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Watson: COVID-19 era ‘challenging times’ for schools

By Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools, 09/30/21 9:13 AM

State Representative Danny Watson, R-Hope, read to Ms. Maldanado’s second grade, Ms. Watkins’ third grade and Ms. Askew’s kindergarten classes at Clinton Primary School and toured CPS on Sept. 28 prior to leaving for Little Rock where the Arkansas General Assembly is in special session to redraw Congressional districts in Arkansas. –Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools

HOPEDistrict 3 State Representative Danny Watson, R-Hope, read some good books recently and learned about a house with a mouse and cheese, a talking melon, and a pretty, pokey little donkey… before returning to Little Rock to join the Arkansas General Assembly in special session on Congressional districting.

Watson toured Clinton Primary School in Hope on Sept. 28 in connection with his service as a member of the House Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee. He read to Ms. Maldanado’s second grade, Ms. Watkins’ third grade and Ms. Askew’s kindergarten classes.

“Those kids were sharp; they kept me on my toes,” Watson quipped.

The three-term state lawmaker was impressed with what he saw at CPS and concerned that the era of COVID-19 not diminish it.

“These are challenging times,” Watson said in an interview after reading at CPS.

Watson does not anticipate any changes in the state response to COVID-19, including allowing face mask and vaccination decisions to remain at the local and personal levels.

“The more important thing is that we have people who have been vaccinated, but also for others to go ahead and get the vaccine,” he said. “But that is up to the individual. We need to put this pandemic behind us. I don’t want us to slow anything down; I believe the kids need to be in the classroom.”

Watson is comfortable with legislative funding priorities in the next biennium.

“The first fully funded are education, corrections and health care,” he said.

Watson said the current state of “school choice” in Arkansas will not affect that progression as school districts anticipate their annual budgets.

They know the state works on a balanced budget,” he said.

Watson is particularly impressed with the way the Hope Public Schools has worked through the University of Arkansas-Hope to provide both concurrent credit and academy offerings that allow HPS students to earn college credit while in high school, and graduate with a high school diploma and an Associate of Arts degree.

“That is important, but we also need to remember how important career and technical education is to public education,” Watson said. “I see that as one area where Hope has significant opportunities.”

A 15-year veteran of the Hope Public Schools Board of Education, Watson served eight years as a Justice of the Peace of the Hempstead County Quorum Court before election to his first House term in 2016. He was re-elected in 2018 and 2020. He represents portions of Hempstead and Nevada counties.

Watson currently serves as co-chair of the House Transportation Committee and is a member of the House Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee, the Joint Committee on Energy, as well as the Legislative Joint Audit Committee.

A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, Watson is a retired veteran Arkansas Highway Police officer and graduate of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy. He is the former safety director for the former Fikes Truck Lines in Hope, and is a transportation safety consultant.

Watson and his wife, July, currently reside in Hope and are the parents of two adult children. He is a member of the Hope Kiwanis Club, Hope/Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce, Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the board of Southwest Arkansas Developmental Housing, Inc.