BUSD board vows to be more inclusive in new chief search

The Berkeley School Board at its Wednesday night meeting committed to greater transparency. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

A seemingly chastened Berkeley school board announced Wednesday night that it will restart its search for a new superintendent in early 2013  and will be more open and inclusive in the process.

Before opening the meeting to public comments, Leah Wilson read a statement from an iPad that the entire board had put together, presumably at its Tuesday closed-door session when it was scheduled to discuss Edmond Heatley’s selection for superintendent. But Tuesday morning, before the meeting, Heatley withdrew his name from consideration.

“We agree with and respect Dr. Heatley’s conclusion that despite his experience, skills, and achievements as an educator, Berkeley is not the right fit and we support his decision to withdraw,” said Wilson. “The Board acknowledges how difficult this time has been for everyone involved. We are and will be committed to serving and supporting all our children and their families. When we re-initiate this search after winter break, the Board is committed to doing so in a manner that reflects our community’s request for greater inclusivity and transparency.”

She added spontaneously: “We have heard you. We have read you. We appreciate all the time you have given to this endeavor.”

Responding to the board’s announcement today, Tom Killilea, President of the Berkeley PTA Council, said: “My main concern last time was that the process was opaque with nothing coming from the Board on progress or plans. The community was mainly involved in the early stages in defining a profile of the candidates after the search consultants were hired.”

The school board announced that Neil Smith and Javetta Cleveland, who had agreed to be interim co-superintendents, had agreed to share the position for the entire 2012-2013 school year. Smith had been the district’s Deputy Superintendent and Smith was Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.

In contrast to last week’s meetings, when many parents and teachers testified to express their opposition to what they saw as Heatley’s support of Proposition 8 and “disruptive change” as put forth by his alma mater, the Broad Academy, there were very few people who spoke out Wednesday night. Two teachers from BAMN, the coalition that endorses affirmative action “by any means necessary,” said that Heatley’s top-down management style and pro-charter school philosophy would not have been a good match for Berkeley.

“We want to challenge the Board to reconsider any idea that this district is broken and needs fixing,” said Cathy Campbell, the president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. “This idea is inaccurate, and if it is the guiding light of the next round of this search it will lead to another fruitless effort. This idea has dented morale and needs to be reexamined immediately.”

Edmond Heatley: withdrew his candidacy for Superintendent

The school district has already spent almost a year looking for a new superintendent. Bill Huyett announced in December 2011 that he would retire in June 2012. (He ended up staying until August). The district hired a search firm and conducted a number of meetings with parents and faculty to garner input on what qualities a new superintendent should have. But the board rejected the first round of candidates identified by the search firm, and reopened the process.

On Friday, August 31, around 2 pm, right before the start of the three-day Labor Day weekend, BUSD sent out a press release announcing that Dr. Edmond Heatley, then head of the Clayton County Unified School District in Georgia, was its sole finalist. The release praised Heatley for his work in narrowing the achievement gap in the 50,000-student district, helping it regain its accreditation, and restoring it to fiscal health. A delegation from Berkeley flew out to Georgia to conduct due diligence and discovered that Heatley had resigned his position before they arrived, even though he did not have a firm offer in hand.

Soon news outlets, parents, and teachers uncovered other aspects of Heatley’s background that some contended were not a good fit for Berkeley, most notably that he was a graduate of the Broad Academy and that he had authored and presented a memo supporting Proposition 8 to the Chino Valley Unified School District, where he served as superintendent from 2005-2009. There was a groundswell against him, as well as the process used to select him, that eventually led Heatley to withdraw his candidacy.

BUSD potential chief: had “too much explaining to do” [09.18.12]
Lessons learned from the Edmond Heatley fiasco [09.18.12]
Heatley withdraws candidacy for BUSD superintendent [09.18.12]
Questions about Heatley’s role in Prop 8 resolution swirl [09.14.12]
Superintendent candidate supported Prop 8 in Chino post [09.14.12]
Heatley’s Broad Academy connections attract criticism [09.12.12]
Likely new Berkeley school superintendent under scrutiny [09.05.12]
Berkeley school district names likely superintendent [08.31.12]

Would you like to get a recap of the day’s Berkeley news in your inbox at the end of your day? Click here to subscribe to Berkeleyside’s free email Daily Briefing.

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , , , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • John Holland

    and that he had authored and presented a memo supporting Proposition 8 to the Chino Valley Unified School District, where he served as superintendent from 2005-2009.

    My understanding is that the background memo was authored by Michael Calta, not Dr. Heatley. Dr. Heatley wrote the recommendation.

    The unanswered questions are what latitude Dr. Heatley had with the recommendations, and whether his silence on the matter in Chino Valley was forced or voluntary. Some people insist Dr. Heatley’s hands were tied, while Mr. Calta says that Dr. Heatley could have taken a position in opposition to the resolution.

    The transparency issue comes into play in the sense that this was never sorted out privately or publicly. This issue was played out in the press, with all kinds of versions of the story. Dr. Heatley himself never had an opportunity to speak for himself.

    Personally, I believe Mr. Calta on a few fronts. I believe Mr. Calta when he says he authored the “Background” section of the memo, and I believe Mr. Calta that Dr. Heatley could have taken an opposing position to the resolution, but chose not to do so. I also think the Broad academy was the bigger story, and it got dwarfed around the sensationalism of Prop 8.

    What do people think about school board elections coming up?

  • Concerned BUSD Mom

    I think it’s great that the Board says they will be more inclusive. But if they don’t re-start this search until late winter, it’s going to end badly again. They need to build a list of potential candidates this FALL, and start talking to people about what a great opportunity Berkeley represents, so the candidates can start talking to their spouses about moving to Berkeley (or accepting more/different responsibilities, if the people are already here). Waiting until winter is a real mistake. 

  • Heatley had opportunities to speak for himself. Every journalist covering the story, here in Berkeley and in Georgia, tried to get a response from him. He hasn’t responded to any media enquiries, according to Georgia sources, in two years.

  • Guest12

     Dr. Heatley had plenty of opportunity to speak for himself.  He chose not to.  Time to move on from the specifics of his case, now that all 5 Board members (and Dr. Heatley) agree he was not a good fit for Berkeley.

  • John Holland

    I agree with you, Lance. The silence is deafening. 

    Also, seeing as Dr. Heatley has made no effort to distance himself from the homophobic measure, I imagine he’s leaving his options open to go work in another district where anti-gay sentiments linger.

    It might be even be an asset to be anti-gay when job seeking in some communities.

  • John Holland

    “Guest12” wrote:

    Dr. Heatley had plenty of opportunity to speak for himself.

    Actually, you’re right.

  • The Sharkey

    Dr. Heatley himself never had an opportunity to speak for himself.

    I believe Lance’s point is that your statement about Heatley not having an opportunity to speak for himself is factually incorrect. He had ample opportunity, but he chose not to take it.

  • John Holland

    You’re right.

  • Done there. Been that.

    from the president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers:

    “…“We want to challenge the Board to reconsider any idea that this district is broken and needs fixing…This idea is inaccurate, and if it is the guiding light of the next round of this search it will lead to another fruitless effort.”


    Better think again if you want to be re-elected. We like things just the way they are: No accountability for poor test scores, no performance based metrics for teachers at all.  Bloated staffing levels (and class sizes) made possible by fraudulent registrants. Choose someone who challenges our authority and she/he will be kicked to the curb just like Heatley. 

  • Anonymous

    Let’s hope he hasn’t remained quiet because that’s what his lawyer advised. It certainly sounded like he was verbally offered the position and the official press release made it sound like it was just a matter of finalizing the contract. My hunch is that as much as we’d like to move on this is not the last we’ll hear of Heatley.

  • The Sharkey

    It’s kind of hard to believe that he cut off the media like that. Whatever his personal thoughts on the matter are, I can’t understand why he wouldn’t want to let the public know about his perspective on all this.

  • The Sharkey

    Well, they could try finding someone who can both challenge the authority of the Teacher’s Union and also isn’t a potentially bigoted flake who bounces around from job to job. But maybe that’s asking too much?

  • Peixegato

    I agree that they cannot wait until winter to re-start the search.  I’d like to hear the School Board explain their rationale for waiting.  Its not like they have to draft a new job description or list of qualifications.  Everything should be in place to start the search right away.  Of course, if they plan to spend the next several months looking for a new search firm, then maybe I could understand because there are some obvious issues with the last search firm.

    On the note of the search firm, why are we paying them for not providing us with a new superintendent?  Do these firms typically get paid regardless of whether their candidate actually spends a day or two on the job?

  • John Holland

    The Sharkey wrote:

    I can’t understand why he wouldn’t want to let the public know about his perspective on all this.

    Like I said, I think he either supports such measures, or remains silent so as not to limit his job opportunities with homophobic school boards.

  • Done there. Been that.

    Never be afraid to ask.

  • EBGuy

      Prop. 32 is supported by former state senator Gloria Romero of
    Democrats for Education Reform. This proposition is definitely “one for
    the ages” and will affect this state for years to come.


  • John Holland

    The Sharkey and I will do the search for half the price of the other firms.

  • another BUSD parent

    The hell with ‘inclusive”!

    How about fast & transparent?

  • 3rdGenBerkeleyan

    Just Remember to not vote for any of the school board members running for re-election and don’t forget when the rest are up for re-election in two years. if the people of Berkeley had never stood up in outrage we would be stuck with this guy!

  • A concerned Berkeleyan

    Funny you have guns flaming on this. To the degree I have followed this, the Board seemed a bit opaque but not irresponsible, as their statement attests. It surprised me that as elected Berkeley officials they showed a tin ear on this important process. Such is the behavior of nearly all elected officials. But I think this has been a teachable moment for even this board and I would not be so anxious to replace them with others who need to climb the learning curve.  

  • Broad Academy, Second Semester:  Dealing With The Media, 2 units.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    It’s one chapter in a long story of aloof, opaque, and yes, irresponsible behavior. It’s great that you’re following mor closely now but some of us are fed up with this board.

  • Guest®

    Do you think any of the current candidates will be less opaque, aloof, and irresponsible?  Most of them, with the possible exception of Tracy Hollander, look like standard issue Berkeley types, and not in a good way.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Not really. Certainly Judy Appel is more of the same. Hollander might not be a clone.

  • Berkeley68

    Not sure what you mean by referring to Judy Appel as “more of the same.”  Judy has a long proven history of leadership and innovation, both within the LBGT community and the education community.  As a lawyer and advocate she has spent her entire career working for social justice.  She is a proven and effective leader.

    Judy has proven herself repeatedly to be someone who is committed to making sure that our schools meet the needs of all of our children and their families.  My guess is that you look at the list of endorsements, which include virtually every elected official in Berkeley and much of Alameda County and decide “it’s more of the same.”  I think that when  the entire City Council, all but one School Board member a past superintendent, the teacher’s union and numerous respected educators endorse a candidate, it might be because they think she brings the leadership qualities we need.

  • Educator

    We need someone strong with a proven record of working for social justice and who has a proven record of fiscal management.  Judy Appel has worked in the non-profit sector her whole career as a homeless advocate, as an attorney with the drug policy alliance, and as the director of a non-profit organization supporting LGBT families.  She is deeply committed to social justice, walks the walk in her personal life, and would be a strong voice of reason on the board.  Get to know her…you will see that she is not more of the same.  As an educator, I am eager to have her leadership on this board. 

  • The Sharkey

    I have yet to see a “homeless advocate” who worked for the best interests of the actual residents of any community.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    There is no shortage of social justice advocacy on the board and in Berkeley at large. In fact it’s outsized relative to other priorities, like serving the residents of the town.

    Judy hasn’t answered any of the calls to state what she’ll do on enrollment fraud in BUSD because she’ll do nothing, just like the rest of the board. Get her to take on enrollment fraud and I will change my tune.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Or it might be because the political machine that runs this town is backing her. Notice her vocal support for the current board during this fiasco? And her deafening silence on the enrollment fraud problem when directly asked about it? That’s more of the same.

  • bgal4

    My friend teaches in San Ramon Unified, they just hired a Supt in a fast track process, the new hire is considered to be a good choice by staff. It can be done.

  • The Sharkey

    She seems to be completely ignoring questions from other posters all around.
    It would be nice if she was trying to use Berkeleyside to engage with the community, but she seems to be using it as nothing more than a free place to slap up her press releases.

  • bgal4

     Please name one board member in the last 20 years who is not committed to social justice principals.

    BUSD had a board member with outstanding credentials as a fiscal manager, and the result was we passed more bonds to fund facilities.

    I am not impressed with Appel, and yes I have spoken with her several times before she became a candidate.

    You should not worry, she will be elected, even without my vote.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Can their new hire “walk on water” and meet other ridiculous and fundamentally unmeasurable criteria? Or is s/he “merely” an experienced educational administrator working to get the best educational outcomes for the students of San Ramon?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Yup, you’re right.

  • Educator

     Laura Menard for School Board, Mayor and God!

  • Guest

    grow upguest

  • bgal4

     I’m an atheist.

  • Guest®

     Frankly, all of that sounds like reasons not to vote for her.

  • Anonymous

    Blah blah social justice blah vote for Appel blah LGBT blah blah all families (as long as you mean the ones who don’t give a damn about education) blah blah vote for Appel blah blah.

    I think that’s a fair summary of your post, let me know if I missed anything.

  • Howie Mencken

    re: “…I think that when  the entire City Council, all but one School Board member a past superintendent, the teacher’s union and numerous respected educators endorse a candidate, it might be because they think she brings the leadership qualities we need….”

    This list of “endorsers” (more accurately – longtime cronies) is the source the outcomes currently infuriating Berkeleyans. There’s enough bad apples running our schools, do we need another?

  • Margit Roos-Collins

     Lance and Frances, why are you allowing nasty personal comments like this to be posted, or not at least pulling them immediately?  Why should anyone use Berkeleyside to communicate against the grain if they risk ad hominem responses?  If this place is safe only for posters who keep changing their aliases or avoid uncomfortable comments, then we all lose.

  • bgal4

     thanks Margit,


  • Margit, 

    Which comments do you think should be pulled? I don’t see it in this thread. You can email me directly if you don’t want to post here: lknobel@gmail.com

  • emraguso