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Former Byron school board members discuss resignation

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BYRON, Minn. (KTTC) — Just days before the Byron Public Schools District’s first day of school, two newly elected school board members made the decision to leave their leadership positions.

Emmy Harvey and Mike Denney both sent in their resignation to Superintendent Dr. Mike Nuebeck Thursday, coincidentally, within an hour of each other.

Byron Superintendent Dr. Mike Nuebeck said it was “a surprise” to have both Emmy Harvey and Mike Denney resign. “It’s a tough time, with COVID. It’s really tough on everybody. Not just the kids and staff and leadership. It’s also the board members,” he said.

“It was a surprise,” Nuebeck said. “You know, you would hope that they wouldn’t leave, they only just came on in November. You hope for some consistency, but we go on from here. And I completely understand.”

The surprise comes after Byron Public Schools Board made the decision to recommend, not require, masks in school in the Aug. 16 meeting.

Harvey, was in favor of optional masking, rather than required. In a statement she released to the community she cites harassment as to why she quit. The statement read in part, quote: “I stepped down because, truth be told, we have some very passionate community members.  While this is a very trying time for all of us, some went to such lengths to harass myself and board members.  They then decided to come after my business as a Realtor.  My next fear was that my kids would be targeted.”

As for Denney, he was the sole vote against an optional mask mandate. He believed masks should be required. He said the job was starting to take a toll on his mental and physical health.

“I was usually on the opposite side of the vote. 6 to 1, 5 to 1, ” he said. “I can deal with that, that’s fine. The hard part was supporting agreements that I was strongly against. Early on, that was fine. But, it just didn’t sit well with me and it caused a lot of angst.”

Denney said it was the latest issue, the mask issue, that was the last straw for him.

“It was the latest issue that really hit home. Very strong disagreement with having masks optional. I wanted the mandate to stop something before it happened. I wanted to be proactive,” he said. “That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

While Denney said it was a difficult decision, he knows it was the right one.

“As soon as I sent the letter of resignation, I felt a lot better,” Denney said. “The pit in my stomach eased up a lot.”

Harvey and Denney leaving Byron Public Schools adds BPS to the list of shrinking school boards across the state, and the country.

While Nuebeck would have liked to see a full school board at the start of the 2021 school year, he understands, why school board members may be opting out of their duties.

“It’s a tough time, with COVID. It’s really tough on everybody. Not just the kids and staff and leadership. It’s also the board members. You have to listen to a lot of different opinions, and I think it gets pretty wearing on them as well,” Nuebeck said.

Current board members will have the opportunity to nominate community members to fill the two openings at their next meeting, on Sept. 7.

As for the district’s current mask recommendation, Nuebeck says that could change at any time, depending on the city’s COVID situation.

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Kamie Roesler

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