MACON, Ga. — Dan Sims did his homework before it was ever assigned.
The incoming Bibb Schools superintendent, set to officially take the helm July 1, started exploring parts of Macon six months ago before he ever applied for the job.
Sims, from Atlanta Public Schools, said he spent the first Saturdays of the year driving to different Bibb schools and cruising in the surrounding neighborhoods while his wife, Tracie, took notes.
At a meet and greet event Tuesday in Rutland High School’s auditorium, Sims showed a crowd of about 100 the selfies he took outside of the schools in January.
“I said to myself, ‘If I intend to apply and press go on an application to become the superintendent for Bibb County, I need to know that this is a place that I can appreciate, a place I can love and a place I can commit to,” Sims said. “I was sold that this was a place I knew I wanted to be.”
The 50-year-old pronounced “Pio Nono” with the aplomb of a local, a feat prompting audible cheers of approval. Sims describes himself as a man of faith, a 23-year cancer survivor, a husband, father and golfer.
In an hour-long presentation, Sims spoke about how his life experiences have helped shape the student-centric approach he will take to leading Bibb Schools.
Sims highlighted the importance of a united community to support students in and outside the classroom.
“The child is at the center of everything happening around him or her … Everything around that child has some level of effect on that child,” Sims said. “Imagine, if you will, 20,000 students surrounded by adults working together all feeling that they are built to meet the needs of those particular students. Do you know how far we can go? … We can move mountains.”
Sims also emphasized the value of a reciprocal relationship between business leaders and the school district. He said he plans to “train and unleash everybody in the district to look for the quick wins.”
As a leader, Sims said he aims to help people “discover the best in themselves and fight to use it in whatever they do.”
A new slogan also was introduced: “#Built4Bibb.
“When I initially came up with that hashtag, it only meant that my experiences, my passion, my skill set, my past, everything has built me to be your superintendent,” Sims said. “But it’s bigger than that. It literally means that everyone who has anything to do with any student in any way … every single one of those people – their skills, their hearts, their decisions, their perspectives, their training, development and their decisions – are built to meet and identify the specific needs of our students.”
V.I.P., which stands for Victory in Progress, is a slogan coined by outgoing Superintendent Curtis Jones. Many in the auditorium, including Sims, still donned a V.I.P. pin ceremoniously bestowed to them by Jones.
“Keep wearing your pins. I’ll wear my pin. There will be no rebranding this year. This will be a year of conditioning,” Sims said.
Sims teased a new acronym for the school district’s future branding: M.V.P. It stands for More Victory Planned. More details about M.V.P. are expected at a later date.
Sims said it is a critical point in a child’s development when a child transitions from learning how to read and write – ‘me learning’ – to learning about themselves and their identity – ‘learning me.’ Sims said it will be his goal to capture those students at that juncture so “we lean in before the world leans in and help that child to unleash who he or she is.”
Gregory Washington and Trey Wood, who work for WM2A Architects, were among a handful of business leaders who came to meet Sims.
Wood said Sims’ speech about “me learning” versus “learning me” resonated with him.
“It’s very interesting to capture those students as they start learning themselves and lean in then,” Wood said. “I’m not an educator, but I’m guessing that’s where a lot of kids get astray.”
Washington said he was impressed by how genuine Sims seemed in his enthusiasm during the presentation.
“We hear a lot of people who are in similar positions, whether they be educators, industrialists, and mostly politicians … and rarely do you get a sense of a true energy in the cause that is … selfless,” Washington said. “I think when he had his scare health wise and I think also when he’s worked as hard as he has worked, you overcome a little things about ‘me’ and become more about ‘we’… I think he is truly about the community and the betterment of education.”
Tyler Carpenter, a rising senior at Southwest High School, said he was impressed by Sims’ presentation.
“Now that I could see his vision for me … I’m excited, honestly,” Carpenter said. “I have siblings that are going to Bibb County and I’m excited for what they’re going to experience.”
Roy West, family engagement facilitator at Northeast High School, said he was impressed by Sims’ enthusiasm and “fantastic” presentation. West said he liked what Sims said about putting the student at the center of everything.
“It seems as though the board made the right decision in their selection,” West said of the Board of Education’s decision to hire Sims. “You hear a lot of things until you meet the original person and, even though we have not met, I really enjoyed his presentation.”
At the reception after Sims’ presentation, Jessica Thompson said she was interested to see how Sims would build on V.I.P.
Thompson was with her husband, Eric, and daughter, Carys, who attends Miller Middle School.
Eric Thompson, who works for the school district, said Sims’ presentation “completely put us at ease.”
“You know, you always had that fear that fear of the unknown, but as we’ve gotten to know him, I think they’ve really made the right decision,” Eric Thompson said. “Zero concerns you know, just very, very much in the standpoint of I believe he’s gonna do great things.”
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