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Teachers chime in on Heatley

‘Leading is not shoving things down people’s throats’

— 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.”

Comments

OscarKnight 2 years ago

....One Word to Describe this : "Dysfunctional" ......This word seems to be Clayton County's middle name. Heatley was not an elected official, although it probabaly never made any difference anyways. These types will always be a magetic to our county.

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james171 2 years ago

Heatley himself had very limited experience as a public school teacher and, therefore, reallly never understood how teachers felt and what teachers needed. He doesn't really know how to work effectively with principals either. He has been like a dictator instead of a facilitator or a mentor. Heatley needs to learn as do some of his "cabinet members" that to be a leader one must inspire people to be the best they can be rather than to inspire fear in them as he has done. His "my way or the highway" approach simply has not worked with the teachers and the administrators of Clayton County. The fact that there have been some casulties and loss of good educators in Clayton County is sad and will continue long after Heatley has left until an effective leader, one who appreciates people, is hired.

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Plato 2 years ago

You're right on point. For me, Heatley's resignation is the best gift ever given to the Clayton County School System. He is one kind of a leader who lacks effective coordination skills. He comes across as one who thinks he is repository of all ideas hence his dictatorial postures. He cuts jobs under the guise of saving money yet keeps creating jobs for his long list of cronies and friends. I think some people in the School HR also need to go with Heatley. Hopefully, the School Board will hire someone with strong roots in our beloved County. Happy to see him go.

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