New Richmond superintendent’s controversies ‘dwarfed’ by accomplishments, board says

Posted at 4:35 PM, Dec 23, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-23 19:02:25-05

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) - On Sunday, the Richmond Public School Board appointed Dr. Dana Bedden the new superintendent of schools.

The new superintendent spoke to the media for the first time, in a conference call with reporters. Dr. Bedden is expected to start in January and will sign a contract that will be for at least $225,000 a year and last at least two years.

"My first priority is students first that means on and above them," Dr. Bedden said.

"I have a high expectation for customer service {...} I feel {parents} want to have a superintendent they think is approachable," Dr. Bedden added.

Dr. Bedden's conference call comes on a day in which we are learning more about the man set to take the helm of Richmond Schools.

CBS 6 learned Dr. Bedden was under contract until 2017, but resigned this past July from the Irving, Texas school system where he served as superintendent since 2010,

Published reports say it was over tension with a newly elected school board, including Bedden's desire to include Spanish language programs.

That tension was confirmed to CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George, who inquired about Bedden's demeanor Monday, when current Irving school board member Larry Stipes emailed this statement.

"It's the Christmas season. A time for peace and goodwill. I was raised by parents of high moral character who taught me that if you couldn't say something nice about someone, you shouldn't say anything at all. Have a Merry Christmas," Stipes wrote.

The North Dallas Gazette reports there were also some financial disputes over Dr. Bedden's office remodel while in Texas, although it is unclear if he exceeded his budget of $75,000 dollars.

Dr. Bedden was also involved in financial controversy in Augusta, Georgia, where he served as superintendent of schools.

The Augusta Chronicle reported Dr. Bedden resigned after not getting a guaranteed $15,000 dollar raise.

In the conference call, Bedden rejected the notion that any tension remains in Georgia but did comment on the obvious tension in Irving, Texas.

"In the Irving case some would argue there was a philosophical difference and in the end any board has the right to have a superintendent that is in alignment with them," Dr. Bedden said.

School board members said Sunday that any controversy involving Bedden from the past is dwarfed but what he has accomplished; including increased focus on special education, career and technical studies, parent involvement, higher teacher accountability and limited layoffs during tough economic years.

"He's had experience in other urban environments and he is ready to go," Kristen Larson said.

"I think there is going to be a higher accountability for our employees," School Board Chair Jeff Borne said.