Community heaps praises on retiring schools chief Boyd


Dan Boyd, shown in this Jan. 17, 2012 file photo, attended his last regular Alachua County School Board meeting as superintendent of schools on Tuesday.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.

Policy and planning took a backseat to celebration and storytelling at Tuesday evening's meeting of the Alachua County School Board, where educators and community leaders flocked to bid farewell to outgoing Superintendent Dan Boyd after more than four decades in the district.

“I've worked for eight superintendents,” said board member Gunnar Paulson, who's known Boyd for 42 years. “You, by far, were the best.”

A banner hung from the School Board podium during the meeting — “Farewell Dan Boyd, We Salute You!”

Nearly every principal in the district attended the School Board meeting, many dressed in purple to commemorate Boyd's 24 years as principal of Gainesville High School, whose colors are purple and white.

For more than a handful of the administrators in the room, Boyd is not just a colleague. He was their principal or their children's principal; he hired some of them for their first teaching jobs.

One such disciple is Eileen Roy, now chairwoman of the School Board, whom Boyd hired at Gainesville High about 30 years ago.

She thanked him for that Tuesday night, and for being a fierce proponent for students and for public education.

“Under your leadership, we've had such innovation,” Roy said, citing the district's expansion of magnet programs, recognition as an “A” district for several years running, appearance on national lists of top high schools and the one mill-tax increase, which helped music and art programs flourish in Alachua County schools during the hardest of financial times in recent memory.

But Boyd's advocacy for the best interest of students is most notable, Roy said. “Your voice will be sorely missed in defense of public education.”

Members of half a dozen organizations came out to thank Boyd for his support over the years and wish him well, including the Reichert House, the African American Accountability Alliance, Gainesville Police Department and the Black on Black Crime Task Force, as well as the Alachua County Education Association.

“You worked with us throughout the years to make our schools safe,” Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones said.

Alachua County Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson was the next to tell stories.

Since Boyd hired her, too, she said, people often approach her in the grocery store or at community events to tell Johnson that Boyd was their principal, or that as a student they'd been disciplined by Boyd.

“And they will tell me this proudly, as if it's some sort of badge of honor,” she said.

That's a testament to his impact on the community, Johnson said — first as a teacher, then an assistant principal, the principal of Gainesville High during a critical time in its history, and later as the superintendent of schools.

“We are going to miss Dan Boyd the educator,” Johnson said. “And we are going to miss Dan Boyd the public school advocate. But those of us who work for Alachua County Public Schools are also going to miss Dan Boyd the leader and Dan Boyd the boss. It's been a privilege and a pleasure to work with and for Dan Boyd over the years.”

And at 72, Boyd has spent more years than most in the school district. Sometimes people ask him how he's managed to stay on so long, he said.

“Every person I meet gives me a little energy from them and it keeps me going,” Boyd said.

“I have been able to enjoy each and every day with you, and enjoy the great pleasure we've had of working with the people's greatest resource of children,” he told the room.

Finally, Boyd thanked some of the educators he worked most closely with, former deputy superintendent Sandy Hollinger and former assistant superintendent for planning, budgeting and systems accountability Keith Birkett, plus all the educators and board members in the room.

“Keep having fun,” he told them. “Smile every day, and love every child that comes your way.”

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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