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Two first-time candidates seek the District 3 seat on the CMS school board

Steven Rushing and Gregory "Dee" Rankin
Candidates' campaign websites.
Steven Rushing and Gregory "Dee" Rankin

Two first-time candidates, Steven Rushing and Gregory "Dee" Rankin, are competing to fill the District 3 seat on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board being vacated by Ruby Jones.

The district covers northeast Charlotte.

Rankin has a higher public profile. He’s a Charlotte native and a current CMS parent. He has taught in CMS, charter and private schools. He runs a youth development program called Future LEADERS and has a record of civic activism: former chair of the Mayor's Mentoring Alliance, former chair of the Black Political Caucus education committee and current member of the CMS Equity Committee.

Rushing came to Charlotte in 2005. He’s a CMS parent who runs a transportation service that takes students to and from charter schools that don’t offer busing. He and his wife also do marriage counseling.

Rushing is the only Latino candidate in the race this year.

"My mother was from Panama, my father was from here in the states," he said. "I am bilingual."

Hispanic students represent almost 30% of the CMS student body. But only about 7% of registered voters in the majority-Black District 3 identified themselves as Hispanic.

In an interview with the local NAACP branch, Rushing said he wants to advocate for Spanish-speaking families.

"There’s no bilingual access for a lot of the parents that are in my district, because a lot of the parents there are fluent in Spanish but not English," he said. That can leave schools relying on students to translate for their parents and teachers, he said.

Rushing says he also wants to provide better support for teachers, though he’s still trying to figure out how.

Rankin: Too much freedom and flexibility

Gregory "Dee" Rankin
Gregory "Dee" Rankin

Rankin has attended countless CMS board and committee meetings. He can cite the wonky details when he tells the Mecklenburg Democrats’ African American Caucus about lobbying to revise the board’s discipline policy to let parents appeal short-term suspensions.

When Rankin talks about low-performing schools, he says the culture of CMS leadership has swung too far away from consistency.

"There needs to be standards established across the entire district," Rankin said. "Freedom and flexibility is what’s created this dilemma of what we’re in. ... you can have two schools in the same district doing two different things and getting two drastically different outcomes."

Rankin says the board also needs to set standards for whoever is hired as the permanent superintendent.

"It’s kind of almost been the superintendent has been controlling the board, or running the board. And I think that should be the other way around," Rankin said.

Rushing: Competition and outsourcing

Rushing says he thinks competition is the answer to bringing up low-performing schools.

"So create some kind of programs that allow more competition between the children and the teachers. And that way they really give, like, pride to their school," he said in an interview with the local NAACP. "They can make it stand out with either a trophy program, an award ceremony, something along that. But I think the competition will breed the ability for people to want to push and drive themselves to do better and do more. "

Steven Rushing
Steven Rushing

Rushing also told the NAACP that outsourcing some transportation to companies like the one he runs could be the solution to CMS bus driver shortages.

"We should try to see an outside source, create some kind of a program where it’s like an Uber-based system, but for schools," he said.

Almost 60% of registered voters in District 3 are Democrats, and so are both candidates.

Rankin has been campaigning since the start of 2021, and has been endorsed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators, the Democratic Party’s African American Caucus and the Black Political Caucus.

Rushing has no endorsements, and says most of the conversations he’s had so far are among the Latino community.

"I don’t have a website. I’m doing everything out of my own pocket, I haven’t really reached out for anybody to fund me or anything like that," Rushing said.

Watch the candidates

Here are links to archived candidate interviews and forums:

Black Political Caucus forum with candidates in Districts 1, 2 and 3.

Black Political Caucus forum with candidates in Districts 4, 5 and 6.

African American Caucus/Mecklenburg Democrats forum with candidates in Districts 1, 2 and 3.

African American Caucus/Mecklenburg Democrats forum with candidates in Districts 4, 5 and 6.

NAACP interviews with District 1 candidates.

NAACP interviews with District 2 candidates.

NAACP interviews with District 3 candidates.

NAACP interviews with District 4 candidates.

NAACP interviews with District 5 candidates.

NAACP interviews with District 6 candidates.

Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.