Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley told a group of school system employees and supporters on Wednesday, work still needs to be done to improve the school district.
The superintendent called a news conference to congratulate district employees, students, and the community, for working together to help the embattled system get off probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) last week.
The end of probation brings down a curtain on a long accreditation crisis that had plagued the county for the last three years.
Then, the superintendent issued a "call to action" to the community, and the district, to keep working to improve the quality of education in Clayton County.
"There's a lot of work left to be done here in Clayton County," he said. "But, we are committed and we are focused, and we are determined to ensure that not only do we regain the prominence we once had, but that we go to higher heights."
Heatley called on community members, elected officials and business owners to donate their "human capital" to the school system to make it better. He said the district cannot achieve its goals through isolation from either the Clayton County community, or the wider metropolitan-Atlanta community.
During the news conference, Heatley was flanked by dozens of elected officials, business leaders, school principals, and students.
"We'll take your money, don't get us wrong," the superintendent said. "But, more importantly, what we need is your human capital. We need you to come visit the schools, walk the halls, read to our young people, [and] help them with math. Go into a kindergarten class. Go into a class with special needs students. Go into an AP [Advanced Placement] class ...
"We need our politicians, and we need our business owners, to put down your differences right now, because if you don't, we as a community will fail," he added.
Heatley then turned to members of the media gathered at the news conference and chided reporters for their coverage of the school system.
At times, the superintendent's comments took on tense tones as he, at one point, denounced the content of stories, and at another point, told journalists to stop focusing on rumors.
The part about rumors carried heavy allusions to reporters recently calling district officials to confirm widespread rumors about the superintendent, particularly several rumors that he was planning to resign. District officials have repeatedly denied that Heatley is planning to resign.
"We need all media outlets to stop what, at times, seems to me to be a quest to report bizarre rumors instead of the great things that are happening every day in our schools," Heatley said.
The superintendent also rattled off a list of stories about positive achievements by students that he claimed he had not seen covered by any media outlets.
But, many of the stories that he listed as being ignored -- including news of higher writing test scores and high school athletic teams going deep into the playoffs for their respective sports -- have, in fact, been covered by the Clayton News Daily.