Education Commissioner Dr Edmond Heatley. *File photo
Education Commissioner Dr Edmond Heatley. *File photo

Days after it was revealed he was a finalist for an educational post in Louisiana, Education Commissioner Dr Edmond Heatley has stressed his commitment to Bermuda’s students.

However, his future is still clouded with uncertainty, as The Times-Picayune — the paper of record in New Orleans, Louisiana – is reporting that the four finalists for Orleans Parish superintendent of public schools will be interviewed either today or tomorrow, with Dr Heatley’s interview scheduled for Thursday. His interview would be conducted in a closed-doors session and each candidate faces questioning over their “character, professional competence and/or physical or mental health as a candidate” for the post.

A spokeswoman for Dr Heatley declined to comment on whether or not the interview will take place. Attempts to reach the commissioner before deadline failed. 

In his carefully-worded statement released to media yesterday, Dr Heatley did not say he would decline the job if offered it and gave no guarantee he would stay on the island for the duration of his contract. 

Dr Heatley, an American educator who took up his current post last August, applied for the position last December. 

On Friday, the Bermuda Sun broke the news here on the island that Dr Heatley was one of a handful of finalists for the post. Yesterday, in his first comments since that revelation, Dr Heatley cited a government restructuring and reshuffle as the impetus behind his application.

“Back in December, when I allowed my resume to be put forward, there were a number of major, and from my perspective, unsettling changes within the Ministry,” he said through a statement. 

“The [Education Permanent Secretary] had resigned, the Education Ministry had been merged with another ministry and the minister had been replaced. However, since then, I am pleased to report that I have built a very positive working relationship with the current [Education Permanent Secretary] and minister.”

 Through a statement, the Bermuda Union of Teachers welcomed what it dubbed  the “commissioner’s reaffirmation of his commitment to the public school system…

“It is quite understandable that under a cloud of possible uncertainty due to the radical changes at the Ministry that the commissioner responded to an invitation in the Orleans School System,” read their statement.

Not everyone was as convinced of the commissioner’s commitment.

Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Education, had hoped the commissioner would state he would decline the Louisiana job if offered it and commit to his current post for the duration of his three-year contract, which expires in September, 2016. “What’s particularly disconcerting about the press statement is nowhere does he say he would not accept the position if he was offered it,” Mr Brown said. “If he had committed to Bermuda for the duration of his contract, you would have greater confidence.”

Mr Brown found Dr. Heatley’s vision, work ethic and plan of action to be impressive. However, parents “are now likely to be concerned whether there’s a full focus”, he said. One of the critical facets of Dr Heatley’s role, Mr Brown said, is to develop the acumen and management skillsets of Bermudian educational administrators.

Dr Heatley stressed the Orleans job did not represent “a proactive search by me… I was invited to apply and I did,” he said. 

“I have not applied for any other jobs. My resume is not ‘out there’. And frankly I was also surprised that my name was announced publicly in open session, as a finalist by the search committee.”

He added: “I appreciate that there may be some who will question my commitment. 

“These would be people who do not see me work every day and who do not understand what it takes to move an education system in a progressive direction. I remain committed to the students of Bermuda and I remain committed to improving the Bermuda education system.”

The union said it was prepared to hold Dr. Heatley 100 per cent accountable “to the initial commitment he has made to the people of Bermuda, which boils down to executing excellence in educational outcomes for our students and parents”. n