GOLDMAN: Bedden or Bust – Richmond School Board must choose

Posted at 6:57 AM, Dec 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-22 07:47:20-05

RICHMOND, Va. – It is good thing the Richmond School Board relented and gave the public some input into the process for selecting the new RPS Superintendent.

A board majority had already privately agreed on “Dr.” Tony Jackson, a clever salesman who they intended to appoint WITHOUT PUBLIC INPUT. But we called them out here on WTVR, as did others.

They eventually relented, even agreeing with my legal analysis and asking the State Board of Education for more time to include the public.

The state bureaucrats refused, hoping to use the law to make the ultimate choice themselves!

So the situation legally is now clear, at least unless you challenge the State Board: the Richmond School Board either picks a new school chief by Friday or the State will impose one on us.

I say, it’s our choice, hell with the state bureaucrats. Good riddance to “Action Jackson.” He could fool a school board majority – I won’t embarrass the members by naming names at least now – but not the people after only one brief meet-and-greet at a local school!


At all times, Dr. Dana Bedden had been, based on education, experience and proven competence, the ONLY QUALIFIED of the three finalists.

On paper, it is no contest.

Plus, his wife is a lawyer, graduate of Howard law school, and likely admitted to more state bars than any attorney in Richmond!

So, it is a two-fer, the city’s new power couple.

But, there is one undeniable drawback on paper.

Dr. Bedden has a “Have Doctorate, Will Travel” attitude, making him the Educational hired gun in the mode of the famed Paladin character in the western “Have Gun, Will Travel.”

He has switched around to a lot of jobs in recent years.

Coming to Richmond doesn’t fit with his patten, the goal oriented map in his mind, moving up the ladder to bigger and bigger gigs.

If he comes to Richmond, it would actually be a step backward if you look at his resume pattern. Richmond doesn’t fit with the MO.

FACT: He won’t stay past three years.

Just a few months ago, he was telling the folks in Wake County, North Carolina how much he wanted to live there, to be their new School Chief, and why that was the place for him yada, yada, yada, his wife went to school there, yada, yada, yada.

They have a huge school district in terms of student population, dwarfing Richmond.

I get it. The Wake move fit the Bedden career path. A little too big a jump though. So he lost to a better qualified dude.

So, we have the Richard Boone of Educational Hired Guns, actor Boone playing Paladin on the screen, Dr. Bedden playing the Educational shootist in real life.

Richmond would have fit his career path a few years ago. But not now. He lost out on Wake. He wants a job, to stay in the game.

So I ask, could someone who doesn’t want the RPS Chief job to be the end of the line, is someone who will be looking to move almost as soon as he arrives, be the right choice right now for Richmond?

He won’t admit to it of course. But I dare anyone to look at his resume and find my conclusion unreasonable.

Wrong? Could be. But fair comment.

But should it matter?

Dr. Bedden hasn’t stayed anywhere long enough to really know the normative outcomes from his policies. His resume cites loads of statistics proving he is a super Superintendent. Anyone can take a set of raw data and “massage” it to make your policies seem to have made progress.

The RPS bureaucracy has done this for years, to the great detriment of tens of thousands of school children, especially minority youngsters from families with modest incomes.

But now Virginia is finally not merely allowing “feel stats” intended to make elected officials and others look good, we are finding out the real truth.

Based on his academic credentials, Dr. Bedden should be comfortable with telling the statistical truth, seeing data not as the enemy but as a guidepost to progress. Has he?

There is no way to really know right now.

Take his latest dust-up in Irving Texas, where he quit as School Chief to avoid getting fired.

As I have previously written, and upon previous review, it seems clear he got cross-wise with a Tea Party political coup, the winners taking over the Irving school district.

He and They had different views on public education.

There are other possible interpretations, but this seems the fairest based on the public record.

That’s politics: to the winners go the spoils.

So the Tea Partiers had the right to fire him and hire their own person. I get that one.

But what about the one before with the local school in Georgia, where he was Superintendent before bolting to Texas?

The previous dust-up was basically was over the performance bonus aspect to his contract. It didn’t go his way, so he quit and soon got to Texas.

At least this is one fair way to look at it.

The money at issue was $15K, which means it could have been settled for probably $7.5K. That’s maybe $3K after taxes and other things to him given his tax bracket and other things.

Meaning he quit over $3K, which is no real money for a guy in his income bracket given that his wife is a lawyer.

That is not a lot of money in his league, I am sorry, no way to sugar coat it. The average kid in the RPS system is poor.

Can a guy who quits over $3K really have the required “connection” we need, they need?

AMBITION IS A GOOD THING, but education is a special calling.

So, yes, it bothers me.


Richmond doesn’t need to be picking another “lifer” as the new school chief. In effect, we have “been there, done that” the last two chiefs.

Given Dr. Bedden’s educational credentials, he should be the first Chief in years to actually believe the public has a right to truthful statistics. He isn’t tied to the mistakes of the past here in Richmond, so why cover for them with phony stats and data?

Truth is, the Richmond School Board is down to two choices: Bedden or Bust.

He is the only remaining qualified and credentialed finalist left.

The Richmond School Board should feel lucky.

The public saved them from a really bad choice, leaving them with Dr. Bedden. His resume is impressive. Watch him in the videos available on the web – he is a smart guy.

So is his wife, she is probably sharper than him.

On paper, he would qualify as a choice for Virginia Secretary of Education, surely far more qualified than the one Governor McDonnell choose originally.

I am a bottom line guy.

Unless you want the State Board to pick the Superintendent, Bedden is the best we got.

The other guy, Calvin Watts, simply doesn’t measure up. I say go with Dr. Bedden.

On paper, he should be at least willing to challenge the status quo in a big way, otherwise this stop in Richmond could hurt his larger ambition.

I’ll take it and will further give the board credit for taking an outsider, not the same ole same ole “inside the system” choice that has only reinforced the status quo.

As the saying goes: even the longest journey has to start with the first step.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.