School Board approves timeline for finding Bedden's replacement

Board argues over cost of search

The search is on.

On Tuesday night, the Richmond County school board agreed to begin looking for a new superintendent with the help of the Georgia School Boards Association -- the group that helped in the search that led to hiring Superintendent Dana Bedden.

With board member Venus Cain the lone dissenting vote, the board agreed to a timeline for a national search, with candidates being interviewed as early as June or as late as July.

"I think the more choices we have the better we would be," board president Marion Barnes said of his preference for a national search.

Last week Bedden accepted the superintendent job in Irving, Texas.

The base fee for the association, which was touted for its impartiality and expertise, will be $8,000 plus about $2,500 for publication costs of advertising the job. Any travel expenses for candidates also would be an additional cost to the school system.

During the last search, which narrowed the candidate pool to 10 before Bedden was chosen, board attorney Pete Fletcher said the total search cost about $20,000.

Cain asked whether the school system could afford it.

"If we couldn't come up with $20,000 for the superintendent, how are we going to come up with $20,000 to do a search?" she asked, referring to the reluctance of some board members to offer a raise to Bedden in tough economic times.

Bedden's contract in Irving has a base salary of $240,400 and a start date of July 1. His base pay in Augusta was $185,000, and his contract here ends July 31. Barnes said Tuesday night that the board likely won't discuss whether to let Bedden out of his contract early until after the budget process ends in June.

On Tuesday night, Bedden declined to answer questions, deferring them to a news conference he'll hold at 11 a.m. today.

The GSBA has recommended an online survey be posted on the school system's main Web site and a meeting be set to get the public's views on its preferences for a new superintendent. The school board also will submit a questionnaire to the GSBA, and a deadline for applications will come in mid-May.

In other action, the board agreed to offer teachers two more early release days to make up for an unpaid day earlier this school year.

The board voted to allow teachers to leave early April 1 and April 29. April 1 was a regular school day, but April 29 was a professional learning day. Early releases allow students to leave two hours early, and teachers will be allowed to leave with the students on those days.

Teachers have had their pay docked the equivalent of five furlough days this school year, but they've been given the equivalent of only four days off, mostly through early release. The board also agreed to an "optional calendar" for next school year that includes three days that could be used as furloughs should more be recommended.

The 180-day calendar for next year stands, but a 177-day version will be available. It would allow days off for students and teachers Nov. 22 and 23 and Feb. 21.

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