MACON, Ga. — As the school year winds down, so is Curtis Jones’ tenure as superintendent of the Bibb County School District.
The school board has been looking ahead for months and in a 6-2 vote Tuesday night, approved a contract for his successor, Dan Sims.
In fact, the process of finding the next superintendent has taken up most of the school year and was – at times – contentious as it reached the home stretch.
The board used the Georgia School Board Association to find candidates, and the application window closed in mid-January. Thirty-three applications were received: 16 from candidates in Georgia and 17 from candidates outside of Georgia.
From there, the Georgia School Board Association released a survey and requested feedback on what the community wanted out of its next superintendent. More than 800 people responded, and results showed members of the public supported two internal candidates – Tanzy Kilcrease and Julia Daniely.
At its April 21 meeting, the school board heard from public speakers who also said they hoped the board would name an internal candidate. They did not, and Dan Sims was named the sole finalist in a 6-2 vote. Lisa Garrett and Daryl Morton were the two dissenting votes.
Naming him the sole finalist was met with pushback.
"All things being equal, we should have an internal candidate as the next superintendent and in my mind, we had internal candidates superior to the one the board put forward last night," board member Daryl Morton told 13WMAZ.
Blake Sullivan, a businessman and former mayoral candidate, also said he thought the board had a good slate of internal candidates. Ultimately, he’s choosing to trust the board’s decision.
"Dr. Sims, I support you, I want you to be successful because if you're successful in this community, then our kids are going to be successful and then our community is going to be that way too," he said.
Curtis Jones’ last day is June 30.
Sims has been in the education sector for 27 years; serving the last six years as an associate superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools. He’s a three-time graduate of Georgia State University and of the Urban Superintendents Academy at USC.
He says he’s ready to use the skills he’s learned in Bibb County.
"I'm excited in coming and applying my personality, applying my coaching and strategic development abilities to the people of this district, so that we can do the best job for every single student and every single family,” he told 13WMAZ.
Sims' action plan on how he wants to support and add to the district is called #BuiltForBibb. He wants to get every employee and parent working for the students.
"We'll take it upon ourselves to ensure that everybody has what they need based on the needs we've identified student-by-student, classroom-by-classroom, so that what we do as an organization is not just 'pie-in-the-sky. It's directly aligned to the needs we've identified for every single student,” he said.
Emily Massey, who has worked with Dan Sims for over 20 years in APS, called him a leader who sees the best in people but is also results-based.
One of the reasons the board chose Sims is because they would like to see the district's graduation rate increase. Right now, Bibb's graduation rate is a little more than 80%.
"When you look at grad rates when our superintendent came in, they were at like 50+%. Under Dan's leadership, you know, they broke 80+%,” said Massey.
De’Andre Pickett is Superintendent of The Rise Schools in Atlanta. He described Sims as his role model and said Sims could be that for students in Bibb County.
"Bibb County has the ability to literally be one of the best school districts in the state based on this selection of Dr. Dan Sims as a sole finalist,” Pickett said.