School Board taps RPS COO as interim superintendent

6/9/2017, 1:12 p.m.
After hashing out the details of outgoing Superintendent Dana T. Bedden’s early departure, the Richmond School Board selected Thomas E. ...

By Saraya Wintersmith

After hashing out the details of outgoing Superintendent Dana T. Bedden’s early departure, the Richmond School Board selected Thomas E. Kranz, the school district’s chief operating officer, to serve as interim superintendent.

The unanimous appointment came about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday as the board concluded another infamous marathon of talks in a session closed to the public.

Mr. Kranz has been working with Richmond Public Schools since being tapped by Dr. Bedden to serve as an assistant superintendent in 2014. According to an RPS news release, the 58-year-old is a certified public accountant and holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of New Orleans.

Mr. Kranz said the appointment places him in dual roles.

“My focus right now is going to be doing the best job I can as the interim superintendent, but also, I’ll be the chief operating officer,” he said following the 10-hour meeting. “I’ve got a lot of work to get done.”

The particulars of Mr. Kranz’s salary are still being sorted out, but School Board member Jonathan Young, 4th District, said Tuesday afternoon he expects the board to quickly finalize the details and make the information public. 

RPS officials did not respond to requests for information regarding Mr. Kranz’s current salary, but an online database lists his 2014 salary as assistant superintendent at $149,379. 

Mr. Kranz takes over as interim superintendent on July 1, the day after Dr. Bedden’s contract ends, and will serve until a replacement is found. A new superintendent must be chosen by late December or the state Board of Education will appoint a replacement.

Mr. Kranz didn’t say whether he wants to be considered for the post on a permanent basis. He told reporters Tuesday that he was not aware of any provision that would block him from seeking it permanently.

School Board Chair Dawn Page said Mr. Kranz’s selection hinged on the board’s key concern to maintain continuity throughout the superintendent search process.

“The board was very thoughtful and intentional in our decision,” Ms. Page said when the meeting adjourned.

Although she did not disclose how many candidates were considered for the temporary appointment, she said Mr. Kranz stood out to the board as “someone that will be able to assist (the board) with this transition and set the stage for the new superintendent.”

Mr. Kranz’s appointment comes amid a rough period for the city school system. In addition to RPS facing a low school accreditation rate, crumbling infrastructure and a federal probe by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights of alleged racially disparate student disciplinary actions, the School Board has been publicly criticized for opting to negotiate the details of Dr. Bedden’s early exit out of the public eye in closed sessions.

When asked his feelings about his boss’ departure, Mr. Kranz told reporters he’s sad.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Dr. Bedden in the 3½ years that I’ve worked with him. I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I would say he’s one of those leaders that I’ll always remember,” he said. “I think he has done a good job here and I think he’s built a very strong team. And I look forward to — as a team — working with our School Board in taking this district to another level.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Kranz said, “All we can do is take the administration and really focus on trying to provide the best education we possibly can for students here in Richmond. Obviously, in any organization, you can always do things better than what we’ve done previously.

“We just need to try to continue to keep moving the ball forward, try to provide the best education we can and make certain we have an organization that’s running in place so that when a permanent superintendent comes in, that person can step into a well-running organization, and they can take it to even higher levels.”