Anita Burnette has served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, administrative mentor, and now interim superintendent within Owensboro Public Schools. She said that while she will work on the skills of this job, she is excited to serve in the interim.
Her journey with OPS began in 1988 at Owensboro High School, where she taught special education before becoming principal — a position she would retire from in 2015.
While she has served in several positions since retiring, she said through tears becoming superintendent, even as interim, is like returning home for her.
When she got the call to fill in the seat left by the previous Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Constant, she was planning to go to Wisconsin on vacation with her husband. And while she said she would’ve loved to go to Wisconsin, she agreed that accepting the call was what she needed to do.
“When I left once for high school, I felt like I was leaving home. Because during my years as principal, my children had just gone off to college. So I had an empty house, and so all of you became my kids, so it was a really, really huge transition for me,” Burnette said.
The transition ahead of her will take a bit, as she said she would have to learn the skills of a superintendent, but she feels apt to enter the position. She said her time in the district has allowed her to connect with several individuals at all school levels.
She said it would be an easy transition for her because, in her eyes, from every part of the system, the staff in OPS prioritize the students in all that they do. The work that they put in is her favorite quality of the district.
“We’re very blessed in this district to have some talented, smart, hardworking people that really get it,” Burnette said. “They care about kids and understand what our district has always stood for.”
To her, the ‘it’ at OPS’s core comes down to taking students and teaching them more than the core curriculum but also how to be young humans.
Before arriving at OPS, she taught in different districts in South Carolina and Mississippi, and the relationships between staff and students weren’t comparable to what OPS provided.
“To come here and see the relationships between teachers at Owensboro High School, and the principals and coaches, and drama teachers, and all of the teachers had with their students was amazing to me because we didn’t have that where I came from,” Burnette said.
In addition to the staff’s work ethic, she said the district’s diversity sets OPS apart from other schools. Burnette said that since she came on staff, the diversity has changed for the better, and that’s a strength for the community.
“When you talk to people that work in OPS, they feel that and say that because it’s about all our kids,” she said.
And as she heads into this new transition, she has some adjusting but is in for the haul, she said. She is currently slated to work in the position through the end of the 2023-24 school year.
“I know a lot of people, which really helps, and things are very, very well organized, and the Chiefs do a tremendous amount of the work,” she said.
Burnette is eager to return to OPS and begin working with faculty, staff, students, and families to continue growing the district’s efforts.
“In my heart, it’s the love that we have for each other and our kids that makes this position mean so much to me,” she said through tears.