Deborah Hunter Harvill, Ed.D., said that it was at Marygrove College that she learned how to learn and how to give back to her community. So, it was only fitting that she dedicate her life to educating students who will one day lead and give back to their communities too.
“I am committed to preparing students to be the best that they can be. As a Detroit Public School principal, I am passionate about moving students from low-achieving status to a higher level of achievement,” she says.
As principal of Damon J. Keith Elementary School in Detroit, Hunter-Harvill is faced with the task of improving student achievement on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program Test (MEAP).
She approached the challenge with a positive, proactive attitude and implemented new programs to help children succeed. One activity she planned was an academic sleepover for grades 3-5, where the students practiced test-taking strategies and good study habits. In collaboration with the city of Detroit, she started an after-school partnership with the Mayor’s Time Empowerment Zone Initiative. The program focuses on reading and social etiquette. The Kiwanis Club supported the MEAP challenge by donating books to the school.
Reading is a personal pastime of Hunter-Harvill’s and something that she encourages in all students. “Read, read, read!” she says. “Spend a lot of time at the library reading.”
Recognizing that parental involvement is a vital piece of the educational agenda, Hunter-Harvill re-organized the Local School Community Organization (LSCO). Parents now participate in training sessions, classroom meetings, Malcolm Baldrige training, MEAP meetings, and holiday concerts.
Setting a pro-active tone and philosophy is important to Hunter-Harvill wherever she goes. “I am willing to serve and I will always be customer friendly,” she said.
Her colleagues say she is true to her word. “An administrator is a people person,” said Dr. Edna Dawson-Walker, test coordinator. “On many occasions she has been known to give school uniforms and coats to students who were improperly dressed for winter weather. It is in her character to care and respect the worth and dignity of others.”
A product of the Detroit Public Schools, Hunter-Harvill graduated from Thomas Cooley High School in 1973 and has gone on to be listed as one of the Most Influential Black Women in Metropolitan Detroit by the Women’s Informal Network.
She has taught special education and language arts, worked as an administrator for the Detroit Public Schools, was principal at Whitney Young Magnet Middle School in Detroit, and assistant director of special education for the Hazel Park Community Schools.
Her professional affiliations further her commitment to improving education. She was elected to the Board of Directors for the National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE). Two years later she was elected to become the chairman of the NABSE Foundation, which focuses on student scholarships.
Hunter-Harvill is a local and national presenter on student achievement, school reform, literacy in reading, parental involvement, fund raising, and mentoring. She was accepted in the New Detroit, Inc. Multicultural Immersion Initiative. She was honored by the Metropolitan Detroit Alliance of Black School Educators for serving as president, and received a Leadership Award from the National Alliance of Black School Educators for serving as the 1996 Local Chairman of the 26th National Conference held in Detroit.
“Marygrove College taught me to stay focused in order to excel or become successful,” says Hunter-Harvill. “My spirituality really grew while living in the dorm at Marygrove. There was a connection with the community. The connection anchored my soul, heart, mind and body to make the best decisions.”
In fact, Marygrove College made such an impression on Hunter-Harvill — who in 1977 became the first college graduate from her dad’s family — that her mother enrolled at Marygrove and graduated in May 2003.
Hunter-Harvill went on to receive her master’s degree from Marygrove in 1984. She received her Educational Doctorate in Administration and Supervision from Wayne State University in 1994.