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Kenneth Burr dies at 62; helped build BOCES training program

Kenneth Burr, of Northport, a top BOCES administrator

Kenneth Burr, of Northport, a top BOCES administrator on Long Island died Feb. 22, 2016, after a 6-month battle with brain cancer. He was 62. Credit: /

Kenneth Burr of Northport, a top BOCES administrator on Long Island who helped build his agency’s career and technical training program into one of the state’s largest, has died at age 62.

Burr died Feb. 20 after a 6-month battle with brain cancer. He had retired in 2013, after a 36-year career as a teacher, principal and executive director at the Western Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services, headquartered in Huntington Station.

Western Suffolk BOCES provides regional services to students and school districts in the towns of Huntington, Babylon and Smithtown. Like other BOCES across the state, its offers both occupational training and special education.

Burr, a Cornell-trained horticulturalist, began training high school students for work in Long Island’s growing nursery businesses in 1977, as an occupational teacher.

In 1995, Burr took over his agency’s Wilson Technological Centers, after a former principal there was accused by county and federal prosecutors of illegally selling cars and other equipment donated for use by student mechanics. Burr helped stabilize and improve the functioning of Wilson Tech’s three campuses, and then nine years later was appointed executive director of career and technical education for the entire BOCES system.

As top administrator for career training, Burr added courses in a variety of fields, including physical therapy, physical training and medical-related specialties such as sonogram operations. He also helped expand student enrollments from about 1,700 to 2,100, making his program the largest in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and one of the largest statewide, according to Western BOCES officials.

“Ken was always ahead of the curve in terms of which occupations were growing,” said Michael Flynn, chief operating officer of Western Suffolk BOCES and a longtime friend. “He was a man who was widely respected, and was a steward of Wilson Tech’s going forward.”

In his private life, Burr, who grew up in Centerport, was an avid fisherman and long-distance runner. He gathered friends for Sunday morning runs along Suffolk’s North Shore, and served as a volunteer with several regional groups devoted to water quality and plant cultivation.

Burr also served as a longtime coach and administrator of youth sports leagues, and was legendary for never missing one of his children’s games. Friends recalled that about 10 years ago, Burr once drove from Northport to Boston for a daughter’s college lacrosse game, then turned around and drove to Washington, D.C., for a son’s lacrosse game the following day.

“He wanted to get the most out of every day,” said his wife, Gail Burr, a second-grade teacher at Pulaski Road Elementary School in East Northport.

In addition to his wife, Burr is survived by his daughter, Justine Burr of Brooklyn; son, Travis Burr, of Manhattan; and mother, Margaret Burr, of Centerport.

A funeral service Feb. 23 at Centerport Methodist Church was followed by burial in Northport Rural Cemetery.

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