Patrick Burke, described as a calm and influential leader by others, is leaving Fulton County Schools after spending 20 years there.
Burke resigned as the district’s chief operations officer (COO) to accept a job as Gwinnett County Public Schools’ director of planning, school improvement and operations. His hiring was made official when it was approved at the Gwinnett Board of Education’s Feb. 18 meeting.
“When your announcement came out, it was like an earthquake all over social media,” District 2 Fulton Board of Education member Katie Reeves said. “You’ve touched so many people’s lives in this district that it’s shocking.”
Reeves was among the leaders who paid tribute to Burke at the Fulton board’s March 18 meeting at the South Learning Center in Union City, where he said goodbye. Burke, who lives only 15 minutes from his new office in Gwinnett and has a longer commute to Fulton’s office, said he took the job to spend more time with his family.
“I’m so humbled and honored by the comments this evening,” he said. “First, let me begin by saying thank you. Having served this board for 20 years and 13 years as a cabinet member, I can assure you that you are an amazing board. Thanks to all the students, parents and taxpayers. I’ve been honored to serve you.
“My decision to leave is for work-life balance. I love this job, this team, the people I am engaged to serve. Given the age and needs of my kids, it’s more important to me. The Gwinnett (position) … is a type of job where I’m going to be challenged, but a much more predictable schedule than my current schedule.”
Superintendent Mike Looney has been with the district only since June 2019, remarked on Burke’s work ethic.
“He has modeled professionalism, empathy and (calmness) in his work,” Looney said. “In the short time I have been here, I have often seen him arrive first (at the office) and leave last. His dedication, kindness and loyalty will be missed.”
Reeves, who has served on the board since 1999 and is the group’s longest-tenured member, talked about the impact Burke has had on the district overall.
“I can talk about how you’re a visionary, and you are, but I can talk about how you placed innovation in everything you touched,” she said. “Your fingerprints are all over this district. Your humanity, your willingness to listen, I’ve never seen you in a public meeting where you haven’t stopped to think and put yourself in the position of the parents or students.”
District 5 member Linda McCain, who has served on the board since 2011, added, “This has been one of the most telling things about your character: that you’re leaving a job you love dearly and to take care of a family you love dearly. I have the utmost respect for you as a father, husband and friend. …
“You have left a lasting legacy with numerous buildings, too numerous to know. … You’ve helped us become debt-free with our pay-as-you-go process.”
District 4 member Franchesca Warren, who has served on the board since January, added, “Thank you for always entertaining my questions. As a parent of four, I get it. Your family is the most important thing. I want to note how knowledgeable you are. You are really open and answer every question and stay late.”
District 3 member Gail Dean, on the board since 2001, called Burke “the ultimate professional.”
“You’ve always been there for me, but even more, you’ve always been there for my community. … This district in many cases is where it is because of you because of the successes brought to us. I hope to maintain that friendship.”
District 1 member Katha Stuart, on the board since 2015, said she’s known Burke for about a decade, starting when she was Crabapple Elementary School’s PTA president.
“You were one of the reasons why I took this on to join the board to complete Linda Schultz’s term,” Stuart said. “I knew the staff was top notch, mainly because of you. You are the consummate professional. … You’ve always put students first, and now it’s time to put your family first.”
District 6 member Kimberly Dove, on the board since 2017, added, “One of the things I admire about you is your professionalism. Every leader you have touched has grown in some way. … You always say, ‘This is not about me; this is about my team and my staff.’”
District 7 member Julia Bernath, on the board since 2000, said, “You have trained some great leaders and have trained some great superintendents along the way. … You have great empathy and a calm, easy demeanor. The one thing that will stick me is you always say, ‘How do we get to yes?’ I think that’s helped craft the character of our district.”
Burke’s last day is April 30. Louis Mosley, a retired school construction executive, has been named the district’s interim COO.