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North Lamar ISD trustees learned the district received the state’s highest score for financial accountability at a Monday night meeting during which the board approved several campus improvement plans and listened as a taxpayer expressed his concern about the possibility of critical race theory being taught in the district.

James Warmerdam likened critical race theory to the coronavirus, saying it infects the mind rather than the body while teaching children to hate themselves and others around them.

“It is willfully destroying decades of progress in the arena of race relations,” Warmerdam said as he called critical race theory a “branch of the Marxist family tree” that destroys Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of children being judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Because of his concern about the possibility of critical race being taught in the district, Warmerdam said he first contacted the superintendent’s office and then submitted a public information request to see if critical race “is now or has ever been taught at any level in North Lamar.”

“That question remains unanswered today, but I did get a response in a letter from a law firm,” Warmerdam said, adding, “in over 70 years, I’ve learned that when someone appears to be hiding behind a law firm, they have something to hide.

“I always try to have a positive response to a negative situation,” Warmerdam continued. “I’ve copied some articles, and put together a package for each of our school members, and I’ve purchased two current books as a gift to our superintendent.”

Warmerdam then challenged the board to identify and remove all critical race teaching, if such exists, in the district.

“Or I will work to see that we elect people to replace you,” the speaker said.

No one from the public spoke during two public hearings on the district’s compensatory education program nor on the district’s state financial accountability rating.

Former federal program director Tami Miles and current director Lora Sanders gave the compensatory education report, noting North Lamar received $1.8 million in fiscal year 2020-21 and spent $1.168 million, exceeding a required 55% of the total on specific programs, mainly in salaries to provide additional resources for economically disadvantaged and at-risk students to increase academic achievement and to close performance gaps.

Finance director Melissa Darrow reported the district received a score of 100% on the 2021 state financial accountability rating, which is based on 2019-20 data.

The report covers 20 indicators to include an outside audit free of material weaknesses, the district’s fund balance, timely debt and other payments, assets to liabilities ratio and required postings on its website.

Assistant uperintendent Leslie Watson reported the district’s average daily attendance rate is up 1% from a month ago at 2,158, roughly 51 more students than budgeted for the year. ESL director Melissa LaVoy gave an English as a Second Language program evaluation, noting the district now has roughly 116 students in the program with 36 certified ESL teachers.

In other action, trustees approved the nomination of David Dunman to the Lamar County Appraisal District board of directors and gave approval to a grade 7 reading instrument waiver, a wellness policy update and improvement plans for Higgins, Parker, Everett and Bailey campuses.

After an executive session, the board approved the appointment of Kristi Hodgkiss as public relations director to fill the position currently held by Carla Coleman, who is retiring in December.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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