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Community says farewell to Dawson

DawsonFarewell_04Hundreds lined up outside the North Lamar athletic facility on Wednesday to say farewell to the man whose name is on the building: Superintendent James A. Dawson.

Dawson remained low key about the turnout even as he offered handshakes and hugs for the stream of people coming to say good-bye and congratulations.

“I expected a few people to be here,” he said.

It was more than a few. The crowd circulated with students, employees and others coming and going over a course of two hours.

“I’m glad to see a lot of people came,” school board member Dave Osborne said. “James deserves it. He’s been very good for this district, and he deserves a good send-off.”

In all, Dawson has 48 years in education. He joined North Lamar Independent School District in 1987 as principal at North Lamar High School. He was named superintendent in 1989. He announced his retirement in April, saying he would stay through the end of June.

“I have worked with that man for 27 years, and I cannot imagine this place without him,” Assistant Superintendent Shelley McDowell said. He has been tremendous to work for and work with, and he’s going to be missed.”

North Lamar ISD is currently working with Executive Search Services to find a new superintendent. Interviews are scheduled to be conducted this month.

Dawson’s tenure has seen growth in many areas: the passing of a $11,500,000 bond in 1994 for the present day high school; an addition to Aaron Parker Elementary in 1996; the state-of-the-art athletic facility in March 2006; and a successful $4.68 million dollar bond election for the construction of new science and computer labs at the high school in the spring of 2010. He has also been credited with NLISD maintain a healthy budget.

“I’ve had a pretty good ride,” he said.

NLHS English teacher Stephen Smallwood, who is also retiring this year, called Dawson an “incredible manager.”

“He’s got incredible school intuition. He sees the big picture very easily,” he said. “He’s as interested in academics and early childhood education as he is athletics.”

DawsonFarewell_06Although he still has a few weeks, Dawson had to turn in his NLISD-issued money clip during the event – a large bulldog paperclip. In exchange, McDowell gave him another painted gold and engraved with his initials using the library’s equipment. She said people had tried giving him a real money clip over the years, but he always preferred the paperclip.

“You’re so kind,” Dawson said. His voice grew thick with emotion, and he added: “I’m finished.”

McDowell said no one was happy about his departure.

“You have given so much of yourself to North Lamar, and that has made it what it is. Thank you,” she said. “Relax, if you can, and enjoy doing whatever you want to do.”

Dawson said his only immediate plans are to attend the North Lamar High School graduation Saturday and a Texas Rangers game on Sunday. Beyond that, he did not know what the future might hold, although Earl Erickson did have a thought or two.

“I’ve been really blessed by his friendship,” Erickson said. “I’m looking forward to his retirement. We’re going to go see a lot of PJC basketball games together.”

Gary Hilliard, former school board president, said Dawson has earned it.

“I was with him 21 years on the board,” he said. “I hope he enjoys his retirement. He has certainly worked for it.”

Public Relations Director Carla Coleman, who has worked with Dawson since 1999, said NLISD may need him to come out of retirement to fill a slightly different role.

“He is the PR for North Lamar. He’s going to be greatly missed,” she said. “We may have to hire him to keep doing that.”

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