He took over the historic high school that was once a national icon known lovingly as “The Little College” in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s – the sort of place people wanted to learn. It has always been an academic Mecca for those in the community, but the horrors of the crack epidemic sent this mixed working and middle class community known as Houston’s Fifth Ward into an economic and academic death spiral by the ‘80s and ‘90s. In comes what one newspaper at the time touted as “The Joe Clark of the South,” Principal Eddie Orum.
Today, some 25 years later, Mr. Orum is back doing what he does best – helping, inspiring. He is invited to alumni picnics, has been honored by school alumni for his service, and continues to be involved in the Houston community. One of his most notable challenges, if he can pull it off, is to help a former student get elected to the Board of Trustees for a local school district. Mr. Orum has volunteered as campaign manager for “Seth Batiste for Klein ISD.”
Who is Seth Batiste? Well, he is a former student of Mr. Orum. Mr. Orum saw something in that little kid that many did not see: Potential. When Seth was a high school student, Mr. Orum invited him to participate on a “Climate Committee”. The Climate Committee served many roles to help engage students civically. It also served to equip students with tools to address everyday societal problems facing the school and community that included violence, increased gang activity, and race relations. The Climate Committee began to see more notoriety, with students appearing on television and talk radio after the officers who were accused of beating Rodney King were acquitted. Seth and students on the committee traveled to other schools as ambassadors.
“Folks wanted to know what we high school kids were thinking. Houston and my high school were a calm place, in part, because we were not afraid to address issues that came up. Our dialogue made the difference,” Seth explains.
Dr. Seth Batiste is a Klein resident of 14 years with three kids and a very smart, beautiful wife. He is running for the school board in this community just northwest of Houston. As a college developmental English Professor, Dr. Batiste has served on a number of state committees for collegiate developmental (remedial) education, so as large numbers of students continue to enter college underprepared in English and math, Dr. Batiste’s concern grew. “I decided to run after seeing a number of funding-related issues that I saw as direct threat to effective teaching. I am very much here for the people serving in our nation’s classrooms.” Dr. Batiste adds.
“Under his (Mr. Orum’s) leadership, I was able to attend Texas Boys’ State, and even start our chapter of the Houston Area Model United Nations. How ironic it was that our high school was selected to emulate Trinidad and Tobago where I eventually met my wife.” Seth recalls.
Dr. Batiste’s beliefs…
Dr. Batiste believes in strong standards for graduation, personalized learning opportunities for all students, a vibrant Gifted/Talented program, and resources that help sustain pathways for English Language Learners and lower SES students remain competitive. “Students should be prepared for college or the workforce upon graduation.” Dr. Batiste notes.
Those high school students from the “Eddie Orum” era are busy impacting Harris County today. They learned to be involved, to help from one of the best high school principals anyone can have.
Dr. Seth Batiste can be reached at 832.717.5476 for further comment.
Mr. Eddie Orum can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org.