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Perquimans board: Departing Cheeseman improved district's academics

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Perquimans County Schools Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman, shown in this October photo upon his induction into the Hertford Rotary Club, will be leaving the Perquimans school district to take a job as superintendent of schools in Beaufort County. Cheeseman starts in Beaufort in January.

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Saturday, December 8, 2018

HERTFORD — Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman is leaving the Perquimans County Schools after three years to become the new superintendent of schools in Beaufort County.

On Thursday, the Beaufort County Board of Education voted unanimously to name Cheeseman superintendent of the Beaufort school district, according to a press release from the Beaufort board.

Cheeseman is slated to start his new job in Beaufort in January where he’ll oversee 14 school campuses — more than three times as many as in Perquimans.

In its press release, the Beaufort school board said Cheeseman’s background, leadership experience and dedication to students set him apart from the other 46 applicants for the superintendent’s job.

“I feel absolutely blessed and honored to be selected as the superintendent of schools for Beaufort County,” Cheeseman said in a statement included in the press release. “I look forward to working with a dynamic team of individuals across the entire district to ensure that every single student receives a world-class public school education.”

Cheeseman could not be reached Friday about his appointment to the superintendent’s job in Beaufort.

However, three Perquimans Board of Education members said Friday Cheeseman is leaving Perquimans County Schools’ academics in a stronger position than they were in when he arrived.

“Mr. Cheeseman created a culture of excellence and energy that will continue in our schools and community long after he moves to his next challenge,” said vice chairwoman Amy Spaugh. “He leaves a legacy of strong and motivated leaders in our schools and central office. He raised expectations while demonstrating genuine care for others, high personal ethics, and professionalism at all times.”

Board member Leary Winslow admitted Friday he was a little surprised by the news of Cheeseman’s impending departure.

“After North Dakota he said he wouldn’t be leaving,” he said.

Winslow was referring to Cheeseman being named in April one of two finalists for the school superintendent’s job in Dickinson, North Dakota. Cheeseman wasn’t hired for job. He said later he didn’t seek out the Dickinson job but was contacted about it by a recruiter and encouraged to apply.

Winslow said he thinks the school district “will be fine” after Cheeseman’s departure. He attributes part of his satisfaction with how the district is doing to Cheeseman’s efforts.

“We’re in a good place academically and we also have a first-class staff,” he said. “It’s not just the teachers, it’s the non-instructional staff as well. I feel good that we won’t miss a beat. He (Cheeseman) has done a good job of putting the right people in the right places.”

Winslow said he’s especially proud of the strides that have been made at Perquimans County Middle School.

“It’s a ‘C’ school, but it’s a high ‘C,’ and it didn’t use to be that way. It was low-performing when Cheeseman got here,” he said.

Winslow was apparently referring to the school-level grades now issued annually to each public school in the state.

Board member Russell Lassiter said turnover is not anything new for a small school district. It’s just something people living in a small community should expect if they have successful leaders, he said.

“It’s the nature of the beast,” Lassiter said. “It’s not something to whine about.”

He agreed Cheeseman is leaving the Perquimans schools better off academically.

“I think his biggest contribution has been in academics,” Lassiter said.

Board members Anne White, Matthew Peeler and Arlene Yates could not immediately be reached for comment.

Cheeseman became superintendent of the Perquimans County Schools in November 2015 after serving as chief administrative officer of the Washington County Schools. He started his career in education as a chemistry and physics teacher with the Upper Adams School District in Biglerville, Pa. He has worked in the San Lorenzo, 
Calif. Nicolaus, Calif., and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school districts as either a teacher, athletic district or administrator.

Before taking the Washington County job, Cheeseman was director of curriculum and instruction for the Far South Side K-12 Network in the Chicago Public Schools system.

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