Bad news about Bedden

Superintendent’s possible departure leaves tough choices for school board
Dr. Dana Bedden, Richmond County school superintendent

 

The last time Richmond County changed school superintendents, the school board was wrestling with how best to get rid of him -- and how expensive it might be to show him the door.

Now, board members are scurrying to save the one they've got, knowing how expensive it might be to keep him.

It's a much better problem. But it's still a problem.

As the board and Dr. Dana Bedden failed to get together on an extension of his first three-year contract, which expires in July, Augusta's school superintendent has become the finalist for a similar position in Irving, Texas. A statutory three-week waiting period is now under way before the job can officially be his, but all signs point to Bedden leaving.

That would be unfortunate. Dr. Bedden has brought stability, improvement and healing to a school district badly in need of all that and more.

Nor has he done it under the best of circumstances.

He came into a district rife with cronyism, acrimony, distrust and questionable financial dealings. He also came at a time when the economy required a retrenchment in services and draconian cuts in funding. The district says it has seen $74 million in cuts during his tenure. More cuts are undoubtedly on the way.

You can't blame the guy for eyeing the job in Texas, where the budget picture is not near as bad and his predecessor had a base salary of $250,000, compared to Bedden's $185,000.

He's not definitely out the door, but how can the Richmond County board match that offer at a time when teachers and other district employees are facing furloughs and worse? As popular as Bedden is, giving him a raise in the current economic climate could seriously imperil morale. And where would they take the money from?

Negotiations go both ways, and no one party is to blame in this instance. But the fact remains that the board didn't get the job done. It didn't see the danger of the competition, and act with urgency to hold onto Bedden.

Board members may wish they had nailed down Bedden's contract months ago. They may kick themselves if he leaves.

A line may form behind them.

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