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New district chief wants to be ‘CEO of hope’

Burde brings experience as teacher, principal and administrator

Godfrey-Lee — After serving the Kenowa Hills community for almost a decade, Michael Burde now serves the students, teachers and families of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools. It’s a role he takes most seriously, especially in the midst of a pandemic. 

“I believe a superintendent’s number one job is to keep staff and students safe, physically and mentally, especially in the midst of COVID-19,” Burde said. 

Burde is about a month into his new position as superintendent, after being named to the post in November by the Board of Education. Board President Eric Mockerman said then that Burde “represents a solid match for the needs in our schools. We’re eager to begin a long relationship with our new school leader!”

Burde was one of three candidates interviewed to succeed Kevin Polston, who left July 1 to lead Kentwood Public Schools. Dirk Weeldreyer served since then as interim superintendent.

‘I want our students to feel a sense of hope for the future and purpose for their lives.’

– Superintendent Michael Burde

Since assuming his role at the beginning of January, Burde has had time to set some goals for his future in Godfrey-Lee.

“I’m really excited about the district’s focus on excellence and equity, and my goal is to continue to prioritize those values for the entire learning community,” Burde said. “If we can think more broadly about our hopes and dreams for our learners, and lean into their potential for creativity and critical thinking, we can better customize learning experiences for all.”

Michael Burde with his wife, Jacqlyn, and their daughters, Marilyn, 10 (left), and Katherine, 13 (courtesy)

A Familiar Feel

Coming to work in Godfrey-Lee, Burde felt familiar similarities to his hometown school district in Newaygo, where his father served as superintendent and his mother taught. 

“The more I researched and learned about the district, the more I became excited about our shared values of family, community, and school pride.”

Burde credits their perspectives and “dinner table conversation” for having an impact on the way he views education. 

“My parents were both very student-centered. I feel like the transformative, student-centered work I supported in my previous roles was always focused on improving students’ educational experiences,” Burde said.

Praise from Teaching Staff

Godfrey-Lee Education Association President and Godfrey Elementary teacher Alex Kuiper is excited about Burde’s willingness to work alongside staff to “create an educational system that brings equitable learning practices to all our students.”

“Dr. Burde brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be a huge asset to our community,” Kuiper said. “Godfrey-Lee Education Association is certain there are more opportunities than obstacles for the future of Godfrey-Lee.”

Meet the New Superintendent 

Experience: Michael Burde began his teaching career in Ionia Public Schools and served as assistant principal at Belding High School, before shifting to the role of elementary school principal in the same district. Burde eventually became Belding Area Schools’ curriculum director. In 2011 he was hired to fill the same position in Kenowa Hills. During his nine years in Kenowa, Burde later served as assistant superintendent and ended as deputy superintendent. As director of curriculum and instruction, he spearheaded the district’s competency-based learning program.

Education: He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Spring Arbor University, and both his master’s and Ph.D. in educational leadership from Western Michigan University. 

Family: Burde and his wife, Jacqlyn, have two daughters, Katherine,13, and Marilyn,10. Both Burde and his wife played college basketball and now his daughters have grown to love the sport.

Jason Cochran, East Lee Campus adviser and teacher, also looks forward to working with Burde. 

“We are excited to have Dr. Burde as part of the Godfrey-Lee district,” Cochran said. “After meeting him and having some brief, initial discussions, it is clear that he cares about doing what is best for our students.” 

Early Childhood Center kindergarten teacher Char Walsh said Burde has made himself “extremely visible and I have already heard about his compassionate actions toward students and staff.”

“My hope is that he continues to have dialogue about growing programming at the Early Childhood Center to lay a solid foundation for kindergarten through 12th-grade education,” she added.

Burde looks forward to working alongside the Godfrey-Lee community to “cultivate a culture that leads to higher levels of learning.” 

“I view this position as the CEO of hope,” Burde added. “I want our students to feel a sense of hope for the future and purpose for their lives. We are here to provide opportunities and equip all students to achieve their goals and dreams.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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