From Monday evening's surprise farewell reception to Tuesday night's school board fete, Barbara Harvey's final moments as a district leader came to a close with well-earned accolades. Her 16 years on the school board have been marked by grace, dignity and class even under the toughest circumstances. And her influential decades as a teacher and administrator attest to her passion for education and children.
Some pictures are worth well more than a thousand words, especially the one that captured Mrs. Harvey's complete surprise upon entering the Pier 22 ballroom on Monday. Duped into thinking the evening was a church function, Mrs. Harvey expressed joy at all the well-wishers for her retirement party as they applauded and smiled. (Credit Herald photographer Paul Videla for this memorable shot.)
While the saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, Mrs. Harvey was a village all by herself to many children -- providing inspiration, encouragement and affection. That became poignantly clear at Pier 22 when Mrs. Harvey's eldest daughter, Natasha Hogan, asked the large audience a question about her mother's influence on their lives during her lengthy tenure with the district: "If you think you're her child, would you please stand?"
Just about the entire room rose, quite a testimonial to a life well-lived -- one focused on instilling a passion for learning in students and empowering them to pursue their dreams.
Her dedication and service to children stretches back to 1961 during her first days as a teacher with the district at Memorial Elementary in Palmetto. She also taught at Palma Sola Elementary in Bradenton. She became an assistant principal at Palmetto Elementary and moved up to principal at Miller Elementary. Then she got promoted to district director of elementary education, retiring in June 1995.
With her master's degree in education and past certifications in early childhood and elementary education as well as school administration, Mrs. Harvey brought extensive and unmatched professional expertise to the school board.
Her passion for education never diminished over the decades. She has also been engaged on personal levels, attending parent-teacher conferences at the request of families who seek her counsel.
In her final school board campaign four years ago, she remarked: "I'm not a politician, I'm a child advocate. I won't be political. Children, that's my heart."
That's a commendable and remarkable philosophy in this highly politicized era.
Her commitment to the community's betterment includes her work on the boards of Manatee County Children's Services, Manatee County Volunteer Services, Manatee Community Action Agency and the Manatee County NAACP, to name a few of her civic engagements.
During his special message at the opening of Tuesday's board meeting, Dr. Willie J. Holley of Pathways Christian Fellowship spoke eloquently about Mrs. Harvey, noting she has "sown many wonderful seeds of joy and life."
He spoke for the community, too: "We're very appreciative and wish you well."
Mrs. Harvey's legacy will be long remembered.