A man who former colleagues and associates have lauded as a relationship builder, a leader and an administrator who sought creative solutions will officially take over as superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools on Monday.
Mark Bedell was announced as the next AACPS superintendent in June. Bedell, whose career spans more than 15 years with stints in the Houston and Baltimore County school systems, is an administrator known for restoring the Kansas City, Missouri district’s state accreditation for the first time in a decade.
In January, Bedell convinced the Missouri state board to restore accreditation to the district, despite COVID disrupting the tests that are used to gauge academic progress in schools, using factors like an increased graduation rate. Kansas City had a history of quick turnover for the superintendent position, and Bedell’s six years of service provided needed stability for the district, Missouri State Board of Education President Charles W. Shields said.
Bedell also engaged Kansas City’s business community, leading to internships and summer work programs for Kansas City students. Bedell builds relationships and delegates well, something Shields said he thinks will continue in AACPS, a district of more than 83,000 students.
“The biggest thing was getting the business community to believe that the district could succeed,” he said. “That was a huge step forward.”
Bedell is no stranger to Anne Arundel County.
Before he started as Kansas City superintendent in 2016, he was an assistant superintendent in Baltimore County Public Schools for four years. At that time, he lived in Anne Arundel County with his family, and his daughter’s first school was in the AACPS system, Bedell said during a news conference this summer. He hopes she ultimately graduates from AACPS, and said he likes to stay in districts for more than just a couple of years. The Board of Education unanimously approved a four-year contract for Bedell on June 17.
During that introductory event, Bedell said he wants to make AACPS one of the top school districts in the nation. He also thanked his wife, Robin Bedell, who at one point gave up her law practice so Bedell could pursue his dream of becoming superintendent, he said.
“She keeps me grounded because she knows where I was when she first met me. She understands the poverty. She understands the struggle that I had to navigate through,” Bedell said. “Sometimes it’s very easy to lose that perspective as you continue to move up, with success, and I need to make sure that I have that accountability as I continue to do the work, to operate from a high degree of humility.”
Bedell was raised in Rochester, New York, he said. He has a doctorate in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Fisk University, where he also played basketball, and has a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Tennessee State University.
“I was born to a 16-year-old [mother] and I’m the only one out of the eight of us to make it past the ninth grade in my family. I have experienced every bit of trauma and neglect that one can go through,” Bedell said. “And the thing that I often try to share with all of our students is simple: Education is the pathway to economic prosperity.”
He worked for 12 years in the Houston Independent School District as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and school improvement officer. In September 2012, he left Houston and started as an assistant superintendent in Baltimore County Public Schools.
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Upon departing Kansas City, a school district of 14,000 students and more than 30 schools, the city’s mayor said Bedell had successfully led the district through turbulent times.
“One of the leading school administrators in the country, Dr. Mark Bedell has transformed Kansas City Public Schools, regaining accreditation for our schools, improving the lives of thousands of children in our city, and providing stability in the position unknown to generations of Kansas Citians,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said in an email. “His belief in our children and their potential is unmatched and his leadership in relation to COVID and racial reckoning helped shepherd our city through tough times.”
Bedell’s salary will start at $305,000 annually.
The school board will contribute $22,000 annually to a retirement plan, and can contribute another $10,000 annually after evaluation, according to Bedell’s contract. He also will receive $850 each month to cover the cost of a vehicle, maintenance and gas.
The first day of school in Anne Arundel County is Aug. 29.