Innovative community schools leader to take over at MHS next year

Publish Date: 07/15/2014

Marion Community Schools is pleased to announce the next principal of Marion High School: Keith Burke.

Burke has nearly two decades of experience in leadership roles at Indianapolis Public Schools, and he will have the opportunity to work closely with retiring MHS Principal Lennon Brown, who will remain MHS principal through Dec. 31, 2014. 

"Keith will have the first semester to learn from and with Mr. Lennon Brown and our high school and district team, as well as our community,” Marion Community Schools Superintendent Brad Lindsay said. “Keith has 16 years of successful leadership experiences from Indianapolis and is excited about joining our community and our Marion Community Schools team.”

Burke has most recently led T.C. Howe Community High School, a former IPS school currently being run by turnaround operator Charter Schools USA. Data shows student achievement has grown significantly during his time there. He has played a lead role not only academically, but also in the area of community connections, finance, and professional development.

Prior to that, he served IPS in various leadership roles since 1996, and was an integral player in many turnaround and success stories within that corporation.

He was named National Community School Principal of the Year in 2006 for his work at IPS Washington High School, which was at the same time named National Community School of the Year. Both awards were given by the Coalition of Community Schools, an alliance of national, state, and local organizations that supports partnerships between schools and other community resources.

Just a short time before, Washington had been in danger of state takeover and was actually closed for a time. The turnaround success was due in large part to significant community partnerships with more than 50 local organizations that helped make sure the needs of students and their families were met. Innovative teaching strategies at Washington also included civic and community involvement components.

During Burke’s time at Washington, first as assistant principal and then as principal, standardized test scores rose by an annual average of 10 to 15 percentage points, and in the reopened school’s first graduating class, the Class of 2008, 100 percent of students passed the math portion of the Graduation Qualifying Exam, and 90 percent passed the language arts portion. Under his leadership, the school showed the most academic growth of any secondary school in the IPS school system, and was featured by the American School Board Journal as a model for failing urban schools.

He served as athletic director at IPS Arsenal Technical High School (the largest high school in the IPS system) during the time period that Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI, when Tech was the beneficiary of some of the NFL’s community outreach programs. Burke was the point person for IPS in all communication with the Super Bowl Committee, the media, and the NFL teams, for the design and construction of the Chase Legacy Center, the renovated Tech Football Stadium and the field turf installation. (The NFL donated the turf field built at the University of Indianapolis as the New York Giants’ practice field to Tech, and the Chase Legacy Center, a fitness, media, and educational center on the Tech grounds that houses programs run by a dozen different organizations, ranging from fitness, to media, to art, to culinary and gardening programs, was made possible by $1 million in seed money from the NFL.)

“I really enjoy building community relationships,” Burke said. “That’s part of what I’m looking forward to in Marion: being a part of a community that is engaged and supportive. I’m excited for my family to become part of this community.”

He also served as AD and head football coach IPS Broad Ripple High School, where he was named IPS Coach of the Year for multiple years, as well as Indianapolis Star Coach of the Year. He had previously served as a social studies teacher at Broad Ripple, where he was named teacher of the year.

Burke, who is originally from the Vincennes area, started his career as a teacher and coach in Madisonville, Ky.

“Over the years as a coach and principal, I’ve watched with pride as my students have gone on to Harvard, Yale, West Point, and other prestigious institutions,” Burke said. “These are kids who faced significant challenges and tough environments. Some of them are in the spotlight for their own extraordinary successes now — and that’s the ultimate satisfaction for me.”

He earned his bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in educational leadership from Oakland City University in Oakland, Ind.

Lindsay said he believes Burke’s experiences will serve him well at Marion High School.

“Keith understands that come Jan. 1, he has GIANT shoes to fill,” Lindsay said. “As he receives the baton from Mr. Brown, he is determined to continue the good work that has occurred before him, and the positive upswing of Marion High School that has earned a U.S. News and World Report Bronze Medal distinction and is on the verge of an IDOE letter grade of A."

Burke said he is impressed with the turnaround story at Marion High School and is confident that Brown staff has laid foundation for continued success.

“We’ll stay the course with the improvements they’re making, and we’ll grow from there,” he said.