Edmond Heatley withdrew his candidacy for the superintendent position of the Berkeley Unified School District Tuesday, according to an alert released by the district.
Following the announcement of Heatley as the sole finalist for the position last month after the search began last December, dozens of students, teachers and community members said the candidate would not fit in Berkeley due to what they say is his top-down management style, excessive emphasis on standardized testing and strong support of a proposition against gay marriage.
“I want to thank you personally for all of your time and support,” Heatley said in an email to board President John Selawsky. “I have attached my letter of withdrawal from candidacy for the position of Superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District. I wish you, the Board and Community of Berkeley nothing but success in the future.”
School board Director Karen Hemphill said she was not surprised by Heatley’s announcement of withdrawal because of the amount of controversy his candidacy drew from the community.
“In the end, I think Heatley made the right decision,” Hemphill said. “It is difficult to see that he could be successful given all the controversy.”
Hemphill added that the controversy and the outcome of this superintendent search give both the board and the community a chance to be more deliberate and thoughtful in choosing a future candidate for the position.
BAMN national organizer Yvette Felarca says the organization is happy about the candidate’s resignation, but the organization’s fight to support Berkeley public education is not over.
“Our voices were heard all the way to Georgia,” Felarca said. “At the same time, Heatley is out, (but) the dangers still remain. The board may try to appoint another candidate who shares similarly hostile education policies.”
She said Heatley’s nomination was not simply an oversight but an indication of the board’s growing support for pro-privatization policies in Berkeley’s public education system. The organization still plans on attending the board’s next meeting to speak out against the funding of a Berkeley charter school.
The board will now have to discuss whether to keep its current interim co-superintendents — Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland and Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith — or hire an outside interim superintendent.
If it decides to reopen the search, the board will likely restart the search in late winter or early spring, Hemphill said.
Selawsky also said in the press release that the two current interim co-superintendents will continue to serve as the district’s superintendents in the meantime, and the board will notify the community as soon as it determines any next steps.
“The board has not had discussions about that yet,” Selawsky said. “There is no sense in reopening the search in October or November.”