Special to the Bulletin
Manteca Unified School District Superintendent Clark Burke is an actively serving military officer.
When he is not dressed in slacks and a tie with colored fun socks, he is called away to wear his uniform to serve as Lieutenant Colonel Burke of the United States Army.
Burke’s progression into the military was slightly unconventional. Typically, the decision for a person to enlist takes place directly after high school graduation. In Burke’s case, he opted to enlist and become an officer after already having earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He has served as Lieutenant Colonel for over two decades.
“I wanted to give back and be in service in more ways than one. Not only for my local community, but for my nation,” said Burke.
Burke’s position in the U.S. Army centers around logistics. He is currently based in Hawaii and works for an SDDC, which is a Surface Distribution Deployment Command. Burke described that their overall objective is to oversee military movement in the Pacific Theater including such places as Japan, Korea, and Australia to name a few.
Burke just returned from an assignment in Korea. As part of a larger team, Burke maintains political and military relationships and logistics. The Lt. Colonel serves as a battle captain in a multi-national joint forces command cell. These joint forces are made up of branches of all U.S. military and branches of Republic of Korea military.
“We run 24 hour operations,” Burke explained. “The cell exercises operational plans and works with various government agencies to investigate operations of the deployment, redeployment, and distribution of logistical ships and vessels from the seaport.”
“We look at current conditions within the country, establish procedures and build relations with partnering countries. Our operational planning includes responding to national emergencies. For example, coordination of vessels and equipment for NEO operations (noncombatant evacuation operations), which is how to get civilians off the peninsula or aid humanitarian efforts if something bad were to happen.”
Burke is an expert in the field of service. He explained that, he does not see his service to Manteca Unified schools and his service to the military, as mutually exclusive. It is about helping, supporting, defending, and protecting people.
The military and school district are both their own microcosm. They contain many aspects of a society including health care, food services, mechanical and maintenance projects, engineering plans, educational programs, transportation and human resources.
“The highly specialized training the government provides in leadership has afforded me the knowledge to strategically analyze, and the skills to mobilize available resources to meet specific objectives,” said Burke. “Whereas, the Military benefits from my ability to lead an organization with compassion and a people focus. This gives my military service purpose; I am working for people.”
Both agencies benefit from Burke’s experience in the other
Burke understands, through a unique lens, the urgency, strategy, defense and preparation it takes to develop safety plans and respond in any case of emergency. Keeping students safe and supporting a safe feeling, both emotionally and physically, is a District Target, Vision, and Mission.
There is no other school district superintendent in the State of California that is also an actively serving officer.