SPPS Board chairperson dies of COVID-19

The chairperson of the St. Paul Public Schools Board has died from COVID-19.

SPPS said last month that Marny Xiong was hospitalized with COVID-19 and, on Sunday, Superintendent Joe Gothard confirmed Xiong died.

GoFundMe for Marny Xiong

Xiong was 31.  Her brother-in-law, St. Paul City Council member, Dai Thao, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Xiong left a great legacy in a very shor time at SPPS.

"She was courageous and fought for justice and equality for everyone," said Thao.  "If she something that wasn't right, she would stand up and make sure it was fixed."

Thao said Xiong had been hospitalized at the same time as her father who is now home and recovering from a COVID-19 infection.

"There are no words that can reflect the loss that we, our school district and our community have suffered," a joint statement from Gothard and Vice Chair Jeanelle Foster said in part.

SPPS Board Chairperson hospitalized with COVID-19

You can read their full statement below:

Our hearts are broken with the news of the passing of our friend, colleague and Board Chair Marny Xiong. There are no words that can reflect the loss that we, our school district and our community have suffered.

Those of us who were fortunate to know Marny and work with her have been inspired by her tireless efforts to support our students, fight for inclusion and never give in to those who would divide us. As a lifelong Saint Paul resident and SPPS graduate, Marny exemplified the very best of our schools and our community. She was a proud Hmong woman and a respected leader throughout the State of Minnesota. Marny was passionate about uplifting students; she was focused on equity; and she never stopped her efforts to make sure all students and families were welcome and represented in SPPS.

We will honor her by continuing her fight to break down and remove barriers to and within our educational system.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Marny's family and many friends during this very difficult time. Each of us has learned and grown thanks to our relationship with Marny. Her spirit and her passion for student inclusion and achievement live on in each of us; may her light shine on in what we do for our students and how we treat those around us.

Xiong's family also released the following statement regarding her death:

Our hearts are in pieces as we share the news that our beloved daughter and sister, Marny Xiong, passed away on Sunday, June 7, 2020 following a month long courageous battle with the Coronavirus. We prepared a celebration for her return and waited, and waited but she never came home. We prayed and prayed for a miracle but none was granted.

Marny Xiong, 31, grew up on the Eastside of St. Paul and was a proud student of St. Paul Public Schools. She attended Longfellow Elementary, Washington Middle School, and Arlington High School, graduating with class of 2007. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a BA in Political Science and a minor in African and African American Studies in 2012. She was a School Administrative Manager at Hmong International Academy in the Minneapolis Public Schools District. In 2017, Marny was elected to the St. Paul School Board. She was elected Chair of the Board in 2020.

Marny will be remembered as an inspiring community organizer, a courageous leader and fierce champion for education, gender equity, and racial justice. She was a selfless public servant who made the community's problems her duty to solve. To those who knew her, Marny was more than a loving daughter, aunt, niece, cousin, a devoted friend and sister. She was beautiful; she was a book of generosity and fire.

Marny's parents Zahoua Xiong and See Xiong came to Minnesota as political refugees from the CIA's Secret War in Laos. They instilled education, family, hard-work and public service in all their children. As the youngest daughter, Marny began her leadership at home and as an NJROTC Cadet at Arlington High School. Marny fought for racial justice. She dedicated almost all her adult life towards education because she believed education was a foundation to dismantling structural racism. Marny was a Union and Community Organizer with TakeAction Minnesota, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Marny has gone back to be with the ancestors far away in the sky where all Hmong people come from. She is survived by her parents, Zahoua Xiong and See Xiong; two sisters, five brothers, two brother in laws and a sister in law and four nieces and nephews and a large extended family. We thank all the hospital staff, doctors, nurses, assistants for taking great care of Marny at Regions Hospital and the University of MN Fairview Hospital.

Marny was a person who likes to give and doesn't like to ask for help. However, she has accrued medical expenses for her care. We have setup a medical and funeral GoFundMe on her behalf.

Marny loves to smile and to make people smile. Mark Twain once wrote, "Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been."

The funeral arrangements will be shared in the coming weeks. At this time we ask for privacy as we grief, and to not dwell on how she passed on but how she lived.

Gov. Tim Walz also tweeted, "This is a heartbreaking loss for Minnesota. Gwen and I are keeping Marny's family and friends in our thoughts today. We know that countless Minnesota families will remember and cherish her lifelong work in and outside the classroom to create a better future for our students."

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan also said, "My deepest condolences to the family of Marny Xiong. COVID took this champion for racial justice and equity much too soon. As chair of the St. Paul School Board, Marny was a fighter and gave back so much to the district she attended growing up. We thank you for your tireless work."

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter shared his thoughts on Twitter Sunday morning, too, saying, "I count School Board Chair Marny Xiong as a friend, colleague, and impactful leader. As a daughter of refugees and a lifelong Saint Paul resident, Marny embodied our city's spirit, gave her heart to our students, and worked tirelessly to uplift the voices of the unheard."