Naperville's D203 superintendent a Twitter influencer and a meme machine — especially when students want a day off

A single Tweet from Dan Bridges can cause sheer joy or deep consternation.

He managed to do both this week as evidenced by the series of memes giving reference to the superintendent of Naperville School District 203 over school cancellations.

Bridges, @DanBridges203, has become quite popular, amassing more than 5,200 followers — 1,000 in the last week alone.

At the Jan. 22 school board meeting, Bridges told members he added about 70 new Twitter followers in the two hours prior to the meeting, most of whom were Naperville Central and Naperville North high school students questioning whether the ice storm that evening might cancel classes the next day.

“Thanks to all those students for your wonderful advice you’re providing me on social media,” he said at the meeting.

The appeals from students to close district schools continued over the weekend with the approaching snowstorm and then started up again Monday over dipping temperatures.

Unswayed by their pleas, school was open Tuesday but will be closed Wednesday and Thursday.

On Tuesday, Bridges said part of the district’s mission is to develop self-directed learners. From the social media messages he’s observed, some District 203 student have become quite creative in their self-directed approach.

Besides numerous memes of TV and movie characters standing in the cold, students’ Tweets superimposed Bridges’ head on a variety of deities, comic book characters, cartoons and American painter and art instructor Bob Ross (who, ironically, shares the same name as the district’s chief operating officer).

Bridges said for it’s all handled light-heartedly. “I try to have a good sense of humor about it,” he said.

What Bridges likes, he said, is that students feel they can engage with him.

In general, the superintendent doesn’t respond to direct messages sent via social media.

“From time to time one will make me smile or laugh,” and he’s compelled to reply, he said.

For example, a Naperville Central student sent a shout-out to @DanBridges203 because Monday’s school closing and a photo of the superintendent helped her get a date for the high school’s Winter Dance on Feb. 9.

The student tweeted a photo of her would-be date and herself holding a poster with the message: “The other Dan cancelled school so don’t cancel on me. Winter?”

The superintendent replied that he was glad to help.

While much of the Twitter banter is fun, Bridges said some students have created imposter profiles or used language that’s inappropriate.

Bridges warns students to be aware they are leaving a digital footprint. “It’s something that follows you,” he said.

“They think they are in a vacuum,” which is why Bridges said he’s had one-on-one conversations with students.

He tells students how the district does extensive social media background checks on prospective employees, he said. If there’s something questionable that could put the district in a bad light, the person is not hired.

The same is done by other industries.

With three days off school this week and an emergency day taken in November, four extra days will be tacked on at the end of the school year.

“I hope students keep their sense of humor come May,” Bridges said