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Palm Beach County School Board Votes To Replace Outgoing Superintendent Fennoy

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Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke at the Palm Beach County School Board meeting. He was selected to be the new interim superintendent a week after Superintendent Donald Fennoy resigned for family reasons. (July 21, 2021)

The Palm Beach County School Board is replacing outgoing Superintendent Donald Fennoy with a temporary leader, just a week after Fennoy resigned.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday night to have Mike Burke, the school district's chief financial officer who oversees the school district’s financial budget and other operations, become interim superintendent. The board spoke highly about Burke's academic and business experience.

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Burke says he’s up for the challenge.

"It’s going to take a concerted effort this year to meet the heightened needs of our students, " said Burke. "Well, the pandemic is still going but we know with the full return to brick and mortar, the needs of our kids are great."

Fennoy resigned as Palm Beach County’s school superintendent after three years in the post. He's leaving the position in October.

The school board also heard several hours of public comment by parents opposed to students wearing facial coverings in the fall, along with concerns from parents who demand face masks.

During the school board meeting, School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri said a mask mandate wasn’t on the agenda.

"And we are not discussing that. There was no vote on that tonight and we are not doing that," said Barbieri. "I want to make it clear to the public that we have not made a decision to do that. If we can find other ways to protect the children, that’s fine."

In May, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that limited local COVID-19 emergency orders, including mask mandates.

The chair, speaking on behalf of some of the board members, vehemently addressed the occasional shouting, name-calling "abuse" from the public comments.

"I've been on the board 13 years and I'm tired of the all the names you call us every night. You heard the one guy said 'You guys are screwed, there's no way you can win.' They're absolutely right. There's no way for us to win," Barbieri said.

"You heard the people 'I don't want to send my kids to school unless everybody has a mask on. Doctors are telling [us] this. And then you guys are telling us that you're going to take your kids out of school because we're a bunch of idiots putting masks on," said Barbieri. "What the hell do you expect us to do. Stop beating us up every meeting. We're trying to do our best."

According to the district’s plan for in-person classrooms next month, face masks will only be optional for students and staff.