Panel accepts Bedden resignation letter

The Richmond County school board gave tentative approval Tuesday to an early departure for Superintendent Dana Bedden, who in March accepted a job in Irving, Texas.

A committee of the board unanimously accepted and approved a resignation letter from Bedden, with his last day being June 18 -- six weeks before the end of his three-year contract.

The resignation date needs final approval by the full board at its next meeting, set for Tuesday.

"We would just end his contract as of June 18," school board attorney Pete Fletcher said.

Fletcher said that Bedden won't be paid the $24,000 he would be owed for the period from June 18 to July 31, when his original contract was to end.

Bedden's contract to become superintendent of the Irving Independent School District lists a start date of July 1. He had said that he would stay in Augusta at least through the budget planning process for next fiscal year. Fletcher said the June 18 date complies with that offer because the budget should be firmed up by mid-June.

In his resignation letter, Bedden said that he was requesting June 18 as his last day "in order to prepare my daughter to begin her new school on June 28, 2010."

Also at Tuesday's committee meetings, members were told that the school system learned this week it would receive $4 million less in state allocations than anticipated for next fiscal year. That brings the total cut to $21 million for next year.

The board was told that the system should be able to offset the extra reduction partly because it received about $770,000 more in state funds this fiscal year than it had anticipated and it delayed the implementation of a new insurance plan.

In a somewhat contentious debate, the board discussed a parent request to add a basketball team to A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet school. Board member Jimmy Atkins asked that the idea be considered for as early as next school year. He noted that the school already has other sports.

"This isn't a brand-new concept, folks," Atkins said. "I'm not asking us to reinvent the wheel."

But some board members said they feared establishing a basketball team at a magnet, which draws students from throughout the county, could create an unfair countywide recruiting effort and detract from the school's academic focus.

"I am a firm believer of if it's not broke, don't fix it," board member Barbara Pulliam said. "And the magnet schools have been the pride and joy of this county."

The committee ultimately decided to have staff and the board attorney research the idea further.

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