Dr. Ralph Burnley is no stranger to leadership within the School District of Philadelphia.
Before becoming principal at George W. Nebinger School, Burnley already did his fair share of shuffling about the school district. From teaching to administration, Burnley became the interim regional superintendent in South Philadelphia before ending up at Nebinger, where he is now in his second year as principal.
Burnley’s path to a career in education was not a typical one. Originally from Mt. Airy, Burnley graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School before moving on to Wilberfoce University in Ohio to study journalism.
Burnley went on to become an underwriting manager for a major insurance company.
Although his initial job strayed from journalism and writing, Burnley said being an underwriter provided him with irreplaceable leadership training that would eventually help him.
After working with the insurance company, Burnley began substitute teaching within the school district. Through a program recruiting specifically African-American men, he met the certification requirements and began full-time teaching at Roosevelt Middle School, where he specialized in literacy and social studies.
Soon enough, his leadership propelled him into an assistant principal position.
“I just felt like it was a great segway to move from leadership in industry to leadership and supervision in education,” he said.
Today, Burnley keeps a close eye on adults who might make good educators and teachers who have the potential to become principals. Despite the enjoyment of molding young minds in his current position, mentoring adults will be another path he’s already pursuing.