In an online letter addressed to the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education, a local teacher urged the board not to go through with its likely plan of hiring Edmond Heatley as the district’s new superintendent.
In the letter, Yvette Felarca — a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and a national organizer of the activist group BAMN — accused Heatley of being “opposed to students” and urged the Berkeley community to protest at the upcoming Wednesday board meeting.
“He was called one of the most despised superintendents ever in his last school district because of his very undemocratic and dictatorial style of pushing policies,” Felarca said.
Heatley could not be reached for comment.
Heatley’s resignation from his three-year tenure as superintendent of Georgia’s Clayton County Public Schools goes into effect Sept. 30, according to a press release from the district.
Felarca said Heatley’s background as a former Marine and a graduate of The Broad Foundation — a national organization that seeks to transform public education through a free market model — would lead to the privatization of the district if Heatley were to be hired.
School Board Director Karen Hemphill — who led the Berkeley district team to Clayton County for a site visit and to speak with relevant officials about Heatley’s leadership — disagreed strongly with Felarca’s assessment and said that Heatley is the embodiment of what the district is looking for in a superintendent.
“When you look at his experience and what he’s achieved, it very much perfectly represents what the community has said what they wanted in a superintendent,” she said.
Furthermore, Hemphill says the board does look into community input received regarding its policies and hiring practices but notes that there must be a clear line on what is based on fact and what is based on opinion.
John Trotter, chair of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators, or MACE, in Georgia, expressed a strong negative opinion of Heatley based on his strict management style, which frequently angered parents.
“He seems to like to rule by intimidation, not inspiration,” Trotter said. “In my opinion, if Berkeley is trying to court Heatley, they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
Felarca said the board’s announcement of Heatley as a candidate came as a surprise to the community and teachers in the district.
“No one knew who he was or anything about him until very recently,” she said. “I think the whole process has been very closed and undemocratic. I know for myself and many of my colleagues that we are very concerned.”
The board will hold the final discussion about the hiring of Heatley at its next meeting Wednesday. The board will likely formally announce its decision at its Sept. 19 meeting, Hemphill said.
“Whether or not (Felarca’s) concerns are based on a real look at what the candidate has done, she should relook at his resume and achievements,” she said.