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New chief of staff hired at CMS as board member announces she's not seeking re-election anymore

Rhonda Cheek said she is no longer running, citing "vitriol" her family has faced.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools has hired Crystal Hill as the new chief of staff.

Hill comes from Cabarrus County Schools. She became the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Cabarrus County after the resignation of her predecessor.

Hill's hire was announced at Tuesday night's board meeting. 

CMS Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh says Hill's focus is on the district's Title IX office, which ensures CMS is following federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

In November 2021, the district added additional staff to its office after multiple students claimed complaints of sexual harassment were mishandled by the district. 

"She'll be dealing with Title IX, which is a big issue, critical issue, strategic management, and other issues," said Hattabaugh. 

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Hattabaugh also gave updates to CMS initiatives the district hasn’t talked about publicly for months.  

This is Hattabaugh's second board meeting since taking the role of interim superintendent two weeks ago.

The most pressing issue he gave an update on is a $50 million plan for an out-of-school tutoring program announced last fall. 

“Our chief of accountability has been working with our legal department, and with Sheila Shirley on processes and what we'll have in place as we go through and implement those services and work through the work that's necessary to ensure that they're done properly, and the students are receiving effective services," he said. 

Shirley is the district's Chief Financial Officer. 

In February, the district said in a newsletter they expected some students to start receiving tutoring services by the end of March. 

"The bulk of our partnerships will be operational and serving many of our students in the following months, and we expect a great deal of activity and student progress over the summer," Hattenbaugh added. 

WCNC Charlotte has sent multiple emails to the district's communication team asking for an update on the program. As of writing, there has been no response on its progress. 

Despite Tuesday's meeting being the first with public comments since the firing of Earnest Winston, Hattabaugh spoke to a mostly empty chamber. Only one parent talked about the former superintendent. 

"Nine months ago, CMS experienced unprecedented levels of violence and guns on school campuses as a result of our closed schools," the parent said. "Remember Mr. Winston's $440,000 clear backpack solution months later, and most of the board supported it." 

Hattabaugh also laid out the goals of the district for the summer and stressed they all aligned with improving student outcomes. 

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Board Member Rhonda Cheek also made a major announcement: she's not seeking re-election.

For the last 13 years, Cheek has represented District 1 on the district's Board of Education. But on Tuesday,she said she was taking her name out of the running.

Cheek, a registered nurse first elected to the board in 2009, said through tears she faced "vitriol" during her time serving on the board. She also said she wanted to be able to be with her family in better spirits.

Cheek graduated from South Mecklenburg High School and had two daughters graduate from North Mecklenburg High School. Her son is also still in the district according to her online profile on the board's website. She's lived in the county since 1978.

Tuesday's meeting was also the first one held after the firing of former superintendent Earnest Winston. WCNC Charlotte reporter Shamarria Morrison noted there were not many people signed up for the public comment portion in this meeting to discuss this.

WCNC Charlotte is monitoring the meeting and will provide more updates on the latest developments.

You can stream WCNC Charlotte on Roku and Amazon Fire TV, just download the free app.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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