Board selects superintendent

Special
Dr. Dana Bedden
Age: 40
Family: Wife and three children
Current Position: Superintendent of William Penn schools in Lansdowne, Penn.
Education: Bachelor's degree in exercise and sports science from the University of Florida, master's degree in educational administration from Penn State University and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech
Experience: 17 years as an educator

Dana Bedden, a suburban Philadelphia superintendent with ties to the South, will be Richmond County's next school superintendent if he and the school board can agree to a contract.

 

The board picked Dr. Bedden from a group of three finalists Wednesday, bringing to a close a 10-month search to replace Charles Larke.

"One thing that attracted me to him is that he listens to everybody. He listens to teachers, administrators down to the custodians," said Alex Howard, who made the motion to pursue Dr. Bedden.

Mr. Howard said the board's pick is someone fiscally responsible, experienced and energetic.

Dr. Bedden, 40, is the superintendent of the William Penn School District in suburban Philadelphia. That school system has only 5,500 students, but he previously served as the regional superintendent in Philadelphia and was responsible for 200,000 students.

Board member Marion Barnes said he is "aggressive" and showed an interest in student achievement and making date-driven decisions.

While Mr. Barnes and Mr. Howard liked his youth, board President Jimmy Atkins favored his experience.

The board voted 9-1, with Mr. Atkins being the lone vote against him. The board took a second vote immediately to show that all 10 members support Dr. Bedden.

"I think he has the experience for it, but I know he doesn't have as much experience as Susan Clark," Mr. Atkins said.

Dr. Clark is the assistant superintendent of Henry County Public Schools. She and Dr. Shirley Carraway, the superintendent of Orange County schools in Hillsborough, N.C., were the other two finalists.

Dr. Bedden said on the phone Wednesday that he is excited and eager to "get things squared away." Once he does, it will be a balancing act between gathering information and taking action.

One of the first things he plans to do is meet with various groups to hear their likes and dislikes about the school system and identify common issues, he said.

"I don't want puppets around me," he said. "The superintendent is only going to be as successful as the people around him."

He cited his experience in improving a nontraditional high school in Washington, D.C., a school system he called "broken." The 100-year-old high school building was crumbling, yet as principal he improved SAT scores by 32 points.

Students can achieve if they are expected to achieve, Dr. Bedden said.

He led the William Penn school system to make adequate yearly progress for the first time since the 2001 passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Although the board selected Dr. Bedden, nothing will be final until a contract is approved.

The board authorized attorney Pete Fletcher to enter into negotiations and report back no later than the board's July 19 business meeting.

The contract won't be anything like that for Dr. Larke, Mr. Howard said. The former superintendent's contract sparked debate when A.K. Hasan, a board member at the time, began questioning what he saw as a "rollover" clause and large financial perks.

Mr. Howard wants a contract with financial incentives that are performance-based.

The board is shooting for Dr. Bedden to be on the job by Aug. 1.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.