WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The School District of Palm Beach County has its man.
School board members voted unanimously Wednesday evening to move forward with making Mike Burke the district's permanent superintendent.
Burke has been serving in the top spot on an interim basis since July following the sudden resignation of former Superintendent Dr. Donald Fennoy.
School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said he'll work with the district's legal department to draft a contract to officially make Burke the permanent superintendent. Board members will vote on that contract at their Oct. 20 meeting.
"I am truly honored to lead this great district," Burke said Wednesday. "I know it's a demanding job, but I feel like I'm prepared for it."
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Burke has been with the School District of Palm Beach County since 1998 and most recently served as its chief financial officer, responsible for maintaining the district's staggering $4 billion budget.
Since assuming the role in July, Burke has been faced with a series of difficult decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including mandating face masks for students without the ability to opt out.
That bold move went against a Florida Department of Health emergency rule which gives parents the final say over whether their child should be masked in school.
"I think we have the right person in the right seat right now," School Board Vice Chair Karen Brill said Wednesday.
Brill, who historically has favored an outside search for superintendent, said principals and teachers are very pleased with Burke's performance, level of compassion, and dedication to overcoming the daunting challenges brought on by the pandemic.
"Resoundingly, everyone that I ask is so thrilled with his level of engagement, his intelligence, his knowledge of the subject, his years of experience in the system," agreed Board Member Erica Whitfield, adding that she's "exceptionally pleased" with Burke during a "dire" time for education.
Under Burke's current contract, his annual salary through June 30, 2022 is $300,000.
"We are lucky at this point," Barbieri said. "And I don't believe we can find anybody in the country that has both the financial background — which the district sorely needs with a $4 billion budget — and an academic background that Mr. Burke certainly has."
Board Member Marcia Andrews said "this is not the time for Palm Beach County to do a search," stressing that the district's focus should be on helping students overcome severe learning losses caused by the pandemic.
"We've got a lot of work to do for the children, for our schools and staff, teachers and principals. Lots of work to do, and we need a great leader," Andrews said.
During his tenure with the School District of Palm Beach County, Burke has also served as chief operating officer and budget director.
Before joining the district, Burke was a budget analyst for Broward County Public Schools.