PARRISH: New school to honor Barbara Harvey

Published on: August 8, 2018

New elementary school honors Barbara Harvey’s 56-year passion for students

By CARL MARIO NUDI

Longtime Manatee County educator Barbara Harvey, center, in pink blouse, symbolically turns a shovel of dirt with the Manatee County School Board members and other officials during the groundbreaking ceremony on July 31 for the new Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School now under construction. CARL MARIO NUDI PHOTOS

Longtime Manatee County educator and former school board member Barbara Harvey has always been passionate about helping children become successful.

On July 31, Harvey was recognized for her passion during a groundbreading ceremony for the Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School, 8610 115th Ave. E., just off Moccasin Wallow Road in Parrish.

“The children who will go through these doors … will know her story and will be motivated,” said Scott Hopes, chairman of the Manatee County School Board, during his opening remarks at the ceremony. “And I am so honored and so proud that we are able to break ground with you and honor your legacy, your commitment and your devotion to the children of Manatee County today.”

Harvey expressed that her religious devotion was her guide in her life’s work during her comments at the school construction site.

“This is the day that God made,” she proclaimed with several shouts of ‘alleluia’ from the audience of about 75 people.

“Isn’t it wonderful when you know He has a plan for your life?” she continued. “God has a plan and this (the construction of a new school) is part of His plan.

“If there’s a child involved, it’s special to me, and that’s where God put me,” Harvey said beneath a tent in the muddy field next to the school building already under construction.

Harvey began teaching in Manatee County in 1961 at the then-segregated Memorial Elementary School in Palmetto.

She was only 19 and just graduated from the historically black Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach.

In an interview after the groundbreading ceremony, Harvey said she tried to get a teacher’s job in Seminole County where she was born and grew up, but the school district there was not willing to ask the state to waive the age requirement for a teaching certificate because she was not yet 21.

“A friend in Manatee County told me Manatee County would be willing to do that, so I came here,” she said.

Harvey said education was always a priority for her. 

“I was born in Sanford, and from a very early age I remember my mother and grandmother studying (to pass a test) to vote,” she said. “I remember my mother had to clean the bathrooms (marked ‘White’ and ‘Colored’) in the courthouse (where she took the test), and I worked with her.

An architectural rendering of the Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School in Parrish was on display during the groundbreaking ceremony on July 31.

“My mother told me I had no choice but to go to college,” Harvey said. “She instilled in me that education was the only way to move up.”

But she also remembered when she was a young girl she told her mother she did not want to go to school anymore.

“My mother said, ‘Okay,’ and sent me out to work in the fields picking escarole,” Harvey said. “I only did that for one day and went back to school.”

The lesson was well-learned, for Harvey graduated from high school at the age of 15, and from Bethune-Cookman at 19.

Two other events implanted the need for education in the young Harvey’s mind.

When Harvey was a young girl, Mary McLeod Bethune, the black educator and civil rights activist, came to her school and talked about how the students need to challenge themselves, and change the world.

Then when Harvey was a student at Bethune-Cookman College — now a university — the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to speak.

“He said, ‘We have to make a difference in the world,’” Harvey said.

“I’ll always remember those visits,” she said. “They helped instill in me my desire to help others.”

And Harvey’s 56-year career in education was dedicated to helping her students.

After the schools were integrated, Harvey taught at Palma Sola and Palmetto elementary schools, and became assistant principal at Palmetto.

She then was hired as principal of Miller Elementary School.

Harvey moved up to director of elementary education for the Manatee County School District from 1990 through 1995, when she decided to start a nonprofit, Educational Consortium Consultants, Inc.

After the nonprofit was up and running, Harvey decided to run for the Manatee County School Board in 1997 and served 16 years as a member of that board.

Workers continued to do their job on July 31 during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Barbara A. Harvey Elementary School now under construction.

The Educational Consortium Consultants, Inc. has been a mainstay in the community offering tutoring, job training, mentoring, and creative outlets for students after school and during the summer at the Anna E. Gayle Resource Center, 112 Third Ave. E., Palmetto.

“I’ve been involved in education 56 years,” Harvey said during the groundbreading ceremony. 

“That is my passion,” she said. “I want to see that every child is moving forward toward their ultimate goals.

“When we make sure we provide the educational opportunities for that child, there’s no way for failure,” Harvey said. “We are the ones responsible for our children moving forward.”

The new elementary school on 20-plus acres will be two stories and will have a capacity to hold 820 students.

A bond of $28 million funded the construction and opening costs of the school.

The bond was supported with the voter approval in 2016 of the extension of the half-penny sales tax.

“It’s truly an honor to break ground on a school named after Barbara Harvey,” said school district Superintendent Cynthia Saunders in a press release. “Mrs. Harvey has proudly served this school district and community, and we are proud to open a new school in her name that will educate hundreds more students each year and help relieve overcrowding in a growing area.”

The new elementary school, designed by the firm Hepner Architects, Inc., was one of three schools already under construction in the district.

Manatee County-based firm, NDC Construction Company, was the construction manager.

Along with the elementary school, the district plans to open a middle school and a high school to students at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.

For more information about the Manatee County School District, visit its website at www.manateeschools.net.

More information on the Educational Consortium Consultants, Inc. can be found at www.servingeverychild.com.

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