The Irving Independent School District in Texas named Dana Bedden the lone finalist for its open superintendent position late Thursday.
Board Chairman Jerry Christian said he contacted Bedden about the group's 6-1 decision and said the superintendent was pleased with the outcome.
"He and I talked about when we would start negotiating on the contract," Christian said by phone from Irving, noting that Bedden's communication skills, ability to improve a district's academic achievement, work through difficult financial situations and the many positive reviews Irving officials received of his past job performance made him an attractive candidate.
According to Texas law, the Irving board must now wait 21 days before it can officially offer the job, which has been open since last year, when longtime Superintendent Jack Singley retired.
Bedden said in a statement Thursday night that he is honored by the selection, but wouldn't comment about whether he will accept the job.
"In order to remain professional and dedicated to the job at hand, I will not be fielding questions or providing any speculation in regards to my employment status," he said in the statement. "I would like to respectfully request that the media allow the process to take its course and I give the assurance that when it becomes appropriate, I will release a statement in regards to my future."
The superintendent has said previously that the Irving opportunity fits his skills well and that he would do what's best for his family.
Christian said that the contract the school district plans to offer Bedden could come close to the $250,000 base salary paid to its former superintendent, although the exact salary will be negotiated along with contract terms in the next 21 days. Bedden's base salary with Richmond County is roughly $185,000. If you factor in a fixed travel allowance, insurance and teacher's retirement costs and performance-based pay, the overall compensation paid is $230,630.
Bedden was among three finalists for the job and applied for it in January after being recruited the month before. Thursday's meeting in Texas was rescheduled from the previous week when a record snowfall in Irving cancelled proceedings.
Some Richmond County school board members had hoped to sway Bedden their way in the meantime, but on Tuesday night the board took no action on making an official offer to Bedden.
"My first reaction (to Thursday night's announcement) is I just wish we had come to some conclusion before he had put his résumé out in January," said Jack Padgett from his home late Thursday, adding that he hopes to continue negotiations in the 21 days Irving works on a contract with Bedden. Padgett reiterated again that to lose Bedden would be a setback for the school system.
"He's really been a breath of fresh air for the system," he said, noting that he wasn't surprised Bedden appealed to another district.
Board member Helen Minchew said she also wasn't surprised and now fears it's possibly too late to keep Bedden here.
"I just don't know if we can match it (the Texas offer)," she said. "It would be very difficult and probably we've done all we can do."
As for potentially losing Bedden, she said, "I certainly did not want to see him leave, and we'll be at a disadvantage. But we'll just have to do the best we can and try to move forward and I think we're in a much better position than we had been in before he came."
Bedden's three-year contract with Richmond County schools is set to expire in July. According to that contract, even if he accepts the Texas job he must finish out his current term in Augusta through July 31 unless the Richmond board releases him from it. Some board members have already said they would hold him to the contract.
Some school board members also have said that a week ago an unofficial offer was presented to Bedden, allowing a deferred raise based partly on the end of school worker furloughs or layoffs here. Some board members said they were waiting on an agreement from Bedden before officially voting on an offer.
Bedden has said that he likely wouldn't have been in the running for the Texas job if board members had offered him a contract sooner. He said talks began about his Augusta contract a year ago.