INDIAN TRAIL — The way Sun Valley High School Principal Dr. Michael Harvey sees it, students’ grades are not as important as their personal development.
He’s had a paradigm shift — from performance-based learning to personal development growth. Harvey has been honored as Principal of the Year for Union County Public Schools for 2020-21. The district includes 53 schools.
Harvey believes in six personal core values: grit, commitment, service to the community, character, humanity and humor.
Harvey says any student can pass a test. But he demands more, encouraging his students to set high but attainable goals. Those goals, he says, should be individualized because success looks different for everyone.
“It’s not about achievement,” Harvey said. “That’s what I’ve always said, because there are a lot of students that can come in and pass a test. It’s really about how much growth you can get out of a student every year.
“If you’re not socially and emotionally well, you’re not going to do academically well. If you’re not academically well, you’re not going to be socially and emotionally well.”
At Sun Valley High School, it’s Harvey’s goal to find balance between academic performance and emotional stability.
Harvey said he subscribes to the four E’s theory — enrich, engage, excite and excel. “We have to find ways for everybody to be successful,” he said. “Sometimes it’s passing a course and sometimes success is making the Dean’s List. Success is different for all the students.”
Harvey has been an administrator for 22 years; he’s worked at Benton Heights Elementary, Monroe Middle School, Monroe High School. In 2018, he became principal at Sun Valley.
According to a statement from Union County Public Schools: “In his tenure at Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts, he was able to accomplish some of the highest growth scores in the county. At Benton Heights he raised the school’s composite score 13%. At Monroe Middle, Dr. Harvey has improved the growth composite from -9 to a positive 10. In addition, in the two years that he was the Principal at Monroe High, the overall school grade rose from a D to a C.”
By making students feel more included, he said it creates a more enjoyable experience on campus. He said the culture of inclusivity has led to a decrease in discipline, tardiness and absences.
When it comes to his Principal of the Year honor, Harvey said he is prouder of the work faculty and staff at Sun Valley has done than the work he has done.
“It’s about all of us agreeing that we’re in this business to help students…,” Harvey said.
“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been blessed. I can’t even say how much I’ve been blessed by surrounding myself with great people…,” Harvey said.
Harvey has worked 22 years in Union County Public Schools: five years as a Physical Education Teacher at Benton Heights, three years as Assistant Principal at Benton Heights; six years as Principal of Benton Heights; four years as Principal at Monroe Middle; two years as Principal of Monroe High and his current tenure at Sun Valley.