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Pat Harvey

Patricia Harvey, former superintendent of the St. Paul Public Schools and current co-chair of the University's Systemwide Academic Task Force on PreK-12 Strategy

Patricia Harvey optimistic about the future of University, PreK-12 partnership

By Lori Janies

January 23, 2006

Patricia Harvey likes to characterize the University of Minnesota's quest to transform itself into one of the top three public research Universities in the world in terms that resonate well with most Minnesotans.

"Good hockey players don't look at where the puck is now, but where it is going to be," she says.

While not a hockey player herself, the 58-year-old Harvey hopes her formidable education skills will at least earn her an assist in helping transform the U.

Harvey is the former superintendent of the St. Paul Public Schools and current co-chair of the University's Systemwide Academic Task Force on PreK-12 Strategy, which recently released its preliminary recommendations on how to create a more effective partnership between the University and the PreK-12 community. In addition to her task force role, Harvey also currently holds the Carmen Starkson Campbell Chair in Urban Education, serves as a University Distinguished Fellow for the College of Education and Human Development, and is a Senior Fellow for the National Center on Education and the Economy/America's Choice in Washington, D.C.

"If I thought we could not shape the direction of education, I'm going to tell you I would not leave home every day," Harvey says.

While the University and the PreK-12 community already work closely on early childhood education research and curriculum development, more should be done to improve the "visibility, coordination, cohesion, and relevance" of such interactions, said the preliminary recommendations. The task force believes the model for engagement needs to reflect true collaboration, bringing together researchers and practitioners as equal partners around common problems. The task force supports the creation of a consortium on post-secondary academic success to coordinate and facilitate University activities in the PreK-12 area.

The task force meetings were "some of the most engaging meetings about education that I've been involved in a very long time," Harvey says. The membership of the task force roster reads like a Who's Who of local education professionals and thought leaders including, among other notables: Co-Chair Geoff Maruyama, interim associate vice president for Multicultural & Academic Affairs and professor, Educational Psychology; Art Rolnick, senior vice president and director of Research, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Alice Seagren, commissioner, Minnesota Department of Education; and Carlos Mariani Rosa, a Minnesota House representative and executive director of the Minnesota Minority Education Partnership.

Harvey said the contributions she brought to the intellectual table included, "the experiences of an urban school district, a large range of experiences across the country, a fair amount of international exposure and a network of relationships with educators around the world."

While she had only positive things to say about all her fellow task force members, she singled out the only student member of the task force, Alex Hermida, for praise.

"I particularly enjoyed having Alex on the task force," she says. "He was so assured and so comfortable in the midst of this group."

For his part, Hermida, 25 and a senior in the College of Education and Human Development, says he is "humbled" by Harvey's praise and by his task force experiences. He, in turn, praised Harvey for being a "demanding" task force leader who raised the bar of excellence for the entire group.

"Every time she would speak to the committee you could sense her dedication and there was such a conviction in her voice about what she was telling us that it made us kind of step up to her level of thinking about the issues of education," Hermida says. Robert Jones, senior vice president for system administration, has been most impressed with Harvey's commitment to raising scholastic expectations for all children in Minnesota.

"Pat's work is based upon the conviction that all students can achieve at a high level and can be prepared to succeed in college," says Jones.

So, does Harvey think that the task force will lead to positive change? Can task force recommendations shape the direction of education?

"If I thought we could not shape the direction of education, I'm going to tell you I would not leave home every day," Harvey says. "I believe that these are some of the most challenging and exciting times in education and it's going to be on our watch that we have to make the greatest changes in education. And if we fail to do that, we will have failed the kids that we serve."

The Systemwide Academic Task Force on PreK-12 Strategy is one of 34 task forces created to help transform the U into one of the top three public research universities in the world. Each task force was charged with developing recommendations across a wide range of key University objectives such as improving students' writing skills, attracting and supporting outstanding faculty members, and making administrative services more effective and efficient.

Eleven task forces, including the PreK-12 task force, submitted their preliminary recommendations in December. Now the University is eager to gather comments from the public on these recommendations through January 27. Final recommendations will be issued in February.