By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck has a new school boardmember.
After three hours of interviewing seven candidates, relative newcomer to the city Eric Burkman was voted in to fill the vacated seat of Joan Borushko.
Borushko announced her resignation last month, citing ongoing health issues. Her term has two years to go, ending on Dec. 31, 2014.
Burkman has lived in the city for about three years, but he is no stranger. He has been the head of the Hamtramck Drug Free Coalition, which has been active in working with public school students.
Burkman also ran for School Board last November and finished last out of a field of seven candidates.
He beat out some pretty formidable candidates at Wednesday’s interview session, including former Boardmembers Jerome Balcerzak and Alan Shulgon, as well as retired Hamtramck school teacher Dennis Lukas.
The vote to appoint Burkman was 5-1, with Boardmember Hedy Shulgon, wife of Alan Shulgon, voting in opposition.
From what other boardmembers had to say about Burkman, they were impressed with his knowledge of the district and the issues and challenges it faces.
“Eric has the vision to take us to that next level,” said Board President Elizabeth Zwolak.
Boardmember Titus Walters credited Burkman’s “high energy” and his close connection to the kids in the school district as major considerations for appointing him to the board.
Reached by telephone on Thursday, Burkman said he is “excited to serve the students and community.”
He and the board will certainly have their work cut out for them in the next few years. The district has a $5 million budget deficit, although it also has a financial plan to work out of that shortfall.
Still, cuts in school funding across the state have crippled many districts’ budgets.
In his interview with the board, Burkman said that although the district receives funding from the state based on how many students are enrolled, he predicts that in the near future that funding could shift to being based on how well the students perform.
That prediction didn’t come out of thin air. Burkman said funding for his own non-profit organization, the Hamtramck Drug Free Coalition, has been shifted to “performance evaluation.”
“We need to keep an eye toward the future,” he said.
Burkman also impressed the board with his knowledge of student achievement, and the programs available to identify the stumbling blocks the students are experiencing as well as how to turn those issues around.