Burke to step down as Easthampton HS principal

  • Easthampton High School Principal Kevin Burke speaks during a School Committee meeting at the Municipal Building in April 2017.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton High School Principal Kevin Burke speaks at the high school’s graduation in June 2017. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer 
Published: 2/26/2019 4:30:21 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Easthampton High School Principal Kevin Burke is stepping down on June 30 at the end of his three-year contract after 11 years working for the school district. 

Burke submitted a letter of resignation to Superintendent Allison LeClair on Feb. 15, citing the need to spend more time with his family.

“After working in Easthampton for over 11 years I have made many connections with students, community members and staff,” Burke wrote in his letter.  “I will always cherish these relationships but I have to put the needs of my family first.”

Burke wrote that his oldest daughter is starting high school next year, and his youngest child is only a few years behind her. 

“I have realized that I have only a few more years in which to be a constant presence” in their lives, Burke wrote. “I want this time to be meaningful and I have found that in my current position, because of the considerable amount (of) job responsibilities, this is not possible.” 

Attempts to reach Burke on Tuesday for an interview were unsuccessful. 

Burke previously worked as a math teacher at White Brook Middle School, starting in 2008, before serving as assistant principal at the high school for 2½ years. He was named interim principal in the fall of 2015, and in March 2016, was hired as permanent principal for the high school by former superintendent Nancy Follansbee. 

LeClair said Burke’s decision to resign from his position did not come as a surprise.  

“Mr. Burke has shared with me that he’s been reflecting on some of his choices,” LeClair said on Tuesday. “He’s been thinking a lot about his family, and he’s talked to me about that. He sought advice and support from different people in the district to help guide him.” 

The search process for Burke’s replacement will involve forming an 11-member committee — made up of school employees, parents and students — which will recommend a new high school principal. LeClair said she is aiming to form the committee by March 6. 

LeClair added that she is looking for a candidate with a background in diversity and equity work, with a “strong, student-centered lens” and experience as a high school teacher or leader. 

Teachers, staff, parents and students are being asked to provide input in a survey for the principal search as well, LeClair said. 

In the spring of 2017, an investigation conducted by the state Attorney General’s Office found that black and Hispanic students faced more severe discipline than white students at the high school. 

In a report by the AG’s Civil Rights Division released in August 2017, investigators found that the school administration had ignored serious warning signs of racism and tension that led to a physical assault in March 2017. The assault took place in the parking lot of the high school. It led to three students of color being arrested and subsequently sparked the investigation by the AG’s office.

Hundreds of students staged a walkout following the arrests and voiced concerns about how the administration handles bias-related incidents. The school district ultimately reached an agreement with the state attorney general to address problems concerning the culture and climate at the high school.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com 

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