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.
Statement from Dr. Bedden
"This evening, I officially accepted the offer to serve as the next super of Irving Independent School District. My family joins me in thanking the community in Richmond County for its support during my three years as your superintendent.
My immediate plans are to continue to serve as the Superintendent of the RCSS until an agreed upon departure date. During this time, I will continue focus on student learning and helping the RCSS through another challenging round of budget cuts in preparation for the next school year.
I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish together in a relatively short period of time. We have restructured leadership roles, instituted a new system of accountability, and improved our public communication. We have also had great success in building business, parent and community involvement. In addition, the district has made significant advancements in technology and made sound fiscal decisions during difficult economic times. Most importantly, we improved student achievement, as evidenced by our increase in graduation rates, test scores and the percentage of schools making AYP.
To answer any lingering doubts in our community, I want to make it clear that this decision has nothing to do with conditions in Richmond County or my relationship with the board and staff. It also has nothing to do with money. The two districts are in different financial situations and never expected the RCBOE to match an offer from Texas.
I understood that economic conditions made it difficult for the Board of Education to come to an agreement on the terms of a contract extension. Due to the uncertainty, and the lack of consensus of a contract extension, I chose to apply elsewhere. I believe that it is unprofessional to apply for a position without the intent of accepting it if it is offered. The Irving ISD offers my family and I a wonderful opportunity and we are pleased to accept it.
I ask the people of Richmond County to support the Board's effort to find the next superintendent and to understand the challenges we face as we prepare next year's budget.
In closing, I again want to thank the Richmond County Board of Education, staff, students, parents and community for their support during my tenure as superintendent."