Watkins new su­per­in­ten­dent at De­catur

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE ECKELS meck­els@nwadg.com

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


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