Cherie Labat abruptly resigned Tuesday from her position as superintendent of Columbus Municipal School District.
Labat notified the media of her resignation at 5:15 p.m. through an email with a nearly 1,000-word letter attached. It arrived less than 24 hours after CMSD’s board of trustees discussed her employment in executive session Monday night and about 45 minutes before a special-call board meeting to discuss it again.
At the board’s Tuesday meeting, trustees entered a 90-minute executive session, before which president Yvonne Cox announced they would discuss a “personnel issue” and “potential litigation,” both “regarding … Dr. Labat.”
When trustees reopened the meeting, they voted to accept Labat’s resignation “upon negotiated terms.” Board attorney Chris Hemphill said the board had contacted the Mississippi School Boards Association to start the process of appointing an interim superintendent.
“The district is going to, on a temporary basis, be looking for an interim superintendent until they can do a full search for a permanent superintendent that will be best for this district moving forward,” Hemphill said. “Short term, assistant superintendent Shernise Wilson will sign checks and handle day-to-day affairs until an interim superintendent can be brought on board.”
While Wilson will handle day-to-day operations, business manager Holly Rogers was named as the sole purchasing agent for the district until an interim superintendent is appointed, which Hemphill said could take a couple of weeks.
Labat was hired by the board in June 2018 on a four-year contract. That was extended in 2020, with it set to expire on June 30, 2024. Her pay was $175,000 annually.
Hemphill did not comment on the terms of the negotiations between the board and Labat or whether they involved paying some or all of the outgoing superintendent’s remaining contract.
In the letter sent to local media, Labat highlighted the district’s accomplishments under her watch and expressed gratitude toward the district employees and said she set out to help students. She did not give a reason for her resignation.
“Serving as superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District these past four years was extraordinary,” Labat wrote. “During these years, my administrative team has been laser-focused on educating and helping the children at CMSD. Student test scores have increased across the board except for the lower 25 percent in reading. Our graduation rate last year was the highest percentage in more than 15 years. But, academics are just the first tier of educating the whole child.”
Labat ended her resignation letter by saying she enjoyed her time in Columbus.
“I’ve always believed that if we invest in our students, then we are building a better, stronger, and more compassionate future,” Labat wrote. “From the bottom of my heart, I’ve enjoyed this city and its local leadership for welcoming me here in 2018. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the Superintendent of the Columbus Municipal School District. I have always been a good steward of CMSD, and an ambassador for the city and the state. I will always be a proud Mississippian because in God we trust.”
Labat did not respond to calls this morning from The Dispatch.
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