The Palm Beach Post | By Andrew Marra | July 28, 2021
Palm Beach County’s public school system swore in its third chief executive in six years on Wednesday, handing the reins of the county’s largest employer to its longtime chief financial officer, Mike Burke.
Burke steps in as the county’s schools superintendent less than two weeks before schools reopen fully for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, and as an upsurge in cases reignites the explosive topic of mask requirements for students.
The 54-year-old financial expert is being hired as an interim leader while a national search for a permanent chief executive proceeds. But with that search expected to take several months, Burke seems likely to steer the district at least through the end of the calendar year and into the spring.
Burke is the first person without an educational background to lead the school district since Bill Malone, a former chief operating officer, was tapped as an interim superintendent in 2011.
School board members have said they are hoping for a renewed focus on academics this school year and said they were confident that Burke’s long tenure in the district’s executive cabinet gave him sufficient expertise to oversee academic planning.
“I’m just pretty happy today,” board member Marcia Andrews said of Burke’s appointment.
Board members on Wednesday approved a contract that pays Burke a $300,000 annual base salary, slightly less than the $306,000 outgoing Superintendent Donald Fennoy earned at the end of his tenure.
He will also receive a $1,200-a-month car allowance and $500-a-month stipend to cover business expenses.
The contract was approved 6-0 after a last-minute change to clarify that Burke is being hired on “an interim basis.”
It provides that Burke will return to his previous position as chief financial officer once the school board selects a successor and that person takes office. He is also permitted to apply for the permanent superintendent position.
Burke replaces outgoing Superintendent Donald Fennoy, who announced July 13 he would step down after a little more than three years in office.
Fennoy will remain on the school district’s payroll until Aug 9, but on Wednesday he was moved into a new position as “chief of staff,” where he will assist and advise Burke as he makes the transition into the top job.