Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The Irving Independent School Board narrowly voted to extend Superintendent Dana Bedden’s contract one more year in a decision that signified the political divisiveness of the board just months before the election.
Board president Ronda Huffstetler and trustees Gwen Craig, Jerry Christian and Valerie Jones voted for the extension at the March 3 meeting. Trustees Steven Jones, Larry Stipes and Gail Conder Wells voted against.
Huffstetler said in a letter sent out before Monday’s meeting that consideration of the contract extension is “the exact same procedure (the board) has followed for years.”
“On the calendar, (consideration of an extension) always comes after the evaluation,” she said. “We follow the guidelines established by the Texas Association of School Boards for superintendent contracts, evaluations and extensions, which say, ‘Contract extension is a common and accepted practice.’”
But the vote, which came just two months before May’s election, became a political move and split the board.
Adding to the arguments at the meeting was news that one candidate in the race for the District 6 trustee seat had been disqualified and another had dropped out. By default, Norma Gonzales, who has said she is not confident in the current administration, will run uncontested for the board seat.
With Gonzales’ support, the board could form a majority of trustees who are critical of the district’s leadership.
Speakers told the board that the vote was too close to the election, and a change in board members could also mean other changes for the district that would be costly.
“If you vote to give him another year and something changes, it will cost the district more money to get out of his contract,” Andrew Goldsmith said. “Let’s wait until May when the election’s over, then vote on this extension.”
With Gonzales remaining the District 6 trustee, there are two open seats on the board. In Place 5, incumbent Gwen Craig is facing Lee A. Mosty and Manuel Benavidez; and in Place 7, Mike Gregory and Randy Randle are vying for a seat.
Early voting starts April 28 until May 7 and Election Day is May 11.