Charlotte, NC

Queen City Roundup 12/21: CMS staff switch ups, NC leaders talk vaccine, Cheri picking, Jazz juggle Hornets

Collin Cunningham

By Collin Cunningham

(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Good morning, Charlotte! Do you hear that cacophony of banjos and other string instruments playing outside your window? No? Open it a crack, and you might hear some quick twangy riffs as Earl Scruggs and Friends hammer out "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."

The Cleveland County, North Carolina native is best known for his four-minute, finger-breaking bluegrass ballad, but he's also known for playing the base with three fingers, in a mode that's been aptly dubbed "Scruggs style." You can learn more about the famous tune here and get acquainted with the mountain-raised musician at the Earl Scruggs Center in Shelby.

Scruggs was also known for mixing it up, moving from Shelby to Nashville. Today's Roundup also features some switch ups, with a head staffer at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools set to leave the district as one of its high schools gets a new principal. Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper gave a press conference on the surge in COVID-19 in North Carolina and what state leaders want residents to do about it. And we'll introduce you to former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who received an endorsement from Cooper.

It is Tuesday, Dec. 21, and here's what every Queen City resident needs to know until tomorrow.

1. CMS switch ups: Chief of staff leaves as new Myers Park principal takes charge

Chief of staff: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Chief of Staff LaTarzja Henry is leaving the district a little over two years after she took the position, per WBTV. The district did not answer the outlet's request for comments, but Henry's decision comes as CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston, who hired Henry back in 2019, faces criticism and calls to resign from district families. CMS has witnessed a rash of violent incidents recently, with 23 firearms being confiscated from students since the fall semester started in August.

Henry's starting salary was $180,250. She previously served as the district's communications director and community partnerships superintendent during her 16-year tenure with CMS.

Myers Park principal: Sexual violence is another issue that CMS has had to confront recently, with the district choosing to reassign former Myers Park High School Principal Mark Bosco to another position after reports of sexual assaults mounted at the south Charlotte public school. WFAE reports that Alexander Graham Middle School Principal Robert Folk will be stepping into the role when CMS students return to school on Jan. 4, after winter break. Folk, who previously served as a dean of students at Myers Park, is also a graduate of the high school.

"I do feel that we have some trust that needs to be rebuilt at Myers Park High School. I think a way of doing that is being visible, being open to conversation, being open to students and parents anytime they need to have a conversation, being accountable for your work, and being accountable for student needs," Folk told the radio station.

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Incoming Myers Park High School Principal Robert Folks(Courtesy of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)

2. Gov. Cooper, other NC leaders recommend vaccines, boosters ahead of holiday gatherings

What happened: North Carolina is "expecting a record number of cases" due to the omicron variant of COVID-19. That's according to outgoing North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, who released a secretarial advisory Monday urging residents of the state to mask up, get vaccinated and boosted and test themselves for COVID-19 ahead of the holidays. Kody Kinsley, who will replace Cohen after the new year, joined the incumbent health secretary at Monday's press briefing to urge North Carolinians to "quickly seek" treatment if they test positive.

Why it matters: North Carolina continues to experience a high number of COVID-19 cases, adding 2,892 cases of the virus and outbreaks in residential treatment centers. There are 141 nursing home outbreaks, 64 residential care facilities with clusters and 46 outbreaks in state prisons, according to WCCB.

Speaking of state government...

3. Cheri picking: With Jackson out, Cooper endorses Cheri Beasley for U.S. Senate

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Former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley looks to take her eight years of state court experience to the U.S. Senate.(Cheri Beasley/Facebook)

What happened: Former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is looking to represent the Old North State in the U.S. Senate, and she'll run the rest of her campaign with the lip service support of Gov. Roy Cooper after he told reporters he plans to help Beasley get elected. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr will be leaving his seat next year, and Beasley hopes to garner support ahead of the Nov. 8, 2022 election in hopes of replacing him.

Why it matters: Beasley's name is on a packed list of Democratic and Republican contenders, including Republican frontrunners like U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker. But that list got a little shorter last week when Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg County) announced he was quitting the race and backing Beasley, per Politico.

Jackson said he made the decision in hopes of beating McCrory and Bundy, adding that "We need to unite right now and we need to unite behind Cheri," when he announced his departure from the race.

4. Jazz juggle Hornets near the Great Salt Lake

The Hornets took a loss against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City last night, with the bees nearly coming back to sting the brass section in the end. The Jazz were off to a good start, racking up 35-16 before the end of the first quarter, with Charlotte struggling to keep up during a moment when the score was 29-8. But the Hornets emerged from halftime with new heads on their shoulders, with Ish Smith getting a three in the third quarter to bring Charlotte within six points of their opponents. That attempt failed, and the Jazz played at a fast tempo, scoring 15-4 in the duration of the half.

A three-pack of threes from Terry Rozier gave the Hornets a 1-point lead with 3:30 left, according to At The Hive, only for Utah to meet the challenge with a 15-3 series to close out the game. Ones to watch are LaMelo Ball, who had 21 points and 11 assists, and Miles Bridges, who put up 21 and collected 10 rebounds.

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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Hornets gets his face close to the net during Monday's game against the Utah Jazz.(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The final 112-102 score may sting the Hornets, who are now 16-17 after coming off a loss to the Suns on Sunday in Phoenix. Charlotte's next tipoff comes Thursday when they'll face the Nuggets in Denver at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Below the fold

CMS, continued: Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested a student who made a threat against Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, a CMS magnet school, on Instagram on Friday, per The Charlotte Observer.

And WBTV and WCNC report schools in Union and Iredell counties are wary of a TikTok challenge that tasks students with threatening schools, leading to absences at the districts.

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I cover the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for NewsBreak's Creator Program. Check back often for daily headline roundups to learn what's happening in the Queen City!

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