Naperville District 203’s Superintendent Dan Bridges, recently joined 630 Naperville’s Naperville Notable host Liz Spencer, to talk about what led him to his current role, the district’s response to the pandemic and the many important lessons learned all along the way.
District 203’s response to the pandemic nearly three years later
Superintendent Bridges spoke candidly about the uncertainty of those early days saying, “We look back right now, three years ago, almost to the day we’re having a conversation about shutting down for a couple of weeks right through spring break, come back and we’ll all be good, right? I don’t think any of us could have predicted or imagined what we would have gone through. Not just the school system of the entire world, all gone through over the past several years. But yeah, it had a tremendous impact on what we do, for sure.”
Bridges went on to talk about how despite the many challenges facing District 203 that “He was proud of how they came together and were able to adapt to reach kids differently. He said ”We can look back now and I choose to focus on the positive. There are some great lessons we learned over the course of the past three years that will stay with us. The conversation about what remote learning looks like or what e-learning looks like for us really took on a whole different tone.”
As he reflected on the past few years he said, “The thing that I take away as I look back over the past few years, the thing that I’m most impressed with is the resilience not only of our kids and what they had to go through where they’re at today, but I am really impressed by the resilience of our educators, the people who work for the school system, just their commitment to kids, how they advocated for kids during the course of the pandemic, and how they continue to do so.”
District 203’s focus on the future
Superintendent Bridges said while he could dwell on the challenges of the last few years he is choosing to look ahead “It’s really about being a future-driven organization or future-driven school district. We’re celebrating our 50th year this year, but we’re focused now on how do we drive forward. It’s just amazing to look back at the things that this district and community have accomplished together. We’re celebrating our partnerships and focused on that idea of growth this year. So we talk about our partners in growth and how really it does require our whole community, our students, our staff, our parents, and the entire community to really make our school district exemplary.”
Did Dan Bridges grow up dreaming of becoming a superintendent?
Bridges said, “I don’t think superintendent ever crossed my mind.” He went on, “I feel like my life has been a career exploration in itself. I remember one time I wanted to be a utility worker who climbed the telephone poles to work on the wires, [and I am ] afraid of heights. I don’t know how that would have ever worked out. Then it was a police officer, then it was a lawyer,”
Athletics, particularly football, was always an important part of his life. Bridges, thought about coaching, and that led him to become a middle school social studies teacher as a starting point in his education career. “I benefit so much from our coaches, the people that I worked with. They were such good role models for me that I thought that’s the avenue I wanted to go to, which is where I started, and then eventually led to where I’m at today.”
Before joining Naperville District 203, Dan Bridges spent 13 years as a school administrator, including years as an elementary, junior high, and a high school principal.
What would Dan Bridges tell his younger self?
He said his advice to young Dan Bridges would be the same things he tells his own children, which is “Don’t settle, work hard, commit to what you really want, because if you’re committed to it, you’re really passionate, it’s going to happen. So don’t be so fast to choose the shiniest new toy.” Be patient and work for what you really want.”
Bridges recently receive the the Superintendent of Distinction Award for DuPage County by the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA).
According to the (IASA), Superintendents of Distinction are selected by their peers in each of the 21 different IASA regions based on leadership, communication, professionalism and community involvement.