Likely new Berkeley school superintendent under scrutiny

Edmond Heatley, the unanimous finalist for BUSD superintendent

The Berkeley school board tonight will hear a report in closed session on the site visit to Clayton County, Georgia, to assess the lone finalist for the district’s vacant superintendent post, Edmond Heatley.

The board released Heatley’s name on Friday, although there is no contract yet approved. Heatley resigned from his Clayton County post last Wednesday. According to school board members, the expectation is that Heatley’s formal appointment will be considered at the September 19 board meeting.

While Heatley is reported to have made significant improvements to a troubled school district in Georgia, he has also come under fire for his management style and actions he took there, such as having his wife on the school district payroll at a time when budgets and jobs were being cut. His children also had summer jobs with the school district. According to BUSD director Wilson, these and other issues were considered in the board’s due diligence.

“In the aggregate, we were satisfied that a number of issues that had been raised in the media in Georgia had been addressed,” she said.

Heatley was unanimously approved as the only current finalist for the position by the board. The board’s release last Friday declared: “The site visit is the final step of an extensive vetting process to verify Dr. Heatley’s credentials and is conducted in addition to the required background checks. Once this due diligence is completed, the Board will be in a position to formally offer Dr. Heatley an employment contract.”

“Given what we were looking for, he represents a very strong fit,” said Wilson. “I strongly believe he’ll come into the district and hit the ground running to address our most pressing issues.”

Wilson described those key issues as the achievement gap, the disproportionate number of black students suspended, and a need to become a more data-driven school district.

Heatley has led the Georgia county’s school district since 2009. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Heatley was the eighth superintendent in Clayton since 2000. The district has 52,000 students, over 7,500 employees, and 70 schools.

District had raft of problems

As the rapid turnover of superintendents in Clayton indicates, the district had a raft of problems. Its budget had been rejected and accreditation had been lost because of a failed school board. Accreditation was restored shortly before Heatley’s arrival, although he steered the district out of probation and got Clayton’s school budget balanced and approved. According to the BUSD board release, Heatley oversaw improvements on test scores and attendance, particularly among minority groups.

“If you can think of the most difficult things any school district could face, he walked into them immediately,” said Pam Adamson, chair of the Clayton County school board. Adamson gives Heatley credit for quickly dealing with the many issues with which the district was struggling.

“We had a poor student attendance rate and a poor staff attendance rate,” Adamson said. “Dr. Heatley began immediately working on getting our children to school and getting our staff to work.”

In heated comments to articles in the Journal-Constitution — and comments from Georgia on Berkeleyside’s own coverage — dispute arises as to what credit Heatley should get for the improvements. He clearly has both allies and vocal opponents in Georgia.

“There are always people in every community who have a different agenda,” Adamson said. “There were people who gave the superintendent a hard time almost from the moment he walked in.
No matter how good you are, you’re going to provide them with some opportunities to criticize.”

Adamson said the allegations of nepotism were unfair. Heatley’s wife had applied for a job at one of the district’s high schools. The school’s principal wanted to hire her, and the school board — not Heatley — approved her hire, Adamson said. His children’s summer jobs were also not contentious for Adamson.

“We’ve had other superintendents whose wives were principals in the district, and others whose wives were teachers in the district,” she said. “I didn’t have any trouble with it.”

Tough decisions not always welcome

An observer of Clayton schools who asked not to be named said Heatley arrived in the job when the district was “hanging by a thread.” He had to make tough decisions in a school community facing significant challenges and they were not always welcome, she said, but he had brought “structure and professionalism” to the district.

Sid Chapman, president of the 2,500-member Clayton County Education Association, which represents teachers, administrators and clerical workers, said that he had a good working relationship with Heatley. Georgia is a “non-bargaining” state, which means union official don’t have the right to represent teachers in discipline hearings. Heatley made sure that the union was present whenever a teacher requested it. Chapman also started to meet regularly with Heatley and his closest circle of advisers. “When he first came he worked very well with us,” said Chapman.

But there have also been some stumbles. Due to increased state and national requirements, like applying for Race to the Top status, teachers were finding themselves burdened by numerous meetings and extra paperwork. The central office of the school district informed teachers that they would have to come in on Saturdays to complete everything — a mandate that was not legally enforceable, said Chapman.

Then Heatley decided to cut back instructional hours on Wednesday to give teachers more academic and clerical prep time, a move that the Clayton County Education Association embraced. But he made the decision just two weeks before the start of the new school year and parents rebelled since they did not have enough advance warning to change their schedules, said Chapman. That initiative is now on hold.

Another school district observer who did not want to be quoted said that was a reflection of Heatley’s Marine background. Rather than working with people ahead of time to get buy-in, he just goes ahead and does things.

Chapman said Heatley is more inclusive than that. “He will talk. He will listen. But I think he is very big on making the final decision.”

Controversy over uniforms

One other controversey that erupted shortly after Heatley took over as superintendent in 2009 concerned school uniforms. When 1,500 students went on strike in protest of having to wear them, Heatley suspended them, according to newspaper reports. He had the support of the school board, but his action angered many parents.

Heatley began his career in public education in 1996, following 13 years of active duty as a Marine officer (read his full biography here). He received his doctorate in education from the University of Southern California, and has a masters degree from Old Dominion University and a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University.

Clayton County lies to the south of Atlanta and has dramatically different demographics to Berkeley. According to the latest census data, 66% of the county’s 261,000 residents are black, and 26% are white. Slightly less than 18% of the county’s residents have a college degree and the median household income is $43,311, $6,000 below the Georgia average. In Berkeley, whites are the largest racial group (59.5%), followed by Asians (19.3%) and blacks (10%). The median household income is $58,617, about $2,000 less than the California average, and 68.2% of the population has a college degree.

Berkeley school district names likely superintendent [08.31.12]
Berkeley school district names two interim superintendents [08.23.12]
Two interim superintendents to take reins at BUSD [08.16.12]
What does Berkeley want from its new schools head? [03.14.12]
Berkeley schools superintendent Bill Huyett to retire [12.06.11]

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  • The Sharkey

    No mention of the allegations that he gave himself bonuses while repeatedly cutting teacher pay?

    He continued to make cuts while he gave himself bonuses for ‘balancing
    the budget’. We haven’t seen a dime of pay increase in 5 years, but he’s
    gotten one each year he’s been in CCPS.

  • bgal4

    “Wilson described those key issues as the achievement gap, the
    disproportionate number of black students suspended, and a need to
    become a more data-driven school district.”

    If Wilson and Heatley intend to see progress they should consider shifting the political rhetoric away from the disparity argument and focus on the intended INTERVENTION, what actually happens to support students in meeting classroom expectations. Are the parents/guardians actually contacted, is the student’s IEP being followed, are social services needed etc.  School districts making progress in this area are tracking intervention
    data and principals expect consistency. BUSD is at least 15 years behind in

  • Andrew

    With scrutiny like this it’s a wonder that anyone is qualified.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    So you’re saying that his past performance is irrelevant?  

  • Zelda Bronstein

    For more information about Heatley, see—By-Thomas-Lord

  • Andrew

    Nope. Just observing the intense scrutiny involved (for any such position).

  • Guestest

    Oh, that piece is written by “Bruce Love”, aka “Thomas Lord” and who knows what else. It is utterly typical of him: it goes on and on, implies that something ominous is happening, but doesn’t say just what that is. It would look like guilt by association if he could show that someone is guilty of something, but he doesn’t unless one assumes that it is a crime to be a billionaire. Best not to say more, because I don’t want to feed that troll…

  • The Sharkey

    The small section on Heatley is sort of interesting, but the rest seems like some hardcore conspiracy nutter stuff. While skimming through it I kept expecting to find a section about how fluoride in our water is for mind control or how vapor trails from airplanes is evidence that The Government is spraying us with airborne sedatives.

  • Berkeley Resident

    He might be just what BUSD needs now.  Although he is not perfect, as are none of us, for those young ones needing a role model, and somebody who, it looks like, will set boundaries and listen too, I say give him a chance.  So many of the young people now need a strong role model that they can relate to.

  • Anonymous

    Well, look who the author is. If anything it gives me a little hope for Heatley.

  • bgal4

    The Supt position is removed from the classroom, not in position to act as a role model day-to-day or as a father figure to kids whose parents are absent.

  • Voxhumana

    Not sure how far they could have looked if this is the best they could have come up with. Just sounds like more trouble if you ask me.

  • Nicnale

    I think it’s really important for people to know that this candidate is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy. These folks are infiltrating school districts all over the country and their ideas are much more about numbers and money than about children and learning. Scary stuff. Google SHARON HIGGINS, an Oakland blogger on education issues, to learn more.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Very well said.  And those interventions are hard to execute when the child is not from Berkeley, has limited access to social services because they’re not local, and has parents who can’t be reached.  

  • PragmaticProgressive

    disqus fail

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Numbers!?  Money!?  Heaven forfend!  
    Actually a focus on those is exactly what BUSD needs.  Willful innumeracy is part of the reason why we have 1,000+ students in Berkeley schools who shouldn’t be there.  Simple arithmetic makes that one plain to see.And irresponsible fiscal policy is why we’ll be paying off one BILLION dollars in principal and interest on bonds with very limited accountability.

  • Disillusioned Berkeley Parent

    This school Board is the most incompetent board I have ever encountered.  Facts don’t really play a role in their decision-making.  I, for one, will not vote for any of them again.  They are a major disappointment.  Hopefully, when Hemphill and Leyva-Cutler are up for re-election, we, the Berkeley electorate, can send the Board a message that will make the rest of them more accountable.

    “Wilson described [the District’s] key issues as the achievement gap, the disproportionate number of black students suspended, and a need to become a more data-driven school district.”  (What happened to a fair education for all?)

    (1) the achievement gap: maybe, if the district was more diligent in pursuing illegal school admissions, this problem might be lessened.  (Will our new ex-Marine Sup tackle that problem?)  This is not because more minorities would be cut from the school (since a large number of kids illegally in the schools are likely rich and white and live in the Oakland hills), but because more schools money could be used to focus on those BERKELEY kids, who need the assistance, rather than being diluted to serve non-district kids.  Plus, there is likely less participation in the schools, when the kids don’t live locally.

    (2)  disproportionate number of black students suspended:  is Wilson suggesting that the school administrators are racists?  (Doesn’t the Board have a say on suspensions and expulsions?)  What is she saying here, and how does she think the Superintendant, and not the Board, can solve this problem?  (Maybe, the district can solve this problem by upping the number of non-black kids they suspend – increase the types of violations that support suspensions to match the bad stuff non-black kids do? Or maybe put a moratorium on black student suspensions?  PLEASE NOTE:  I am being sarcastic, here!)  Is there any possibility that this may be related to lack of accountability of the students and their families, if many of these kids are non-Berkeley residents?  (I’d love to see the “data” on this – maybe this is the data-driven school district stuff Wilson is talking about!)

    (3) Become a more data-driven school district:  what does she mean by this?  Will this encompass a study of the number of kids in BUSD that do not reside in Berkeley?  (one can only hope, but I am certain she doesn’t mean anything meaningful like that sort of data accountability!)  Is she suggesting more testing?  OR, is she really meaning making teachers’ salaries mirror the student scores?

    I really detest politicians, such as Wilson, using general concept lists to justify decisions that are made based on unstated reasons.  Wilson, and the rest of the Board need to be more honest about their decision-making, but I am not going to hold my breath!  [Two prime examples:  Wilson’s and Daniel’s unconditional support of the TWI consolidation without specific data and community input to justify that decision;  the Board’s unanimous support of the REALM Charter School (it will help bridge the achievement gap – yeah, by bringing in more non-Berkeley kids) – go check out the less-than-stellar 2012 STAR test results for that experiment led by the Board’s “star” ex-principal of Berkeley Tech.]

    Heatley is not what BUSD needs.

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    BUSD Better not screw this up! how about some due diligence before making such a big commitment? 

  • Lonealus

    News from Clayton: He is a terrible leader. He used ntimidation and fear to control his administrative staff both I. The district office as well as in the schools. He actually attempted to change the district’s calendar and commenced to send letters to all 52,000 parents and NEVER consulted the Board. The only the Board Chair is so acceptable of this behavior is because she refuses to admit that she made a mistake in leading the charge to hire him.

    Children everywhere don’t deserve his brutality. Final note. He made many decisions without consulting the Board; Hired central office staff who didnt have a leadership staff which was the minimal requiremenr; made MAJOR cuts to technical programs; always gave the perception that the Board reported to him; not that he reported to the Board.

    About the CCEA Teacher representative. This position was funded partially by the school district. He recently took this position and placed him BACK in a classroom. This intimidation tactic worked is appears. He has, I. His last ditched effort, restored him to his “out of the classroom” position. Now he is singing his praises. This is Heatley at his best. Take him!!!! Mark my words, you will regret this decision within 3 months!!!!!!!!

    I must ask you BUSD. Is the best that you can do?

  • From Clayton Community

    He is a terrible role model. If you are a Kappa, you are a shoe-in! Please don’t ever challenge him or you will be made a target for sure. I mean by simply asking a question. He has a SEVERE Napoleon complex.

  • Leilah

    No, PP, he’s saying that, “with scrutiny like (that listed above), it’s a wonder that anyone is qualified” — an insight with which I agree.  

    There was a time when citizens would elect the members of a school board, and then those school board members would conduct the business of the school/district.  There were certainly times when parents and community members would make an effort to address boards regarding the decisions made/to be made, but, generally, the efforts made were in proportion to the gravity of the issue or decision.  With the advent and facilitation of the Internet and the near-pandemic culture of “snarking”, any blip on the radar of a career will metastasize into the most virulent attacks upon the whole character of an individual and, particularly, their capacity to fulfill the requirements of a position.  But “Andrew” said it better….

  • Anonymous

     I think their idea of due diligence is making sure he actually has the credentials he claims to have and that sort of thing. When this all goes to hell and he leaves a couple years and leaves us with a district even more screwed up than it already is (and any honest person would admit that this is the most likely outcome) the board will blame the recruitment agency. This board really needs to go, unfortunately nobody will step up to replace them.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I wish I could share in the warm glow of nostalgia, but it’s my view that school boards in Berkeley have been pursuing agendas other than the business of the district long before the advent of online scrutiny. Some current members are holdovers from that time. Were they more capable and more accountable, there would be less opportunity for snark, as you call it.

  • Done there. Been that.

    The press we’ve seen selectively quoted over and over is a campaign against a potential real reformer. BUSD made a mistake in their sponsors eye’s. If Heatley has the unions this scared already, he may be a real hope for change.

    The board alone will not make the decisions necessary to DOWNSIZE BUSD to meet the demands of Berkeley’s own children. 

    When the big cuts to education come next year, BUSD will not have sufficient funds to continue educating the entire East Bay. Berkeleyans will have a choice: Fulfill our obligation to Berkeley’s children. OR: Continue bloating the district with other cities kids for the sake of escalating BUSD staffing levels and salaries.

    Tacitly permitting fraudulent registration isn’t  driven by ‘inclusiveness’, it’s a money grab for state funding. Every warm body in BUSD’s classrooms drives cash to the district. It doesn’t matter were the kids are from, BUSD gets the dough. But it’s not nearly enough to do the job. Not without exhausting BSEP funds, adding more parcel taxes and using building and maintenance funds for salaries.

    Maybe Healthy can end this joke: “Berkeley is a great place to go to school (K-12), but I wouldn’t want to live there!” (Too many taxes!)

  • PragmaticProgressive

    And that’s the big problem.  The candidates running to replace Levya-Cutler and Selawsky are More of the Same.  How I wish Priscilla Myrick would run again!

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Which is why the link about the t-shirt Bside put up the other day is so cruelly ironic:  Keep your Berkeley out of my Oakland.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    PS But I’m not convinced of your main point that Heatley will actually fix the enrollment fraud problem.  What gives you that impression, exactly?  

  • Done there. Been that.

    When the state money is reduced there will be a fire storm of hysterical ‘the world is ending’ rhetoric to save the empire edu-labor has built at BUSD. When in fact, we Berkeleyans will have at least three choices:

    1. Fork over more money to continue educating other cities kids. Including using capital improvement funds, emergency funding ballot measures etc.. 

    2. Spread Berkeley’s funds even thinner over our bloated, top and bottom heavy, school district. Further worsening Berkeley’s kids chances for a decent education.

    3. Return the fraudulently registered students to their own districts and reduce the payroll accordingly. Thereby providing excellent educational opportunities for the children of Berkeley’s taxpayers –  for the money we are already paying!

    Read every link others have posted regarding Heatley. A profile of a man with the courage to accomplish #3 emerges. It did for me.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I’ve read those articles. I see dogged, tone deaf, and persistent. Is that courage? I don’t know. But I see nothing that tells me he’d champion scenario 3. Do you or are you just hopeful the breaks will go that way?

  • cl3

    How can someone with a track record reported above, and in articles linked in other comments, even be a serious candidate?

  • Anonymous

     But what’s the motivation for him or any other superintendent to consider option 3?  There will be massive resistance from the unions and the various groups invested in the “racial equity”/education complex will go completely ballistic.

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to hit the taxpayer ATM up again for an emergency! parcel tax since it’s certain to pass and state and federal government gets all of the blame for this “completely unexpected shortfall”?

  • Done there. Been that.

    Those of us Berkeleyans with high property tax bills and kids who don’t have desks in classes with 35+ kids: We are, and will be, the motivation to re-scale BUSD to our children’s needs and our ability to pay.

  • Done there. Been that.

    “Dogged”…I hear: Capable of sustained effort. “Persistent”…I hear: Not easily dissuaded. “Tone deaf”…I clearly hear: More concerned with achieving than being everyone’s best friend.

    As far as motivation for rescaling BUSD, see answer to Anonymous above.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I sure hope you’re right.  

  • Twillmonkey

    Gee…I didn’t know that there were no Hispanic or Native Americans in Berkeley….

  • A concerned citizen

    Everything the Berkeley School District stands for, will be thrown out the window if Heatley is hired. This guy is a heavy-handed, conservative, dictator. He has no business at BUSD, and the decision to hire him will undoubtedly turn out to be a brutal one. Brutal. SCHOOL BOARD: Please, we can do better. We must do better. In the meantime, we have two great interim supes. We must retain Berkeley’s uniqueness, and focus on individualized, diverse education. Heatley will be a big mistake.

  • onewhoknows

    You should checkout his track record for Chino Unified Schools.  It wasn’t pretty! 

  • Done there. Been that.

    You want brutal (and complete disregard for students) check out today’s example of the union’s way of doing business: 

  • Done there. Been that.
  • The Sharkey

    Ugh, what idiocy.
    Evaluating teachers based on student performance is a fast road to grade inflation.

    The best teachers usually give out the worst grades, because they expect their students to actually learn hard material instead of just watching videos and filling in key words in summaries.

  • Torres_virginia

    How tall is he?

  • Torres_virginia

    Where does he stand on Prop 8?