The sole finalist for the Berkeley schools superintendent post has withdrawn his candidacy after rumors circulated that he opposes same-sex marriage.
Berkeley school board members announced three weeks ago that Edmond Heatley, a retired Marine officer who is currently superintendent of Clayton County Public Schools in Georgia, was the only finalist in a comprehensive nationwide search for a new superintendent.
But some Berkeley parents and teachers criticized Heatley last week after they found a memo he wrote in 2008, when he was superintendent in Chino in San Bernardino County, which they said showed that he backed a resolution in support of Proposition 8, the state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
School board president John Selawsky said today that there are conflicting opinions about whether Heatley's memo actually supported the controversial ballot measure, but in the wake of the publicity about the matter he thinks it would have been difficult for Heatley to do a good job in Berkeley.
"Leaving aside Prop 8, the memo raises other issues that raise questions about his prospects for success in our district because there is so much explaining that he and the school board would have to do," Selawsky said.
He said, "I think Dr. Heatley recognized that as well."
In an email to Selawsky, Heatley said, "I want to thank you personally for all of your time and support. I wish you, the board and community of Berkeley nothing but success in the future."
The Berkeley school board has been searching for a new superintendent since former Superintendent Bill Huyett announced his retirement last December.
The search for a new leader is taking longer than expected, and assistant superintendent Neil Smith and deputy superintendent Javetta Cleveland currently are serving as co-interim superintendents until the post is filled.
Selawsky said, "We will advise the community as soon as we have determined what that next step will be. Fortunately we have two very capable interim superintendents doing a great job of running the district while we work this out."
He admitted that the school board probably won't be able to find a new superintendent until late this winter or early next spring because "any superintendent with merit is in place at a school district now" and it will be difficult for someone to leave their current position at the beginning of the school year.
Heatley was a site administrator, an assistant superintendent, an associate superintendent and a superintendent at school districts in California, including Chino, before he joined the Clayton County Public Schools.
He retired as a decorated Marine officer after serving on active duty from 1983 to 1996 and as a member of the Marine Corps Reserves from 1996 to 2004.
Heatley is married and has three children.