Little Pauline Colburn taught class to every doll and stuffed animal she had. She got out books and planned special lessons for those in remedial studies. She took the advanced students on field trips around the neighborhood.
The imagination and determination of that child has never stopped.
Decades later, Dr. Pauline Colburn Hargrove is preparing for retirement after nearly 45 years in education, all with the Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD. She will mark her 18th year as superintendent of the district in July.
The school district is holding a special reception in her honor next week. But thanks to Tropical Storm Harvey, Hargrove isn’t packing up her office. She plans to keep working until December to help a new superintendent make a “smooth transition” and finish the restorations to damaged campuses.
She had planned to retire this past December. She wanted to make sure the students “were on a higher note academically.” That was accomplished and next, her goal had been to oversee a district-wide building project to replace outdated buildings and modernize others.
The buildings were ready for use at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The district had convocation. Students had registered, but school was delayed because of Harvey.
Then the storm hit Orange County, dumping 50 to 60 inches of rain. New buildings were flooded and ruined. Four of the six campuses in the district could not be used.
Hargrove’s house flooded. The houses of her two grown daughters with families also flooded.
For Hargrove, the disaster was simply another challenge to face with God at her side.
“I could not leave the district and our community,” she said. “Gladly, I chose to stay.”
She and her husband, Ricky, have been living in an RV parked in their front yard for eight months. But she realizes they aren’t the only ones displaced. Teachers, staff and students across the district have been either displaced or have displaced relatives living with them.
Students in Mauriceville had to be bused to available buildings in Little Cypress. Little Cypress Elementary students have had classes at North Orange Baptist Church.
The world was in disarray, but Hargrove worked with her staff to organize school life.
It’s a job she could handle. After all, education was her life goal, even back to the days growing up in Orange teaching her dolls.
Her parents, Dick and Billie Colburn, emphasized education and learning. Hargrove and her two older brothers, Dickie and Jeep Colburn, all earned college degrees. Her father died at the age of 48. Her mother will soon be 90 and still goes to LC-M events.
She went to Lutcher Stark High School in Orange where she was a cheerleader and homecoming queen. Her high school sweetheart was Ricky Hargrove. She graduated in 1967 and went to Lamar University.
Her parents would not give permission for her to marry until she got her degree. So she went to summer school and took full loads every college semester. Ricky, though, talked to her parents and they agreed to a marriage even though her degree wasn’t complete. The couple will be celebrating 50 years in 2019.
Her first job was teaching at Mauriceville Elementary in the years when the school had grades first through eighth. During those first years, she sponsored cheerleading and theater. She taught public speaking, language arts and other subjects.
“A few (students) that I taught are teaching for us today,” she said. Other former students are in school supervisory positions.
She became pregnant with their first child, April, in the days when teachers were expected to quit when they began “to show.”
“It was a good weight control incentive,” she jokes now. She taught until she was six months along. Then she stayed home with children. Her second daughter, Jeannie, was born 14 months after April.
Those years were when she was president of the Orange Service League, volunteered for the schools and worked on other community projects. She recalls having a double stroller and taking the girls places. Her husband joked “I never know where you are when you’re staying home.”
But education called. The LC-M superintendent asked her to return to teaching at Mauriceville. Hargrove said April was going into kindergarten and Jeannie wanted to go to school, too. So Hargrove’s answer was that she would teach if he could find a school for Jeannie.
The superintendent called back days later. First Baptist Church in Mauriceville was starting a day care and half-day school. April and Jeannie had schools. And so did their mother.
April Hargrove King and Jeannie Hargrove Alexander now have professional positions in the LC-M district. King is in the technology department and Alexander is a school nurse.
Hargrove eventually moved into administration, serving as principals at elementary campuses. She was asked to become the high school principal, but was reluctant. However, she knew who to ask for guidance. She prayed. “God positions the people he wants with where they should be,” she said.
After leading the high school, she was named superintendent. And keeping with the idea of life-long education, she earned a doctorate in education.
She loves that she has spent her life working in her community. The community returns that love. She was honored as Citizen of the Year by the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce.
Through the years, she has become an expert on education issues and has served as a mentor to dozens. She has worked with local, state, and national officials, always fighting for issues that help students and teachers.
That fighting spirit is one reason she’s staying on a few extra months because of the Harvey disaster.
“I’ve always felt like this is the place the Lord wanted me to be,” she said.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-