CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Voters in six Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools districts decided who will represent them on the CMS Board of Education.
This election cycle, four incumbent candidates ran to keep their seats, while two seats had no incumbent on the ballot. The elections themselves are nonpartisan, but several of those running this race have declared a party affiliation.
Partisan politics may have played a consequential part of this closely watched race in any case; school board meetings prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were relatively mundane, sparsely attended and procedural. But with more meetings being watched online, suddenly thousands of eyes could be on them.
Beyond politics, the CMS district is under the microscope in the wake of the firing of former superintendent Earnest Winston. It will be up to school board members to select the next permanent district leader, along with finding solutions to boost school safety, student success, and staff retention.
WCNC Charlotte education reporter Shamarria Morrison interviewed all 18 candidates running for the CMS board. You can check out her interviews and the candidates’ answers to WCNC Charlotte’s questions here.
Easley, who has been a vocal regular at several public meetings beyond the school board, co-founded North Carolina Teachers United to serve teachers, support staff, parents and community members. Her platform focused on ensuring public education was the top priority in funding and town management.
Cheek shared the following message with her supporters on social media:
Thank you to my friends, family and supporters! I am disappointed in tonight’s outcome. I am very proud of the campaign I ran, with a positive message and being respectful to my opponents. I am even more proud of all my accomplishments during my time on the board. While I will miss serving the community. I look forward to more time with family, pursuing my other interests and focusing in my nursing career.
I wish Ms. Easley all the best in her service to District One and have already reached out to her to offer my help during the transition.
Incumbent Thelma Byers-Bailey, a Democrat, will remain on the CMS Board of Education after earning 42.18% of the vote.
Byers-Bailey, who is also the board’s vice chair, is also the president of the Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Association and has advocated for school funding. Notably, she advocated for getting West Charlotte High School on the list for a multi-million-dollar renovation. One of the oldest schools in the district, West Charlotte High notably helped integrate CMS.
With 76.02% of the vote, Gregory “Dee” Rankin will take the District 3 seat on the CMS Board of Education.
Rankin, a former CMS teacher who has also taught in private and charter schools, has a history of advocacy with the education committee of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte Mecklenburg. He’s also the co-chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools Equity Committee’s student wellness committee. Rankin’s campaign focused on ensuring students were ready for college or a career with equitable resources.
There was no incumbent in this race, and Rankin beat fellow Democrat Steven Rushing for the seat.
Sneed, a lawyer and previous chair of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte Mecklenburg, ran on a platform focused on mental health, student achievement, and teacher retention. She is a CMS parent who sits on the district’s Bond Oversight Committee, a school volunteer, and former Girl Scout Leader. She’s also expressed criticism of the board’s leadership and believes only a strong board can produce a strong superintendent to lead CMS.
This wasn’t Sneed’s first foray into school board politics; she ran against Sawyer in 2017 and lost, then ran at-large in 2019. In the latter race, she lost by a margin of fewer than 200 votes.
Sawyer also bested fellow Democratic challenger Clara Kennedy Witherspoon for the seat.
Kennedy Witherspoon shared this message after the night was over:
As a new candidate in the political arena, I knew running against an incumbent and a candidate who had run twice would be challenging; however, my message and reason for running were consistent. Our district must get it right this time, and I hope our new board members can work together to bring about the needed changes to support all students in being academically successful.
Cline, a retired CMS teacher and administrator, focused her platform on learning loss and school safety. She also said she didn’t want the next superintendent to see the position as a springboard to bigger districts or into outside consulting jobs. Additionally, Cline wants to bring back master pay, increase the local teacher supplement, and has advocated for newer board members instead of bringing on previously-elected ones.
There was no incumbent in this race.
Strain shared this concession message:
I congratulate the new Board on their election to serve the youth of Mecklenburg County. May it be the Mission-focused, student-centric, deliberative Board our youth, district and staff desperately need to transform into the system our community needs and deserves.
Nunn currently serves on the school parent leadership committee for CMS. Her platform focused on closing the equity gap, tackling student outcomes, district budgeting, and teacher retention. Nunn said since she has elementary-aged children in the district and is more directly involved, any decisions she makes can be informed in real-time based on what she’s seeing. As an executive leader in the Charlotte area, she also touted her experience to help recruit the next superintendent for CMS.
Nunn also bested fellow Democrat Michael Watson to win the election.
Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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