Dana Bedden signed his new $240,400 contract with the Irving, Texas, Independent School District after a special meeting and reception for his family tonight. At least 300 people attended the reception to support the new schools chief, said Jerry Christian, chairman of the Irving school board.
"We are very pleased," Christian added.
Messages left tonight on Bedden's cell phone were not returned.
The announcement came as no surprise. Bedden was named the sole finalist for the position on Feb. 18. By Texas law, the Irving school board had to wait 21 days before offering him a contract.
Bedden has been on the hunt for a new job since he reached an impasse with the school board over renewal of his three-year contract, which expires July 31. The new Irving contract has a start date of July 1, but Bedden seemed confident he could "work something out" with the Richmond County school board, Christian said.
Bedden has said in past interviews that he was happy in Augusta and wouldn't have interviewed in Irving if a contract had been offered to him earlier. Negotiations on a new contract started a year ago. Richmond County board members have hesitated to offer him a raise in light of the tough economic times.
Bedden's base salary, not including benefits, in Richmond County is $185,000; the base salary of Bedden's Irving predecessor is $250,000.
Over his tenure in Richmond County, Bedden has turned down job offers from Pennsylvania, another district in Georgia and two other states. When Irving officials recruited him in January, however, Bedden took his attorney's advice and flew to Texas.
Christian said that Bedden's leadership skills are what caught the attention of the Irving school board. That includes his integrity and a history of coming up with viable plans for a school district's future, he said.
Bedden's references in Augusta and previous employers were all glowing, added Christian.
School board members have already set the gears in motion toward finding a replacement for Bedden. They have said they would like to have someone in place by the end of July.