Richmond County school board member Jack Padgett said today that he's hopeful Superintendent Dana Bedden won't take an open superintendent job in Irving, Texas, should it be offered to him tomorrow night.
"I still think if we offer him a fair contract, he's going to stay here," Padgett said.
However, if Bedden is offered the position in suburban Dallas, Padgett said it could cause a set back with the local school system, cost the district $25,000 to $30,000 in a search for a new leader, and he would have regrets that a local offer had not been made to Bedden earlier before he was sought out by Irving officials.
"Anything that would indicate he might leave would be a regret with me," Padgett said today, noting that he feels the board should have made an offer to renew Bedden's contract before the holidays last year.
Instead, Padgett said, two things were at play in delaying negotiations, which still continue: there was a "comfort zone" among some board members that Bedden wouldn't leave because he hadn't expressed displeasure with his job; and a big factor was that amid a downturn in the economy it became hard to get agreement among the board as to what type of salary Bedden should be offered.
"Everything that has happened in the last six months has been really driven by the economy and the lack thereof," Padgett said.
Padgett says he's in favor of offering Bedden as close to what the market value currently offers for superintendents, which he said is between $225,000 and $230,000. Currently, Bedden makes a base salary of $185,000. However, some others, including board member Jimmy Atkins, have publicly stated that although they believe Bedden has performed well he shouldn't be in line for a raise because other school system workers haven't been given one in the midst of the recession and state budget cuts.
Padgett said he would now like to have an offer to Bedden by as early as next week, but he said there still isn't a unanimous agreement on the board as to what salary to offer Bedden.
Still, Padgett said that from past conversations he's had with Bedden he feels he will likely stay put in Augusta. He said he also bases that though on the fact that Bedden was recruited for the Texas position and didn't apply until January.
"By not doing it until January, I think that means he wants to stay," Padgett said. "This is kind of last minute to me."
By Thursday night, it will be known if Bedden is named a "lone finalist" for the Irving Independent School District superintendent position, which became open last year when its 21-year superintendent retired. Irving's school trustees are expected to take a vote in the called meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. Texas time.
A message left for Bedden on his cell phone today has not been immediately returned, but in a statement released Tuesday night he said: "Recently, I was recruited for an opportunity in Texas. Given the advice of my counsel and acting in the best interest of myself and my family, I responded and submitted my credentials in January. As part of the selection process, Texas school officials conducted a site visit at the RCSS this past week. I have received no offers nor made any decisions regarding my future as Superintendent."
Also in the statement, he noted that "the discussions related to my contract renewal began almost a year ago. Given the time and complexity of Superintendent contracts, my attorney advised me prior to the Christmas break that I needed to be open to other opportunities. I shared with several Board members the advice given to me by my counsel."