Get to know Superintendent Dr. Dan A. Sims
Photography by Matt Odom
In April, Dr. Dan A. Sims was named the new superintendent of Bibb County School District following the retirement of Dr. Curtis Jones, who had served as BCSD’s leader for seven years. We asked about Superintendent Sims’s plans as he gears up for his first year leading the district.
What is your vision for Bibb County Schools?
My vision continues to develop as I engage with this great district. Every student deserves a path to excellence – one that they actively participate in creating alongside competent, caring adults who have insight on each student’s interests and dreams. Ideally, I want every student to have his or her own “dream team” working to clear the way for a student to pursue their dreams step by step. All of us can look back and document our path to success, and I seek to ensure every student can do the same.
What is your leadership style?
I consider myself a collaborative leader. I thrive through working with others as a thought partner in this work.
As a leader, I operate through three “holds.” First, I hold people accountable. That is, I expect for our employees to perform at high levels every day for every student. I hold high expectations for our partners and parents as an additional advocate for our students. Shared accountability is a key component of our efforts.
Second, I hold people able. That is, I eagerly push to ensure we build and honor the capacity of those responsible for our students. Adults thrive when they feel they have what it takes to perform. Our job as a district is to ensure students always have the most capable adults before them.
Finally, I hold people close. As a leader, I want our employees to know I am right there with them in the work.
When you talk about Bibb County Schools to other school system leaders, what do you tell them?
I love this place! Bibb County Schools is a place where some of the most amazing educators reside. We serve a community endowed with a profound sense of pride in the city, and we stand in the space to do some remarkable things not only for our students, but for the entire community. The relationships among Bibb County leaders are a great foundation for our next efforts as a district, and I look forward to us leveraging these relationships to primarily support students.
Bibb County Schools’ graduation rate has increased to more than 80 percent. How do you intend to help schools continue that positive momentum in the right direction?
First, it will be critical for us to capture all of the great practices that got us there. School by school, we will identify those most valuable practices and provide a framework where these practices are consistently employed. To continue this positive momentum, I intend to confirm everyone’s understanding of the graduation rate as a PreK – 12 data point.
First, we will use specific student performance data tied to students making it to the graduation stage to determine what interventions are needed grade level by grade level. This will help us to create a better prepared high school student who is more prepared to be successful in high school and beyond. Second, we want summative data from our graduation rate to speak to us. We need to use a data-driven approach to develop a profile of these students coded as dropouts so that we can look for remaining students who fit this profile to ensure we are meeting their needs as early as possible. Once we identify these students, my plan is to have the district develop a personalized set of interventions
For high schools, we will engage in data review cycles focused on student progress toward graduation. These data meetings will always conclude with next steps and support needed with the right personnel around the table to ensure timely responses to school needs.
What does #Built4Bibb mean to you?
Personally, it means all my skills, talents, passion, heart, and experiences have built me specifically for the role of superintendent of Bibb County Schools.
For the remainder of the district and broader community, #Built4Bibb is the vision. It serves as the North Star for everyone and everything we commit to every student – that everything we do will be built to meet the clearly identified needs of our students.
Bibb County Schools will celebrate 150 years this year. What is something that you feel people may not know about the work that Bibb County Schools does?
People may not know how many Bibb County alumni have served as employees over several years. The sense of pride is immense and serves as a foundation for remarkable success in our district. The more I learn, the more I gather about the relationships that have been established through individuals who not only attended our schools but honestly believe in our product. As we celebrate 150 years as a public school system, we also celebrate the commitment and sense of family that is deeply rooted in this great city.
What do you tell others about why you want to see Macon thrive?
I want to see Macon thrive because it is the next great city in both the state of Georgia and southeast. As the fourth largest city in Georgia and with such a rich history, Macon is poised to raise the standard of living for the entire southeast region.
You have just moved to Macon after years of work in Atlanta. What do you aim to bring to BCSD from your tenure in Atlanta? What do you aim to do differently?
Atlanta and Fulton County were amazing experiences. In Atlanta, we focused a great deal on building people and students based on their strengths. With #Built4Bibb, this will be a key focus I hope to bring to our work so that everyone can see themselves and their work through the lens of their strengths. I expect for coaching and development to occur from the top down so that people feel valued in the organization. Finally, I aim to bring a sense of strategic focus. I ask lots of probing questions as a key strategy to get people to think about what they plan to do so that when they press go, there are no questions about where they are headed.
I do aim to take more of a recruitment approach to engaging parents in our work. In Atlanta (and typically in many districts), we encouraged parents to get engaged and stay engaged. I believe a recruitment strategy will help us to gain and empower more parents to support their children and their neighborhoods.
What keeps you up at night?
I think about those students who just need a set of caring adults to surround them every day – to give them the hope and support they need to become what their wildest dreams reveal.
What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
I am excited to get up every morning and report to a place where I feel like my role matters. I am for the people and always will be. My core life slogan is simply “value people.”
How can Central Georgia do better to support our students, teachers, and staff?
Central Georgia can do better by our students, teachers, and staff by finding a way to get everyone involved in the lives of our students. With so much going on in this world and the associated threats to society, schools serve as the last hope to change the world. We are the only place where masses of students spend the most active hours of the day. Supporting a school is a precursor to creating greater life conditions for everyone.
Additionally, Central Georgia can work to better support us by supporting families. We need as much help as possible to make families whole emotionally, financially, and socially. Better living conditions help to make better families. Better families equal better students. Better students equal a better world. Inasmuch as Central Georgia can focus on improving family conditions, we need partnerships with all Central Georgia resources to promote the dreams of our students.