Watkins new superintendent at Decatur
DECATUR — Since Jeff Gravette tendered his resignation as superintendent May 23, the Decatur School Board spent the last two weeks reviewing several worthy candidates to take his place. On June 26, the school board announced that Steve Watkins, 46, will take the helm as the new superintendent, effective July 1.
Watkins is a graduate of Huntsville High School. He attended the University of Arkansas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. Watkins went on to get his masters degree in educational
leadership from Arkansas State University. He is currently working on his doctoral thesis in education at Arkansas Tech University.
He and his wife, Elizabeth, were friends throughout high school and didn’t start dating until they were in college. Both attended the University of Arkansas, majoring in education. After graduation, they were married and started a family. Elizabeth Watkins teaches high school English.
The Watkins’ have three children. Patrick (22), the eldest son, attends the University of Arkansas, where he has yet to declare a major. Their only daughter, Emily (20), knows what she wants to be after college. She is majoring in accounting at the University of Central Arkansas, where she also plays in the Bears Marching Band. The youngest son, Ben, will be an eighth-grader at Decatur Middle School in the fall and, like most teenagers, likes anything electronic.
Watkins has worked in education for 16 years. He was the alternative learning environment director in the Huntsville School District for eight years, then served as principal at Alpena High School for two years.
After serving the past two years as principal at Elkins High School, a school with about 430 students in grades 9-12, Watkins looks forward to the many unique challenges a smaller school (175 high school students) has to offer and is ready to meet them head-on.
“I’m very excited about coming to Decatur,” Watkins said. “I interviewed with the (Decatur) board last week (June 11), and I really feel comfortable with the board. I thought we have the same visions for the future.”
One of Watkins’ first tasks as the new superintendent is performing a little public relations in the Decatur area.
“I plan to get out and meet the community and its leadership,” said Watkins. “As we get closer to August 1, the teachers will be coming back, so I plan on taking the time before school starts getting to know all of them.”
Since Watkins is a huge sports fan (Arkansas Razorbacks), he is hoping the recent changes in the coaching staff and the new athletic director, Toby Conrad, will bring fans out to support the kids.
“Wins and losses always happen with programs experiencing up years and down years,” Watkins said, “My goal for the Decatur fans is to put out a quality product. I want the fans to feel good about what they see when they come to (watch) football, basketball, track or any other sports.”
During the 2018-19 school year, Watkins plans to observe the progress of the many educational programs his predecessor and the board laid down for the district over the past few years.
“I think we have some opportunity for growth in the curriculum here in Decatur,” Watkins commented. “Our board, Mr. Gravette and our principals have done a great job laying a foundation. So I want to look at this the first year and add my expertise to enhance what they are doing.”
Decatur’s three schools — the high school, middle school and elementary school — have room for improvement in their test scores, Watkins said.
“We’ll be looking at our test scores and curriculum. They have a great start to that, and I want to bring my skill set and see if we can tackle some of those opportunities for growth,” he said.
Watkins earned $74,573 as Elkins High principal this past school year. Information on his contract and salary with the Decatur district was unavailable last week. Gravette was paid $94,000 in the superintendent’s position for the 2017-18 school year.
The Watkins will take a few days to move into their new home. Steve, Elizabeth and Ben Watkins all look forward to becoming a part of the Decatur culture.
“I think Decatur is a great community and we are excited to be here,” Watkins concluded.
Dave Perozek contributed to this story.
I plan to get out and meet the community and its leadership. As we get closer to August 1, the teachers will be coming back, so I plan on taking the time before school starts getting to know all of them.
Steven Watkins New Decatur superintendent