Dana T. Bedden kept coming back to the same four words.
“It’s about the children,” he said repeatedly of his role as Richmond Public Schools superintendent and the swell of community support that arose when he was a superintendent finalist in Boston this year.
“This district is not about me, it’s about the children,” he said. “I think sometimes in Richmond, people have forgotten that.”
Keeping the focus of the school system on children rather than the politics that has long engulfed it has been a focus of Bedden’s in the two years he has been here. Rather than talk about himself, he talks at length about a districtwide academic improvement plan, modernizing facilities and a general shifting of the focus away from adults and toward children.
“That’s not always an easy thing for people to accept,” he said. “We still deal with a lot of baggage from the past. But it’s time for people to forgive - maybe not forget, but definitely to forgive and move on. We’re in the business of helping children today.”
Bedden has done that by building a larger, more diverse coalition of support than any superintendent in recent memory.
When news spread about the Boston job, a group called Better with Bedden jumped into action with an online petition, yard signs and vocal public support to keep him here.
Along the way, the effort picked up some high-profile backers, including Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton - a North Side neighbor of Bedden - and Gov. Terry McAuliffe and wife Dorothy, who has worked with Bedden on school nutrition issues.
Bedden has proved a hit with parents - he's open, chatty and accessible nearly everywhere he goes - and his push for accountability and transparency has helped him recruit a new staff of top-tier administrators.
"We're heading in the right direction," he said, "but there's still a lot of work to do."
IN HIS WORDS
Colin Powell - a great servant-leader who makes decisions based upon facts and a grounded belief system of service.
"Life Application Study Bible" and "The Leadership Secrets of Colin Powell" - the Bible provides guidance for life, and the other provides lessons on leadership.
Something that might surprise others
I am honored to have been a three-year, three-sport letterman (in football, basketball and track).
Something you’d like to do
Scuba- or sky-dive.
Alternate profession or course of study
I would remain in the military, to continue service to our country.
The birth of my daughter and service to children.
A small moment in life with a big impact
Having the opportunity to be in the delivery room to watch and participate in the delivery of my daughter is one of the life moments that has had a lasting impact on my life. Having a child represents all the hopes and dreams of the future, a continuation of your family and the physical representation of God’s power.
Favorite thing about Richmond region
Quality of life - cost of living, restaurants and location.
DANA T. BEDDEN
Position: superintendent, Richmond Public Schools
Born/hometown: Sept. 27, 1966; St. Petersburg, Fla.
College: University of Florida (bachelor's degree), Pennsylvania State University (master's in education), Virginia Tech (doctorate in education), Harvard University Graduate School of Education Leadership Institute for Superintendents
Family: wife Ava, son Daniel, daughters Avanna and Diana