CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Queen City News sat down with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools District One Board Member Rhonda Cheek in her first sit-down TV interview since she announced she was leaving the board.
Cheek had served on the CMS Board of Education for 13 years.
“I’ll never feel that it’s enough. I’ll never feel that it’s enough,” she told Queen City News reporter Sydney Heiberger through tears. “When you have spent 19 years working on something, it’s hard to walk away.”
After two years filled with COVID, school violence, and internal conflict, Cheek says walking away felt like exactly what she needed to do.
“The final straw was my daughter looking at me when I was just exhausted and still had my phone blowing up, and people wanting to do Zoom meetings with me and my time. And she just looked at me and said, ‘when are you going to say it’s enough?’” she said.
Cheek says that what was once a position that brought her joy and fulfillment, turned into a job that got to be too much. It started with the pandemic in 2020.
“I had periods of just extreme anxiety, sleeplessness, depression – trying to just deal with how to make the best decision knowing that no matter what decision I Made, I was going to make somebody very mad,” said Cheek.
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And then came record-breaking school gun violence and Title IX issues. Then, the ousting of the district’s superintendent, Earnest Winston. Cheek was an outspoken advocate of his termination.
“Just the handling of things, the handling of some of the Title IX issues,” said Cheek explaining why she felt Winston was no longer fit for the job.
“Do you feel that what happened with Superintendent Winston was a failure on the board’s part?” asked Heiberger.
“I think it was an overall failure, but as a board member, I know how much support he was given,” answered Cheek.
Among these internal issues, Cheek also sites a lack of respect not just from the community, but from fellow board members. She referenced Monday night’s emergency board meeting, called after fellow board member Dr. Ruby Jones leaked a personnel letter related to Winston’s firing to the media.
“Dr. Jones just is very in great disagreement with the majority of the board on what’s happened in the last month with the superintendency, but that is not a reason to make the kind of personal attack she has had on the board chair,” said Cheek.
When asked how she feels about Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh, Cheek says she feels she’s leaving the district in good hands. She alluded to the fact that there is some behind-the-scenes restructuring within the district to address Title IX concerns, and said additional personnel were hired.
She hopes to spend this new chapter in her life with her family, which includes children and grandchildren. She says while she will no longer serve the district, her support of it isn’t going anywhere.
“I hope that our board will be full of people that really put children’s interests first, and not political agendas,” said Cheek.
Cheek will officially leave the board in December.
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