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Dr. Bedden gets 2-year extension

Joey Matthews | 12/11/2015, 6:12 a.m.
The Richmond School Board presented Superintendent Dana T. Bedden with an early Christmas gift Monday when six of its nine ...
Dr. Bedden

The Richmond School Board presented Superintendent Dana T. Bedden with an early Christmas gift Monday when six of its nine members voted to extend his contract by two years — through June 30, 2019.

The extension comes midway through Dr. Bedden’s initial 3½-year contract that began Jan. 13, 2014, and was scheduled to expire on June 30, 2017.

It also comes less than a year after Dr. Bedden was a finalist for the school superintendent’s job in Boston. He withdrew his name hours before the Boston School Committee voted to name Dr. Tommy Chang of Los Angeles as its next superintendent in early March 2015.

The six board members who backed the contract extension were Glen Sturtevant, 1st District; Kim B. Gray, 2nd District; Jeff M. Bourne, 3rd District; board Vice Chair Kristen Larson, 4th District; Chair Donald Coleman, 7th District; and Derik Jones, 8th District.

Casting dissenting votes: Mamie L. Taylor, 5th District; Shonda M. Harris-Muhammed, 6th District; and Tichi L. Pinkney Eppes, 9th District.

Dr. Bedden told the Free Press at the meeting the extension does not include a base salary upgrade. His current salary of $237,579 is tied contractually to pay raises for Richmond Public Schools’ teachers. He receives the same percentage increase teachers get annually.

Since he started in the leadership post, his annual salary has been bumped up three times. He started in 2014 with a $225,000 annual salary. He also could qualify for bonuses up to 10 percent of his base salary if he meets 10 performance incentives.

Dr. Bedden told the Free Press on Monday he did not initiate the discussion about the contract extension, nor had he pressed for the board for it. He said discussions about an extension had been ongoing “over the last two or three months” and he was “pleased” with the board’s decision.

“It’s not uncommon, when you’re approaching the last year of the contract, for a board to make a decision to send the message about if they’re going to stay the course with the initiatives and plans” the superintendent and his leadership team have implemented, Dr. Bedden said.

He said he believes the board approved the extension to show its support for the academic improvement and facilities modernization plans he and his leadership team have instituted.

The board’s chairman, Mr. Coleman, said often it’s challenging for school boards in urban districts to retain quality superintendents. He said he’s thrilled to have Dr. Bedden “locked in” contractually for two additional years.

“Richmond Public Schools is on the verge of greatness,” Mr. Coleman told the Free Press. “Everything that we talk about, Richmond being a Tier 1 city and getting more people out of poverty, it’s all connected to a quality educational system.

“We have an outstanding superintendent,” he added, “not just based on what we’re saying, but because we know that nationally, people from other districts have pursued him.”

Mr. Coleman said with School Board elections scheduled for November 2016, the extension will take pressure off a new board that otherwise would have to “immediately start negotiating a new contract” with Dr. Bedden.