Harvey’s vision carries him to school board appointment

Tuesday, July 9, 2019
New Greencastle School Board member Russell Harvey chats with community member Leslie Hanson Monday evening shortly after being appointed to the board.
Banner Graphic/Jared Jernagan

Following their unanimous selection of Russell Harvey as their newest colleague, the members of the Greencastle School Board weren’t asked for the reason Harvey was chosen from a field of four candidates Monday evening.

But Harvey’s answer to one question couldn’t have hurt his chances.

It was a simple question, some form of which is probably asked of every candidate for the board: “What, in your opinion, is the role of the school board?”

It’s a litmus test of sorts. Members of the board have traditionally seen their role as setting the tone for the corporation while letting the education professionals do their jobs.

And yet, in passing the test put forth by board member Bill Tobin on Monday evening, Harvey did it succinctly, eloquently, while managing to express a real truth about the function of any school board.

“The school board, really, is to make sure that the beliefs, vision, priorities of the community are communicated to the school administration to make sure that the school is really abiding by the community’s wishes,” Harvey said.

Bingo. Being a school board member, at least to Harvey, is about more than staying out of the way of the education professionals. Instead, it’s about letting them do their jobs while also ensuring that the people of the community have a voice in the process.

Harvey wants to be that voice for the people, and he’ll have his chance beginning with his first meeting on Monday, July 29.

Harvey was chosen over fellow candidates Ed Wilson, Doris Miller and Kim Fidler, all of whom the school board members praised.

A new board member is needed after the resignation of Lisa McCoy last month, one year after her appointment to the board by the Greencastle City Council.

Though it is the school board’s responsibility to make an appointment mid-term, on Monday the board took the step of inviting two members of the city council — Stacie Langdon and Adam Cohen — to not only attend the meeting, but offer their thoughts on the group of four candidates.

They also took a step they did not have to in publicly interviewing all four candidates. By law, the board could have used an executive session to narrow the number of applicants to three before doing interviews. However, White said everything would be done in public, regardless of the number of qualified applicants.

Each candidate was asked an identical set of eight questions, two each from board members White, Tobin, Brian Cox and Dale Pierce.

One thing that really came through in Harvey’s interview was his desire for better communication, which goes along with his desire to represent the vision of the community.

He said communication didn’t simply need to improve from the board and administration to the community, but that people should feel comfortable approaching board members with their concerns.

On the other hand, Harvey also said board members should be guarded in exactly what and how they express themselves. Asked by Cox about what is appropriate for a school board member to express on social media, Harvey indicated it might not be best to make personal statements in this manner.

“Ultimately I don’t think it’s good for a board member to be engaging with someone in the community in that way,” Harvey said. “Duking it out on Facebook or Twitter, I don’t think is the best way.”

Harvey also expressed his willingness to be involved for the good of the community in what can ultimately be a thankless job.

“Community involvement is a hard thing to get people interested in,” Harvey said. “It can be a tough job and a thankless job. I understand that aspect of it.”

He was also praised for addressing the possibility of being the only African American on the board.

“Just to be frank, there’s not anybody on the school board who looks like me,” Harvey said. “What I hope is that other little boys and girls in the community can look at that and know they can be a part of this.”

Cohen said he appreciated that this was part of Harvey’s opening statement to the board.

“He wasn’t scared right up front to talk about a different face,” Cohen said. “He acknowledged right up front that we need to do something about it.”

White added that he appreciated that, based on the statement, Harvey views himself as a role model for young people who feel underrepresented.

Of course, all four candidates brought their strong points to the discussion, something else the board and council members said they appreciated.

“I was a little disappointed that we only had four applicants but then I saw the quality of the applicants and those concerns went away,” Tobin said.

Drawing on his experience as a Greencastle Police officer, Wilson said he sees the need for safety measures in our community and schools.

“As a police officer in town, the safety and security of our children is number one,” Wilson said. “I think there are some programs I could bring to the board we could get at lower cost.

“The last thing I want to do as a police officer in town is to have to come to school and deal with something bad. It would kill me.”

Going hand-in-hand with safety concerns are thoughts about mental health.

“I think there are some mental health needs that need to be met in our town,” Wilson said.

Having worked with the school resource officer from Cloverdale, Wilson said he is aware of programs that could help Greencastle meet these needs.

Finally, Wilson, like Harvey, said he wanted to be accessible to members of the community.

“I would like to be the bridge between the folks and students in the community and you folks,” Wilson said.

A retired elementary school teacher from GCSC, Miller showed her passion for teachers and students, saying she wants to see a better learning environment created.

“I’d like to see more compliments for teachers,” Miller said. “Maybe make an appointment. Go in and dwell on the positive.”

She added that any decision the board makes that requires teachers to implement should involve teachers.

“You should have a committee of teachers, maybe one from each building,” Miller said, “if it’s something the teachers have to implement.”

Fidler came with the strongest education background, having served as a teacher at South Putnam for 16 years before taking on her current role as UniServ director for the Indiana State Teachers Association.

“Public education has been my passion for my entire life ever since I started kindergarten,” Fidler said. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had some really bad legislation passed and budget cuts since 2009.”

She emphasized that due to these challenges created by the state, her background would be a boon to the board.

Like Harvey, Fidler said she sees the importance of the school board not meddling in what the administration does on a daily basis.

“Similar to how I see my role when I come into the school, it really should be our job to facilitate and not dictate,” Fidler said. “It would not be my desire to tell any principal how to run his or her building. It would not be my desire to tell a superintendent how to run the corporation.”

In her comments before the selection, Langdon noted Fidler’s astounding 20 references, many of whom were school administrators — often the adversaries of union representatives.

However, she also said she worried a bit about Fidler’s union background.

“Can she take her union hat off for the good of the corporation?” Langdon asked.

It’s unclear what effect, if any, this had on the board’s final decision.

However, the night seemed more about Harvey’s positives than about any other candidate’s negatives.

After discussing the matter, Cox made a motion to nominate Harvey, which was immediately seconded by Tobin.

With little to no discussion, White brought it up for a vote, with him and Pierce adding their affirmative votes.

“This was a very tough decision to pick one of the four of you,” White said. “We could have put the names in a hat, picked any one and pulled out a winner.”

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  • *

    Its sad, really. It sounds as if being colored was a deciding factor in the process of picking Mr. Harvey for the position.

    Mr. Harvey apparently broached the subject at the outset of his interview. Then, it seems that he was subsequently "praised for addressing the possibility of being the only African American on the board", by Mr. Cohen and Mr. White.

    Why should we care what color Mr. Harvey is? It should be a simple matter of the best candidate. Not window dressing.

    Or perhaps Mr. Harvey doesn't mind being a "token" for the board because he is now on the board, which was his desire, and he sold himself (by playing the race card upfront) to do it.

    Why didn't anyone ask (or the BG report) about Mr. Harvey's background. We know that the other candidates were a police officer, and two people with a fair history of being part of the education process. All we know about Mr. Harvey is that he is black. Interestingly enough, we don't know the race of any of the other three candidates...except that they are not black.

    I hope that Mr. Harvey does a wonderful job. Words are one thing. Actions are another.

    But I don't need heroes for the "underrepresented"... I need a school board that makes education (reading/writing/arithmatic/civics) a priority and leaves the social engineering nonsense at their own front door.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Jul 10, 2019, at 9:05 AM
  • All we really needed to see was the front page photo to know that the PC police was really pleased.

    Maybe, he doesn't represent what they think he does... we can only hope.

    -- Posted by direstraits on Thu, Jul 11, 2019, at 8:12 PM
  • "It sounds as if being colored was a deciding factor in the process of picking Mr. Harvey for the position."

    "All we really needed to see was the front page photo to know that the PC police was really pleased."

    What a load of racist garbage from anonymous trolls.


    Our city is extremely blessed to have Russell being on our school board as someone who really served our community for the greater good.

    -- Posted by mattwcummings on Thu, Jul 11, 2019, at 10:54 PM
  • Hmm...must have touched a nerve.

    Comment wasn't aimed at Mr. Harvey.

    Leslie inserts herself in all the lefty causes, she seems really happy!

    -- Posted by direstraits on Thu, Jul 11, 2019, at 11:48 PM
  • *

    Having well qualified school board members is a "lefty cause?"

    -- Posted by Bunny1E on Fri, Jul 12, 2019, at 7:07 AM
  • *

    Keithlondon / Mattwcummings - Perhaps you should re-read what I wrote, using some critical thinking skills and reading comprehension. (I know, its probably really hard for you.)

    I don't care that Mr. Harvey is black.

    It seems that the people that care that Mr. Harvey is black is Mr. Harvey himself, at least two people involved in the process of picking him for School Board, and possibly the writer of the article. (It is possible that the writer was only relaying what was given.) And now, the two of you, b/c apparently you are so ready to call me and another a racist simply b/c we are pointing out that race seems to have played a role in the decision. A fact that is plainly evident.

    1) Mr. Harvey made it a point - in opening statements - to preface everything else with the fact that he would be the only black person on the Board. He used his race as a qualification. Its called "playing the race card". (That's kind of racist.)

    2) Two people involved in the decision applauded the fact that Mr. Harvey brought this up. (That sounds kind of racist.)

    3) According to the article - there were four candidates; two teachers, a cop, and a black guy. Is "black guy" a profession that lends itself to bettering the education of our children?(That seems a bit racist.)

    4) According to the article - there was one black guy and three other candidates of non-color. Not that they were white, their race was not mentioned at all. (That sounds pretty racist.)

    Now, I don't know Mr. Harvey at all. The only thing I have to go by is the article. And according to the article, his being black seems to be a predominant factor in all of this.

    Did he say some of the "right things"? Sure. But like I said, words are one thing and actions are another. I hope he succeeds and does a good job for the parents of the children of GCSC. I have children in that school system. So I want the best person - period.

    But the unanswered question is: What is Mr. Harvey's background that would make him suited for the position? Given that the other three candidates backgrounds were made a point, why is there nothing about Mr. Harvey's background? What exactly are his qualifications? (They aren't in the article.)

    As for you calling me a "racist"... yawn. I am not bothered by your pitiful efforts at my social outcasting. It seems that you are more pre-occupied with race than with facts. I prefer to look at the facts.

    As for your calling me a "troll"... yawn. I will point you to my reply when a BG staffer called me a troll: https://www.bannergraphic.com/blogs/2133/entry/73427

    But you just keep on calling people names while sitting up in your ivory tower of self-proclaimed moral superiority. Perhaps only a few of us will know the truth - that your high perch is simply cover for your mental short-man-syndrome.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Fri, Jul 12, 2019, at 9:21 AM
  • *

    LOL - Wow! I appreciate the time you put into that... it must have taken some really hard work. Bless your heart. I will try to give at least a little bit of effort in reply.

    I especially like the $5 treatment of $.50 ideas. It's just too bad that your arguments are simply rubbish. Well, at least they are fancy-looking rubbish, right?

    Let's see - who was it that started the personal attacks? Oh, yeah, that was you (and your comrade-in-thought) by calling me a racist, a joke, a troll, a "@#$%*gs"(whatever that is - bad word maybe?), a bully, and a coward.

    But please, tell me again about my ad hominem attacks...your understanding of me, as well as logical thought and truth, is absolutely fascinating and I so enjoy your projecting.

    Who is it that STILL cannot see the simple point I am trying to make and therefore must try to destroy me b/c they disagree with me? Oh, yeah, that's you again.

    I read the article. Several times. And I noted - twice - my observations BASED ON THE ARTICLE.

    Try this: Print the article. Take a marker to every sentence where race is mentioned. Whats left? Some simple facts about the evening, a few thoughts, and pretty words from all four candidates: two former teachers, a cop, and some guy.

    Now, please tell me how ANYONE (reasonable person) just reading that article is supposed to come to the conclusion that some guy with NO LISTED QUALIFICATIONS is better than the other three? (Remember: not everyone knows Mr. Harvey the way you do.)

    Now, put all of those sentences back in the article and tell me how ANYONE (reasonable person) can NOT at least ask the question: Did Mr. Harvey's race have anything to do with his being chosen?

    I don't care (as I mentioned at least twice) that he is black. If he does the job well, I will be happy. And I hope he does the job well b/c my children's education is at stake.

    What I do care about is that a member of the school board was chosen, POSSIBLY b/c he is colored, b/c there was NO EVIDENCE provided that he was more qualified than the others, and that there is PLENTY OF EVIDENCE in the article to assume that race at least played a factor. Mr. Harvey thought it enough of a factor to make mention of it in his opening remarks.

    If Mr. Harvey was the better candidate - simply tell me why. It shouldn't be that hard. Mr. White is quoted as saying: "We could have put the names in a hat, picked any one and pulled out a winner". If that is true, what separated Mr. Harvey from the rest? The BG alludes that it MAY HAVE BEEN his answers, but no one bothered to ask - what was the thing that tipped it for Mr. Harvey?

    Race should have NEVER been made a part of the discussion in the first place. By anyone.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Fri, Jul 12, 2019, at 3:45 PM
  • "It sounds as if being colored was a deciding factor in the process of picking Mr. Harvey for the position." Dreadpirateroberts - No one needed to read your comments after this to know you are a racist. My 90-year old dad knows that "colored" is offensive.

    -- Posted by unbiased on Fri, Jul 12, 2019, at 5:33 PM
  • *

    Unbiased - Well, you might want to tell the NAACP (Nat'l Association of COLORED People...est. 1909) that even your 90-year old dad knows they are offensive/racist.

    What? You mean its racist if I say "colored", but it's okay for blacks to use the word "colored"?

    What word would you prefer?

    I do find it laughable that instead of actually countering my observations, the best y'all can do is call me racist. Where is your input on the story? Or perhaps something actually relevant to what I have posted? Anything? No? Just name calling, huh? Got it.

    I got news for you and your like-minded friends: You can call me a racist all day long, it doesn't hurt my feelings. In fact, when people like you call me a racist I just laugh. You claim outrage over me using the term "colored" and take it upon yourself to say my use was pejorative when it was clearly not, while you label me "racist" (in a very pejorative manner) based solely on the use of this one word which has been in use BY BLACKS for well over a hundred years.

    You must be a part of the tolerant left that only tolerates that which agrees with you.

    Maybe you should try to participate in the exchange of ideas instead of simply shutting down discussion you disagree with by calling people names.

    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Mon, Jul 15, 2019, at 9:29 AM
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