Superintendent Edmond Heatley
JONESBORO Edmond Heatley resigned Wednesday morning as superintendent of Clayton County public schools after a tumultuous three-year tenure, according to school system officials.
Heatley delivered his resignation in a 10 a.m. meeting with school board chair Pam Adamson, who said that Heatley told her he had accepted an unspecified job elsewhere.
Adamson said she didn’t expect that to be the reason for the meeting.
“I was just so shocked I didn't ask [where],” said Adamson in an interview. “We had heard rumors, but who puts stock in rumors?”
Heatley's resignation is effective Sept. 30. Adamson said the board hoped to appoint an interim superintendent whose tenure could overlap with Heatley’s last month on the job. She did not indicate when an interim superintendent would be selected, however.
The board will officially accept Heatley’s resignation either at its next scheduled meeting on Sept. 10 or at a called meeting before then, the school board chair said.
“School has just begun and our primary focus will remain providing the students of Clayton County with a high-quality education during this transition,” Adamson said in the system’s official statement. “We are grateful to Dr. Heatley for his service and wish him the best.”
Heatley was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.
There have been murmurs throughout his tenure that Heatley was looking elsewhere for employment. He was even revealed to be a finalist for a superintendent’s job in Dallas, Texas, earlier this year.
Critics of Heatley’s leadership offered mixed reactions to the news of his resignation.
“Whatever makes him happy, no need to be negative,” said board member Jessie Goree, one of Heatley’s most vocal critics. “I don’t know the reason why he’s going to move, but I wish him all the best and the greatest success.
Another critic and longtime observer, John Trotter of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators, wasn’t nearly as generous.
“I’ve never seen a superintendent as despised by employees as Edmond Heatley,” said Trotter, whose group — commonly known as MACE — is critical of education administrators across metro Atlanta.
Heatley was appointed as superintendent in May 2009 after running the Chino Valley Unified School District, near Los Angeles. When he was hired, the school system was on the tail end of a tumultuous period in its history. During the preceding school year, Clayton schools had lost and regained its SACS accreditation but was just beginning a two-year probationary period.
The accreditation was restored just days before he was announced as the sole finalist for the superintendent’s job.
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 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.
The shortened day plan is being reconsidered.
News Daily reporter Jeylin White contributed to this article.