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Jonesboro City Councilman Randy Segner dead December 21, 2014

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BOE approves contract for Heatley

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Edmond Heatley, Clayton County Public Schools' next superintendent, will receive $250,000 per year and monthly allowances of $800 for a car and $1,500 for temporary housing as part of his three-year contract to lead the district.

The county's school board approved the contract Tuesday by a 7-2 vote. Board members Trinia Garrett and Michael King voted against the contract.

Heatley will officially become Clayton County's schools chief on July 1.

"We have a [permanent] superintendent now," school board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said. "Basically, he's going to come in and work on improving student achievement."

School board Attorney Glenn Brock said he will make a copy of Heatley's contract available to the media once the soon-to-be new superintendent signs it. Brock said he expects that to happen when he meets with Heatley today.

Heatley, currently the superintendent of the Chino Valley (Calif.) Unified School District, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but he began readying himself to become the superintendent this week, according to Interim Superintendent Valya Lee.

During the school board meeting, Lee said she has been exchanging e-mails with Heatley, and is scheduled to have a meeting with him later this week. Lee also said she and Heatley may discuss the district's fiscal year 2010 budget during that meeting.

Under the terms of the contract, Heatley will receive $1,500 per month for a temporary housing allowance until either he sells his home in California, or until he is six months into his contract, Brock said.

He will also receive $800 a month for a car allowance for official district business, Brock said. Brock added that Heatley will have to "buy his own car, and pay for his own gas" for those times when he is dealing with personal business, though.

Brock said Heatley's contract will not be like the one offered last year to former Superintendent John Thompson. Thompson's contract was criticized by parents, and officials from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) because of some of the perks it included.

Thompson made $285,000 per year, and he had a $2,000-per-month housing allowance. His contract also originally granted him "unusual powers" which included the ability to bypass the school board unless state and federal laws prevented him from doing so.

Brock and Anderson said Heatley will not have any such powers, though. After Thompson was granted those powers, SACS officials cited the former superintendent's contract as one reason why the district lost its accreditation last year.

"He [Heatley] will not have any power over the board," Anderson said after the meeting Tuesday.

Not everyone was pleased to see the board approve Heatley's contract, though. Riverdale resident Linda Granger said the board should have looked within Georgia to find a new superintendent. "The taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for a housing allowance when Georgia is turning out qualified people," Granger said.

The board also tentatively adopted the $574.7 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year by a 6-3 vote on Tuesday. Anderson and board members Pamela Adamson and Mary Baker voted against the budget. The trio said they had not received the most recent copy of the budget.

"I would be glad to vote for the budget - if I could actually see the budget," Baker said.

Expenditures in the new budget are down approximately $38 million from the budget for the current fiscal year. Ramona Thurman, the district's budgets and grants director, said the expenditures are lower for the coming year because of a reduction in force the school system implemented earlier this year. Thurman said the school system may need to raise the millage rate to 20 mills, from the current 19.836 mills, to maintain the same level of tax revenue from this year.

School board member Jessie Goree urged her colleagues to go ahead and vote on the budget, despite not having seen a copy of it, because the board still has to vote on final adoption on June 15.

"The operative word here is 'tentative,'" Goree said. "That doesn't mean it's permanent ... I don't see what the problem is. We have asked questions of the staff and gotten answers. Let's vote on this."