JONESBORO Now that Clayton County schools superintendent Edmond Heatley has been named a finalist to head the Berkeley Unified School District in California — and he essentially has one foot out the door — everybody has an opinion about his three-year administration.
Perhaps the harshest assessment of Heatley came last week from firebrand John Trotter of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators, who said “I’ve never seen a superintendent as despised by employees as Edmond Heatley.”
Other opinions weren’t quite so heated.
One teacher who recently resigned from the system — and who admitted that her first reaction to hearing of Heatley’s departure was a “happy dance in the middle of my living room” — said that Heatley’s term “was a stressful period for everyone.”
“I dont know why the board of education kowtowed to [Heatley] the way they did,” said the former teacher, who is known by Clayton News Daily but asked not to be identified. “Maybe it’s because we had so many issues already and were having a hard time finding a stable superintendent.”
She said Heatley’s problem was that he didn’t seek input before making decisions.
“Everybody has their own personality and their own way of doing things, but when you’re working in that kind of system you have to stop to listen to people,” she said.
She also said that when cuts were made “Clayton County lost a lot of good teachers” and that perhaps executive pay and administrative overhead should have been scrutinized more closely.
Sid Chapman of the Clayton County Education Association praised Heatley for mandating union representation of some sort for teachers during conflict situations like personnel matters.
“We’ve always wanted that and he agreed,” Chapman said “It made it easier for us to settle things more quickly.”
Chapman said that he had met with Heatley or members of his staff “on a regular basis.” Heatley’s open-door was a “very positive thing,” Chapman said, even if they didn’t always agree.
One issue Chapman’s group disagreed with — strongly — was the “hybrid” teaching schedule originally intended to accommodate teacher meetings but which effectively had teachers working more for less money. Chapman said that it “caused a lot of undue stress on a number of employees” and that his organization is now having it evaluated to see whether it’s legal.
At the same time, Chapman said that most teachers supported the idea of a shortened Wednesday class schedule, originally intended to give teachers extra time for professional development while keeping them on the clock and not costing taxpayers extra. Public backlash — in part because parents were told about it less than a month before the start of school — has since forced the school board to reconsider.
Chapman concurred that Heatley didn’t get people on board with his ideas before proposing them and that rank and file teachers felt “oppressed” because of it.
“I’ve said this about every superintendent that’s been here,” Chapman said. “Leading is not shoving things down people’s throats. You need buy-in. If you can endear yourself to your employees, you’ll get much more from them. You’re not going to be able to make everybody happy in every situation, but there’s got to be some level of contentment and gratification.”
Chapman said that his organization wished Heatley well and hoped to focus on the positive and what needed to be improved. He added that he hopes the next superintendent is already familiar with the area.
“Georgia is different, and Clayton County is unique,” Chapman said, who pointed out that the last three superintendents were from elsewhere.
“They all had a whole different philosophy,” he said, “and none of it worked.”