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Cascelia S. "Cici" Burgess, city educator

Cascelia S. "Cici" Burgess, the Baltimore school system's director of early intervention programs and services, who was an educator in the city for 38 years, died Sept. 20 of a heart attack at her Northeast Baltimore home. She was 61.

"The one thing that everybody knows is that she had an undying love for children. And as a special early ed teacher, Cici did all she could to help with resources and whatever else was needed," said Sandra A. "Sam" Means, an administrator at Maritime Industries Academy High School. "She dedicated her life to them."

"I've known her 25 years, and she devoted her life to the school system. She'd go to work on Saturdays and Sundays to make sure she accomplished her goals and objectives for the children," said Jimmy Gittings, president of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association. "Her No. 1 priority was that they would succeed."

"She was a wonderful educator who was always willing to help others and she loved those children and their families," said Rosalyn F. Wiley, a special educator in the Office of Early Learning who had worked with Dr. Burgess for more than 15 years.

"She always took the time to listen, no matter how big or small the problem was. She wanted to assist you," said Dr. Wiley. "I am going to miss that great warm smile of hers."

The daughter of educators, the former Cascelia Scott was born and raised in Edmondson Village. After graduating from Western High School in 1969, she earned a bachelor's degree in special and elementary education in 1973 from Coppin State College.

In 1974, she earned a master's degree in special and elementary education, also from Coppin, and took graduate-level courses in education supervision and administration from what is now Loyola University Maryland.

She earned a doctorate in 2004 in urban education and special education from the Johns Hopkins University with a specialty in early childhood education.

Dr. Burgess began her career in 1974 with city public schools as a resource teacher at Hamilton Elementary School, where she worked until 1980, when she was promoted to school headquarters as a diagnostic prescriptive teacher and facilitator.

She was working as an educational specialist when she was loaned in 1988 to the Baltimore Health Department, where she supervised the Baltimore Infants and Toddlers Program for seven years.

Dr. Burgess returned to city schools in 1995 when she was named administrative assistant to Walter G. Amprey, who was superintendent from 1991 to 1997.

From 1998 to 2001, she was an educational specialist in the Office of Interagency Support Services, where she supervised the Infants and Toddlers Unit and worked with children from birth to 3 years who had developmental disabilities, and their families.

She also managed the evaluation, eligibility determination, and provision of early intervention services for children suffering from disabilities.

Dr. Burgess played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Judith P. Hoyer Early Child Care and Education Centers, where she was coordinator from 2000 to 2004. During that time, she was also coordinator of the Office of Interagency Support Services.

"She was responsible for writing all of the grants and handling the budgets for what we call the Judy Hoyer centers," said Shantel Thigpen, who is a program facilitator with city public schools.

"The first center was at Moravia Park Elementary School and expanded to John Eager Howard, Dr. Bernard Harris, Furman Templeton and Samuel Coleridge elementary schools, and they help both children and their parents get ready for school," said Ms. Thigpen, who was hired as Dr. Burgess' administrative assistant in 2001.

"Cici never accepted the word 'no,' and she encouraged her staff to do the same," said Ms. Thigpen, of Loch Raven. "She was very serious about getting young people the resources they needed so they could do well in school, and many of them were low income."

"She raised millions of dollars for the Judy Centers and leaves quite a legacy," said Ms. Means, who had been a close friend since they were 5 years old. "We've always been like sisters."

From 2004 to 2006, Dr. Burgess served as interim director of the Office of Special Education, where she provided leadership for the provision of special education and oversaw services to students with disabilities, as well as developed and implemented special education procedures and policies.

For the last six years until her death, Dr. Burgess was director of the Early Intervention Programs and Services, where her many responsibilities included directing and supervising staff in the Infants and Toddlers Program and the Judith P. Hoyer centers.

She also evaluated and supervised curriculum and instructional strategies for children from birth to 3, and prekindergarten through the early grades.

"Cici had always been more than my boss. She was like a mother to me and had been my mentor and idol," said Ms. Thigpen. "I would not be where I am today had it not been for her. I even named my daughter after her and she is her godmother."

"She was always a very kind and caring person. She always wanted to help those in need," said Ms. Means.

A moment of silence was observed for Dr. Burgess during Tuesday night's city school board meeting.

Dr. Burgess was a world traveler and enjoyed collecting art from her travels.

"Her hobby was helping others and mentoring young ladies," said her daughter, Karma Burgess of Owings Mills. "Her work and her church were like hobbies and very important to her."

Dr. Burgess was an active member of Mount Pleasant Church and Ministry, 6000 Radecke Ave., where services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to her daughter, Dr. Burgess is survived by her father, John W. Scott of Towson; her mother, Thelma Scott of Baltimore; and a grandson. Her marriage to Emerson Burgess ended in divorce.

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