Two Byron school board members quit citing pressure from parents

They were on opposite sides of the Byron school board’s recent 6-to-1 decision not to mandate masks for students and staff in the new school year. But two school board members on the job for less than a year quit their posts on the same day for the same reason, claiming increased pressure from parents, primarily over the district’s COVID policies.

Mike Denney, the lone board member who voted in favor of a mask requirement, told Superintendent Mike Neubeck the job had become too stressful for him to carry out his obligations, according to the Post Bulletin.

“It has become apparent to me that my duties on the school board are negatively affecting my physical and mental health,” he wrote. “If I can’t be at 100% of my capabilities, I can’t serve the people of this district properly. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation effective immediately.”

Emmy Harvey told KTTC-TV she quit because of both personal and professional impacts stemming from her involvement in the process.

“I stepped down because, truth be told, we have some very passionate community members,” Harvey wrote. “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.”

School boards are generally facing far greater accountability from parents in Minnesota and nationally than in years past, due to widespread controversy over the teaching of Critical Race Theory and the detrimental impact of distance learning lockdowns during the pandemic. More than 50 Minnesota school board members have thrown in the towel this year before the end of their terms as parents have become more hands-on in policy discussions over their children’s education.

Like many districts, Byron Public Schools has been inundated with opinions about how it should handle the pandemic. Matt Prigge, who’s served on the board for nearly 20 years, said the response has been bigger than anything he’s seen before.

“The pressure and the level of emails that have come in the last 10 days have been as intense as I have seen in all my time on the board,” he said. “Some of them very respectful. A lot of them cut to the bone.”

Clearly many school board members in Byron and beyond didn’t sign up for a role that’s turned out to be far more challenging than expected. But then neither did many of the parents who no longer necessarily trust their local schools to know what’s best for their children.