Edmond Heatley: the sole current candidate for BUSD Superintendent

Edmond Heatley, the sole finalist for the vacant post of superintendent of Berkeley’s schools, wrote a memo in 2008 urging Chino Valley’s Board of Education to approve a resolution in support of Proposition 8, the measure to prohibit marriage equality in California.

At the time, Heatley was superintendent in Chino Valley. His memo stated:

“If Proposition 8 is not successful, then school districts throughout California will inevitably be required to adjust their policies and curriculum to align with the Court’s recent redefinition of marriage.

“This resolution also recognizes that the ideal learning environment for children is within a nurturing home governed jointly by a mother and a father as primary educators of their children.”

The resolution was passed by a 4-0 vote by the Chino Valley board. The memo was on the agenda of the Sept. 4, 2008 board meeting in Chino Valley USD.

Berkeley schools, in contrast, adopted the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools curriculum in 2010, and BUSD and the City of Berkeley have sought to be in the forefront in LGBT-friendly policies. Heatley’s support of the controversial Prop 8 came under fire during public testimony at last night’s meeting of the Berkeley school board. The board announced last night that it is putting the brakes on the appointment of a new superintendent and taking more time to assess Heatley. 

BUSD board president John Selawsky said the board would continue to research Heatley and slow down the recruitment process. “We have been exercising due diligence to make sure any new superintendent meets our profile standards, and doing research. But we won’t take their word for it,” he said at the board’s Wednesday night meeting, referring to people the board would interview for insights into Heatley.

Selawsky said the board needed additional time to deliberate and consider “significant issues.”

Selawsky indicated to Berkeleyside on Aug. 31 that a decision would be made on Sept. 19 about the appointment of a school chief to take up the post left vacant by the retirement of Bill Huyett this summer, but at last night’s board meeting he said that was no longer likely.

While the board did not say specifically why it had opted to take more time, concerns about Heatley have been raised ever since BUSD released his name as the likely choice on Aug. 31.

At Sept. 12’s BUSD Board meeting people hold signs protesting the possible appointment of Edmond Heatley as Berkeley’s next Superintendent. Photo: Tracey Taylor
At Sept. 12’s BUSD Board meeting people hold signs protesting the possible appointment of Edmond Heatley as Berkeley’s next Superintendent. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Many members of the public attending the board meeting Wednesday were there to voice opposition to Heatley’s possible appointment. Issues causing consternation included Heatley’s training at The Broad Superintendent’s Academy, a program designed to take people who may not have education backgrounds and train them to lead “large urban school districts, state departments of education and high-growth public charter systems”; and his support of Proposition 8 while a superintendent in Chino Valley.

Over the course of his career Heatley has held several senior positions in school districts but only taught school for two years.

Sarah Cline, the director of the jazz program at Berkeley High, told the board that she was against the nomination of Heatley because she didn’t believe he reflected the values of Berkeley — openness, inclusion, and tolerance. “If you hire Edmond Heatley, it will send a message to my eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son … that their family is not as good as other families,” she said.

Cline’s views were echoed by the mother of first and third graders who said that the board should not hire someone who supported Prop 8. “I support this community because of how included my family feels. Bringing someone on who doesn’t value my family structure… would divide our community at large and support divisiveness,” she said.

Not everyone felt the reactions against Heatley were justified, however. Alex Angel, a BHS history teacher said to reject Heatley simply on the basis of his Broad experience was “narrow-minded and possibly ideological.”

Board member Leah Wilson said she was concerned people felt Berkeley should never hire someone who had graduated from Broad. She said there were some elements taught there, around accountability and teaching, that the district could learn from. “There are legitimate concerns here, but in our liberalism and self-righteousness we can become myopic ourselves,” she said.

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, whose views on Heatley’s Broad credentials Berkeleyside wrote about yesterday, urged the board not to increase compensation for the new superintendent’s position. She said the current level was competitive, and that given the fact that many school employees had seen effective decreases in pay, “to increase the post’s salary would have a devastating impact on morale.”

Heatley’s Broad Academy connections attract criticism (09.12.12)
Likely new Berkeley school superintendent under scrutiny (09.05.12)
Berkeley school district names likely superintendent (08.31.12)
Berkeley school district names two interim superintendents (08.23.12)
Two interim superintendents to take reins at BUSD (08.16.12)
What does Berkeley want from its new schools head? (03.14.12)
Berkeley schools superintendent Bill Huyett to retire (12.06.11)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...