Burke to leave PWHS for top school job in Rhinelander

Principal will finish school year at Port High before becoming superintendent in northern Wisconsin
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington High School Principal Eric Burke on Tuesday accepted the job of superintendent of the Rhinelander School District. 

Burke will leave Port High, where for the last two decades he has been a student, teacher, coach and administrator, at the end of the school year. His new job, which he was offered after a second interview with the Rhinelander School Board Tuesday, begins July 1.

“I was born and raised here, went to school here, taught here and have been an administrator here,” Burke said in an interview Wednesday. “For the most part, this is all I have known.

“While it’s scary to leave, this is how we grow, by challenging ourselves.”

Also on Tuesday, Saukville Elementary School Principal Chad Brakke was named one of three finalists for the Cedar Grove-Belgium School superintendent job, raising the possibility that the Port-Saukville School District may be faced with replacing two administrators before next school year.

Port Washington-Saukville School Supt. Michael Weber, who encouraged both Burke and Brakke to earn their superintendent certifications and take the next step in their careers, said Wednesday that administrators will meet next week to discuss the process of hiring Burke’s successor. 

According to district guidelines, the position will be advertised internally first. If that search does not yield suitable candidates, the job will be advertised to candidates outside of the district, Weber said. 

“I’m happy for Eric,” he said. “We’ll be fine. Change can often bring new opportunities.

“What’s important as we move forward is to hold onto the successes we’ve achieved. The real mistake is when a new principal comes in and upsets the whole apple cart. That only creates tension.”

Burke, who earned his superintendent certification in 2015 and has made no secret of the fact he had his sights set on a top administrative job, said he updated Port High staff members on his job search last week and informed them this week he will take the Rhinelander job. 

“I told them I will always cherish my time at Port High and the great things we have accomplished together,” he said. 

Burke said he has verbally accepted the Rhinelander job and plans to sign a contract in the near future. 

“We negotiated after the (school board) voted and they gave me everything I wanted and more,” he said. 

One thing Burke said he made clear to Rhinelander school officials is that he is committed to his job at Port High through the end of the school year. 

“They were very respectful of the things I need to finish here,” he said.

Among those things are overseeing graduation and all the year-end events as well as making sure initiatives such as a new grading system and report cards are firmly in place before he leaves, Burke said.

“And I just want to be able to focus on the day-to-day job of being a principal,” he said. 

Of any administrator in the district, Burke has the deepest connections to the community. He graduated from Port High in 1986, and after earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1992, took a teaching job in Elkhart Lake. 

Burke returned to the district to take an elementary and middle school  phy-ed teaching job and eventually a teaching position at the high school. 

In 2004, he left to become athletic director at Franklin High School, but after only a year he returned to Port High to become an assistant principal and athletic director. 

In 2008, he was named principal of Lincoln Elementary School in Port Washington, then returned to Port High in 2011 as principal.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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