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North Lamar ISD Superintendent James A. Dawson has been awarded the TMEA Distinguished Administrator Award. He was nominated by NLHS Associate Band Director Jason R. Smith earlier in the school year who submitted a letter to the Texas Music Educators Association stating Dawson’s outstanding qualities. The award is intended to recognize school administrators whose support has been critical to the many music program successes in schools across the state.
Dawson has served Texas public schools for 47 years with 26 of those being at North Lamar Independent School District. In the fall of 1987, he was hired as the high school principal then held both principal and superintendent positions in the spring of 1989 until he became superintendent without principal duties in the fall of 1989.
During these years, his support has established the tradition of excellence achieved by the North Lamar fine arts programs. The middle school and high school bands and choirs earn consistent UIL Sweepstakes honors, and the drama department has a long history of success at region, area, and state one-act play competitions. The High School Band has earned state honors in 3A state marching, TMEA Honor Band, as well as National Wind Band Honors.
During difficult economic times, Dawson has worked to ensure proper funding for programs that benefit the student, even finding funding for marching uniforms during one of the most recent challenging budget years. As Stone Middle School’s choir tripled in size, he approached the director to ask what was needed to accommodate the students.
Commenting on Dawson, Smith said, “His litmus test for a request is always, ‘Does it benefit the kids?’.” Going on he added, “Through wise fiscal management, he ensured the jobs of all staff members and protected adequate budgetary funding for fine arts when many districts were cutting programs and personnel.”
“Mr. Dawson is the most positive voice in our community for our fine arts programs and for our entire school district,” said Smith. As an active member of many local organizations, Dawson frequently recognizes North Lamar accomplishments, as well as in the local media and throughout the community. He attends a majority of student concerts, athletic events, and other school activities both locally and out of town.
Dawson serves on the Region 4 UIL Music Committee, has been named Region 8 Superintendent of the Year, and is the key initiator of the North Lamar Education Foundation which has provided college scholarships for hundreds of students over the years. While traveling on school business, he frequently uses his own vehicle and pays many expenses himself. Many have seen him directing traffic on campus before and after school. On weekends, he can be seen mowing and watering the school grounds and doing many other miscellaneous duties around the district. He is among the first at school each morning and among the last to leave at night.
“He leads by example with a very hands-on approach in doing the work of the district,” said Smith.
Superintendent Dawson’s open-door policy to all shows he genuinely cares about every student and employee in the district. He visits those in the hospital, buys clothes for students in need, and frequently is guilty of providing a ride for those who are unable from time to time to ride the bus. Calling a majority of the students by name, he also greets each employee throughout the year on their birthday with a card signed by him.
Dawson sets a standard of dedication that motivates the district staff to strive for the highest level of achievement in all areas. His student-centered focus of the district makes him an outstanding Texas administrator and deserving of the TMEA Distinguished Award.
“Mr. Dawson is an inspiration to the entire North Lamar faculty and staff. He asks nothing of us that he would not do himself. He not only holds us to a high standard, but motivates us to a high standard through his own actions. This recognition is well deserved for a great man,” said Smith.