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Former Richmond County schools superintendent enjoying new job in Texas

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He had never planned to leave Augusta after just three years.

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Former Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden left Augusta in 2010 to take the lead job in Irving, Texas.   Jim Mahoney/Dallas Morning News
Jim Mahoney/Dallas Morning News
Former Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden left Augusta in 2010 to take the lead job in Irving, Texas.

When Dana Bedden came to lead the Richmond County district in 2007, he had ideas for the long haul. But when contract negotiations for a second term did not work out with school board members, the Irving In­dependent School District in Texas wasted no time recruiting him.

A year and a half after leaving Augusta, he said his new home is serving him well, even though he has had to handle issues from budget cuts to immigration debates.

“It’s been baptism by fire,” he said in a phone interview last week.

Bedden started work with Irving in July 2010 on a three-year contract. In March, the school board voted to extend his contract through 2016 and maintained his $244,400 salary, which he called a “vote of confidence” in his work.

Soon after taking office, he handled the state slashing $14 million from his school system, which he said was the first time in about 10 years that Texas had reduced education funding. To balance the budget, the system had to make cuts, including $2 million in operational costs and 10 layoffs at the central office alone. Although the state cuts created budget issues, He said he also helped gain the district a five-star rating from the state comptroller for strong financial management.

Bedden said his district is very progressive. It’s home to the country’s largest net-zero energy middle schools, on which construction began before he arrived, although he helped plan and select staff for its opening this year. The school, Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, produces all the energy it burns and is powered by solar panels, solar rods and windmills.

Like Richmond County, Irving did not make federal “adequate yearly progress” goals in 2011, but has 80 percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in math, 78 percent in science and 90 percent in English, he said. He works with a similar economic demographic to Richmond County, with 81 percent of the 35,000 students on free or reduced-price lunch compared to Augusta’s 74 percent.

A difference is that Richmond County schools are majority black, while Irving’s are 71 percent Hispanic. Of those, 13,000 are English language learners, which Bedden said has been a topic of debate amid immigration legislation in the country.

“The law says we have to educate kids regardless, so (race) is irrelevant to us,” he said. “Still, people look at the school system and feel like serving those kids is draining their resources.”

The transition to Texas was an easy one for Bedden, he said, because Irving is a bustling, diverse city with a strong culture for his family. Looking back at his time in Augusta, he said he has only good memories.

Richmond County school board member Jack Padgett Jr. said he gets occasional phone calls from Bedden checking up on Augusta. Padgett said the events surrounding Bedden’s departure was frustrating at the time, but it ended on good terms. Toward the end of his three-year contract in 2010, Bedden had requested a raise to his $185,000 base salary so he would make “market value” based on the average superintendent pay in Georgia.

When school board members did not present a suitable contract in time, Bedden started looking elsewhere and was soon recruited by Irving. At a press conference that March to address his departure, he told the community, “It just didn’t work out.”

“We were fortunate to have him in the time we did,” Padgett said. “‘Brilliant’ would probably be the best way to describe Dr. Bedden. He was a quick thinker so that you could walk down the hallway with him and get three decisions made in that time.”

When Bedden left, he said the decision was “never about money,” and that his focus then and now is on education.

“Education is the great equalizer,” he said. “Education is the 21st-century civil rights issue. If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

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showboat
336
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showboat 12/12/11 - 01:15 am
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Why is this news to
Unpublished

Why is this news to Augusta!!!!!!

Riverman1
83562
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Riverman1 12/12/11 - 09:04 am
0
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Get a county with the right

Get a county with the right demographics and you could run the school system from my boat out on the river with a cell phone that only picks up a signal now and then.

seenitB4
86795
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seenitB4 12/12/11 - 09:20 am
0
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RM...You know how you are

RM...You know how you are always saying the post office has changed since computers.....why not schools.....a central control could send lessons on a puter to each household....fewer teachers-buses-fewer schools built.....they could meet 1 day a week in a large room to touch base with the teacher....wow the savings there...I can see that someday.

Little Lamb
45856
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Little Lamb 12/12/11 - 09:20 am
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I didn't know you were

I didn't know you were Charles Nagle, RM.

Riverman1
83562
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Riverman1 12/12/11 - 09:24 am
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SeenIt, I totally agree. We

SeenIt, I totally agree. We should make as much of school online as possible. College, too.

LL, that's exactly who I was thinking about. A Columbia County Superintendent looks like a genius when his biggest controversy is what Barry Paschal names a school. Heh.

drivenslow
0
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drivenslow 12/12/11 - 09:58 am
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when is richmond county gonna
Unpublished

when is richmond county gonna deal with the fact that the new superintendent is now severely impaired and cannot perform his functions any longer........that brain injury he recieved is a whole lot more massive than the school board or the family is letting the public in on.......trust me hippa isnt that big of a thing anymore

drivenslow
0
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drivenslow 12/12/11 - 10:02 am
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and oh yeah and if you put
Unpublished

and oh yeah and if you put schools all online guess what you raise the unemployment rate by thousands upon thousands yeah thats a brilliant move.......but what quality of education will they recieve i used to take all of my secretaries history and english tests that she had to take for her online college degree.......my name should be on that diploma somewhere

unbiased_propaganda
165
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unbiased_propaganda 12/12/11 - 11:49 am
0
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It was never about the money

It was never about the money eh? So I guess it was just a coincidence that he waited until he asked for a raise to start looking elsewhere....it's always about the money - just admit it Bedden.

BamaMan
2353
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BamaMan 12/12/11 - 02:54 pm
0
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Online schooling. Sounds

Online schooling. Sounds good? What about all the parents that have to work, and can't leave young children at home alone? Makes for good argument I guess, but I don't think the "discipline" to get work done would be there if at home.

Riverman1
83562
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Riverman1 12/12/11 - 03:04 pm
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BamaMan, you have a valid

BamaMan, you have a valid point that schools provide care for children during the day. But that's another argument. This is about education. We may run out of money for traditional schools before long. If we have decided to provide daycare there are other ways to do it that don't necessarily involve education.

littlecoach
6
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littlecoach 12/12/11 - 03:37 pm
0
0
Please he was comfortable

Please he was comfortable until his afair was about to come out.

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