Board members of Cheatham County Schools are optimistic the newly elected director of schools Dr. Catherine Beck can bring unity to a school district and board that has had their integrity, motives and ability to hire a director of schools with quality leadership skills questioned, internally and externally throughout the district.   Board members electing Beck stated she would be a good fit to the school district. 


Previous Director of Schools Dr. Tim Webb and Dr. Stan Curtis, both externally hired, were unable to earn the trust or adequately bridge the communication gap between county residents, school boards and county commission.    On Friday, May 12, 2017 a special called meeting was held to discuss and decide on what to include in the contract that would be offered to Dr. Beck.  

Prior to Friday’s meeting the school board had held their monthly board meeting on May 1, 2017 and voted on the top three finalists in the running for Cheatham County Director Schools. Dr. Michael Steele, Executive Principal, Stratford STEM Magnet High School, Nashville, Tennessee was in attendance at the meeting and had approximately eleven people speak on his behalf, including educators, students, friends and colleagues.  

“He knows how to build people, organizations, turn schools around…he made me a better educator and person, taught me to value my family.  Dr. Steele is a great man, loves God, family, country and core.  He would be a very big win for Cheatham County,” stated Jeff Davis, previous employee of Dr. Michael Steele.


Top finalist  Dr. Michael Shaffer, Assistant Professor of Education Leadership, Ball State University, Fort Wayne Indiana and Dr. Catherine Beck, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Learning, Summit School District, Frisco, Colorado were not in attendance and no one spoke on their behalf during public forum.   

Educator Jimmy Hardin and retired Cheatham County educator Trish Sanders encouraged board members to reconsider hiring internally, “teachers are willing to give up high salaries for loyalty,” she stated, during public forum.   

Following the forum board member David Bibee made a motion to begin contract negotiations with Dr. Michael Steele, board member Jennifer Hamblin seconded the motion.  The motion failed by a 4-2 vote. Voting in favor (yes) of the motion included David Bibee and Jennifer Hamblin.  Voting against (no) of the motion Chair Kimberly Messer, Vice Chair John Louallen, James Gupton and David Risner. 

Proceeding with the meeting, Gupton addresses the public stating he’d listened and heard what the people in the community wanted, an internal school employee hired as the new director of schools.  He made a motion to nominate and begin contract negotiations with Interim Director Stacy Brinkley, Louallen seconded the motion.  Louallen and Gupton were the only members to vote in favor of Brinkley.  The motion failed by a 4-2 vote. 

Following suit board member David Risner made a motion to nominate Dr. Catherine Beck and it is seconded by Messer.   Board members Bibee and Hamblin were the only two to vote against the motion. Four board members voted in favor of the motion and it passed with a 4-2 vote.  

Following the passing motion for Dr. Beck, Messer called for a five minute recess.  During this time Bibee shook hands with each board member, exited the boardroom.  When the meeting resumed, he nor Hamblin, had returned.  According to Hamblin, she was unaware the meeting had resumed and stated she had been in the hall during the recess thanking attendees and Dr. Steele for attending the meeting.  When Hamblin returned to the resumed meeting she joined board members in thanking Brinkley for serving as Interim Director of Schools.  Shortly thereafter she exited the boardroom again and did not return.

There has been speculation Hamblin and Bibee left the meeting because Dr. Michael Steele did not receive the votes for the director position.   Bibee and Hamblin’s absence from the remainder of the meeting was criticized by some on social media,  referencing their behavior as unprofessional and disrespectful to the children invited to the meeting to be recognized and presented an award.

Cheatham News reached out to board members Chair Kimberly Messer, David Bibee and Jennifer Hamblin for statements regarding the Monday, May 1,  meeting. The following statements were released.

Statement by Chair of Cheatham County School District Four School Board Representative and Chair Kimberly Messer

Cheatham County School Board Chairman Kimberly Messer photo courtesy of Cheatham County School District.

“Your Cheatham County School Board collectively followed a process provided for us by Teams Inc and Dr. Qualls in order to come to a consensus about a director of schools who would be best qualified for our district.  There was nothing that occurred during our meeting that was outside of our protocol or against any policy.  All motions were made with the best interest of the district in mind.  There were no rules in place that would have limited a board members ability to make a motion for any qualified person, even if that person had been outside the original 13.”

“At this point, the process is in the hands of the citizens.  The board has chosen a candidate who we believe will lead our schools in the best possible direction.  It is up to you, the Cheatham community, to help make Dr. Beck successful with your support.”

-Chair Kimberly Messer


Statement by Cheatham County School District Three School Board Representative Jennifer Hamblin

Cheatham County School Board Member Jennifer Hamblin. Photo courtesy of Cheatham County Schools

“I exited the Board Meeting , standing on principle, integrity, character and ethics.  I felt the entire integrity process, of the School Board’s Director search, was compromised when a nomination was made to bypass the top three finalists.   I was embarrassed and frustrated because I felt, it disrespected the three finalists,  internal and top 6 candidate Beth Batson, and the other top 6 candidate Jennifer Gray.  I was confused as to why we’d spent taxpayers’ money of $6,000 to hire a third party firm, to vet the most qualified applicants, if we were going to ignore the entire process? My decision had nothing to do with Interim Director Brinkley. I would have made the same decision, if it was anyone, outside of the Board’s decided, final 3 candidates. 

Perception was the previous administration hired whom they wanted, rather than the most qualified, and with a zero check and balance process. We wanted to change that perception, but how do you earn that respect, and change perception, when you don’t follow through with the selection process advertised and communicated? If any board member was considering nominating someone other than the top three, it should have been discussed during last week’s work session. 
When the nomination happened, I wasn’t even sure we could legally nominate or hire someone other than one of the three finalist, without restarting the whole process. We had made it known in several communication pieces, what the procedure would be, and the next steps we would be taking after each process.  I felt we had just lost some credibility, by not following what we would say we would do. I was elected and promised to stand for what is right, to be transparent and I’m dedicated to serving my community.  I will always put ethics first.  A new director of schools has been chosen and the opportunity to plan for greater items in our school system, is now up to us all.”
– Jennifer Hamblin 
Hamblin understood some board members were upset with her for not returning to the meeting. She stated she regretted not telling the board, before she exited the boardroom the second time, and did apologize to fellow members for not returning for the remainder of the meeting. 

Statement by Cheatham County District One School Board Representative David Bibee decided to wait and provide a statement at a later date.   

On Friday, May 12, board members met for the first time since the May 1 meeting to decide on the terms of Beck’s contract. Bibee was the only board member not in attendance.

It was debated whether or not to omit the ‘buy out’ clause which has been in previous contracts.  Messer stated the board needed to make a good faith effort to work with the new director and show the community, by omitting the ‘buy-out’ clause, they were eliminating a “get out of jail free card” which could allow the board to not do their job in the long run.  The previous two directors, Dr. Tim Webb and Dr. Stan Curtis’ contracts were bought out, costing the school district a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars.

Gupton agreed stating whether each of the current board members retained their seats or new members were added to the board, it was their “responsibility not to make “knee jerk reactions”.  The following contract has been offered to Dr. Catherine Beck by Cheatham County Schools.

  • 4 Year Contract
  • $130,000 dollar starting salary (position advertised starting salary $120 to $150 thousand dollars)
  • $2,500 dollar potential salary increase for three years with at least a satisfactory review
  • $500 dollar flat rate monthly travel reimbursement
  • Health insurance coverage for employee only
  • Moving expenses will be the responsibility of the new director

Contingent on contract negotiations Beck is expected to take the director of schools position first of June and currently the allegations made by Steele against the school district are being investigated.  


NOTE: Cheatham News Editor/Reporter Tonya Steele is of no relationship to the candidate Dr. Michael Steele from Stratford Stem Magnet School.

Learn more about Cheatham County Schools at, Dr. Catherine Beck at or Dr. Michael Steele at  

Cheatham News obtained some of the information herein from herein provided to Cheatham News, used with permission and cannot be reused, distributed, changed or copied without permission of author, to do so may violate copyright laws.   

Cheatham News (c) 2017


VIATonya Steele
SOURCECheatham News
I’m a dedicated, fair and objective reporter/journalist currently reporting and writing for the I-24 Exchange Newspaper, circulated and distributed each week to nearly 10000 residential mailboxes, in Northern Cheatham County, Tennessee. My main objective for Cheatham News is to provide current news coverage with a wide range of compelling topics that interest the youth of today, elderly and everyone in between through an online platform. Cheatham News will focus on local and county news including politics, breaking news, community schools, sports, city and county council meetings but there’ll be more the local news. I aspire to focus on what life is like, in our little corner of the world, where my family and I live in a small southern town. The southern sayins’, ole wives tales, recipes and mannerisms are a part of history I’d like to keep alive in the fast paced world of today. It brings me joy to share the uniqueness of life in a small southern town. You can learn more about myself, representatives and sponsors affiliated with Cheatham News and contributing authors biographies and credentials under the ‘About’ tab on the Home Page.