PITTSFIELD – After 36 years as head of the Hillcrest Educational Foundation, CEO Gerard “Jerry” Burke will retire next year, the organization said in a press release.
Burke arrived in the Berkshires in 1985, a year after the state took over a financially struggling for-profit school for students with special needs. The old Hillcrest Hospital bought the school from the state, and the Hillcrest Educational Foundation formed as a non-profit organization to manage the school.
Burke became the CEO of the foundation in 1992.
Today, the organization operates educational centers that provide therapeutic treatment and special education to more than 500 children and adolescents with unique psychological and learning needs, the statement said.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to the countless employees, supporters and partners who have helped us continually change and grow in response to the needs of the community and make Hillcrest what we are today,” said Burke.
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve Hillcrest as CEO, and the legacy of which I will always be proudest, are the thousands of young people who have come to see us, so often when no one else is. wanted to take them, and who won the life. skills to make the most of their potential. “
Burke and his team have worked for years to manage debt and stabilize finances, as well as expand Hillcrest’s range of nationally recognized and accredited programs, the statement said.
Hillcrest also operates a dental office serving 12,000 patients per year, making it the largest provider of oral health care to MassHealth participants and people with special needs in Western Massachusetts. The organization is one of the largest private employers in Berkshire County, with over 500 staff from its student day academy, three residential schools and other areas.
In July 2022, Shaun Cusson will succeed Burke as CEO. Cusson, who has been on Hillcrest staff for more than 28 years and its executive director since 2005, was unanimously approved by Hillcrest’s board of directors, the statement said.
Cusson is one of five executive officers mentored by Burke, a group Cusson described in the release as “a close team committed to staying ahead and continuing to evolve and improve as our needs meet. students change. ”
“What our staff do day in and day out for our students is absolutely inspiring, and my main job is to create the best possible environment for them to do their great work,” said Cusson.
Elected officials and local leaders praised Burke and Cusson in the statement.
Mount Greylock Regional School District Superintendent Jason “Jake” McCandless praised the Hillcrest Therapeutic Day School and said Burke would be “sorely missed”, although he praised “the Cusson’s integrity, intellect and dedication to students, ”comparing these qualities to those of Burke.
U.S. Representative Richard Neal, a Democrat from Springfield who represents the Berkshires, said in the statement that Burke and his team “have changed countless lives and made sure those who walk in their doors walk away with the tools they have. need to be successful where life takes them. ”
State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox, said Burke leaves “an incredible legacy of caring for people of different abilities,” adding that Hillcrest “has truly become a national model” under Burke.
Danny Jin, a member of Report for America Corps, is the reporter for The Eagle’s Statehouse. He can be reached at [email protected], @djinreports on Twitter and at 413-496-6221.