Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey’s roots run deep in Oxford. Some who grow up in small towns like Oxford wish for something more or different. A desire to “escape” their hometown creeps in as they approach high school graduation.
That is not the case with Harvey. In fact, aside from a short period of time in McComb, the only time he left Oxford for any length of time are the four years he played football two and half hours away at Mississippi College in Clinton. Just to make sure he attended every public school in the city he calls home, Harvey went back to college at Ole Miss to earn his master’s degree in educational leadership in 2005.
As a native, Harvey has seen many changes in Oxford. In his time here, the city has changed from a small town vibe to a more urban feel, which has impacted the town and the schools.
“This being a university town impacts the culture of the school – the high school – and the school district,” he said. “The Square has definitely changed. Being a graduate of Oxford, there were Friday and Saturday nights where the only people on the Square were the local high school kids. That’s not the same anymore.”
Harvey said Oxford is growing. “The major change came to Oxford when [Ole Miss] football games stopped being played in Jackson,” he said. “The big games were played in Jackson. That’s when Oxford took off.”
The Oxford School District now educates about 4,300 students in pre-kindergarten through high school.
Harvey, 47, grew up attending schools in the same district. He walks some of the same hallways, sits in the stands cheering for the same teams and works every day to ensure students in his district have everything needed to succeed.
It is the love he carries for his hometown that enables him to lead the district. He shares a background and history with many of the people working in and visiting his schools. In many cases, he has gone to school with their parents or grandparents.
“Mr. Harvey does a great job of building relationships with all people,” Oxford Middle School Principal Audra Rester said. “It only makes him a stronger leader with his past connections.”
Harvey was appointed superintendent in 2012. However, his road to the superintendent’s office started in 1995 upon his graduation from Mississippi College with a degree in art history.
He began teaching social studies at Oxford Middle School before moving to high school in 1998, where he taught and coached baseball. Moving up in the ranks, he was an assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent.
Known for its high quality schools, the OSD School Board has charged Harvey with continuing the district’s historic high achievement. Under his leadership, in 2016, the Oxford School District was ranked first in the state in achievement.
Board Chairman Gray Edmondson appreciates Harvey’s natural desire and ability to improve an already high achieving district.
“Mr. Harvey continues to find ways to better educate our students,” Edmondson said. “The district currently has a number of programs underway, which are a result of this mindset – Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), Whole Child Initiative, Profile of a Graduate, and District of Innovation are just some examples.”
With a focus on students, this past year, the Oxford School District received an A on the Mississippi Report Card, as compared to the state average grade of a C.
Rester attributes much of the district’s success on Harvey’s student-centered leadership. “He puts student needs first in all decisions,” she said.
Edmondson said Harvey’s leadership has produced excellent results. “Seeing our district lead the state in so many areas year after year clearly illustrates that good things are happening here,” he said.
Working in a job where your job security lies in your last report card, Harvey works hard to continue to make strides and meet expectations of his board, the families he serves, and especially the students.
“Mr. Harvey adds value by being a visionary for the area,” Rester said. “He does research, talks to local businesses, and creates spaces for open dialogue about the future of OSD.”
Edmondson acknowledges Oxford School District’s future challenges in construction projects, closing the achievement gap, offering students relevant and valuable career technical programs, and teaching skills needed for 21st century success. However, he is confident in the leader the Board has put in place to get the job done.
“Many leaders would not continue to push so hard for improvement,” he said. “Mr. Harvey continues to find ways to better educate our students.”