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Marley Dias who is the creator of the popular #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign, served as keynote speaker for district staff and hosted a student workshop during the Superintendent’s Conference Day on Tuesday, November 8.

The board voted 3-1 to retroactively approve Dias’ consultant agreement at Wednesday’s meeting. Trustee Felicia Watson voted against the agreement’s ratification and trustee Gregory Charter was absent.

When asked why she voted against the contract, Watson said “$6,500 plus incidentals … is exorbitant.” Watson said she’s conscientious of her fiscal responsibility to the district.

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The decision sparked concern from some parents and taxpayers in the financially-strapped school district.

“I know there were a number of concerns raised regarding this,” trustee Raymond Duncan said. “But … we still have a line item (in the annual budget) for the superintendent’s initiatives. If the superintendent chooses to spend money to bring a speaker in (within that line item budget), I’m going to (approve it) unless it’s something I find totally unnecessary. We hire the superintendent to runthe district.”

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At Wednesday’s meeting, Superintendent Nicole Williams said that Dias’ “resume is tremendous … her work is world-renowned,” and “we should not discriminate because she’s 11 years old.”

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Dias gave an hour long speech to staff on Tuesday before leading an hour and half-long workshop for 50 students.

It’s unclear what the district plans on reimbursing her for travel expenses. Dias, who has led a nationwide literacy initiative, is “inspiring young people,”

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Williams said. “About 90 percent of our students are below reading level. We have to motivate our scholars to read.”

The girl was professional and presented a focused approach to motivate teachers and students with a message that was “just as powerful as any adult’s.” But locals did not appear to be calling Dias’ credentials into question — the issue was the expense itself.

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