SB Education Icon Margaret Hill Ascends Into Eternity At 81

Margaret Hill, whose personality and presence came to embody all of what many considered to be the best features of the public school system in San Bernardino, has died, passing away peacefully it was said on December 19. She was 81.
Hill, the daughter of an African-American sharecropper, was born into a community that had yet to make its exodus from the overhanging social restrictions of the Old South and the remnants of the Post Civil War Confederacy.
As a very young child, she assisted her father as he cultivated crops, pulling weeds. After she began school, she was still involved in helping her father work the earth, waking two hours before classes began each morning, feeding chickens and slopping hogs. At the time of the year when the crops had matured, she participated in harvests. In the summer, she picked cotton under an unforgiving sun.
After school, she did more farm work and then devoted herself to her studies, reading late into the night, on some occasions by candlelight.
She and her parents were determined that she would not live her entire life as a sharecropper. She went on to attend college, at Norfolk State University in Virginia, where she earned a bachelor’s degree.
By becoming the first member of her family to attend college, Hill established herself as a “new black woman” and a member of the first generation of members of her race to fully avail themselves of the benefits of Virginia’s public institutions. She then migrated across the continent to California, where she became an educator.
It was in the teaching profession that Hill made her mark on the world.
In August 1971, she began teaching in the San Bernardino City Unified School District. She taught at Curtis Middle School, Serrano Middle School and San Bernardino High School.
In 1979, she married her husband, Robert.
Dedicated to her profession, she earned a master’s degree in education/administration from California State University, San Bernardino. Subsequently, she was recognized with an honorary doctorate in social justice from the University of Redlands. In 1987, having already moved into a part time faculty position/part time administrative post, she accepted an assignment as the principal of San Andreas High School, an alternative school. She remained in that post until her retirement in 2003.
The watchword in her approach to education was “compassion,” and she advocated working with students even in the face of the disciplinary problems some of them evinced. She said that such behavioral problems were the manifestations of personal and familial struggles that teachers often were insensitive to. While assisting students in resolving the problems of their home lives was not part of the job description for teachers, being open to understanding their adolescent difficulties and working to assist them in resolving such matters could contribute to educational success, she maintained.
She authored two books “From Sharecropping to Non-Stopping: Reflections on Life from a Veteran Educator,” and “It’s All About the Children.” both of which concentrated on her experience in the classroom.
Hill had become very involved in the San Bernardino community from the time she arrived. She held regular and board memberships in the Kiwanis Club of Greater San Bernardino; the Westside Kiwanis Club, of which she was the president; the Inland Center Kiwanis Club; the Highland Family YMCA, of which she was a charter member; the East Valley Corporate YMCA; the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation; the Community Hospital of San Bernardino, the board for which she served as chairwoman; the National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Inc.; the local Delta Rho Chapter; the Highland Woman’s Club; the Time for Change Foundation; Sheriff Rod Hoop’s Citizen Advisory Council; the Mustard Seed Tutoring Clinic; the Inland Empire Stop the Violence Foundation; the San Bernardino Community Hospital and Community Action Partnership; and the San Bernardino Police Advisory Committee.
She was presented with multiple awards over the years, including the Association of California School Administrators Diversity Medal, the Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino Community Award, the Eastern Star Community Service Award, and Faith Temple Ministries Educator of the Year Award.
Hill was a founding member of the CREST (Community Reentry Education/Employment Services and Training) Program. She founded on her own the non-profit Maggie’s Kids Foundation.
In 2006 she came out of retirement to return to work at the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools office, serving in the capacity of assistant superintendent of administrative services until her retirement on July 2, 2012.
In 2011 she ran successfully for the board of the San Bernardino City Unified School District. She was later elevated to board president, and was still a board member when she passed away.
The district honored her by naming its boardroom the Dr. Margaret Hill Community Room in 2019.
Hill had sought the position on the board in 2011, even though she had just learned that she had been diagnosed with cancer. She campaigned successfully, despite going through numerous rounds of chemotherapy.
“Dr. Hill was loved for her warm heart and frequently encouraged educators to motivate kids with ‘more hugs than tugs,’” said San Bernardino City Unified School Board President Dr. Scott Wyatt. “We are better because she led with strength, love and compassion for everyone. We will miss her every day.”
“Dr. Hill’s tireless, kind and cheerful presence made her arguably the most admired leader in San Bernardino and among the greats statewide throughout the education community,” said San Bernardino City Unified School District Superintendent Doc Ervin. “She inspired me and I am thankful to have worked with her here.”

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