Photo by Heather Middleton
John Trotter, president of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), is not shy when it comes to expressing his displeasure with the Clayton County school board and the superintendent, and now he is expressing his concern over what he is calling nepotism.
The district’s teachers are not happy with Superintendent Edmond Heatley’s wife and two children working for the school system, according to Trotter, alleging the superintendent is in violation of the district’s nepotism policy.
“[Heatley] is super rotten to the core and people cannot stand him,” said Trotter.
Heatley makes $250,000 annually, plus $25,000 in bonuses, a monthly car allowance of $800, and a $500,000 in life insurance policy. His wife, Karen, was hired last year as the parent and community liaison at Lovejoy High School and makes $41,000 annually. His daughter Chelsia worked last summer for the school system and made $1,811.52, and his son Anthony, who also worked during the summer last year, made $1,954.15.
However, not everyone agrees with Trotter’s assessment.
Clayton County Chief of Human Resources Doug Hendrix said the superintendent is not in violation of the nepotism policy, which reads, in part: “The board directs that no employee be assigned to any school board facility or central office department where the employee would be under the direct administrative or supervisory authority of a member of the employee’s immediate family, for example, one’s spouse supervising the other.”
Heatley is not his wife or children’s direct supervisor.
“My wife works for the school system as well as many other spouses and family members,” said Hendrix. “I think it is extremely unfair to say just because [Karen’s] husband is the superintendent, she can not work for the school system.”
Trotter said the school board is arguing over semantics.
“The school board members are just dancing around the subject,” said Trotter. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that [Heatley] is in violation [of the district’s nepotism policy]. The superintendent [is] a thug and bully.”
For Trotter, it’s simple.
“The policy said [the employee can not be under] the direct supervisory authority of a family member so [Heatley] is in violation,” said Trotter. “Heatley is the supervisor over the entire district!”
Heatley declined comment.
Hendrix said Heatley’s wife is not a contract employee but an at-will employee, which means she would report to the Lovejoy’s principal, Keith Colbert, not the superintendent. “The principal [at Lovejoy] was the one who hired her, not the superintendent,” he said.
Board Chairperson Pam Adamson added that an at-will employee does not have the same rights as a contract teacher. “The employee would work at will of the district,” she said. “Teachers [who are contract employees] can be employed till the end of the year, at will employees can not. Heatley has done nothing wrong.”
The state board of education doesn’t concern itself with individual boards’ policies.
“Our state constitution provides local school boards with the power and authority to manage the schools under their control,” said Matt Cardoza, spokesperson for the state board of education. “As a result, our agency does not oversee the daily operations of school systems.”
He declined to make further comment.
“If the superintendent was violating any policy, I’m sure there would be some legal actions,” said Hendrix.
Still, many Clayton County Public School teachers are growing frustrated with the school board and the superintendent. Trotter said teachers believe they are low-priority. Due the district having to cut $11 million from its recently approved its $335.83 million budget for 2013, as a result district teacher’s would not get a pay raise and several positions were eliminated. According to Sid Chapman of the Clayton County Education Association, teachers have not received a pay raise in five years.
Chapman was asked by a Clayton News Daily reporter if he thought the superintendent’s wife and children being on the school system’s payroll made Heatley look suspicious of nepotism.
“In a time like this, when people are being laid off, it comes to your attention more so,” said Chapman. “But if [Heatley] followed all the procedures for [his family] to be hired then I can’t see if there is anything wrong with it.”
He added, “It’s just a real touchy [issue] and we don’t want to come off like we’re attacking his family.”