3:30PM UPDATE: “The last few weeks have been a challenging time for all involved with the education portfolio.”
This from Ross Webber, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Education and Economic Development, after the resignation today of Dr Edmond Heatley as Commissioner of Education.
Mr. Webber said Dr. Heatley will work out a period of notice between now and April 30th while transitioning work duties to Dr. Lou Matthews, who will assume the role of Acting Commissioner of Education for the near future.
“It is important that Dr. Matthews and the entire team in the Department of Education get the backing an support of our education stakeholders, and the whole community, as we move forward with the progression of our education system,” Mr Webber added
Dr Heatley stepped down following controversy over his interest in a schools superintendent post in New Orleans — revealed by the Bermuda Sun.
Dr Heatley, who assumed his current role last September, interviewed for the job of Orleans Parish schools superintendent. It was revealed he applied to the post last December.
Some here on the island have questioned his commitment to Bermuda; more than one pol had called for his resignation.
Dr. Heatley, a former U.S. Marine, was among a handful of finalists for the New Orleans job, but withdrew his name from consideration last month in the midst of a political firestorm here in Bermuda. That move was apparently too little, too late. Dr Heatley’s contract was set to expire in September 2013. Ross Webber announced the resignation at a press conference this afternoon.
Mr Webber and Education Minister Dr Grant Gibbons deflected most questions about Dr. Heatley’s resignation and his tenure.
Asked if Dr Heatley would have been fired if he had not resigned, Mr. Webber said: “I believe that’s moot.” He denied Dr Heatley was given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum. He declined to outline the timetable for finding a permanent replacement to Dr Heatley, saying that fell under the purview of the Board of Education. No board members were present at the press conference.
Both Mr Webber and Dr Gibbons denied a communication breakdown occurred between themselves and Dr Heatley last December, which is when he applied for the New Orleans job.
Asked if he had not supported the hiring of Dr Heatley, Dr Gibbons, said: “I had no role in the process. I was the junior minister at the time. The issue is purely academic at this stage.”
He added: “We had a very good, very positive relationship.”
Full statement by Minister Grant Gibbons:
Thank you for coming today.
We would like to provide an update on the status of the Commissioner of Education.
As you will be aware, under Public Service Commission procedures, ministers do not play a role in the hiring, transfer or termination of civil servants – and are not involved in staffing matters.
Consequently I am going to hand over to Mr. Ross Webber, Permanent Secretary, who will explain the Ministry’s position and the status of the Commissioner of Education, Dr. Edmond Heatley.
Statement by Permanent Secretary Ross Webber:
Today, the Ministry of Education and Economic Development confirmed the resignation of Dr Edmond Heatley from the role of Commissioner of Education.
Dr Heatley will work out a period of notice between now and April 30th while transitioning work duties to Dr Lou Matthews, who will assume the role of Acting Commissioner of Education for the near future. Dr Matthews will be supported by a team of Directors and Assistant Directors. This team includes, Dr Llewellyn Simmons, Dr Freddie Evans, Ms Laverne Simons, Ms Terry Cox and Ms Chezia Calloway. They are supported by the rest of the staff of the Department of Education.
The last few weeks have been a challenging time for all involved with the Education portfolio. It is important that Dr Matthews and the entire team in the Department of Education get the backing and support of Education stakeholders, and the whole community, as we move forward with the progression of our Education system.
Minister Grant Gibbons:
I’d like to conclude by saying that this has been a difficult situation over the last few weeks for everyone.
I am pleased the matter has been resolved and hope that we can now move on.
I look forward to working more closely with Dr. Lou Matthews as Acting Commissioner, as well as other senior members of the department in their ongoing roles.
I also anticipate that the Board of Education, as is their responsibility under the Education Act, will proceed to address the selection of a new Commissioner and make their recommendation to the Public Service Commission in due course.
I’d like to thank Dr. Heatley for the service he has rendered during his tenure, the Board of Education for their diligence over the last few weeks, and particularly the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Webber, for his careful handling of what has been a challenging situation for everyone.
We will continue to move ahead with education reform and the Ministry’s responsibility to ensure accountability and performance in the public education system. And I am confident that we will continue to move ahead in the best interests of students and their parents.