After 10 years as QJHS principal, Sparrow takes job in Liberty as dean, athletic director

Dan Sparrow

Dan Sparrow

QUINCY — After 10 years as the principal at Quincy Junior High School, Dan Sparrow is eager to work directly with students again.

The Liberty School Board hired Sparrow, 51, Monday during a special meeting. He will be the athletic director and dean of students for the Liberty School District next year.

Sparrow recently guided the school through the switch from being an attendance center for students in grades 7-8-9 to one for students in grades 6-7-8. He also dealt with running a school during a pandemic.

Sparrow says he wants to get back to his passion.

“I was needing basically to get back to working with kids and athletics,” he said. “This was an opportunity that presented itself. It wasn’t like I was necessarily out looking and scouring for different things. I thought it was a good fit for me and Liberty.”

Sparrow will replace Adam Lee as the athletic director. Lee told district officials in October of his plans to leave the position. Superintendent Kelle Bunch says the dean position is being created for Sparrow. 

“I get to put the focus on athletics and working with kids, as well as teachers and helping them with classroom management strategies,” he said. “I’m there to support a child who might be struggling with learning or behaviorally, socially, emotionally … anything like that.”

Sparrow was an assistant coach on the Liberty boys basketball team that placed third in the Class 1A state basketball tournament in 2016. He previously was the dean and head boys basketball coach at Bartonville Limestone from 2006 to 2012. He taught civics, U.S. history, physical education and health from 1998 to 2006 at Jacksonville, where he also coached boys basketball.

Sparrow started his educational career as a coach and teacher in Quincy in 1993. 

Will he be on the basketball sidelines again? 

“I’m saying I’m going to help all athletics at this point,” he said.

Sparrow is pleased with the accomplishments at QJHS during his time.

“We’ve developed systems that have made (QJHS) successful and proven to be successful,” he said. “We’ve returned to a true teaming concept, we brought in some district initiatives like MAP testing, and we’ve been a high-growth, high-achievement school (by the Northwest Evaluation Association) all but one year.”

The past few years, however, haven’t been easy.

“With COVID and taking the building through change (in grade levels) and those types of things, it has taken a toll,” Sparrow said. “I don’t know if that’s the right word to say. (The pandemic) did take it to another level where we were doing planning until the last minute of school. Prior to COVID, we were hitting our rhythm. I felt very strong about where we were and the direction we were heading.

“You sit in a war room and try to plan over the last two years, and it definitely takes its toll on you.”

Sparrow isn’t far away from an age when many school administrators retire, but that doesn’t mean that’s in his future.

“Just because four years are left on the tenure scale doesn’t mean there’s just four years left in the tank,” he said. “If you find the right situation, that could last longer than that.”

He said he loved every minute of his time at QJHS.

“Do you have (difficult) days? Yes, you do,” Sparrow said. “The leader, just like a coach, gets too much credit and too much blame. But I’ve had a great leadership team, and I’ve had a great support staff, all the way from cooks and custodians to the school board. We’ve been very fortunate to get some of the results that we have and continue to move forward. 

“Have we been perfect? No. But you know, we strive for perfection, and that’s the part I love about my staff. They get frustrated if it’s not perfect, so they’re striving for perfection, knowing that we’re probably never going to achieve it — but we’re going to give it our best shot every day.”

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