By Yolonda Battle
Warren Seay Jr., DeSoto Independent School District’s Board of Trustees President, became the youngest elected official in Dallas County at the age of 20, when his constituents voted him into office in 2009.
In 2011, Seay was voted by his colleagues to serve as the DeSoto ISD Board President.
“I’m so humbled by the fact that the board chose me to be board president,” Seay said. “If you work hard and people see that, then they will buy into your vision. We believe that every student can be high achieving regardless of where they come from.”
Although he is originally from Monroe, Louisiana, Seay has lived in DeSoto for 16 years.
In 2009, Seay received a Harry S. Truman scholarship appointment from President Barack Obama and he also interned for the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2010 he graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in sociology. Seay is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., and served as president as an undergraduate.
This August, Seay will begin his third year of law school at SMU’s Dedman School of Law. He is also a member of the Black Law Students Association and serves as Parliamentary.
Now at the age of 23, Seay is up for re-election. Voters will head to the polls on May 12 to decide between Seay and his 49-year-old opponent, Beryl Eugene, in the upcoming DeSoto ISD Board Trustee elections. Eugene declined an interview, but said that he is running because of his “passion for children and education” and believes the board is “lacking accountability.”
Visit this website for more information on both candidates.
When Seay ran for the DeSoto ISD office in 2009, he was on a mission to revamp the public education system in the area. He was not worried about his age or level of experience. What was important to him was how he could effectively make schools in DeSoto as competitive as those in neighboring districts.
“When you look around and don’t see anybody else moving, there’s this sense of urgency that arises,” Seay said. “Something I’ve strived for since day one is producing students who are college ready, focused, and have the ambition to compete for slots in schools like Harvard, Princeton, or SMU.”
Seay won his race in 2009 by an overwhelming majority, but he said he had many detractors that considered him too inexperienced to handle million dollar budgets and thought he was simply too young. Seay however, considers his age a benefit rather than a hindrance.
“When you’re young you have to work three-times as hard as anybody else,” he said. “Some people overlook you because of your age, but if you look at the history of our country it was founded by young people. The civil rights movement was started by young people who decided to stand up for change.”
During his tenure in office, Seay and his board members have tackled some obstacles but he and the board feel they can now shift all their focus and attention toward educating students.
“In DeSoto where we’re 80 percent black, we want to prepare our students to be competitive and college ready,” said Seay. “If we want to expand opportunities for minorities and underrepresented groups, then it begins and ends with education.”
Seay believes the only way for communities to flourish is through education. He considers education the “great equalizer” that bridges people together “regardless of socio-economic status, race, or gender.”
In addition to his obligations to the board and his personal educational advancement, Seay manages to find time to tutor high school students in preparation for SAT and ACT state exams. He is also a participant in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Dallas while each week he mentors fourth and fifth grade boys who attend the Amber Terrace Elementary after school program.
Kim Walker, the after school program site supervisor at Amber Terrace says the kids in her charge “love him” and look forward to his visits.
“The kids gravitate to him because of his age and presence,” she said. He’s relatable and encouraging and they see an example of what can happen to their lives with hard work.”
Seay believes the district is set for success, but he also knows there is so much more to accomplish. In 2010 DeSoto’s Texas Education Agency accountability ratings included three exemplary schools, six recognized schools and three deemed academically acceptable. In 2011 those district ratings declined a bit, with one exemplary school, six recognized campuses and five academically acceptable schools.
With hard work and dedication, he is confident the district can restore the recognized ratings in the DeSoto school district. He knows it is important to hire competitive teachers and to provide continual education courses. To accomplish this feat, Seay believes establishing private partnerships are part of the answer.
“No matter the circumstance that student’s come from, we believe that every student deserves an opportunity to be successful,” he said. “If they have the right support and a strong teacher in the classroom then they can be successful.”
This fall DeSoto teachers who want to become principals at Title 1 schools are being granted a new opportunity through Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School Education Entrepreneur
Center. Through this two-year program aspiring principals can earn a certification and a Master in Educational Leadership with Urban Specialization.
Simmons Director of External and Alumni Relations, Chris Bhatti, worked with Seay to accomplish this objective in DeSoto.
“The program specifically targets Title 1 schools. Teaching a curriculum will help improve some of the challenges urban public schools face,” Bhatti said. “The program aims to develop teachers that can create a culture of success.”
Bhatti says that some of the elements of the program that urban public schools struggle with include finding effective ways to establish parental engagement and establishing community and local business alliances.
As a DeSoto resident and SMU alumni, President Seay says that this partnership is one of many that he can foster and that can lead to the competitive school district he is seeking.
“This isn’t a job you do for money,” he said. “There is too much at stake for our kids.”
Yolonda Battle is a Journalism and Sociology major with a minor in Education from Southern Methodist University. She can be reached at email@example.com.