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CMS school board electees ready for work ahead picking new superintendent

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education is getting ready for some big changes.

Notable losses on election night mean fresh faces are coming to the board, and they have their work cut out for them in finding a new superintendent.

CMS has been led by five superintendents in the last 10 years.

Interim superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh is also leaving CMS for family health reasons.

CMS Board of Education members told Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe that they want to end that inconsistency.

There is a big shift on the way for the board charged with controlling and supervising 176 schools across the CMS district.

Five new members were elected to that board Tuesday.

“I think voters are looking for change,” said Dee Rankin, board member-elect. “They’re looking for energy. They’re looking for solutions.”

“I’m not here to play the politics,” said Melissa Easley, board member-elect. “I’m here for every one of the students.

“People have been frustrated, and this was a referendum on let’s change everything up,” said Lisa Cline, board member-elect.

Channel 9 spoke with all five CMS school board members-elects on Thursday.

Some pulled off major upsets on election night, including Easley, who defeated longtime North Mecklenburg incumbent Rhonda Cheek.

“I was shocked that I was able to flip the district,” Easley said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around, it but at the same time, hit the ground running.”

Summer Nunn, a corporate executive and mom of two elementary kids in CMS, outpaced Sean Strain to represent south Charlotte and south Mecklenburg.

“I think it’s just an overall sentiment that people were unhappy with the board,” Nunn said.

Former Black Political Caucus chair and employment attorney Stephanie Sneed won the race to replace Carol Sawyer as the east Charlotte representative.

“Change is hard for people, so I think the voters had to make a decision about who they wanted to lead us moving forward,” Sneed said.

The board must also figure out what to do with Hattabaugh stepping down six months earlier than expected.

“Frankly, it’s disappointing that he is leaving,” Easley said. “He’s done an amazing job of getting us focused again.”

New board members will be sworn-in in December and will start to find an interim superintendent to replace Hattabaugh.

“We knew there was going to be an interim until we finished our process, so this is nothing that’s surprising,” Rankin said.

“It’s never been more important than now because we keep getting the superintendent wrong,” Nunn said.

While they’ll all be looking for different qualities in the next superintendent, there is one thing in common they are calling for, which is a long-term commitment.

“I want to look at that contract,” Cline said. “I want a superintendent who is committed to CMS. Not, ‘How do I look?’” Cline said.

“My skills and expertise will be of great value in the selection of the superintendent and to make sure that we have somebody who can stay long term and make sure that we are setting appropriate standards and goals,” Sneed said.

Statement from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education:

“Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh has decided to end his tenure with us sooner than planned. Hugh made this decision based on what was best for him and his family, and will leave at the end of December. We wish he could stay through the school year but we understand and accept his reasons for departure. Family must always come first.

“We are so very grateful for all that he has done in his time with us. Coming out of the pandemic, CMS has regained its footing. Hugh has brought a renewed sense of urgency to the district around the work of educating children. Under his leadership, the district has strengthened and streamlined critical processes and safeguards. We are therefore well positioned to continue the positive path he has charted for us, and we thank him for his skill and expertise in leading us forward.”

VIDEO: CMS interim superintendent stepping down in December

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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