The Palm Beach Post | By Andrew Marra | October 6, 2021
Two months after being tapped as an interim leader, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Mike Burke is getting the permanent gig.
Fawning school board members agreed Wednesday to call off plans for a national search for a new chief executive, saying Burke’s performance in office had convinced them he was the best person for the job.
“I think we have the right person in the right seat right now,” board member Karen Brill said, “with the right demeanor, with the right knowledge, with the right expertise.”
Board member Erica Whitfield said she had been “exceptionally pleased” with Burke’s time at the school district’s helm, saying educators she asks about Burke invariably praise his performance.
“Resoundingly, everyone I ask is so thrilled with his level of engagement, his intelligence, his knowledge of the subject, his years of experience in the system,” she said.
Brill and Whitfield both said they normally would not support selecting an internal candidate to steer the tenth-largest school district in the country without first conducting a national search.
But they said recruiting a qualified school executive would be difficult amid the coronavirus pandemic and the charged political environment surrounding the issues of masks in schools and vaccines for children.
“I think the answer right now is the best guy is here,” Whitfield said. “I would like to take the interim off his title as soon as we can.”
School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said even though Burke, the district’s longtime chief financial officer, does not have an academic background, he has a depth of academic experience from his years as the district’s financial expert.
“The argument has always been that there should not be a superintendent who does not have an academic background, and I believe we do have a superintendent with an academic background,” Barbieri said.
“Mr. Burke has been the chief financial officer for years, and not a penny was ever spent by the academic team without first running it by Mr. Burke.”
Board members voted 7-0 to direct Barbieri to negotiate a new contract with Burke to serve as superintendent on a permanent basis.
Burke said he was “truly honored” and happy to accept the permanent post.
“It’s been very humbling, and I know it’s a demanding job but I feel like I’m prepared for it,” he said.