News broke Thursday afternoon that Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dana Bedden had been named a finalist for a superintendent job in Boston. If offered the job, will he stay or will he go?
In a sit-down interview in his 17th-floor office at City Hall last Friday, Bedden discussed his career trajectory as an educational administrator, which has spanned 21 years despite his being only 48 years old. It includes superintendent gigs in Philadelphia (four years), Augusta, Georgia (three years), and Irving, Texas (three years), before he took the job in Richmond in December 2013.
Asked what has kept him from settling down in a school district, he offered this response:
“I’d say early on, [I] was always the young person who was eager to help. In many of the cases, it was being recruited. Here’s a reccurring theme that’s always stuck with me from Arlene Ackerman: ‘If it’s a good fight, then get in it. If not you, then who?’ That’s always stuck with me. At times, I’d say, ‘Oh, they need me here.’ And she’d say ‘They need good people everywhere, so if you think you can make a difference [then go].’ ”
Bedden became acquainted with the late Ackerman in 1999 while serving as a high school principal in Washington, D.C., when she was superintendent of schools there.
“Honestly, I think I’m a hybrid between old school and new generation. Look at the track record of this current generation and how long they stay in jobs, the rate they change compared to our parents. I’m also an anomaly … I’ve been at it a long time. Some people come in and build capacity for a district to be successful. That’s fine for a period, but that’s not my goal.”
The School Board called an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon despite canceling other scheduled public meetings earlier in the week. The meeting was not open to the public, and only five board members were able to attend, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Bedden, who has not yet spent a full school year at the helm of RPS, is one of the highest paid public officials in Central Virginia. His annual salary is nearly $232,000. When Boston’s prior superintendent retired, her salary was $267,000.
The Boston superintendent search began in April 2013. In January, the Boston Globe reported a field of 75 candidates from 25 states had applied for the job. A 12-person selection committee and private consulting firm whittled that pool down to about eight semifinalists. Four finalists made the final cut, of which Bedden is one. The winning candidate is expected to be named before the end of February, according to the Globe.
Boston’s public school system serves about 57,000 students, more than twice as many as RPS does (23,000).