JONESBORO — Did Edmond Heatley actually urge the school board in Chino Valley, Calif., to support a measure that would ban gay marriage while he was superintendent there?
Ask Michael Calta, board president of the Chino Valley Unified School District at the time, and he’ll say no.
“If he [Heatley] had taken a position, I would have no problem with it,” Calta said by phone Friday. “But he didn’t take a position.”
At issue is whether Heatley, who resigned as Clayton County Schools superintendent to accept the top job in Berkeley, Calif., pushed the Chino board to back Proposition 8, a controversial California measure that would amend the state constitution to define marriage as “valid” only “between a man and a woman.”
When a Berkeley news website reported earlier this week that Heatley had done just that, public outcry forced Berkeley school board officials to announce they would slow down the process of hiring a superintendent. Before that, Heatley was the sole finalist for the Berkeley job and considered to be as good as hired.
Although Proposition 8 was approved by California voters, it has since been mired in legal challenges. Alameda County, where Berkeley is located, was one of the few California counties not to support it.
The furor in Berkeley over Heatley’s apparent support of Proposition 8 goaded Calta into action. Even though he doesn’t even live in Berkeley any more — he’s now a real estate agent near San Antonio, Texas — Calta began posting comments on www.berkeleyside.com clarifying what he said was Heatley’s involvement in a Chino board resolution backing Proposition 8.
“His only recommendation was that we consider the item and tell the superintendent what to do about it,” Calta said.
That appears to be accurate. In a memo shown to be from Heatley in the Sept. 4, 2008, minutes of the Chino board, a fairly bland explanation of Proposition 8 and a resolution to support it — not a call to action — is followed by a recommendation that “the Board of Education take action and give direction to the Superintendent” on the matter.
“His [Heatley’s] words are the recommendations,” Calta said. “My words are the background.”
Calta, in fact, supported Proposition 8 and brought the resolution to Chino’s board in the first place. And when everything was said and done, he added, the board never did direct Heatley to do anything regarding the marriage measure.
“His role was to be the top administrator, not to get involved in board business,” Calta said.
Calta demurred when asked how he got along with Heatley in Chino.
“Generally speaking, school-board members and top administrators are very strong-willed people,” Calta said. “To me, it’s not a problem to have a disagreement. To me, the challenge is to work through these disagreements for the kids.”