After almost 50 years in education, Superintendent Dan Boyd has become the face of Alachua County Public Schools.
Yet as a child in the 1940s and 1950s, Boyd was simply “the superintendent’s son.”
He used to go to high school football games with his father, William Daniel Boyd Sr., who was superintendent of Duval County Public Schools at the time.
“He was held in very high regard by all the people he came in contact with,” said Boyd, who announced on Aug. 20 that he will be retiring as superintendent of Alachua County schools after nine years.
Boyd had no idea he would follow in his father’s footsteps. Sometimes he went to work with his dad in the old Duval High School building that had been converted to administrative offices, where Boyd would sit at the superintendent’s desk and make chains out of paper clips.
Boyd said his father never pushed him to be a superintendent.
“He just wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do,” Boyd said. “He was a wonderful father, as my mother was a wonderful mother.”
A photograph of his parents taken at the end of World War II sits in the same place inside Boyd’s office as it has since he was appointed superintendent in 2004.
Over the years, their image has been a reminder of the most important value Boyd was brought up with: “Treat other people the way you would like to be treated.” That philosophy has served Boyd well in his career, giving him the chance to become a principal before the age of 30.
After Boyd graduated from the University of Florida in the early 1960s, the integration of public schools made a lot of older educators nervous about running a school with more than one race. Boyd said his experience working alongside African-Americans at his father’s orange grove and contracting company gave him an advantage.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of hesitancy about going into a school that would be integrated for the first time,” Boyd said. “I just treated them the way I’d like to be treated and never had too many problems about it.”
At 27 years old, he was offered the job as principal of Chiefland High School in 1969, the first year it was integrated. Two years later, he became principal of Gainesville High School, where he would stay for more than two decades.
Many still think of Boyd as their high school principal. Karen Clarke, now assistant superintendent for student support and curriculum in Alachua County, was one of Boyd’s students in the 1980s while he was principal of Gainesville High School.
“He was always very hands-on and involved with student activities,” Clarke said. “He attended every football game, home and away.”
Boyd served as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction from 1995 to 1999.
After leaving the Alachua County school district for a few years to work for the Florida High School Athletic Association, he was appointed superintendent in 2004.
As superintendent, he affected change in Tallahassee. Boyd convinced a state education committee to reconsider changing high school graduation standards that made it more difficult for students not planning to go to college to earn a diploma, said Jackie Johnson, public information officer for Alachua County Public Schools.
“He does not hesitate to speak truth to power,” Johnson said. “Not all superintendents are willing to do that.”
In addition to his role in schools, Boyd’s involvement in civic organizations like the Rotary Club has made him well known to the community.
“People I don’t know walk up to me and feel compelled to tell me that Dan was their principal or their child’s principal and they absolutely loved him,” Johnson said.
Because of the family environment of the education system, Boyd’s return to the Alachua County School District “very much brought that family back together,” said Keith Birkett, the now-retired assistant superintendent of business services.
“He was the man at the right time to come in and make everybody feel like they’re a part of something,” Birkett said.
Looking back on his career, Boyd said his strong and supportive family allowed him to give back to the young people of the community.
“The love of my mother and father gave me the ability to extend that love to others,” Boyd said. “When it comes to students, I loved them all. It didn’t matter what color they were or what their socioeconomic background was.”