Here are the three finalists, with background information provided by Wake
Dana Tyrone Bedden
Bedden is the superintendent of the Irving Independent School District in
Irving, Tex. The district serves 35,111 students on 38 campuses. His priorities
there have included implementing a multi-year district improvement plan and a
strategic communications plan. He also initiated improvements in special
education and human resources functions, leading the district through
challenging financial times due to state-level funding reductions.
Prior to his service in Irving, Bedden served as superintendent in for the
Richmond County School System based in Augusta, Ga. While there, the
graduation rate increased nearly 14 percentage points. He has also served as superintendent
in Pennsylvania where he launched the system's first cyber academy and its
first online summer school. As a principal in Washington, D.C., at the School
Without Walls Senior High School, his students maintained a 95 percent college
He began his educational career as a middle school teacher and coach for
football, basketball, and track. He earned his doctorate in educational
leadership and policy studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University. He earned his master's degree in educational administration from
Pennsylvania State University and his bachelor's degree from the University of
Bedden has completed post-doctoral courses in school business leadership at
Wilkes University and attended the Harvard University Graduate School of
Education's Leadership Institute for Superintendents.
Ann Blakeney Clark
Clark is the deputy superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS),
the second-largest school system in North Carolina. She began her career in
Charlotte as a teacher of the behaviorally and emotionally handicapped children
in 1983 and has held a variety of teaching and administrative positions in CMS.
Her extensive background includes serving as principal at elementary, middle,
and high schools. She was named National Principal of the Year in 1994.
Prior to her service as CMS's Deputy Superintendent, she served as the
associate superintendent of education services. In that role, she oversaw
the district's curriculum, professional development, and classroom instruction.
Clark is involved in the community, serving on boards of Communities in
Schools, Children's Theatre, the Davidson College Board of Visitors, Smart
Start, and Levine Museum of the New South. Her educational achievements have
been widely recognized. In addition to earning the National Principal of the
Year honor, Clark is a Broad Superintendent Fellow, a First Lady of Charlotte,
a Thomas Jefferson Distinguished Alumnae from the University of Virginia, and a
William Friday Fellow.
Clark graduated from Davidson College with a bachelor of arts in English.
She earned a master's degree in special education from the University of
Virginia. She also holds administrator and curriculum and supervision
certification from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Merrill has served as superintendent of the Virginia Beach City Public
Schools (VBCPS), the third largest school division in Virginia, since 2006. As
superintendent, he has spearheaded the creation and implementation of a
strategic plan emphasizing 21st century skills.
Prior to his service in Virginia Beach, Merrill served six years as
superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington School System. Previously, he spent
16 years in the Wake County Public School System, last serving as Associate
Superintendent for Administration and Finance. He began his career in 1973 as
an English teacher.
Merrill has earned numerous accolades and awards, including the 2005 North
Carolina Superintendent of the Year award and the 2013 Virginia Superintendent
of the Year honor. He has also been elected to the Executive Committee of the
Governing Board of the American Association of School Administrators. The
University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Education awarded him the
Outstanding Achievement Award and the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill's School of Education honored him with its Distinguished Leadership Award.
Merrill was a Morehead Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill earning a bachelor's
degree in secondary English. He earned his master's degree in education
administration from Appalachian State University and his doctorate from