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BEAUFORT -- Valerie Truesdale, superintendent in Oconee County, will be the Beaufort County School District's next chief.
In a swift 10-1 vote Monday, the Beaufort County Board of Education chose Truesdale over Dana Bedden, superintendent of the 5,500-student William Penn School District just outside Philadelphia.
The board's third finalist, Terry Holliday, removed himself from consideration Friday, saying he didn't mesh well with the school board. Holliday leads the 22,000-student Iredell-
Statesville school district in North Carolina.
Truesdale, 52, will be paid $198,000 a year with the opportunity to earn an additional $20,000 bonus each year if she meets a series of academic performance goals set by the board, said board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. Copies of Truesdale's contract with the board, including what those goals would be, were not available Monday afternoon because the superintendent and the board have not signed them, board Secretary Laura Bush said.
Truesdale's standing as a South Carolina superintendent weighed heavily with board members who said they believed she would aggressively tackle Beaufort County's academic performance issues. She said she has owned a second home on Hilton Head Island for more than a decade, and board members said she was familiar with the county's struggle to get more state tax dollars for schools.
"She was the one who would be the most hands-on," board member David Chase said. "She was very committed to a long-term relationship here, and you could tell."
Michael Rivers was the only board member to vote against Truesdale's hiring. He declined to say why he voted against her.
Truesdale's first day of work will be July 1. Interim Superintendent Phillip McDaniel, who was hired in August for $13,500 a month, will leave the district on June 30, Bush said.
When she starts in July, Truesdale said, her top priorities would be "to assess where we are in the school system. Identify the pockets of excellence, see where we have opportunities for growth and chart a
path to get us where we need to be."
After the board interviewed her Thursday, Truesdale toured the school district and said she was particularly taken by Beaufort County's beauty and the warmth of the teachers and principals who welcomed her. She also got to see the effects of massive growth in the Bluffton area -- rows of mobile classrooms at Bluffton schools. The school district serves about 19,000 students.
"We got to see 'Portable City,'<2009>" she said. "That was interesting. ... They're well-placed on the lot. They look inviting. They're not eyesores, but there sure are a lot of them."
Truesdale has led the 10,500-student school district of Oconee County since 2003. Her 26-year career in education includes teaching at both the collegiate and high school level, and she has served as a
principal and an assistant
Before she arrived in Oconee, Truesdale was chief instructional services officer for School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties 1995 to 2003. She worked in the S.C. Department of Education's policy division from 1992 to 1995, and she was a recruiting specialist in Richland School District 1 from 1988 to 1989.
Most of her time as a college instructor was spent teaching business classes in the
Bush said she believed Truesdale could be the final piece needed to get the school district moving consistently in the right academic direction.
"We have no time to waste in Beaufort," she said. "We're just missing, I think, that spark to get us there, and I hope she can bring that."