By Abby Spegman

The Bulletin

Three top administrators at Harney County School District submitted letters of resignation to the school board Tuesday, its first meeting since an armed occupation of a nearby wildlife refuge made national news.

“It is surprisingly unrelated to current events in town,” Brandon Yant, principal at Burns High School, said Wednesday of the resignations.

Along with Yant, Superintendent Marilyn McBride and Hines Middle School Principal Jerry Mayes resigned for personal reasons unrelated to the occupation, said Lori Cheek, chairwoman of the school board. All three plan to stay through the end of the school year.

The district has four schools and about 800 students as of last year.

Schools were closed last week as anti-government militants seized control of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns. Cheek said she worries news of the occupation could affect the process of hiring a new superintendent and principals and that candidates outside the area might get the wrong idea about Harney County.

“We’ve got so many people who are speaking for us who don’t know who we are,” she said. “I dreadfully fear that. But we’re a wonderful place to live and raise kids and we’re going to survive and do the best that we can.”

This week, security at the schools remained a concern. At Burns High, all doors including the main entrance were locked and a retired teacher monitored who came and went during school hours.

Yant, the principal, said there was no threat to students or staff, but officials were taking extra precautions. He noted a local hospital has offered counseling to students, but so far few have used it.

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,