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Updated: Heatley Should Not Be Hired as Superintendent : An Open Letter to the Berkeley School Board (News Analysis)

By Rob Wrenn
Thursday September 13, 2012 - 09:12:00 AM

Edmond Heatley would clearly be a terrible choice for superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District.

  1. He has very little classroom experience: only two years teaching in Norfolk Virginia after a career in the Marines before moving on to administrative positions. We need a superintendent who knows what teaching is all about from first hand experience. The classroom is where education takes place.
  2. He has been accurately described as a "gypsy", an administrator who moves frequently from district to district. Has he been anywhere for more than 3 years?
  3. He hasn't done a good job where he has been superintendent.

He has a bad reputation in Chino Valley, California, where he served briefly as superintendent before moving on to a three-year stint in Georgia. Did anyone from the board contact the teacher's union at Chino Valley? They have a Web site: 

Here's what an article in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, about the Chino Valley Unified School District, has to say about Heatley: 


..."Their superintendant, Edmond Heatley, defected to Georgia. Around this time, an auditor said there was no data to support Heatley's deficit projections and that closing the three schools wouldn't save as much as Heatley had claimed.... "Heatley is widely viewed as a disaster [emphasis added]. Observers fault him for stonewalling people, including his bosses on the school board and giving them bad advice...  

“He inflated savings from closing the three schools because he wanted them closed, critics say, and padded the costs for opening the Preserve School to bolster his case against it to board members." 


For the whole article, go here: 


He is also strongly disliked by teachers in Clayton County, Georgia, where he has most recently been a superintendent. John Trotter, president of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), one of the teachers’ unions in Georgia (a right-to-work state and one where teachers have no collective bargaining rights) is quite outspoken in his criticisms of Heatley: 


“JONESBORO — John Trotter, president of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), is speaking out once again against Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley. This time Trotter is saying the district will be better off without him. “The [school system] stock will go up as soon as [Heatley] is gone,” said Trotter. “[Heatley] and his California cohorts, in my opinion, has [driven] the school system into the ground.”...  

“However the three years Heatley has been the school system’s head have not been without some distress. The district spent $40,000 last year on an investigation to discover the source alleging Heatley committed improprieties. 

"Heatley has also been accused by educators of berating teachers and other administrative staff. “He has a military background,” said Goree. “I’ve had [teachers] tell me when you try to talk to him or tell him something he just does not listen.” 




More on Heatley in Clayton County from another news article: 


“The district had also gone through a prolonged period of turnover in the superintendent’s office. Heatley was the school system’s fifth superintendent in two years. He enjoyed early support from the Clayton County community, particularly when he suspended 1,500 high school students [emphasis added] who participated in a district-wide protest of the system’s school uniform policy in November 2009. But over his three-year tenure, Heatley — an ex-Marine drill sergeant — was often criticized for his tough management style. He was also heavily criticized for his annual handling of budget cuts, which always turned into months-long fights with the school board over proposed cuts such as eliminating employee benefits for bus drivers, shortening school weeks and doing away with arts programs.  

He also had a sometimes tenuous relationship with the media. It culminated in a May 2011 press conference where he blasted reporters for investigating rumors he was having an affair with an employee in the school system’s central office. 

“Heatley ran afoul of parents in July 2010, when he announced bus service was being cut to 4,600 students only a week before the school year began. He landed in hot water with parents again in July of this year when he announced a controversial shortened school day plan — less than a month before the current school year began — without first seeking public input. 




Members of MACE in Georgia warned the Clayton County district not to hire Heatley, but they were ignored. Questions were also raised about the Clayton County School District's hiring of Heatley's wife and children while he was superintendent. 

4) He's a "Broadie", a graduate of billionaire Eli Broad's Broad Foundation Superintendent's Academy. Graduates push testing, charter schools and merit pay for teachers. The head of the Chicago Schools, where teachers are now on strike, is like Heatley, a graduate of this program; through his inept management, he has managed to provoke a major strike. The foundation believes in recruiting people from the the military and private sector, and has a Mitt Romney-like belief in the superiority of the private sector, believing that people with private sector careers, once they've had a dose of Broad indoctrination, can run urban school districts better than people who actually have a background in education. 

5) And if the above is not enough, Heatley wrote a memo in 2008 urging the Chino Valley School District to approve a resolution in favor of Proposition 8 [banning gay marriage]. I researched the results of the Prop 8 vote after the 2008 election and found that 87.4% of Berkeley voters voted no on Prop 8, the highest percentage of "No" votes on Prop 8 of any city in the state. Heatley, as an active advocate of Prop 8, can be assigned a share of the responsibility for that bigoted measure's passage. It is clear that Heatley does not share values widely held in Berkeley. 

Here is an excerpt of his memo as reported on 


“If Proposition 8 is not successful, then school districts throughout California will inevitably be required to adjust their policies and curriculum to align with the Court’s recent redefinition of marriage. “This resolution also recognizes that the ideal learning environment for children is within a nurturing home governed jointly by a mother and a father as primary educators of their children.”  



Finally, I have voted for all five current members of the Berkeley school board, but I wouldn't expect to support the re-election of any school board member who votes to hire Edmond Heatley, given his record to date. [The board] should restart the hiring process and find a more suitable replacement for retired superintendent Huyett, someone with values that are more in sync with Berkeley. 

Coda 9/14/12 

Today’s Chronicle quotes one member of the Chino Valley School District board, Michael Calta, who says that he authored the memo on Prop 8 “From: Edmond T. Heatley” and that Heatley himself took no position. Heatley has refused to comment, so his position on the measure and on the content of the memo with his name on it is unclear. The Chronicle reporter apparently did not bother to contact any teachers, parents or even other school board members in communities where Heatley has worked to find out what they thought. No one but Calta is cited in her article. Nor does it appear that she actually interviewed Calta; she just uses quotes from e-mails posted by Calta in response to Berkeleyside's article about Heatley and Prop 8. In fact, it appears that she didn't interview anyone for the article; certainly no one is quoted who actually spoke with her. 

Even if you put aside the issue of his support for Prop 8, the fact remains that his actions and his management style have generated controversy in at least the last two places he has worked. There are many people in those communities who don’t think he did a good job. Unfortunately the Chronicle reporter did not bother to investigate those controversies and didn't look into the assertion by a reporter in San Bernardino County that "Heatley is widely viewed as a disaster". He has worked in six different places in his relatively brief sixteen year education career, with only two of those years in the classroom. I don’t think working as a superintendent in Georgia where teachers can’t bargain with school districts and in a conservative San Bernardino County community where the school board members vote unanimously to support Prop 8 is particularly good preparation for taking up the challenge of running the Berkeley Unified School District. 

There must be more qualified, more experienced, more suitable candidates available. The $35,000 the district spent on the search for a new superintendent was apparently not well spent.