First step in finding new Richmond County superintendent is setting pay

Jack Padgett worries that finding a new superintendent the caliber of Dana Bedden is going to be tough.

Patsy Scott thinks the down economy might work in the school system's favor.

And Marion Barnes sums it up this way: "We're going to try to get the best we can with what we got."

Most school board members agree with Barnes and say they don't want to pay a new superintendent more than the current base salary of $185,000.

"Probably we could get somebody in (for) less, but I wouldn't want anybody to come in more than that," Scott said.

Bedden recently accepted a superintendent job in Irving, Texas, at a base salary of $240,400, sparking the board to initiate a national search for a new leader.

"I don't think we would offer somebody more money than he was making if we wouldn't give him (Bedden) a raise," said board member Eloise Curtis.

Padgett said not offering extra money, though, could make the search more challenging.

"It's going to be tough," he said when asked whether the district could attract a leader as good as Bedden at his current base salary. Padgett said some candidates wanted more than $200,000 a year in the board's last search three years ago.

"That's going to be the biggest concern. How do you pay someone what they're worth to come in?" he said, adding that the best out-of-state candidates also usually don't look for a job this late in the fiscal year, which ends in June.

Scott said that in a down economy candidates just might be more willing to accept a contract similar to the current one.

"I don't think it's going to be a hard sell for us in this economic climate," she said.

According to the most recent 2008-09 National Survey of Salaries and Wages in Public Schools, compiled through the Educational Research Service, the average of superintendent salaries nationwide is $155,634.

When broken down to the size of a community, the average pay for an area similar to Augusta's population was listed at $180,412. The average pay for the Southeast region is $160,719.

Dan Domenech, the executive director for the American Association of School Admin-istrators, said superintendents seem to be asking for more money these days, though, because of the economy and how staff cuts have made their job harder. "It is a superintendent's market, and superintendents that have that expertise and experience are very much in demand," he said.

He said school district leaders have to decide whether they'll pay more money for a top-caliber candidate or settle for someone they might not want.

Padgett said the pay dilemma comes amid an even bigger concern -- balancing a budget amid the potential of about $17 million in state funding cuts.

A national search for a new leader is being overseen by the Georgia School Boards Association for a base fee of $8,000. All told, the search could cost upward of $20,000, including travel and job advertising expenses.

The goal is to have candidates interviewed by late July. If a suitable replacement can't be found before Bedden leaves, the school charter names the deputy superintendent, James Whitson, as acting interim superintendent.

Tell us what you think

Complete The Augusta Chronicle's survey to tell us what qualities you are looking for in the next superintendent of Richmond County schools.

See community reaction and response to the Richmond County Board of Education's ongoing survey on the same subject (PDF file). Visit the School Board website to take their survey.

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