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April 5, 2020

Jamie Taylor/river news

Eric Burke answers a question during his second interview with the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education Feb. 4. After the meeting, the board voted to offer the Port Washington High School principal the job as district superintendent.
Jamie Taylor/river news

Eric Burke answers a question during his second interview with the School District of Rhinelander Board of Education Feb. 4. After the meeting, the board voted to offer the Port Washington High School principal the job as district superintendent.
2/20/2020 7:30:00 AM
Signed and sealed: School board approves Burke's contract as superintendent

Jamie Taylor
River News Reporter

The School District of Rhinelander Board of Education voted 8-0, with one member absent, Monday evening to accept the two-year contract hiring Eric Burke as the next district superintendent effective July 1.

Burke, the current principal at Port Washington High School in Ozaukee County, will replace Kelli Jacobi, who will retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Under the terms of his contract, Burke's base salary for his first year will be $152,000, with the 2021-22 salary being set by the board prior to the start of the school year, but no less than the Consumer Price Index. The board has made a practice of approving two-year contracts with Jacobi.

In addition to base salary, the contract spells out the following benefits that Burke will also receive: 15 days of sick leave each year, which can be saved up to 240 days, 20 days paid vacation, with the ability to carry forward 10 days, funeral and sickness illness leave and an insurance package that does include an employee contribution, and 11 paid holidays.

Following the meeting, school board president Ron Counter said Burke hopes to meet with Jacobi soon to start the task of learning the job. He will also be meeting with the community to start getting to know people.

"He will be in town March 15 and 16 and March 21 and 24," Counter said. "It will be a chance for the people in the community to come out and meet him."

In October, the board set the salary range for the next superintendent at between $135,000 and $170,000. Jacobi currently makes $136,774 annually in salary. However, school board president Ron Counter noted at an October special meeting that she has declined a couple of raises during her tenure.

Shortly thereafter, Bruce Miles of Big River Group, the consultant the board hired to guide the search, told the board his goal was to have a signed contract with the next superintendent by Feb. 1.

He started by gathering input from the board, public and district staff as to what qualities they wanted to see in the next superintendent.

Miles used that criteria to help narrow down the applicants to a smaller group who were sent a list of prepared questions to return for the board. The board then looked at those responses, along with versions of their resumes that had been stripped of identifying information, to arrive at the three finalists. 

Big River Group also conducted the search in 2013 that led to Jacobi's hiring using the same process to screen the candidates.

Burke was one of three finalists for the position, along with Maggie Peterson, the district's director of learning support and Pat Devine, superintendent of the Waconia School District, Waconia, Minn.

All three candidates participated in a round robin interview process on Jan. 28. Each candidate was questioned by a team of district administrators and building leaders, a group of staff and parents and finally the school board for 45 minutes each session.

After a closed session discussion, the board voted to invite Burke back for a second interview on Feb. 4.

That interview lasted over an hour before the board went into closed session, after which they voted to offer Burke the position.

Negotiations for the contract began that night and finalized on Feb. 7.

Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews

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