Education

One CMS candidate could end up suing herself. What public records show about the race.

If Annette Albright succeeds in her quest for a seat on the school board she’ll be suing herself.

Albright, a former behavior modification technician at Harding High School, sued the school board in June, saying Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools wrongly fired her in 2016 after a video of her being attacked by students went viral. In July she filed to run for the District 1 seat on the board, representing the northern part of the county.

Albright, who is one of three candidates actively seeking that seat (a fourth is on the ballot but not campaigning), says an attorney advised her that if she’s elected she can recuse herself from discussions and action related to her suit.

If she wins the election and the lawsuit she could face another decision: The suit asks for reinstatement as a CMS employee, but employees can’t serve on the school board. Albright says that won’t be difficult: She has a new job providing mental health services at a charter school and doesn’t expect to go back to work for the district.

Albright is among 20 people who will be on the ballot for school board Nov. 7, when six district representatives will be elected. The Observer runs civil and criminal background checks on local candidates for public office.

The school board candidates are a tame lot compared with Charlotte city council and mayoral candidates, several of whom had criminal records or major financial judgments against them when the Observer checked their records before the primary.

While Albright’s situation as both plaintiff and potential defendant in a suit is unusual, it isn’t unheard of – even among the current pack of candidates.

Queen Thompson, who is running for the District 4 seat this year, made her first run for the school board in 2003, when she was suing CMS over her 2001 termination. A former dropout prevention counselor, she filed two federal lawsuits alleging racial discrimination.

She dropped her first suit when she ran out of money to pay a lawyer, then refiled in 2003 representing herself. She didn’t win the school board race that year, and in 2004 that case was settled when CMS agreed not to oppose Thompson’s application for disability benefits.

The only other civil issue to turn up involves Rhonda Lennon, who is running for re-election to the District 1 seat. She filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2011 and was the subject of a home foreclosure in 2013. She says both are related to the breakup of her marriage.

After the Observer inquired about the incidents, Lennon posted on her Facebook page that she’s proud to have overcome the financial devastation that can accompany divorce.

“My financial future is stable and pretty amazing ... the bankruptcy helped to hit the restart button after the divorce so I could take over financial management of my money,” Lennon wrote. “We survived this and now we are thriving. ... we are blessed.”

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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