Board has Heatley reconsider 'minimum day schedule'

Superintendent Edmond Heatley

Superintendent Edmond Heatley

JONESBORO — Clayton County’s school board Monday directed Superintendent Dr. Edmond Heatley to show how letting classes out early one day a week doesn’t violate state or county guidelines.

The unanimous vote came in response to public pushback against an announced “minimum day schedule” for Wednesdays that would have sent some students home as much as 90 minutes earlier than usual.

The decision to shorten the school day was announced in a July 18 letter that caught both parents and school board members off-guard. The changed schedule would have accommodated teacher meetings that are part of the new Common Core curriculum Clayton County is adopting.

While only three people spoke before the board’s work session, board members said they had already heard an earful from parents.

“To get a note in the mail three weeks before school starts is upsetting,” said board Vice Chair Mary Baker. “We’ve had forums on many other situations, and I wish we could have done a better job with this.”

Heatley said it was tough to please everyone with a change like this.

“When you have over 51,250 students in a district, it’s very hard to come to consensus with any group on what’s best for everybody, and it’s just as hard to make a decision that’s going to make everybody happy,” Heatley told the board and audience. “The decision for implementing the minimum day schedule was in the best interest of all — our students, our staff members, and even though it may not seem that way today, even our parents.”

Heatley said the move is a means of allowing teachers time for professional training while not forcing the county to pay overtime, thus saving money.

Opening up time on Wednesday would keep teachers from going “through the entire teaching day and then sacrificing their families.” he said.

Clayton County Educators Association president Sid Chapman said teachers who belong to his union favor the idea but members such as paraprofessionals and bus drivers have mixed feelings about it.

Board member Jessie Goree saw things differently.

“As long as I’ve been an educator, we’ve had a staff meeting,” Goree said. “That comes with the territory.”

Parent Lisa Nolton, who said she emailed the board before she spoke, was against shortening the schedule to that extent and wanted to perhaps shorten it every other week at most.

“I’m basically thinking about the crime rate going up, as well as teen pregnancy,” Nolton said before the meeting. “The kids are going to have too much time on their hands.”

Goree moved that the board rescind Heatley’s schedule change, but because the change was an administrative action and not an action of the board her motion was called out of order by board chairman Pam Adamson. Charlton Bivins moved that the board ask Heatley to show that the schedule change didn’t cross county or state guidelines before implementing the change, and that motion passed unanimously. Adamson then directed Heatley to supply the information either by week’s end or before next Monday’s board meeting.

“We hear you, and we will take all of this under advisement,” Heatley told Adamson while the board haggled over the wording of its motion.

After the meeting, though, Nolton said she was skeptical that the board meeting would change anything.

“I think he’s already made up his mind,” Nolton said.