Friends and colleagues of former Pike County R-III School District Superintendent Mark Harvey gathered in the common room at the Pike-Lincoln Technical Center to say farewell.
Harvey decided to step down from the position last month. Nearly 100 people filled the common room for a small celebration and dinner in an effort to show their appreciation for all Harvey has done for the school district in the 11 years he’s been superintendent.
Tim Swofford, the pastor from Troy First Baptist Church, came forward to bless the food for those gathered in the room.
“It’s nice to be part of someone’s life who gives life and service to their community. And we see that in our teachers and administrators who teach our children and our future generations what a blessing it is to be part of somebody’s life in that way,” Swofford said.
Former school board member, Ed Lindsay, came forward after the meal to praise Harvey for all he’s done for the school system. He said he remembered when he first saw Harvey and didn’t know he had just been hired as the principal for the elementary school. All he saw was a well-dressed school bus driver.
“Even until recently, Mark has driven a school bus for us,” he said. “Not many superintendents would have done that.” He noted that Harvey would take the time before and after school for this, while still doing the job he had been hired for. And over the years the school system faced adversity, which Harvey handled with professionalism.
After a few years, Lindsay said, he asked Harvey and Larry Lagemann to take on the job of superintendent. Over the years, he noted, he’d seen superintendents come and go, treating the Clopton school district as a stepping stone. Harvey did take that step a few years later.
“He always had the district’s heart in mind,” he said. “He’s very educated, he’s sharp as a whip when it comes to insurance, and I want to say that we will miss you.”
Melanie Gregory, who worked at Harvey’s secretary, stepped up to say a few words.
“This is a bitter-sweet moment for me,” she said. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Mark knows how much he means to me and to this district. He’s been phenomenal, and we’re going to miss you, Mark. It’s just been amazing working with him.”
She asked those present to help make some changes in the school district.
“We have to fight for this district,” she added. “It’s not about personal agendas, it’s about doing what’s right.”
When Harvey came to the Clopton School District 21 years ago, she said, then Superintendent Dallas Singer, asked her to give Harvey the opportunity to flourish here.
“He told me ‘(Mark) was going to be a tremendous asset,’” she said. “And in 21 years, you have never let me down, or this district.” She finished by saying she had been truly blessed to have worked with him all these years.
Current Clopton High School Principal Larry Lagemann came up to say a few words. He thanked Harvey for all the sage advice he provided him through the years.
“I had to have someone there I could bounce ideas off of,” he said. “I hoped he saw me as an equal and a colleague, and that we worked together as a team.”
And as a superintendent, Lagemann said, Harvey let him do his job.
“He didn’t micro manage. He let me run my building, and I knew he was someone I could go to for sound, honest advice.” He noted that Harvey always had the best interest of the school district in mind. “That is a characteristic that is of upmost importance in this job.”
Swofford came back up to pray for Harvey and his family.
“Part of being a good leader is being humble,” he said. “And true humility comes through God. And we thank God for people like the Mark Harveys of the world.”
Harvey came up to the lectern and smiled, saying, “This may be the last time I have a captive audience.”
He said how much he appreciated being part of the community and the school district. He thanked all those who came together to make the celebration that night possible.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I have to say I had the greatest work environment one could ever have. … I was surrounded by good people, not only in the office but in the community, as well.” He then thanked everyone for coming out, and for being part of his life. He said he was leaving the district in sound financial condition.
After the dinner, Harvey was asked what he planned to do next.
Right then, he said, he was looking forward to taking some time out, but he does have a couple of opportunities.