By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
[Most of the following thoughts appeared yesterday and today, May 11 & 12, 2011, on the Get Schooled blog of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Maureen Downey is the Blogmaster. The comments were edited to eliminate typos, etc.]
Wednesday A.M. We at MACE have been getting lots of calls about Clayton County Superintendent Edmond Heatley — and not just from teachers but from those who are in administration and on the school board as well. It appears that the Clayco Natives are very restless. We can’t help the administrators nor the school board members. We only help those who are classroom educators…and then only those who are members of MACE, and we do a good job at that!
We warned this Clayton school board not to hire Edmond Heatley. In fact, we picketed outside the school board office the that Spring night in 2009 when the board was to decide on his contract. Our picket was extensively covered by the TV, print, and electronic media. A photo or two was even in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). But, school boards don’t listen. The Clayton County Board of Education did not listen to me on the hiring of Superintendents William Chavis, Barbara Pulliam, John (Shred the Diplomas) Thompson, and Edmond Heatley. I think that the media and the public are wising up to the fact that I was NOT pulling the strings on the Clayton County Board of Education. In fact, the school board members (yes, even the ones whom I helped get elected!) apparently thought that they became super intelligent when it came to politics and policy once they got on the school board. They quit listening to ole Trotter. How’s it worked out for them?
I was at one time even blamed for bad weather and traffic jams in Clayton County. I was a convenient and amusing (I suppose) “white puppet master.” Ha! I didn’t complain. I didn’t write to the publisher of the AJC. I didn’t beg or even ask to write my opinion on the AJC‘s editorial page. In fact, I even turned down the AJC‘s request to write a response. I knew the truth. I knew (or at least I hoped!) that the truth would come out one day. Although I personally know a majority of Clayton’s nine school board members right now, I didn’t lift a finger to get any of them elected. (Well, I take that back. I did one day give a bit of free advice to one member who I am sure would hate the public to know. She is not seen as a “Trotter person,” although I noticed that she incorporated my advice into her campaign literature.) I am staying out of Clayton County politics altogether these days, although I hear and read some times that I am involved with the school board. The truth of the matter is this: It is so easy for me to help just about anyone who lives in the right district to get elected to the school board. So easy. It is a shame, right? Ha! Hey Mark Elgart, does this throw you into a quandary? But, these races were really small potatoes. They were no challenge to me. Plus, I am doing so many other things in my life that I don’t have time for helping people to get elected to the school board…of any county!
I remember in 2002 that we won three of four seats on the Clayton school board and beat two incumbent board members. I suppose that this is why I was blamed for the Clayton upheaval in 2003. But what the public didn’t realize is that I was intimately involved (logo design, brochures, signs, etc.) in 13 campaigns that year — and tangentially involved in several others. In 2000, MACE Charter Member Darryl Jordan took out (and shocked everyone!) long-time and powerful House member, Jimmy Benefield, who was one of Speaker Tom Murphy’s favorites. I helped Valencia Seay take out another long-time incumbent in the State House the same year. Now, Jordan and Seay are the ranking members of the Clayton County delegation. Seay probably doesn’t like to be reminded of this but I was the person who recruited her to get into politics, asking her to run for the school board. She was the first African American on the Clayton County Board of Education (1992 election), and she and Representative Jordan were the first two African Americans in Clayton County’s legislative delegation. Oh how times have changes!
That’s just how we rolled in Clayton County in the old days. I was talking on the phone to a retired and long-time State House member this past Saturday. He said that he was talking to Charley Griswell, Clayton’s venerable fixture on the Clayton County Commission since the 1970s — elected in 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1998, and 2002, three terms of which were as Chairman. He laughingly told me that he and Charley were discussing the upcoming elections in Clayton County, and Charley said, “The only thing that we are missing is Trotter.” I have been on a political hiatus. I told retired State Representative that there might be one more campaign left in me, but I made no promises. (Charley is so tried and tested that I don’t think at all that he minds me mentioning his name. This type of thing doesn’t freak out a political warhorse like him.) I am enjoying my children, the quieter life, and occasional vacations (which I hardly ever took in the old days). But, I am always on guard to fight for any teacher who is being abused by an angry and petty administrator. Ha!
So Clayton Board of Education: You have Edmond Heatley! What are you going to do with him now? What do you do when you have a Tiger by the ears? Your shoulders will get tired.
By the way, another supremely unpopular superintendent in Clayton County in recent years was Joe Hairston. The school board in 1995 hired him. I had never heard of him. The school board had gotten deadlocked on the two favorites, incumbent (the last elected) Bob Livingston (I did help him quite a bit in his election in 1990) and Jim McCarity. Each had gotten four votes, one shy of a majority. No one would compromise. Cindy Cathy (yes, of Chick Fil-A Family) kept abstaining. (I guess that the family didn’t want to lose any chicken sandwich sales — don’t blame them! Aren’t these sandwiches tasty?!) Hairston was the alternative choice.
I will frankly state for the record that I had a lot to do with Hairston abruptly resigning in January of 2000. The past Chairman of the School Board was Mike Barnes. He had become a State Representative but still was keenly interested in school system matters because these matters concerned his constituents. We talked on the phone that morning. He invited me to visit him at his office at Riverdale Radiator (small plug, Mike!). He told me on the phone that Mark Armstrong (Acting Chair of the board and good friend of Mike) and Dan Colwell (who was to be named Interim Superintendent that night) had just left his office. (Or, maybe it was that Dan had just left and he was calling Mark to get him to drive down to Riverdale to his office. At any rate, the four of us were involved in this palace coup…well, it couldn’t have been a coup with the Interim Chairman playing a part in it, right? Let’s just call it The Joe Hairston Withdrawal Plan.)
Later that afternoon, I met with Dan Colwell at a Mexican Restaurant on Highway 3 (across from the old A & P in Jonesboro). I had written two statements which could be read, depending on Hairston’s response to The Joe Hairston Withdrawal Plan. If he bowed up, read this plan. If he was gracious about his withdrawal, then read this statement.
The planned withdrawal went off without a hitch…except behind closed doors, Mark Armstrong appeared to be giving Hairston too much in terms of a settlement. But, Hairston resigned and Colwell was installed. So, yes, I had a thing or two to do with this…because I lobbied certain school board members whom I had helped get elected to help execute the plan. They couldn’t stand Hairston, thinking him to be personally arrogant and insensitive to the needs of the citizens in their districts.
In his nearly five years as Superintendent of Clayton County Schools, I never met with Hairston even once. People kept urging me to meet with him. My response? I would simply state: “He’ll need me more than I need him.” I have staying power. I never met with Superintendent Crawford Lewis nor with Superintendent Beverly Hall. I tend to refuse to meet with the Arrogant Blowhards. I do indeed meet with many superintendents. I am not opposed to meeting with them to discuss situations. But, I don’t waste my valuable time on the arrogant ones who apparently think that they have the educational world by the tail. They too shall be brought low. Doesn’t the Bible state something about “Let him [or her] who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall”? Also, isn’t there something about “Pride goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction”? I am just saying…Big time superintendent tend to be Big Time Arrogant. Sometimes the good Lord can use even fools (like me) “to speak truth to power” (to brazenly borrow a popular word used in seminaries today). Yes, “truth to power”!
We keep getting calls on Edmond Heatley. Rumors are flying today. Richard Belcher of Atlanta’s WSB-TV2 apparently is involved. Can’t go into any details about what I hear…
About the Nupe Thing (or Kappa Alpha Psi) at the Central Office which keeps coming up… I remember in APS when the Nupe Brothers ran District Two. (The Atlanta school system was divided into three administrative districts back then.) District Two Area Superintendent was Dr. Alonzo Dawson, a loyal member of Kappa Alpha Psi. Seems that many Nupes were promoted in that district. Dr. Moses Norman was the Grand Basila (I know that I probably misspelled this!) of Omega Psi Phi. Dr. Norman was Area Superintendent of District One. Seems that many Q Dogs were promoted in this district. I think that Beverly Hall is a Delta. I could be wrong, but I hear that she promotes lots of Delta Sisters. It’s a fraternity/soro thing happening in the school systems. I am sure that Edmond Heatley may be doing the same.
Perhaps Heatley should jettison many of the educrats at the Central Office and let the teachers retain the money that was given back to them in December. Yes, the Clayton County morale is so low that you could scrape it up like it is silly putty. I don’t think that Heatley will be superintendent in Clayton County for the long haul. But, it appears that Chairperson Pam Anderson still gives him his wishes. (Pam was also known to be one of the very unpopular Joe Hairston’s “loyal” troopers.) What surprises me is that Alieka Anderson is continuing to be led around by the proverbial hook in her nose by Adamson and Heatley. I thought that Alieka had more of an independent streak. But, once people get on the school board, they begin drinking the Kool-Aid.
Thursday A.M. I’ve been told that Richard Belcher (Channel 2…AJC‘s sister company) was down in Clayton County a couple of days ago. I’d rather not repeat rumors on a blog. For real. But, I think that just about any teacher could tell a reporter about the swirling rumors. I got a call last night from a State Representative about this rumor. (Earlier someone had told me that Edmond Heatley had resigned.) I received a call from a teacher this morning on my cell phone (one of the advantages of being a Charter Member of MACE since 1995 — the teacher has my cell phone number!). It appears that the entire school system is rife with this particular rumor, angst, and stress galore! I was also told that Heatley stood up at the Teacher of the Year Banquet recently and let the people know that he knew someone who had a job for next year…he did! How sweet of him for being so sensitive! Lots of people (teachers and administrators) have been let go. I hear that one of Clayton’s best administrators was let go. If so, this is incredible…because this administrator is/was one of Clayton’s bright lights! Good administrator who demanded and got good discipline. I hope what I hear about this very effective administrator is not true. But, if it is true, it just confirms my stated theory for years…bad administrators are threatened by good administrators. (Perhaps Heatley needed to make more room for his Nupe Brothers.)
As far as stating on a blog about some particular rumor that, if true, should have ominous implications (will SACS return?) about professionalism — or, a lack thereof — I will just leave this up to your [AJC] enterprising reporters. A good place to start might be the oldest high school in the county…Jonesboro Senior High School. I am sure that your reporters know where this is located…since much reporting has been done on this school in recent years. I am not saying that Jonesboro Senior High is directly involved in this rumored situation, but it may be a good source of off-the-record comments. People are afraid in Clayton County…so there will be hushed tones — and off the record at that! I hate to sound like Hal Holbrooke as “Deepthroat” in “All The President’s Men,” but “I’m not your source on Haldeman.” Ha!
I have always called Clayton County “the graveyard for superintendents.” Edmonds, Stroud, Lovin, Livingston, Hairston, Colwell, Chavis, Pulliam, Duncan, Lee, Thompson, Heatley. Eight since 1995. Ernest Stroud was elected in 1970, 1974, 1978, and 1982. He wouldn’t have won in 1986 and chose not to run. Joe Lovin won in 1986. Was defeated in his own GOP Primary in 1990. Bob Livingston was elected overwhelmingly in 1990. He would have gotten re-elected in all probability, but the law changed. In came the Appointed Ones…and has things ever gone down hill! These gypsy superintendents (educational harlots who jump from one school board bed to the next) are dismal. Completely dismal. Right out of horror shows.
@ K. Ridley [an AJC poster who ardently support Heatley]: Start packing your bags. You may be on the fast train back to Cali with Heatley. You are in another world. The consensus opinion from the Georgians (not from the folk like you from Cali whom Heatley brought in to deal with us Southerners) is that Heatley is a disaster. By the way, I like Jessie Goree [Clatyon school board member]. She’s been one of the very few willing to stand up to Heatley. I’ve known Jessie for years…even when she taught in Atlanta. She never joined MACE. Ha! Always AFT but I never held that against her! She’s a very likable person.
@ Maureen [AJC‘s Get Schooled Blogmaster]: I am not clear about your statement. Are you saying that there was no “affair” or “melee” — period? Or, am I parsing too much when I see the qualifier “that led him to resign or that led the school board to oust him”? Any Shermanesque denials about any “melee” which might have occurred at the Central Office?
This thing that supposedly did not happen (I suppose this is what the AJC reporters received when they asked Clayton School System officials about it) sure does have strong legs. I just got off the phone from an employee of the Fayette County Schools who was asking me about this thing that did not happen. The Fayette employee seemed to know many details about this thing that did not happen. Gory details. Hmm. But, the AJC is being magnanimous.
I just wish that the AJC (especially Lyle Harris) had been just as magnanimous to me when it drew the snap conclusion that I was the white “Master Puppeteer” of the Clayton County Board of Education when Nedra Ware & Gang were running things. I was called everything but a “white boy.” Ha! A Dime Store Demagogue and a Svenghali, just to name a couple. In fact, a columnist in the Clayton News/Daily said that I had “hypnotic powers.” Hmm. That might be nice. But, back then, the AJC had me being some Rasputin in Czarist Russia. I look back on it, and it seems quite comical, especially in light of the fact that the majority on the school board immediately went against my suggestion for superintendent, Dr. Jim Williams of DeKalb, the Deputy Superintendent of DeKalb at the time. A great school man with lots of gravitas and humility and a man who garners respect. No, Nedra Ward & Gang initially talked to Lonnie Edwards (they had already named William Chavis as the Interim Superintendent), but when this got in the media, it backfired. Finally, this board settled on Barbara Pulliam. I disagreed with them on this choice as well.
I guess it wasn’t until I publically called for the resignations of Nedra Ward & Gang (before GAE/CCEA, the AJC, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, or the Clayton News/Daily called for their resignations) that the AJC piped down just a little, but for two or three years, its editorial writers still couldn’t seem to resist in dredging up the old Clayton school board stuff and linking it to me as if I indeed had been and still was the “Master Puppeteer.” Yes, being magnanimous is one thing, but be dogged in getting to the bottom of a story (and not just accepting the official response) is another thing. I too wonder if the AJC reporters were “Woodward and Bernstein” on this story about the thing that did not happen.
One informed Clayton source told me today that she heard that Mrs. Heatley and daughter were at Superintendent Heatley’s office today. No big deal, if this is true or not. Just shows that people are talking about this thing that did not happen. Perhaps they were comforting the Sergeant for the all of the rattle about this thing that did not happen. We all have feet made of clay[ton]. None of us is perfect. But, a cover-up (if it is taking place) is dumb. Cover-ups never work. The reason people are fired up about this thing that did not happen is that most essentially Edmond Heatley appears to be detested among native Clayton County school employees, teachers and administrators alike. He is, of course, adored by the Californians and Nupe Brothers whom he has brought in to feed off the Clayton trough.
These are just my thoughts. What say ye?