story by Claire Miller
In the last few months, Dan Sims (B.A. ’95, M.Ed. ’01, Ed.D. ’15) has been balancing his work as the associate superintendent of schools for Atlanta Public Schools (APS) with making sure his two children are keeping up with their schoolwork.
It’s the same struggle so many APS teachers, administrators and staff have faced as they’ve learned to teach from a distance, and Sims is proud of how his colleagues have risen to this challenge and made sure students are able to learn remotely.
“The priority piece for me is to make sure we’re taking care of students from a teaching and learning standpoint,” he said. “I’m touching base with schools and their teams to make sure they have the best possible virtual learning environments for our students.”
In addition to supporting high school academics, Sims and his co-workers at APS have also set up a food distribution system for families who need it, made sure students had access to technology necessary for completing their work, and provided social-emotional learning opportunities for students and staff to address the stress that comes with facing a pandemic.
The next hurdle he faces is finding the safest and most effective way to celebrate the high school seniors who will be graduating this spring.
“Our heart hurts that we’re not able to have traditional ceremonies and recognize our seniors the way we normally would,” Sims said. “We’re having conversations now to make sure we maximize any opportunity to make them feel special and we look forward to traditional ceremony opportunities when conditions improve and allow, because they are worth the wait.”
As school leaders continue to make decisions and guide their staff, Sims recommends another kind of balancing act – a style of leadership that treats people with understanding but also holds students and staff to high academic standards.
“We have to be the leaders of both fairness and fidelity,” he said. “We have to be fair because this is a new reality and we have to be kind to people adjusting. Leaders have to push everyone to be human in these challenging times. But we also have the fidelity piece, where we put measures in place that ensure a level of integrity maintains itself in our work.”
He also suggests school personnel take time for self-reflection and find time for the most important things in life.
“When this is over, there’s going to be a lot of recovery needed and we don’t want to look back at this time having missed the opportunity for learning and growth,” Sims said. “I’d advise people to seize this chance to get closer to your family, your health and everything that will help you become a better person.”
To see a recent interview that Sims did with the Georgia State University Alumni Association, click here.