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Cleburne names interim superintendent

CLEBURNE — School trustees voted Wednesday night to hire James Warlick, a veteran school administrator, as interim superintendent.

Warlick will serve until the board finds a replacement for Robert Damron, who stepped down last week after trustees learned that a preliminary state audit report was more negative than they had been led to believe.

Board President Stu Madison said it will be up to Warlick to determine how to use Damron, whose request to be reassigned until his July 1 retirement was granted by the board last week. Warlick will also decide whether any action should be taken against other staff members named in the Texas Education Agency report, he said.

Warlick is a retired administrator who has served as superintendent in Aledo and other districts and was an assistant superintendent in Burleson.

Madison said trustees delayed the release of the 156-page TEA report until they can consult with their attorney. “There are personnel named in that report, and that issue needs to be addressed by the attorney for the district and its employees,” he said.

When that is resolved, he said, trustees want to release the report as soon as possible, even though the district has until May 12 to respond to TEA’s findings before the agency issues the final report.

The 16-month TEA audit was prompted by complaints by Harold Gentry and Alden Nellis, members of Access Cleburne ISD, a local watchdog group. The pair said the district improperly spent state and federal funds on such things as a $10,000 staff retreat at a posh resort; exorbitant hotel and restaurant bills for district travel; and payments for nondistrict employees to attend a district trip to Mexico.

Two trustees met Wednesday with a consultant from the Texas Association of School Business Officials who, with the help of Warlick, will investigate the audit’s findings, recommend corrective actions and help prepare the district’s response to the report, Madison said.

Assistant Superintendent Carolyn Cody has been running the district since Damron stepped down last week.