Public can meet Wake superintendent finalists Tuesday

khui@newsobserver.comMay 27, 2013 

Now the public gets a chance to grill the three educators who want to be the next superintendent of the Wake County school system.

The three finalists will take questions at a community forum that runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts on South Street in downtown Raleigh.

The forum will cap a long Tuesday for the finalists, who will tour schools in the morning and meet with district staff in the afternoon.

Here’s some information to help you prepare for the forum:

Dana Bedden

Age: 46

Hometown: St. Petersburg, Fla.

Current position: Superintendent of the Irving Independent School District, a 35,000-student district near Dallas, since 2010.

Current salary: $247,660.

Other jobs: Bedden started in 1991 as a middle school health teacher and basketball coach with Pinellas County Public Schools in Largo, Fla. He’s also been athletic director for the York City School District in Pennsylvania, and district community and athletic resource administrator for Exeter Township School District in Pennsylvania. He was a subschool principal in Fairfax, Va.; high school principal in Washington; central region superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia; and superintendent of Richmond County Schools in Augusta, Ga.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport sciences from University of Florida, Gainesville; master’s degree in educational administration from University of Pennsylvania, University Park; doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; post-doctoral courses in school business leadership (administration) at Wilkes University, Wilkes, Pa.; completed the Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s Leadership Institute for Superintendents, Cambridge, Mass.

Ann Clark

Age: 55

Hometown: Greensboro

Current position: Deputy superintendent of the 141,000-student Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system since 2012.

Current salary: $190,000

Other jobs: Clark started in 1982 as a teacher of behaviorally-emotionally handicapped students in the Virginia Beach, Va., City Public Schools. She began in Charlotte in 1983 as a special education teacher. She’s been an elementary school principal, middle school principal and high school principal. She was promoted to central office in 2001, starting as assistant superintendent for high school curriculum and instruction, high school regional superintendent, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and later chief academic officer.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in English from Davidson College, Davidson; master’s degree in special education from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; school administrator’s certification from UNC Greensboro; graduated from Broad Superintendents Academy, Los Angeles.

James Merrill

Age: 62

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.

Current position: Superintendent of the 70,000-student Virginia Beach, Va., City Public Schools since 2006.

Current salary: $220,644

Other jobs: Merrill started in 1973 as an English teacher in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. He was hired by Wake in 1984 to be an assistant principal at Enloe High School in Raleigh. He moved to central office in 1986 to become a personnel director. He was named assistant superintendent for human resources in 1990. He became associate superintendent for administration in 1996, overseeing Wake’s budget and payroll, personnel, purchasing and data processing. He left Wake in 2000 to become superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School System.

Education: Morehead Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill, where he received a bachelor’s degree in secondary English; master’s degree in educational administration from Appalachian State University, Boone; doctoral degree from UNC Greensboro.

See them in person

There will be ample seating for the forum at Memorial Auditorium, which is not charging the school system to use the facility, according to Renee McCoy, a Wake schools spokeswoman. No tickets are required.

“It provides a much larger venue for more citizens to participate,” said McCoy, who will be the moderator at the forum.

Once you’re in, you’ll be able to submit questions in writing. McCoy said she will be assisted by other school district staff in selecting questions that represent a broad range of topics.

All three finalists will be on the stage at the same time to answer the questions.

McCoy said they’ve been trying to work with groups about broadcasting the forum for people who can’t attend. But she said that the district won’t be streaming the forum online, as was done for the State of the Schools event in August, because of the cost.

What would you ask?

We asked readers what questions they’d like to ask the finalists. Here are some of the questions:

• What steps will you take to keep partisan politics out of the decision-making processes within the Wake County School system and instead focus on proven educational models that will help our students and not further the agendas of either the political left or right?

• Do you believe the design of school buildings and sites affects student learning and supports teachers? How so?

• In the 2011-12 school year, low-income children in the Wake County school system scored above the state average for their subgroup by focusing Title I money, implementing pay for performance and adding science, technology, engineering and math programming outside the Beltline. Would you try to build on this success? If so, how?

• Many of our Title I non-magnet schools are under-enrolled and are under-funded, meaning some don’t have a full-time academically and intellectually gifted teacher and are unable to offer basic enrichment opportunities. How will you fix the disparity and provide for children who have greater academic needs at the same time?

• The district has a series of unofficial policies that restrict the ability of non-magnet schools to offer electives to students. What advantages, other than funding, do you believe should be given to magnet schools?

News researchers Brooke Cain and Peggy Neal and Charlotte Observer reporter Ann Doss Helms contributed to this report.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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