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story.lead_photo.caption STAFF PHOTO DAVID FRANK DEMPSEY A school bus leaves after school from near the school Administration Office in Decatur, AR, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2009.

The Decatur School Board is expected to choose one of two Northwest Arkansas school principals to be its next superintendent.

The board on Thursday interviewed Duane Thomas and Steve Watkins for the district's top job. Thomas just finished his seventh year as Gravette Middle School's principal. Watkins just completed his second year as principal at Elkins High School.

New Superintendents

Decatur is one of three Northwest Arkansas school districts getting a new superintendent this summer.

• The Fayetteville School Board named John L Colbert as superintendent at a special meeting Thursday. He replaces Matthew Wendt, whom the board fired Monday. Colbert has worked for the Fayetteville district for 39 years, including the last 10 as associate superintendent for support services.

• The Elkins School Board in March hired Jeremy Mangrum as superintendent effective July 1. Mangrum, the assistant superintendent in the Paragould School District, replaces Dan Jordan, who is retiring.

Source: Staff Report

The board likely will meet Monday to make its choice, said Jeff Gravette, Decatur's outgoing superintendent.

Gravette recently accepted the assistant superintendent's position in the Gravette School District. He will replace Sharla Heltzel, who is retiring.

Gravette, 41, was a middle school teacher in Gravette for eight years before leaving to become principal of Decatur's Northside Elementary School in 2012. He was promoted to superintendent in 2014.

The Gravette School Board last month interviewed Gravette and three others for the assistant superintendent's job, then voted at a subsequent meeting to hire Gravette. He begins his new job July 1.

"It has definitely been a career goal of mine to get back" to the Gravette district, Gravette said.

Richard Page, the Gravette district's superintendent, said he's known Gravette for six years. Page is confident he will be a good fit for the job.

"He's well respected in our community. He's well liked. We know he has a strong work ethic," Page said. "He's going to do a great job."

The city of Gravette was named after Jeff Gravette's great-great-grandfather, he said. Gravette and his wife live in Bella Vista. They have one child who will be starting kindergarten this fall.

Gravette and Decatur are neighboring school districts. Gravette's enrollment as of last fall was about 1,900. Decatur's enrollment was 560.

Gravette said he will assist with facility projects to be paid for with a 2.5-mill tax increase voters approved last month. The largest of those projects is a new gymnasium at Gravette High School, estimated to cost $10.5 million.

Gravette said he believes the Decatur School District is in great shape. He praised School Board members for their vision and the discipline necessary to make needed improvements to the district.

Gravette is making $94,000 as Decatur's superintendent this year. His salary in Gravette hasn't been finalized, but he said it likely will be close to what he's making this year.

NW News on 06/23/2018

Print Headline: Decatur board close to superintendent choice

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