eugene 4J to quit Lane ESD, however, means a projected loss of approximately $5.4 million. Budgets for educational services are allotted to schools based on how many total students are enrolled in the combined districts. With 16,000 students, the Eugene School District is currently the largest to use services from Lane ESD. Lane ESD has a total budget of roughly $16.6 million, which means that the budget for next year would be cut by nearly 33 percent if Eugene 4J were to finalize its decision. 

Their announcement to opt out of the contract cannot be made official until the beginning of March. Many of the smaller districts that operate through Lane ESD, though, are already preparing for the projected impact. 

“This decision would make it more challenging to add some things that we’ve lost over the years,” said Tony Scurto, superintendent of the Pleasant Hill School District in Lane County. 

Educational services that have previously been cut from his district, without any foreseeable budget to be reinstated, include: business classes, forestry classes, and their own transportation service. Two of the total four schools that were once in the district have been closed as well. 

Scurto, who oversees 900 students, believes that Eugene 4J’S decision will make budgeting for next year even more challenging. He says Pleasant Hill projects a loss of roughly $36,000 per year, which would be the equivalent salary of an educational assistant.  

“Unfortunately, with state funding in the last decade, this further takes away the cooperative spirit that should be involved in with making opportunities better for every student,” said Scurto. 

Carol Knobbe, assistant superintendent at Lane ESD, said Eugene 4J planned to leave the district because they wanted more control over the dollars that they generated. According to Knobbe, Eugene 4J believes that the overall revenue should have been divided strictly by student count. 

“Our framework has always been about what’s good for all kids and all districts in the county,” said Knobbe. 

Core services provided to every school are technology and school improvement. Optional services include special education classes, school psychologists and various business services. 

These service orders for each district will be due on March 1, 2014. That date is also when Eugene must give final notice that they will no longer use the services provided by Lane ESD. If they withdraw their funding, however, Knobbe believes it will be noticed across other local districts when it comes time for funding. 

“There would be a monetary impact on the other districts for next year,” said Knobbe. “A number of our costs will go up.” 

Knobbe worries that there may be a shrinking in the core services provided to smaller districts with the projected budget loss. This would be a severe hit considering how much lower the overall budget is for these districts.

One question that has yet to be settled is whether or not the current open enrollment policy will still apply to students in the Eugene district. The policy allows students that reside in one district to attend any of the other schools within Lane ESD. 

This policy is able to help smaller, more rural schools increase enrollment and obtain more financial flexibility. This works, according to Scurto, because the only way to increase revenue is to increase enrollment. 

Lane ESD hopes to keep this policy in order to help smaller districts like Lowell or McKenzie recover from the losses suffered by Eugene seeking financial independence.    

It’s unclear whether the Eugene School District will continue to cooperate with the other districts in Lane County for program planning.

Knobbe, however, remains optimistic. 

“As an education service, I don’t think we would ever have interest in shutting the door in the relationship with a district,” said Knobbe. 

While Eugene 4J may still ask to use some of the services provided by Lane ESD, they will not be allowed to provide any weight on what the actual services will be. Those decisions would be made entirely by the remaining districts within Lane ESD. 

Some districts believe Eugene 4J’s decision to seek financial independence may also alleviate previous tension between big districts and small districts. 

“I think they would prefer to have all districts be a part of the educational service district,” said Knobbe. “But I think that the change in philosophy could make things be more cooperative in the long run.”