W. Burke Royster began his duties as the tenth CEO of Greenville County Schools in April, 2012, after previously serving as the district’s deputy superintendent. He provides leadership for the state’s largest and nation’s 49th largest school district, which serves more than 70,000 students and employs 9,000 teachers, principals and other personnel.
Royster has served 32 years in public education as a teacher, coach, school administrator, and district leader. He began his career in 1980 as a teacher at Starr-Iva Middle School in Anderson School District Three and joined Greenville County Schools for the first time in 1983 as assistant principal of Monaview Middle School. He then served as an assistant principal at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill School District Three and assumed his first principalship in 1990 as the first leader of Waccamaw High School in the Georgetown County School District.
Royster relocated back to Upstate South Carolina in 1994 as principal of Seneca High School in Oconee County Schools and accepted his first district-level position in 1999 as an assistant superintendent in Oconee County. He rejoined Greenville County Schools in 2005 as deputy superintendent for operations and became the district’s sole deputy when he assumed additional leadership responsibilities for the instructional division in 2011.
During his six years as deputy superintendent, he focused on improving the district’s effectiveness and efficiency. He was an integral part of the budget team that led the district through more than $52.5 million in general fund cuts without furloughs or drastic reductions to the teacher workforce. Royster also initiated a number of cost-saving initiatives, including energy savings of more than $4 million – the equivalent of 80 teaching positions.
Under his leadership and in tandem with the completion of the BEST Building Plan (70 new or renovated buildings), the maintenance department implemented a maintenance and repair system to move from a reactive repair model to a proactive, preventive approach. This not only saves money each year, but helps prevent unforeseen cost spikes that can wreak havoc on an annual budget.
To help the GCS Transportation Department operate more smoothly, Royster requested a full review and assessment by the State Department of Education. As a result, the district received 35 additional buses to transport the nearly 26,000 students that ride school buses each day. A new bell schedule (start and end times) was implemented for middle and high school students, which has vastly improved the fleet’s on-time pickup and drop-off times.
School safety has been at the forefront of his efforts with all school buildings updated to include a monitored and contained visitor entry. Also, the school district was awarded an almost $500,000 national grant to purchase safety equipment, to provide training, and to develop a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan that has served as a model for other districts.
Royster serves on various community boards including The United Way, Greenville Technical College Area Commission, The Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club, and Goodwill Industries. He is a graduate of Leadership Greenville. Past service includes various leadership positions with the South Carolina High School League.
He is a member of the International Council of Educational Facilities Planners, the National Association of School Business Officials, the South Carolina Athletic Administrators Association, the South Carolina and American Association of School Administrators, and Phi Delta Kappa.
Royster received a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in secondary education from Clemson University. He is pursuing a doctorate in education from the University of South Carolina.