Friday, June 10, 2011

EDITORIAL >>What Darr doesn’t know

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr wanted us all to know this week that he is still planning to sue the federal government to prevent it from implementing the health-insurance reform law in Arkansas just as he promised in his campaign last year. Whether you are for or against him on that exercise, there is no reason to get excited. It is a fool’s errand, as good minds have told him, and nothing will come of it.

Darr as yet does not know what the health-insurance law does, although it has been two years since it passed. This week, he still thought that the law would force him to help the employees at his pizza parlors in northwest Arkansas buy health insurance, but it won’t.

If he were to somehow succeed, people who have gotten new help paying for their drugs under Medicare since last fall and will get more help each year would go back to paying. They would have to pay for cancer and breast screenings again. Kids would go off their parents’ policies before the age of 26. But it will not happen.

The health-insurance law was terribly unpopular in Arkansas when it passed in 2009. People were told that it was going to slash their Medicare benefits and they were outraged. Polls showed people over 55 opposed it by 3 to 1. Since then, most of them have discovered that none of that was true. Their Medicare coverage is expanding, not shrinking.

But Republicans are suing around the country to get the courts to overturn the law based on a different part of it—the old Republican plan to require people who do not have insurance to buy a private health policy, with government help. That was the Republican plan to achieve universal health coverage in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, the periods when there were drives to expand health coverage. Sen. Barack Obama opposed mandated coverage, but he was persuaded in 2009 that the Republicans were right, that it was the only way to achieve universal coverage without a totally government-run and -paid system like Medicare. So that was made a part of the law in the House and Senate.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said this week that he had told Darr six months ago that contrary to what Darr had thought, the lieutenant governor does not have the authority to sue the federal government, or anyone, in the name of Arkansas taxpayers. And McDaniel was not going to do it himself as the attorney general because it would be both pointless and costly. Other people are suing, so the Arkansas suit would merely be an empty political gesture because the issue would be settled anyway. But Darr wanted to make that political gesture. He is thinking about running for governor in 2014.

Darr said he and the Republican lieutenant governor in Missouri were going to intervene as friends of the court in a lawsuit that is on appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis. McDaniel said he had explained to Darr that he did not have “standing” to do that. Sure enough, a federal judge ruled recently that the Missouri lieutenant governor had no standing to intervene in the case because he had no direct interest in the implementation of the health law.

Darr said he has standing to sue because the law would force him to provide medical insurance for his pizza workers and he does not want to. He says he has about 45 full-time or part-time workers.

But the law would not apply to Darr. As a thousand articles about the law have explained, it exempts employers with fewer than 50 full-time workers. Most employers with more than 50 full-time workers would arrange a policy from an exchange of private insurers in Arkansas and help them pay for it or else pay an extra tax to support the health system.

Darr can continue to leave his workers unprotected forever. Starting in 2014, they would buy insurance themselves from the exchange, with substantial government help, or else pay a fee. But the law won’t cost Mark Darr a dime. His own insurance ultimately should become a little cheaper, when he will no longer have to indirectly subsidize the uncompensated hospital care of people without insurance, but that will be the law’s only effect on him.

But he will get some good publicity when an attorney files an intervention for him. When the judges throw it out or ignore it, no one will pay the slightest attention.

TOP STORY > >Gwatney helps Red Cross

Gwatney Chevrolet in Jack-sonville presented a check for $18,400 to the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas to support disaster-relief efforts in the state. The dealership pledged $100 to the Red Cross for every new vehicle bought in May during the Neighbors Helping Neighbors promotion.

The dealership sold 92 vehicles and pledged $9,200. Gwatney Chevrolet CEO Harold Gwatney matched the amount to bring the donation to $18,400.

“Funds will be designated for tornadoes, floods and fires in the state,” said Leo Perreault, vice chair of American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas.

He said it will include Vilonia, the flooded areas near Pocahontas and individuals who had damages from the high winds.

“The Red Cross is seeing people who are just getting their lives back together,” Perreault said.

Gwatney Chevrolet executive manager Jamie Cobb said the Red Cross can go through reserves during disasters. He said Arkansans have been generous to Gwatney and the dealership wanted to give back to them.

Arkansans wishing to help American Red Cross disaster relief can make donations at or at

TOP STORY > >Funding-issue appeal

Leader staff writer

Will Pulaski County Special School District get its share of $70 million in desegregation money for the upcoming school year?

The latest answer is no as U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ruled Thursday against numerous filings from the county’s three districts to let them at least have the money for the upcoming school year.

For PCSSD, that’s between $17 million and $20 million, including a $2-million payment that was expected later this month.

The district, along with Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts, will appeal. They have signed teacher contacts and prepared 2011-2012 school budgets based on receiving the money.

The Little Rock School District had filed a motion with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to have Miller release the money, but the court said recently that it was too early for it to get involved since the districts had appealed directly to the judge.

But now that the judge has stood firm in his ruling, the districts will be looking for the appeals court to side with them.

Little Rock has already re-filed its request with the 8th Circuit to have Judge Miller release the desegregation funds.

Sam Jones, attorney for PCSSD, said the district would file its appeal by Tuesday and expected North Little Rock to do the same.

“If we both get our appeals in, I expect the Eighth Circuit, because it has already seen Little Rock’s request, to rule one way or the other by the end of next week. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’d be surprised if there’s much of a delay,” he said.

The attorney also said the district was working on a number of contingency plans in the meantime. “I know the district is working on a plan A, plan B and plan C and may run out of alphabet letters before this is through,” Jones said.

In his one-page order, Miller said he heard all issues the parties would raise on appeal and fully weighed the positions of the parties before his May 19 ruling.

“Additionally, it is unlikely the school districts will succeed on the merits and no party will suffer irreparable harm if the motions are denied,” Miller said.

In his ruling last month, Miller said the funding had become an impediment to desegregation.

In that May 19 decision, Miller did not remove PCSSD from federal oversight, but did think it made no sense to continue to pay the three districts for their continued desegregation failures.

Jones explained that because Little Rock School District had already been released from federal oversight, it can only appeal the stoppage of the money, while PCSSD can appeal the funding, plus other aspects of Miller’s May 19 ruling that stated the district was not in compliance with required desegregation issues.

TOP STORY > >PCSSD takes another hit

Leader staff writer

The president of the Pulaski County Special School District Board, Bill Vasquez, told a legislative panel Friday morning that the school board should be dissolved—including his position.

Shortly after that, the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee approved a motion by its co-chairman, Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, to recommend that the state education commissioner, Dr. Tom Kimbrell of Cabot, remove the school board. The motion passed unanimously.

Pritchard made the motion at the end of a hearing in which he and other legislators expressed frustration with district officials’ evasive answers to their questions and continued financial irregularities.

“We just get the same lip service, ‘We’re going to do it, we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it,’ and nothing happens,” Pritchard said.

But despite the outcry from the legislative group, there will be no dismembering of the board overnight. Kimbrell is out of town, and although staff members have briefed him, a spokesman said he would take a deliberate look before acting on the panel’s decision.

The legislative recommendation, in the form of a resolution, is outside the normal process for abolishing a local school board. But Seth Bromley, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Education, said Kimbrell will take the legislative audit group’s suggestion very seriously.

But Bromley explained that because the district is already under fiscal distress and under state oversight, the EducationDepartment could dismiss the board at anytime, with or without the backing of the legislative group.

The ADE can also fire the superintendent, consolidate the district or completely take over the district.

“Generally, a district has a two-year window after it goes into fiscal distress to get its house in order,” Bromley told The Leader. “But the state can come in at anytime during that period.”

Superintendent Dr. Charles Hopson said it was his job to continue to move the district forward. He said any state action is outside his control.

Hopson said after the hearing that he believes the district has made improvements.

“I’ve seen some progress, but evidently it hasn’t been swift enough,” he said.

“We can’t sit and wait for the state to make a decision. We have to make it for them by doing what is right, and that’s trying our best to catch everything. We are not going to be at 100 percent, but we have addressed most of the issues the panel was concerned with,” Hopson told The Leader.

He admitted that it may not be fast enough for the legislators.

“However, we have been working at a break-neck speed the past 10 months trying to right 10 years of wrongs. It’s not a neat, tidy job. We are having to wrestle with a lot of things. But our progress is evident,” Hopson insisted.

He said that since the district is in fiscal distress, it has been working closely with Kimbrell’s staff. “Our actions are very open and visible to them.”

The Pulaski County Special School District, the state’s third largest with about 17,000 students, is classified as fiscally distressed, which gives the education commissioner authority to remove the board. He also could remove the superintendent, though that was not part of the recommendation.

If the district does not get removed from fiscal-distress status within two years, it must be consolidated or annexed to one or more neighboring district.

The state Board of Education does not have to wait two years to take that action, however.

The legislative panel made the recommendation to remove the PCSSD board because of audit findings that lawmakers said have not been adequately addressed.

Hopson said the improvements are evident, but admitted that distractions have slowed progress.

Those distractions include U.S. District Judge Brian Miller’s ruling not to release the county district from federal monitoring, but to go ahead and instantly cut off its share of nearly $70 million in desegregation funding, and an alleged bribery scheme involving two members of the school board and a resulting $5 million lawsuit filed by one member against another.

Board member Tom Stuthard, who has been on the board nine months, called the panel’s recommendation “sensible” and said Hopson and other district officials should be removed as well. He said his experience on the board has been so frustrating that he has come close to quitting.

“There’s no accountability from the custodian up to the superintendent,” he said.

SPORTS>>Bruins take another win at Dupree

Special to The Leader

The Sylvan Hills A Bruins held off a late comeback by Jacksonville Gwatney to post a 7-6 win at Hickingbotham Field Thursday night.

Sylvan Hills took control early with three runs in the first, and four more in the second inning. JD Miller was the only Bruin to get a hit and score in the game.

Brandon Baioni scored twice, once after reaching on a dropped third strike and another in the second after reaching on an error.

“We couldn’t do anything early in our junior game,” said Jacksonville coach BobHickingbotham. “Too many walks, too many errors and we weren’t hitting like we can.”

Hunter Hesle p reached on an error in the first and scored on a single by Chase Imhoff. The second inning began with Jacob White, Reid Fawcett and Marcus Long each walking and coming around to score. Miller and Imhoff were hit by pitches in the inning.

Jacksonville’s lone hit through the first four innings came on Alex Broadwell’s double in the first inning. The rally in the fifth and final inning began thanks to a single by Derek St. Claire to start the inning. Walks to Levi Moler, Josh Cook, Troy Allen and James Tucker, along with a single by Broadwell, helped Gwatney come storming back. The comeback fell just short with a strikeout and fly out to end the game.

Roberts started on the hill for Sylvan Hills and picked up the win with four very strong innings. Fawcett led the offense with a double, two walks and two runs. Broadwell was 2 for 3 for Jacksonville with a double.

SPORTS>>Centennial grinds out tough win

Leader sports editor

The Cabot senior American Legion team turned a great performance at the plate to pick up a good win Wednesday, beating the Conway Cougars 8-3 at the Brian Conrade Sports Complex.

The hosting Centennial Bank squad tallied 11 base hits from nine different batters to get the win and improve to 3-4 on the season. Dustin Morris and Jordan Castillow led the way with two hits apiece. Both of Castillow’s knocks went for extra bases, one a double and another a home run, while Morris’ two singles garnered a team-high three RBIs.

Cabot didn’t take the lead until the fourth inning of the seven-inning game.

Kyle Kaufman started on the mound for Centennial Bank and turned in a good performance. He gave up just four hits and two earned runs in his three-and-two-thirds innings on the mound. He gave way to reliever Jeff Brown, who shut the Cougars down for the rest of the game. He threw three and a third innings of no-hit ball, striking out six, while his teammates rallied to take the lead and get the win.

Cabot’s class AA team was also in action Wednesday, and is still looking for its first winof the season. It fell 8-2 at Hot Springs Lakeside in yet another road game, to fall to 0-4. The team picked up seven base hits, including two by Hayden Vinson and a triple by Grayson Cole that drove in Cabot’s two runs. It failed, however, to manufacture runs when it had other opportunities.

Head coach David Smith’s AA squad has only played one home game so far, and won’t play another one until it hosts Lake Hamilton on June 20.

Next week is a busy one for the Cabot programs. The junior and senior teams host Jacksonville at Brian Conrade Sports Complex, while the AA team plays at Heber Springs on Monday. Tuesday, the junior team hosts a doubleheader against Sheridan, while the AA and senior teams begin play in the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic on Wednesday.

SPORTS>>Home run caps long comeback

Special to The Leader

Gwatney Chevrolet finished off Sylvan Hills 13-12 cleanly and suddenly last night after some drawn-out sloppiness in Legion AAA action Thursday night at Hickingbotham Field.

Trailing 12-10, the Chevy Boys’ Colt Harmon lined a full-count fastball over the right-field fence for a three-run homer with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Kenny Cummings and Patrick Castleberry began the inning with singles through the infield to set up the game-winning blast.

Harmon also picked up the win on the mound, with four innings of scoreless relief. Gwatney’s senior team improved to 3-0 with the win.

A win didn’t seem very possible earlier in the contest when Sylvan Hills took advantage of three hit batters, three walks, four errors and several mental mistakes to score eight runs in the top of the third to take a 12-1 lead. The Bruins also had singles in the inning from Forrest Harrison, Korey Arnold and Corey Jones.

“We just looked awful in that inning,” said Gwatney coach Bob Hickingbotham. “We were dropping easy fly balls in the infield, hitting batters left and right; it was ugly.”

Ryan Brisco and Greg Atcheson were both hit and scored in the second inning, while Connor Eller reached on an error and scored in the first for Sylvan Hills.

Fortunately for Gwatney, Sylvan Hills turned out to be in a giving mood as well in the bottom half of the third.

The Chevy Boys rallied back to score nine runs in the third to cut the deficit to two at 12-10. Gwatney was helped by three walks, a hit batter, three errors, four wild pitches and three passed balls in the marathon inning.

Xavier Brown and Cummings tripled in the inning, while Jesse Harbin doubled and Castleberry had two singles as the offense batted around.

“We made a few fundamental mistakes that will get worked out, but we just didn’t make plays that inning,” said Sylvan Hills assistant coach Bruce Mason. “Jacksonville did what a good team does and they took advantage of that.”

After combining for 17 runs in the third inning, the circus turned back into a baseball game as the two rivals combined for just four hits until the final frame with Harmon’s heroics.

Harmon finished two for three and scored three runs. Castleberry was three for five with three runs, while Cummings was two for five with a triple and a pair of runs. Alex Tucker and Nick Rodriguez also singled in the win.

Sylvan Hills was led by Korey Arnold, who went two for five with a pair of runs. Harrison, Aaron Sarna, Corey Jones, Atcheson and Dalton Freeling each had a single for the Bruins. Nine Bruins were hit by a pitch.

SPORTS>>Cabot juniors beat Gwatney

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s Centennial Bank junior class team got another win Tuesday on the road at Jacksonville.

Cabot started slow, not getting a base hit until the third inning, but came alive from that point to wrap up a 7-4 victory over the Gwatney Chevrolet team.

The first hit for the visiting team was a good one, a line drive down the right-field line by Devin Burke that turned into a two-RBI, inside-the-park home run.

An error, a fielder’s choice and walk put two more on in the inning, and a single to right by Drake Burroughs brought both base runners home to give Cabot a 5-1 lead.

Jacksonville took the early lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning. A single to left field by Trevor Ransom drove home leadoff hitter Josh Cook.

After falling behind in the top of the third, the Chevy Boys added a run in the bottom of the same frame on an RBI, sacrifice fly by Alex Broadwell. That made it 5-2, but Cabot wasn’t finished.

In the top of the next frame, Tristan Bulice singled, Burke walked and Nick Thomas got a two-RBI single to right to make it 7-2.

Jacksonville mounted a rally in the bottom of the last inning, due largely to mistakes in the field by Cabot.

Troy Allen got a leadoff walk and back-to-back infield errors allowed Jacksonville to score a run. A second run came in on a wild pitch, but it was all the home team could muster.

Ransom went 2 for 3 forJacksonville and was the only player in the game with multiple base hits. Andrew Tucker was the only other Gwatney player to get a base hit off Bulice, who went the distance, giving up just three hits, two earned runs while striking out four and walking four.

Austin Allen also went the distance on the mound for Jacksonville. He gave up only five hits, six earned runs, striking out and walking three.

Cabot improved to 4-4 with the win while Jacksonville fell to 4-5 while Cabot improved to 3-4.

SPORTS>>Yagos grooming more winners

Leader executive editor

Bob and Val Yagos, former owners of Archarcharch, winner of the Arkansas Derby, say they’re grooming future thoroughbred champions now that their colt is living in retirement and siring dozens of offspring.

The Yagoses sold Archarch-arch for $1.1 million after a career-ending injury at the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

They almost sold him in February, before he won the Arkansas Derby to qualify for the “fastest two minutes in sports.”

Someone in Great Britain purchased Archarcharch with plans to run him in the Dubai circuit, but deadlines couldn’t be met and Val Yagos had a last-minute, and fortuitous, change of heart.

With the post-prize-winning sale, they have retained some breeding rights to the horse’s offspring, allowing them to take up to five horses a year. Some of them should turn into winners, they said.

The Jacksonville couple were guests at a reception Thursday evening at the home of Larry and Wendy Wilson.

Mayor Gary Fletcher de-clared June 9 to be Bob and Val Yagos Day in Jacksonville.

Terry Wallace, the longtime announcer at Oaklawn Park, recreated the highlights of the Arkansas Derby on April 16:

“Here they come into the stretch, and it’s Sway Away, who comes up to take charge now along the inside, Dance City second. Archarcharch— here comes the local guy on the outside. The leader is Sway Away.

“Here is Archarcharch trying to win one for the locals. And it is Archarcharch having to hold off Nehro at the wire. “Archarcharch the winner of the Arkansas Derby by a head and Nehro was second.”

Archarcharch won the Ark-ansas Derby by a neck over Nehro.

Archarcharch won the Southwest Stakes before that, making him the only horse in the Kentucky Derby with two grade- stakes victories. The horse won $750,000 in those two races.

“He was the second-leading earner going into the Kentucky Derby,” Bob Yagos said.

“He took us to a lot of places,” he continued. “He has an amazing fan base.”

For what started out as a hobby 20 years ago, the Yagoses said they’d done well and appreciate the fan support in Arkansas.

Archarcharch drew the dreaded inside starting position at Churchill Downs, and struggled in the Kentucky Derby.

He was bumped out of the starting gate, causing rider Jon Court’s saddle to slip. Soon after, he was bumped again and somewhere in the fray, suffered a fracture on his front leg that required surgery.

William (Jinks) Fires, Arch-archarch’s trainer, and his brother Mannie, who is also a trainer, attended the reception at the Wilsons’.

Court is Jinks’ 50-year-old son-in-law.

“We appreciate everyone in Arkansas who has been behind us,” Bob Yagos said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Larry Wilson said it was an extraordinary experience to see an Arkansas horse at the Kentucky Derby and this was perhaps the only time he would honor the winner of the Arkansas Derby from Jacksonville.

Bob Yagos said he expects more winners in the next few years.

SPORTS>>Grand slam aids Gwatney

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville senior American Legion team has been slow out of the gate, but not in terms of wins and losses, in terms of simply getting on the field. The older Gwatney Chevrolet team played just its second game of the season Tuesday night, and got its second lop-sided victory, beating visiting Cabot 10-1 at Dupree Park.

The sparse schedule so far has allowed Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham to throw his ace Jesse Harbin in both outings. Combined with good hitting, the team has hit a good stride early and scored a lot of runs.

“They’ve just picked up right where they left off in high school and are just playing outstanding,” Hickingbotham said. “Having a bunch of kids who want to be out here and know what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re out here, wanting to get better, that’s what’s carrying us. They’re swinging the bats really well, they’re not making many mistakes. I’m very pleased with how they’re started.”

Nearly the entire lineup is made up of players from the JHS’ Class 6A state-championship team. It played last night’s game with nine players from JHS, one from Parkview High and one from Greenbrier. Another player who is moving up from Magnolia, who played on that school’s Class 5A state-championship team, will join the team later this week.

“It does help having players who are all familiar with each other,” Hickinbotham said. “We’re playing a little bit out of position right now because we’re a little bit shorthanded, but I’m well pleased so far.”

Jacksonville set the tone on the first pitch when Jacob Abrahamson drove it deep over the wall in straightaway centerfield. The next three batters went down in a row, but Jacksonville’s big inning was the second.

Colt Harmon got things rolling with a leadoff double to center, and Alex Tucker singledto the same spot. Harmon scored on the next at bat when Nick Rodriguez doubled down the right-field line, and Xavier Brown walked to load the bases. That brought up Chris McClendon, who provided the highlight of the game when he muscled an inside pitch over the fence down the left-field line for a grand slam.

Abrahamson walked and scored on an RBI double by Kenny Cummings. Cummings then scored on a sacrifice fly by Patrick Castleberry to complete the scoring and give Jacksonville an 8-0 lead.

Cabot got on the board in the top of the next frame when Matt Evans’ single to center scored Bryson Morris, who had walked to start things off.

Gwatney added two more runs in the fourth off four base hits. Abrahamson doubled and Cummings singled to start the rally. Castleberry and Jesse Harbin followed up with RBI base hits to cap the scoring in the game.

Harbin started on the mound for Jacksonville and went the distance. He gave up just two hits and struck out 10 Cabot batters, but walked three and hit three and had to work out of jams throughout the game.

Jacksonville picked up 11 base hits in the five-inning affair. Abrahamson and Cummings led the way with two apiece. Abrahamson, Cummings, Castle-berry, Harmon, Rodriguez and McClendon all had extra base hits in the win.

On Thursday the Jacksonville senior team began a portion of the schedule that will make the slow start a distant memory. It plays 10 games in 11 days, beginning with this past Thursday’s matchup at home against Sylvan Hills. The Gwatney team plays today at Russellville, Sunday at home against Searcy, Monday at Cabot, Tuesday at home against Benton, and Wednesday begins play in the Sheridan Wooden Bat Classic that runs through next Saturday.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

SPORTS>>North Pulaski recommends Crossett AD

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski High School is a step closer to hiring its third head football coach in as many years. On Monday, the North Pulaski football-coach search committee, led by athletic director Tony Bohannon and consisting of other NP administrators, recommended Teodis Ingram for the job.

Bohannon notified Pulaski County Special School District of the recommendation Monday morning, and a decision should be forthcoming in about a week.

Ingram is currently athletic director at Crossett High School, where he also spent nine years as head football coach for the Eagles, his tenure running from 1999 to 2007.

Ingram has 25 years of head-coaching experience in Arkansas, and has compiled a 141-120 overall record at Hermitage, Stamps and Crossett.

He went 61-45 10 years at Hermitage, 33-28 in six seasons at Stamps and 46-47 at Crossett.

He started a rebuilding process when he took over for the Eagles in 1999. His best season at the higher level was 2003, when he led Crossett to a 12-1 record and a berth in the Class AAAA semifinals, where the team suffered its only loss of the season.

He led the Eagles to the playoffs four times in his tenure.

Ingram sent five players to Division I college programs while at Crossett, and 15 others to DII programs.

SPORTS>>Jacksonville wins pool, gets runner up

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville junior American Legion team had a successful weekend hosting its own Gwatney Invitational. The Chevy Boys won its pool outright with wins Friday and Saturday, but ultimately fell 4-1 to Sylvan Hills in the championship game.

The young Gwatney team didn’t hit the ball particularly well, but still managed a tournament-high 20 runs in the three-game event, including 19 in its two pool games.

It’s best offensive game was the first one. Jacksonville got 11 base hits in an 11-4 victory over Rosebud on Friday.

The first five batters in the Gwatney lineup combined to go 11 of 15 at the plate. Alex Broadwell led the way with a 3-3 performance including a double. Austin Allen went 2 for 3 and had an RBI triple.

Derek St. Clair got the win on the mound.

In game two on Saturday, Gwatney got just five hits, but scored eight runs with patience at the plate, as well as opponent miscues in an 8-2 win over Benton’s Everett Sports Shop.

The big inning in that one was the third. Already holding a 2-0 lead, Gwatney got six runs off three hits, three walks and two hit batters to take a commanding lead.

Two Benton errors put two Jacksonville runners on base to start the inning. Tyler Mogish and Andrew Tucker then drew walks to drive in a run. Logan Kelusa and St. Clair followed that up with back-to-back RBI singles. Troy Allen was hit by a pitch and James Tucker got an RBI base hit to drive in the fifth run of the frame. A sacrifice fly by Trevor Ransom capped the scoring in the inning.

James Tucker started on the mound and picked up the win.

Broadwell did a good job in the title game of keeping the ball out of play. He gave up just four hits, but walked seven, taking the loss against Sylvan Hills.

After a good outing at the plate in Friday’s game, and a decent outing Saturday, the Jacksonville bats were very quiet in the championship game.

“We hadn’t hit the ball well, but we’ve gone up there and taken what the pitchers are giving us,” Jacksonville coach David St. Clair said. “If he wants to plunk us with one, we’ll take that. If he wants to throw us four balls, we’ll take it. We’ve been pretty patient and been able to get base runners. You need that until the hitting comes along.”

With a roster of players largely unfamiliar with each other, continued improvement is the theme as Jacksonville moves forward.

“They’re young and they’re getting better,” St. Clair said. “They’re coming together as a team. They hadn’t played much together. They’re scattered around from different schools, just now getting to know each other. We’re still piecing it together with our defense, figuring out who’s going to contribute where, but we’re getting there.”

Jacksonville played Cabot at home last night in a doubleheader with the senior team. They will join Sylvan Hills on the field again Thursday, also at Dupree Park.

This time it will count as on the zone record and impact seedings for postseason play.

SPORTS>>Base paths fatal to Cabot victory

Leader sports editor

A series of strange and similar errors by Cabot’s senior American Legion team aided Continental Express of Little Rock to an 8-7 win Monday night in Cabot. The hosting Centennial Bank squad committed six errors, all of which were throwing errors on the base paths, to help set up the visiting team’s win.

Little Rock picked up just four hits to Cabot’s eight, but several walks and hit batters, combined with the throwing miscues, led to the final result.

Cabot coach Jay Darr said unfamiliarity with positions some players haven’t played in a long time led to some of the mistakes.

“We have guys coming back from college, or just haven’t played in a while, and they’re trying to play positions they haven’t played in, in some cases, over a year,” Darr said. “Once we get used to things and used to each other, things will start to turn around.”

Express jumped out to a big lead in the first two innings, scoring three in each frame and threatening to blow things open. Cabot chipped away, and twice cut the margin to one, but never could tie or take the lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, Cabot’s bats came alive and Centennial scored four runs. It started with a leadoff double down the right-field line by eight-hole hitter Jordan Castillow.

Darr exhorted his team after the hit, and Cabot began its first rally.

“We have some guys on this team who are relatively strong for this level,” Darr said. “They approach the batter’s box wanting to pull the ball and hit it out of the park. Right before Castillo went up there and did that, we talked about changing our approach at the plate and getting base hits. They went out there and did that.”

Justin Goff came up two outs later to extend the Cabot rally. With Castillo still lingering on base, Goff singled to center to drive him home.

Matt Evans then singled to right, and the base runners advanced to second and third when Continental’s right fielder misplayed the ball and allowed it to get past him.

Brandon Surdam stepped to the plate and hit a two-run triple over speedy centerfielder Ivan Tate’s head, and the Cabot squad was back in the game. Surdam then scored on an RBI single by Tyler Erickson to cap the rally.

Continental added a run in the fifth to make it 7-4, but the home team scored two in the bottom of the next frame to cut the margin to one run.

Bryson Morris got a leadoff walk and scored two batters later when Matt Evans hit a triple deep into the alley in left-centerfield. Evans scored a few pitches later on a wild pitch.

In the top of the final inning, Tate led off with a base hit for Continental Express.

While attempting to steal second, the throw sailed into centerfield and the Little Rock speedster trotted to third. A few pitches later, a wild pitch allowed Tate to score and give his team an 8-6 lead.

Cabot had a rally going in the bottom of the inning with runners on the corners and one out, but a base-running blunder led to an out on the base paths.

A run scored on the play to make it 8-7, but Cabot couldn’t get another base runner to continue the rally.

The game was not a zone game and won’t count towards postseason seedings, but it did drop Cabot to 2-2 on the season.

Earlier in the evening, the Centennial junior team beat Continental Express’ junior team 4-3. Tristan Bulice led the charge for Cabot, going 2 for 3 at the plate, including a triple and two RBIs.

He also scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the fourth. With the game knotted at 3 apiece, Bulice hit the triple to the power alley in left-center. He scored on the next at bat when Little Rock’s shortstop failed to handle a ground ball. The Cabot junior and senior teams traveled to Jacksonville last night after The Leader’s deadline. They will also play tonight at home against the Conway Cougars

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills takes honors at Gwatney tournament

Leader sports editor

None of the six teams in the Gwantey Chevrolet Junior Division Invitational Tournament escaped without a loss, but there was a clear winner. The Sylvan Hills Bruins beat the hosting Jacksonville squad 4-1 in the championship game Sunday evening to earn the first-place plaque.

All three teams in Sylvan Hills pool, which included Sheridan and North Little Rock, finished 1-1 in their roundrobin. Sylvan Hills won the tiebreaker by allowing the fewest runs of the three teams.

The Bruins had just one bad inning all weekend, and it cost them a win against Sheridan. Leading 3-1 heading into the final inning, Sylvan Hills gave up three runs without recording an out to drop the Saturday-afternoon affair in sweltering heat.

Other than that one inning, Bruins’ coach Chris Foor was very pleased with his team’s performance in the tournament.

“I thought overall we really played well,” Foor said. “Our pitching did very good. Our young pitching really stepped up.”

The Bruins started the tournament Friday night with a 12-8 win over North Little Rock. The Colts out hit the tournament winners 12-8, but the Bruin pitching got out of several jams to preserve the victory.

The Sheridan game was a pitchers’ duel. Sylvan Hills got just three hits in the game, while Bruins hurler Cody Hattabaugh was outstanding on the mound. He gave up a hard double to the first batter he faced, and nothing but a blooped infield single two batters later for the rest of his time on the mound. He went five innings, giving up just the two hits. He threw four straight no-hit innings from the second through the fifth, gave up just one unearned run and struck out eight batters while walking none.

Connor Poteet was almost as good in the championship game Sunday.

He gave up just two hits and struck out 10 Gwatney batters, but struggled with control at times. He walked six and hit two. Sylvan Hills didn’t get a lot of base hits in the tournament, but did show signs that the bats are getting better.

“It’s going to take time to get the timing down, but if you saw from game one to where we are now, it’s starting to come around. We’re making solid contact and those balls will start falling in for hits later in the year.”

For such a young team with little experience at this level, Foor believes winning the Gwantey Invitational means more than just another plaque for the trophy case.

“I think at such an early age, all the success we can get them, is teaching them how to win.”

The tournament left Sylvan Hills with a record of 5-3.

SPORTS>>Beebe squad earns top shot

Leader sports editor

Unexpected pressure, unprecedented exposure and unforgiving elements weren’t enough to unsteady the rock- solid Beebe Blue Rock Blasters shooting team, the Mavericks, this past weekend. The Mavericks out-shot 420 other teams Friday and Saturday at Remington Gun Club to bring home first place in the fifth annual Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports State Final in Lonoke.

John Hall, Darren Newell, Dustin Jeffress, Buck Henry and Drew McVey made up the five-man Beebe squad, which entered the tournament as a No. 2 seed from its region. The team won six team matches en route to a championship round win over No. 1 seed Huntsville.

On their way to the championship round, the Mavericks had to get past overall No. 1 seed Harrisburg, and did so by hitting 118 of 125 targets to beat the talented Hornets by one target.

The first round brought some unexpected attention, and maybe some added pressure, as the ShootingNetwork.TV webcast team arrived to film Beebe’s opening round.

The shooters didn’t find out about the film crew’s planned attendance until they stepped to the line to begin competition.

“We (the coaches) knew about an hour ahead of time and decided not to let them know until they walked up to the line,” Maverick coach Mike Jeffress said. “We just told them to go up there, shoot at the targets like they always do and you’ll be fine. That’s what they did.”

Despite the added distraction of a TV crew, the Beebe team hit 111 targets to advance to the second round.

Each round saw Beebe’s score go up until the semifinal round, when only four teams were left standing.

The third round saw the Mavericks hit 114 targets, they hit 115 in the fourth round before the outstanding round of 118 in the quarterfinals that beat Harrisburg.

In their final-four match, the Mavericks hit just 109 targets, not their best, but still good enough to beat Corning’s 107 and advance to the championship round.

Again in the final round, web-TV crews and news cameras on hand, the teams were informed they would be shooting at special, handmade targets that would explode with colors when hit, to make for better TV viewing.

Huntsville won a coin toss and elected to go first. They put the pressure on the Beebe team, tying the Mavericks’ second-best outing of the day, and beating their previous round’s score by six targets.

Unfazed, the Mavericks took their positions and hit 117 targets to take the title.

Jeffress said the shooters did a great job of staying relaxed throughout the event.

“They said they were a little nervous for about the first 10 shots of the first round, but after that they settled down. They said they were more anxious with each round, but not really nervous. They were just anxious to start competing.”

The win didn’t just come with a trophy. Each team member also received a $1,500 scholarship to any state college, and a duck hunting trip in the fall. The Mavericks also earned the right to represent Arkansas in the national competition later this year in Sparta, Ill.

ShootingNetwork.TV will begin airing the competition on June 6. For more information on broadcast times, visit the Shooting Network website.

OBITUARIES >> 6-15-11


Dorothy Rose, 82, of Ward died Sunday, June 12. She was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, and attended Calvary Pentecostal Church.

Dorothy was preceded in death by her parents, William and Nora Wilson; one sister, Wilma Narramore, and two brothers, William and Clay Wilson. She is survived by her husband, Darrell Rose; sons, Wilber Joe and his wife Wilma Tomblinson and Paul and his wife Phyllis Tomblin-son, both of Ward; one granddaughter, Terry Davis, and four siblings, Paul Dean and his wife Sandra Wilson, Wayne and his wife Kathy Wilson, Kenneth and his wife Valerie Wilson, and Peggy Wilson.

Visitation will be from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Funeral services will be 2 p.m. Thursday, June 16 at Calvary Pentecostal Church in Beebe with burial in Carter Cemetery in Russell.

Arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home.


Mary Frances Davis, 94, of Beebe passed away June 12. She was born Aug. 7, 1916, in Sylvania to the late Frank and Lucy Ragland Blackwood and was a member of Beebe First United Methodist Church.

Frances was preceded in death by her husband, Everett; daughter, Becky; parents; sister, Anna Lee Wilson, and four half brothers. She is survived by her son, Ronnie Lynn Davis, and a niece, Frances Jenkins.

Visitation will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 15 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe, with funeral service to follow at 2 p.m. with burial in the Beebe Cemetery.

Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


Ada S. Mathis, 90, of Beebe died June 14. She was preceded in death by parents, Albert and Lucy Sweeten, and her husband, Denzil. Ada is survived by numerous nieces and nephews and a sister-in-law, Nell Sweeten.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe, and funeral service at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 16 at Westbrook Chapel with burial in Union Hill Cemetery.

Arrangements are by Westbrook Funeral Home.


Bro. Milburn Doyle Spence, 82, of Cabot passed away June 14.

He was born Dec. 15, 1928, in Sylvania to the late Earl and Cynthia Spence.

Bro. Spence attended seminary school from 1954-1955. He retired from Associated Milk Producers Inc. after working there for 35 years. He was a long-time minister in the Cabot, Austin and Ward area. He loved to hunt birds and deer and go fishing. He also loved working on his farm.

He was also preceded in death by two sisters, Dorothy and Willie Ann.

He is survived by two daughters, Lori Barger and her husband Steve of Ward and Lisa Moore and her husband Duane of Cabot; one sister, Joyce White and her husband T.C. of Carlisle; four brothers, Guy Spence of Cabot, Earl K. Spence and his wife Alice of Austin, James Lon Spence and his wife Marilyn of Austin and Jerry Spence and his wife Pearl of Cabot, and two grandchildren, along with many other family members and friends.

The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 16 at Sylvania Presbyterian Church with visitation prior to services at 9 a.m. Internment will be at Sylvania Cemetery in Ward.

The family would like to thank Sheila and the staff at Cabot Nursing and Rehab for the excellent care given to Milburn.

Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Stanley Frederick Kuczynski, 67, of Jacksonville passed away June 8.

He was born Feb. 15, 1944, in New York City to the late Stanley Joseph Kuczynski and Mae Kuczynski.

He was a member at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church. He was retired from the Army Air National Guard. He served two tours during Vietnam and was a recruiter and combat-skills instructor at Camp Robinson. He was also a social worker with Youth Challenge at Camp Robinson.

He loved bicycling and music. He was a very loving husband, father and grandfather. He was also the loving owner of his dog Pepper.

He is survived by his loving wife, Nora Kuczynski; two stepchildren, Sheila Brown and her husband Richard Lamson, and William Brown and his wife Lisa; two sisters-in-law, Anita Plant and Linda Miller, and four grandchildren, Robert Kennedy, Kaitlyn Brown, Shelby Brown and Austin Brown.

Visitation will be from 5 to 7 p.m. with a Rosary at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 16 at the church.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. Friday, June 17 at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church with Father Andy Smith officiating. Interment will follow in Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock, with full military honors.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Barbara Jean Nowicki, 77, of Jacksonville passed from this life June 13. She was born in Sept. of 1933, in Lombard, Ill., to the late Harry and Helen Jacobi.

Barbara was married to Ret. Master Sgt. Ted Nowicki for 50 years. They spent their lives around the military together and traveled all over the world.

She is survived by three daughters, Susan Riley and her husband Mike of Horseshoe Bay, Texas, Kathy Gilboe and her husband Ed of Jacksonville and Eileen Carr and her husband Al of McKinney, Texas; six grandchildren, Michael and his wife Kim, Kevin and his wife Beth, Cyndi and her husband Geoff, Jessica and her husband Jeremy, Robby and Christopher; great-grandchildren, Aiden, Alexa, KJ, Blake and Cole; one sister, Jo Anne; one brother, John, and a host of other relatives and friends.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 18 at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Jacksonville. A visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, June 17 at the church with a Rosary at 7 p.m. Interment will be in Santa Fe, N.M.

A separate memorial will be held in Santa Fe, N.M., at a later date. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society or to the charity of your choice. Arrangements are by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Russell Lee Teasley, 75, of Cabot passed away on June 11 at Spring Creek Health and Rehab.

He was born Aug. 4, 1935, in Corning to the late James Burton and Fannie Gage Teasley.
Russell is survived by his wife Bess Bain Teasley. He was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Otis, Everett and Jewell Teasley, and three sisters, Eileen Avery, Nettie Crockett and Delsie Rawe. He is survived by numerous nieces and nephews, extended family and his friends and caretakers at Spring Creek Health and Rehab.

Russell served in the Air Force from 1957 until 1965.

A memorial service will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 25 at Spring Creek Health and Rehab. Interment will be in Loretto, Tenn. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Spring Creek Health and Rehab, 804 North 2nd Street, Cabot, Ark. 72023 to assist with his financial obligations.
Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Herman “Ted” Camp, 70, of Jacksonville passed away June 13.

He was a home builder for 40 years. He was an avid fisherman known as “Mr. Crappie”. Ted was a loving and awesome husband, father, brother, papa and friend to all who knew him.

He is survived by his wife, Rebecca Camp of Jacksonville; two daughters, Connie Minix of Clinton and Kellie Rogers of Jacksonville; two sons, David Rogers of Dallas, Texas, and Todd Camp of Fairfield Bay; sister, Bess Davidson and her husband Bill of Floyd, and four grandchildren, Eric, Jordan, Ty and Izzy.

Memorials may be made to Heifer International, 1 World Ave., Little Rock, Ark., 72202.

Arrangements are by North Little Rock Funeral Home and Cremation Service.


Cathy June Watts, 52, of Beebe died Monday, June 13.

She is survived by daughters, Jennifer Smith, Ashley Aragon and Klayia Watts and four grandchildren. A 1 p.m. memorial service is planned for Saturday, June 18 at Cocklebur Baptist Church, Ward.

Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


David Anthony McCullough, 66, of Jacksonville passed away on June 11. He was born Oct. 17, 1944, in Waynesfield, Mo. He was preceded in death by his wife, Patsy McCullough. He is survived by his sister, Becky Drew, of Rolla, Mo.

Arrangements made by Arkansas Funeral Care.

EDITORIAL >>McDaniel grandstands

It seems we have a little problem in the state attorney general’s office. It has become a separate branch of government. It starts its own programs and grows at its own pace, notwithstanding the state Constitution and the fiscal controls that restrict the other agencies of government.

We were reminded of this phenomenon the other day when Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced with great fanfare that he was setting up an office to prosecute Internet sex predators of children and a forensics unit to track child porn on the Internet.

Never mind that local police agencies, the State Police, prosecuting attorneys and the state Crime Laboratory are already involved in child-porn investigation and prosecution. This is a very popular task and any rising politician would want to get in on it if he could. McDaniel is running for governor in 2014.

The legislature never authorized the attorney general to set up such an office and it never appropriated a dime for the purpose, although the state Constitution has said for 135 years that no agency of government can spend a dime without an appropriation by the legislature. A fundamental article of the American division of powers is that the legislative branch of government controls the purse strings. But not now in the case of the attorney general.

Here is how McDaniel has filled bank accounts outside the state treasury with millions of dollars that he can spend as he sees fit, regardless of the Constitution’s prohibition: He gets a court, federal or state, to tell him he can spend money from litigation settlements as he sees fit. The attorney general or his staff typically draws up these consent orders for the judges to sign.

In the latest case, the attorney general sued Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant, for overstating what one of its brain drugs, Zyprexa, would do for patients. Attorneys general from many other states had joined in a big class-action suit that was certain to win, but McDaniel sued separately. That way, the settlement order in Arkansas could be tailored to fit his office’s needs. Lilly settled for $18.5 million with Arkansas, and the consent order signed by the judge said the Arkansas attorney general could use the proceeds as he saw fit. A federal court can override the state Constitution. It is not clear that a state court can.

McDaniel couldn’t spend the whole $18.5 million—the office’s bank accounts were already flush—so he donated a big part of it to the state Medicaid fund and kept much of the rest to grandstand. He set aside $2 million of it for a consumer-education and enforcement fund—where? In his office. And then he set up the Internet porn program.

The legislature, which people elected to do the job, almost surely would have found other uses for the money. It might have been some logrolling project in their communities—a hillbilly music museum, say —but maybe for desperate public-health needs. You have to trust them.

It was not the first time McDaniel used settlement funds for Arkansas people that way. Last year, a settlement with another drug company, Pfizer, Inc., brought in a tide of money, again with a court stipulation that the attorney general could spend it as he chose. The legislature might have weighed the state’s many needs and determined which were the greatest. That’s the historic job of the legislative branch.

But McDaniel announced ceremoniously that he was donating $100,000 to fund an Arkansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial on the Capitol grounds. Is he a hero now to every firefighter and his or her family in the state? You bet. You win elections voter-by-voter and interest group-by-interest group.

McDaniel says he did not choose to skirt the state Constitution. This began with his predecessors some years ago when state attorneys general began to join in class-action suits against corporate predators like the tobacco companies and price fixers. The Arkansas officials began to have the settlement proceeds channeled to their offices rather than to the state treasury for appropriation and distribution. It builds empires and lets politicians do crowd-pleasing things with the public’s money. That is what politicians do.

But it is bad government. The legislature could demand to appropriate settlement funds just as it does all taxes, fees and most of the non-tax receipts of agencies and institutions. Federal courts wouldn’t have to oblige the legislature, but the attorney general might think twice before crafting consent orders that corner the money for his own use.

TOP STORY > >Boozman supports project

Leader staff writer

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) was in Lonoke last week for a briefing on the seven-year, $614 million Bayou Meto Basin project.

Even though Boozman is for limiting federal spending and bringing down the national deficit, he supports funding for the Bayou Meto project. He believes it is a good use of federal dollars; by investing in infrastructure it helps creates jobs and long-lasting economic development for communities. Boozman, who opposes earmarks, said it was important to secure funds for the project near Scott and in Jefferson County.

“Inclusion in the 2012 budget is important, but we don’t need to panic if it doesn’t,” the senator said.

The Bayou Meto Water Man-agement District needs to secure $40 million in federal funding for the 2011 through 2013 fiscal years and needs to be included in President Obama’s 2013 fiscal year budget for the next phase of construction on the Bayou Meto project.

The funding is needed to construct the second portion of the project.

The three-year plan includes building an inlet channel from the Arkansas River to Pump Station 1 in Scott, an outlet from a water reservoir next to the pump station to a water canal, the construction of three canals to deliver water to farms in Lonoke, Prairie, Jefferson and Arkansas counties and installing an electrical substation and transmission lines.

Boozman said the challenge in Washington is with the trillion-dollar debt.

“Forty cents of every dollar is borrowed money,” Boozman said.

Boozman complimented the Bayou Meto Water Management District. He said it is doing a tremendous job coordinating a great plan.

“These things don’t happen. It is a lot of hard work,” he said.

Federal funding for all of the Bayou Meto Water Management District’s projects came from earmarks, which are legislative allocations of federal money for specific projects.

Boozman said the Bayou Meto Basin project is getting national attention as other areas in the country look for ways to conserve water.

The Bayou Meto board of directors is concerned about the future of earmarks and the limited amount of federal funding that will be available for infrastructure projects in fiscal year 2012.

Overall the Bayou Meto Basin project needs an estimated $350 million in federal funding from Congress and $190 million in matching funds from the Game and Fish Commission, local farmers and money borrowed by the Bayou Meto Water Management District for completion.

Construction on the first portion of the Bayou Meto project is under way. A $31 million pump station and its reservoir near Scott will take in water from the Arkansas River. A second $11 million pump station is under construction near Reydall in Jefferson County. The second pump station will pump water flowing downstream from the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area into the Arkansas River.

The Bayou Meto Basin project will help farmers with irrigation by having an alternate water source instead of using wells to pump out water from the depleting aquifer. The project will also improve water management and control flooding in the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area.

TOP STORY > >High school here ranks with Delta

Leader executive editor

Three failing high schools down in the poverty-stricken Delta received multi-million-dollar federal grants last week. So did Jacksonville High School, the only one that’s not in the Delta.

Because it’s the biggest of the schools, Jacksonville received almost $2 million, slightly more than the others.

The four high schools — the others are Helena-West Helena, Marvell and Dollarway — are ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state, which is why they qualified for the school-improvement grants.

This is a grant you don’t want to shout about, but if the schools improve, they’ll qualify for more funding over the next three years.

If Jacksonville does well next year, it could get an additional $1.7 million and $2 million more in 2013, or as much as $5.7 million over three years.

You can buy a lot of bells and whistles with that kind of money, although there’s no guarantee they’ll improve test scores.

The grants will pay for stuff you probably didn’t have when you were in high school: Students will get computers in labs and classrooms, and possibly iPads; campus-wide wireless Internet; Promethian interactive whiteboards; equipment for science labs; recording-studio equipment for band, choir and television-production classes, access to on-campus licensed social workers; credit recovery, and concurrent enrollment with Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock.

The Baptist campus is probably in better shape than Jack-sonville High School. Marvell High School looks better than JHS and even has a nice tennis court.

Jacksonville High is so rundown, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller, in his recent desegregation ruling, called it an impediment to getting a decent education. That’s one of the reasons the judge, a Helena native, wants to keep federal oversight of Pulaski County schools, even though he’s phasing out state desegregation aid to the schools.

You can get a pretty good view of Marvell High driving down Hwy. 49. But don’t go too fast: Marvell’s biggest industry is issuing speeding tickets to out-of-towners.


The levee and the river wall held during last month’s flooding down in Helena. The 11th Delta Family Gospel Festival went on as scheduled a couple of Saturdays ago on Cherry Street, thanks to the Delta Cultural Center and the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

The free festival is on the same stage as King Biscuit, in front of the levee not far from where Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson and others once performed.

The gospel festival last year featured the Mighty Clouds of Joy and Otis Clay. This year, perhaps 250-300 people caught the Grammy Award-winning Mavis Staples, the nation’s greatest gospel-soul singer; the amazing Holmes Brothers, who are also Grammy winners, and the Lee Brothers and their blazing steel guitar.

Staples, who recently won her first Emmy for her “You’re Not Alone” CD, has been performing for 60 years, first with the Staples Singers — her dad Sears Roebuck (Pops) and sisters Cleotha and Yvonne and brother Pervis — and then mostly on her own.

Yvonne sang backup with Mavis in Helena, including such hits as “Wade in the Water,” “Freedom Highway,” “Creep Along Moses,” “Too Close/On My Way to Heaven,” “We Can Make It,” “I Belong to the Band, Hallelujah,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and more.

This was one of the great concerts of the summer, but hardly anyone was there to enjoy it. Even fewer people showed up for Saturday’s Mother’s Best Blues Festival, which was also free, with such veteran soul-blues stars as Lonnie Shields and Bobby Rush.

It’s too bad these concerts aren’t well publicized and attendance is sparse. They’re mini-King Biscuit Festivals before the real thing in the fall.

After a hot, dry summer, the levees should hold till then.

TOP STORY > >Huge award in wreck

By joan mccoy

Leader staff writer

A jury in Lonoke County Circuit Court has awarded a severely brain-injured Cabot woman $17 million for injuries she sustained in 2008 when she hit a dump truck on U.S. Hwy. 67/167.

Almost three years ago, on July 18, 2008, 20-year-old Ariel Anderson had been accepted into culinary school and was working as a waitress at The Olive Garden in North Little Rock.

She was driving south outside Jacksonville between Redmond Road and the I-440 overpass on her way to work when she ran into a dump truck that was entering the outside lane from the median.

The impact tore away more than a quarter of her skull and brain and though she wasn’t expected to live, she did.

Then she wasn’t expected to come out of a coma, but she did. And despite the odds against it, she learned to walk and talk, but the damage to her brain was so severe that all her plans for the future have been set aside and she will always require around-the-clock care. She has undergone several reconstructive surgeries but more are required.

On the day of the accident, there were no signs to alert motorists that dump trucks would be entering traffic from the median. And the asphalt ramp the trucks were using to gain speed was only 200 feet long, so the truck was traveling at about 30 miles an hour when it entered traffic traveling at 65 miles an hour. A road grader was parked beside the end of the ramp which made it almost impossible for the dump-truck driver to see the traffic behind him.

The warning signs went up the next day and the dump-truck company settled out of court for $1.4 million.

Phillip Duncan, from the Duncan Law Firm in Little Rock, represented Anderson and her parents, Kim and Randy Patrick, who have been taking care of her since she was injured.

The suit was filed against the dump truck company as well as Weaver Bailey Construction Co., with 10 of 12 jurors voting to award Anderson the $17 million.

Kim Patrick left her job immediately when her daughter was injured. Chief Master Sgt. Randy Patrick retired recently from the Air Force. He was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he was the commander of the non-commissioned officers.

Duncan said awards that large usually are appealed, but he believes Weaver Bailey Construction will agree to settle for a lesser amount instead.

“We’re in the process of resolving it. The construction company wants to move on,” Duncan said.

Weaver Bailey Construction was represented by Kevin Taylor, a Denver lawyer who specializes in construction zone cases, as well as the Little Rock firm Barber, McCaskill, Jones and Hale.

Anderson was also represented by Jerry Kelly of Lonoke. The case was heard over a two-week period in Judge Sandy Huckabee’s court.

TOP STORY > >PCSSD board is concerned about future

Leader staff writer

A Pulaski County Special School District board member is suing another for $5 million, but the board meeting Tuesday night was focused as members tried to figure out their uncertain future.

And how did they feel about where they were headed?

Dazed and disoriented with the knowledge that an upcoming $2 million desegregation payment may not come their way and could impact the 2011-2012 budget.

Attorney Sam Jones, who is helping the district through its desegregation woes, called the board and the district a “ship in the ditch,” while Superintendent Dr. Charles Hopson made it clear that any failures rest with him.

The board also got a dressing down by Marjorie Powell, with the federal Office of Desegregation Monitoring.

But after nearly 60 minutes, the board came to the quiet consensus that it just didn’t know enough to take any actions regarding U.S. District Judge Brian Miller’s recent ruling to cut off desegregation funding immediately, yet not release the district from federal oversight.

Board president Bill Vasquez told board members to read the judge’s ruling completely and re-familiarize themselves with the district’s Plan 2000 as homework and be ready to move forward in two weeks.

“If we have to meet every week this summer to take care of our obligations to this district and the kids, then that’s what we’ll do,” Vasquez said.

Early in the meeting, Vasquez asked Powell to give the board some insight into what it could do to meet the judge’s ruling.

She did not hold back.

“The problem is with you, the board. You haven’t communicated to your rank and file. You haven’t showed that you are serious,” she said, adding, “You are too heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the district. That’s what you have a superintendent for.”

Powell went on, “Oh, you’d had some good ideas, for a moment or two, but then you’ve gone on to something else.”

She said the judge’s main concern was proof that the district had an atmosphere and commitment to equity.

“The idea of equity can’t be something you look at once and set on the shelf. Every day it has to be something everyone is doing from the board down to the last janitor,” Powell said.

She also chided the district for not giving Dr. Brenda Bowles any line of authority. Bowles is the district’s assistant superintendent for equity and pupil services.

“She can’t make anyone do (what they’re supposed to). That has to change,” Powell said, adding that the district often either was or seemed out of compliance with the federal desegregation orders.

Board member Gwen Wil-liams, who has a $5 million suit against fellow board member Tim Clark for his actions in trying to concoct a story where she took a $100 bribe, agreed with Powell.

“Bowles should be second in line to the superintendent. She needs to have the authority and be allowed to be more involved. She has been ignored by past superintendents,” Williams said.

It had been pointed out at the last board meeting that the three or four areas where the judge said the district was meeting its desegregation goals were areas where Bowles was actively involved.

This is when Hopson said the failure for a positive direction on equity rested with the superintendent. The superintendent needs to be fully committed and give that direction to others.

Powell complimented the superintendent and the board briefly, “You are on target at times, but show no sustaining effort. That’s what the judge wants to see. You need to try better and to show good faith.”

She told the board that the job of the Office of Desegregation Monitoring was just to look at the district’s plan, see if the district is doing what it says and if it is working. Powell said the district needs to set benchmarks and goals for itself. “It can be a one percent improvement or five percent, but you need goals and then work to reach them.”

Vasquez said part of the problem is that three-fourths of the board was fairly new—only Williams and Mildred Tatum have been on the board long enough to understand the history of the district’s desegregation issues.

That’s why he told the board to go home and study up on the district’s desegregation guidelines, Plan 2000, “And let’s see if we are doing the things we said we would do.”

The board has a regular meeting set for next Tuesday and will meet again on desegregation funding and issues the week after.

Vasquez is also hoping the financial pathway will be clearer by then.

Jones told the board that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down the Little Rock School District’s efforts to stay or delay the cut-off of funding as “premature” since the district had also appealed to Miller. “He should make a ruling on that in the next week or so,” Jones said.

Monday, June 06, 2011

SPORTS >> Junior Bruins get zone victory

Leader sports editor

IN SHORT:  Sylvan Hills upped its class A record district record with win on Thursday.

The Sylvan Hills junior team picked up a win Thursday night at home, beating Jacksonville 7-3 in a five-inning affair. The win lifts the Bruins to 3-2  on the season and 1-1 in zone play, as each team prepares for this weekend’s tournament at Jacksonville. It was a pleasing performance for Sylvan Hills coach Chris Foor, who has seen his team improving with each game.

“We’re a very, very young group,” Foor said. “We’re playing against a lot of teams a little older than we are.  We gave up a good lead in our first district game at Cabot, but I thought tonight we showed what we could do.”

Sylvan Hills put four on the board in the first inning with four base hits and a walk. Brandon Baioni, J.D. Miller and Hunter Heslep got things rolling with three-straight, one-out base hits. Cody Hattabaugh then walked and one out later Connor Poteet got an RBI base hit to left field to cap the opening-inning rally.

The Bruins added a run in the second to make it a 5-0 game when T.J. Burrows walked and scored on a hit by Miller.

Jacksonville put together a rally in the top of the third, piling up three runs to cut the Bruins’ margin to just two runs. All three runs came with two outs. Leadoff hitter Josh Cook and Derek St. Clair walked with one out. After a strikeout, Troy Allen and Alex Broadwell got base hits to drive in all remaining base runners and make the score 5-3.

The Bruins didn’t need much time to extend their lead back to four. Heslep got things started with a leadoff base hit. He moved over on a fielder’s choice grounder by Hattabaugh, and scored on a base rap by Imhoff. Imhoff later crossed the plate to set the final margin.

The pitchers settled in at that point and no more runs were scored. Jacksonville threatened in the fifth, getting its first two batters on base with a base hit by Cook and a walk by St. Clair. Closer Marcus Long then got the next two batters swinging, and forced Broadwell into a  ground-out to shortstop to end the game.

“Marcus is just an eighth grader,” Foor said. “He came in and struck out two of three with the bases loaded. He showed a little moxie.”

Charlie Roberts started the game on the mound for the Bruins and got the win. Jacob White stepped in for an inning of solid middle relief.

The junior Gwatney squad dropped to 1-3 with the loss.

Both teams  began tournament play at Dupree Park in Jacksonville last night, and will be in action today and Sunday. Look for detailed coverage of all the action in that tournament in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >> Centennial AA team improving

Leader sports editor

IN SHORT:  The Cabot AA  Legion coach expects his team to grow this season.

The Cabot Centennial Bank class AA baseball team is off to a slow start to the summer season. The team, made up predominantly of players just about to enter high school, is playing at an age disadvantage against most of its competition. The Cabot bunch, which has yet to play a home game, is 0-2 so far early in the season, with losses to Newport and Hot Springs Lakeside.

The good numbers situation left Cabot’s program with enough players to field three teams this year, but a large school district in the AA classification can only play 17-under, while other teams within smaller school districts can play 19-under at the AA level.

Cabot coach David Smith takes that into account, as well as some other factors, when assessing his team’s early-season performance.

“My team is majority kids who will be going into the tenth grade,” Smith said. “We’re going to be playing against teams that are a lot older than us. We’ll be playing some teams that have college players returning to play for them.”

Smith believes there is talent on the team, and that it will have a shot to be successful in its legion zone and possibly into state.

“We’re not yet where we could be,” Smith said. “There are a lot of talented kids in this group. A lot of them didn’t get as many cuts as they could’ve during the high school season because of JV rainouts, or injuries or what have you. But the sky is the limit for this team.”

The off-speed pitching has struggled in the team’s first two games, and errors were a big problem in the season-opening loss to Newport. The defense improved in the second game, and Smith believes that will continue.

“When the only thing you can get across the plate is the fastball, and you’re playing mostly varsity kids and even some college players, they’re going to hit the fastball,” Smith said. “Defensively we haven’t made a ton of errors but we’ve made our share. We cut them down a lot in our second game. So I think once we get going pitching wise, we’re going to be ok.”

The AA team will play its first home game of the season at 1 p.m. today against Heber Springs.

SPORTS >> Cabot legion teams slip past SH Bruins

Leader sports editor

IN SHORT:  Cabot’s American Legion teams picked up two one-run wins over Sylvan Hills Tuesday night in Cabot.

The Cabot Centennial Bank senior and junior American Legion teams got away with two, last-inning, one-run victories Tuesday night over Sylvan Hills at Brian Conrad Sports Complex in Cabot. The senior team eked out a 9-8 victory while the junior team came back from a 6-1 deficit to notch a 7-6 win.

Cabot’s Chip Morris started on the mound and threw four innings of solid ball, but reliever Jeff Brown came in for the final inning to get the win.

Cabot coach Jay Darr was pleased with both his hurlers Tuesday night.

“Chip did well,” Darr said. “He got into a little trouble here and there, but overall I think he did ok. He’s growing up quickly for us.”

Brown has little experience at this level, but the Cabot coach is very excited about the future for Tuesday night’s reliever.

“We’re expecting some big things for Jeff Brown,” Darr said.

Tuesday’s games were played on a time limit due to some players still taking finals over the last week of school, so the last-inning heroics came in the fifth.

After striking out the first Cabot batter of the inning, the Bruin pitching went wild, and the next three batters drew walks from two different Sylvan Hills pitchers.

That brought three-hole hitter Matt Evans to the plate with one out. He lined a single to right-center field to bring home the winning run.

Sylvan Hills got a run for an early lead in the top of the first, but two Cabot runs in the bottom of the inning put the home team on top. After the Bruins tied it in the top of the second, Cabot scored five to take a commanding lead. A walk, two hit batters and three base hits gave the home team a 7-2 lead.
It didn’t last. The Bruins scored four in the third and two in the fourth to take an 8-7 lead.

In all, Cabot picked up eight base hits, including two each from Justin Goff and Tyler Erickson. Erickson had a team-high three RBI in the victory.

The Bruins did Cabot one better in the hits department, tallying nine base knocks. Forrest Harrison, Cody Hattenberg and Chase Imhoff each picking up two hits apiece.

The junior team’s win was even more dramatic. The Bruins jumped out to a3-0 lead in the first inning. Cabot cut into the margin in the second with a single run, but Sylvan Hills answered back with three more in the third to make it 6-1.

After a scoreless fourth and top half of the fifth, Cabot bats came alive. Trent Frizzle got a runner in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.  A base hit and a walk loaded them up with no outs.
Devon Burk then roped a line drive, but roped it right to the Bruin second baseman for the first out. Aaron McKenzie then hit a grounder to second base.

The Bruin second baseman had some trouble scooping it up. The Bruin infield made the play at second, but wasn’t in time to turn the double play while Cabot sent the game winning run across the plate.

Adam Hicks got the win on the mound for the junior Centennial team, which improved to 2-1 on the season. The senior team is now 2-2. Both teams will be in action Monday at home against Little Rock Continental.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville senior team cruises in opener

Leader sportswriter

IN SHORT:  Gwatney piled  up 13 in its opening game Thursday in Sherwood.

Jacksonville’s Gwatney Chevrolet senior American Legion team swarmed Sylvan Hills in its first game of the summer season. Gwatney scored early and never let up, beating the host Bruins Thursday night 13-0 in four innings.

Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham was a bit surprised his team played so well considering it had only practiced together once. With a roster made up largely of members of the class 6A high school state championship team, the performance didn’t come as a total surprise.

“Well they picked up where they left off,” Hickingbotham said. “We’ve only practiced once but we hit the ball pretty well.”

Jacksonville picked up 12 base hits and added six more base runners by drawing walks. Gwatney jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first inning on just three hits, but they were timely hits. Every run in the inning came with two outs. With one out, Kenny Cummings  and Patrick Castleberry walked. Jesse Harbin flew out to center for the second out. Colt Harmon then singled to right to drive in two runs. Xavier Brown walked and consecutive base hits by Alex Tucker and Nick Rodriguez drove home the final runs of the inning.

It got worse for the home team in the second inning. Bruin pitcher Aaron Sarna started the inning with his second straight strikeout, but gave up four straight base hits to Cummings, Castleberry, Harbin and Harmon. All four base runners scored to give Jacksonville a 9-0 lead.

Sylvan Hills almost got something going in the second inning, starting the frame off with back-to-back walks, but Harbin then hit his stride. He gave up a hard line drive to  Chase Imhoff, but Imhoff’s luck was bad and his shot went straight to an awaiting outfielder. Harbin fanned the next two batters to get out of the minor jam.

Sarna did his best work in the third, giving up no hits and striking out two Gwatney batters for a quick inning of work.  The Bruins continued to make good contact off Harbin in the bottom of the third, but couldn’t find the gaps, flying out three straight times.

“Jacksonville’s pitching is good,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Fink said. “Give them credit; they’ve got a good team. We hit the ball and had base runners, we just didn’t find the hit when we needed it. We’ve just got to play more baseball and see more live arm.”

Gwatney added four more runs on four hits and three walks in the third to set the final margin. Harbin finished things off with his best and worst inning of the game. The Bruins finally started finding gaps, getting three base hits in the fourth, but between the hits, Harbin struck out the side to preserve the shutout on the mound.

“He’s throwing really well and he’s knocking the ball around extremely well right now,” Hickingbotham said of his starting pitcher.

The three hits in the final inning cost Harbin a shortened-game no hitter. He walked three and struck out five in the victory.

EDITORIAL >> Bribe plotters should resign

Gwen Williams, a member of the Pulaski County School Board from Jacksonville, filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming that a fellow school board member and a principal had conspired to ruin her reputation with the now-famous video caper of 2010.

We must wait and see if she can prove that she was damaged by the blundering hijinks of the plotters, which according to the prosecuting attorney included Michael Nellums, a principal, and Tim Clark, a Maumelle businessman who is a member of the school board.  But we are convinced that the people most aggrieved by these fatuous and petty men are not Ms. Williams but the children and patrons of the school district who have been mortally embarrassed by the antics of their school leaders. We know of no grounds upon which they might get judicial relief.

When Clark, a bank officer, ran for the school board in 2008, he said he was doing so to raise the image of the school board and the school district. Lord knows they could have used an image makeover even then. But it was soon apparent that he had another singular goal in mind—to end the collective bargaining rights of teachers—and that he would take the schools and the children through any ordeal to achieve it. You may hate unions or love them, but in Arkansas they have little to do with the quality of education or lack of it. Only four or five school districts out of some 250 in Arkansas have collective-bargaining agreements with teachers, and educational achievement there are not close to the bottom.

Gwen Williams was sometimes on the side of the teachers’ bargaining unit and sometimes against it, but she became a target of the Clark faction on the board. In Nellums, who was principal at Jacksonville Middle School Boys then, Clark found an ally in his hatred of unions.

Clark was president last year when the video caper occurred. A video purporting to show someone offering Williams a bribe for her favor on a school contract and her accepting it showed up on Clark’s doorstep before the school elections. He was so shocked! He took it to the school district attorney, who turned it over to the authorities to investigate for criminal wrongdoing. Then it broke into the open. It was bad publicity for Williams, all right, but the thing smelled from the start.

The other shoe fell last month. After a thorough investigation by the sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices, Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said the video was a farce. A couple of Keystone Kops—a buddy of Nellums and a private detective—arranged a meeting in front of Williams’ house and taped it. She was handed $100.

No bribe was offered and none was accepted, Jegley concluded. In fact, he said, no law was broken by anyone, including Nellums, Clark and their two confederates. It was simply a trap to discredit Williams publicly. What they were guilty of in spades, the prosecutor said, was stupidity. He described them as “ridiculous” and “juvenile.”  Those are not adjectives that ordinarily describe educational leaders.

Jegley said the “entire affair is sad and has been a terrible distraction of law-enforcement resources and of a beleaguered school district that has been struggling to improve.” It was, indeed, all of that.
The new school superintendent at least acted appropriately. He suspended Nellums, who was the principal at a suburban Little Rock school. (He lives in Little Rock and last fall he was elected to the Little Rock School Board. So it is a Little Rock School District problem as well. It has some image repair ahead, too.)

Clark insists that he did nothing wrong, that he was not a part of the plot to discredit Williams but an innocent bystander and that he is considering legal action, too, to clear his own name. But the prosecutor’s evidence was that Clark had talked by phone with the other plotters several times, met with them at least once and that he had put up the money for the caper. Nellums isn’t talking.

There is one remedy that would settle all scores. Clark and Nellums should resign from their respective school board positions and apologize for the embarrassment to everyone, including Williams, but foremost the 40,000 school children in two school districts who are their charges.

TOP STORY >> Teen charged as an adult in stabbing death

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: Stephen Cole, 17, admitted to killing a Jacksonville man on May 16.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham on Thursday charged Stephen Earle Cole, 17, of the South Bend community with second- degree murder for the May 16 stabbing death of a 19-year-old Jacksonville man.

Asked Friday why he had decided to charge Cole as an adult since he admitted to stabbing Brandon Scott, Graham said, “Because he’s 17 plus and it’s murder.”

The fight that preceded Scott’s death took place at 240 Rifle Lane near Furlow at the home of Cole’s friend, Katie Phillips. The fight was reportedly the culmination of problems between Cole and Scott over Cole’s former girlfriend who was dating Scott when he was killed.

Scott was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. His body was in the driveway.

Witness affidavits say Scott arrived at Phillips’ home with his friends Kristopher Kyle Setvin and Daniel Gibson and that they wanted to fight.

All witnesses said Scott punched Cole in the face several times and Cole responded by stabbing Scott in the chest several times.

The only discrepancy in the various accounts is that Cole said Scott hit him with a wrench while everyone else said he used his fists.

Cole and all the witnesses were still at the scene when state troopers arrived and took Cole into custody. He has been incarcerated in a juvenile lockup in Batesville since his arrest.

Judge Barbara Elmore set bail at $150,000. He is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m., June 24 for plea and arraignment.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

TOP STORY >> Local students among top in ‘Minds’

Special to The Leader

IN SHORT: Elementary team places fourth overall in international competition.

Sherwood Elementary School’s Odyssey of the Mind educational quiz team placed fourth overall and won first place for style in the international finals at the University of Maryland in College Park on May 25-31.

Sherwood competed against 65 teams from 15 countries.

The team advanced to the finals by winning competitions at the regional and state levels in March and April.

The team created an eight-minute skit called Le’ Tour Guide, which required a long list of elements provided by the judges such as including a tour guide whose character was based on one from classical literature with tourists visiting three locations, two of which had to be real and the third was a mystical place created by the teams.

The teams were also required to include an inanimate object that had to come to life with human characteristics. The contestants were also required to incorporate a guard’s character who is protecting a worthless item. 

The Sherwood team’s tour guide, the Wicked Witch of Waste, mimicked the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.” The witch, portrayed by fourth grader Madison Carroll, led tourists around to some of the filthiest places on Earth, the mouth of the Hudson River and inside a truck stop’s restroom in Grove Hill, Ala.

The tourists were germs who were hired by the witch to dirty every surface they touched.  The germ characters were E. coli by fourth grader Hannah Malone, rhinovirus by fifth-grader Ben Hall, cryptosporidium by fourth- grader Tyler Aaron, and fungus by third-grader Caleb Morris. 

The team’s setting was the witch’s throne room inside her castle, which was called Throtic-kulareverneverringratporkydoor Estates.  As the germs were being led around to the various places, the witch’s sister, the Queen of Clean, was collecting the witch’s trashy treasures and selling them to buy suds and Lysol to destroy the germs. 

The Queen of Clean, played by fifth grader Jade Denson, was being kept away by a guard, played by fourth grader Lily White.

The students were given the required elements for the skit in September and immediately began building their script, sets, props and costumes. The skit was worth 200 points. 

The team was also judged in style, which rewards teams for their creativity in set design, costuming and props.  Style is worth 50 points.

The third area judged is called spontaneous and is worth 100 points. In the spontaneous category, each team is presented with a problem to solve in a matter of minutes.

As team coach, I believe spontaneous is the most difficult of the three events. Quick and creative thinkers are certainly a must for any successful Odyssey of the Mind team.

I began coaching Odyssey of the Mind teams 13 years ago when my daughter, Holly, was a fifth-grade gifted-and-talented student at Sherwood Elementary.

Holly’s Alpha teacher, Ann Alsup, encouraged me to start coaching a team because she felt like Holly and other gifted and talented students at Sherwood Elementary could benefit from the Odyssey of the Mind program. Once I started coaching I couldn’t stop even when Holly was no longer a student at the school.

I also had another coach helping me this year, Melody Morris, a special education teacher at Sherwood Elementary and the mother of one of the team members. I could never thank her enough for everything she has done to help me this year.

Students, parents, businesses, the school district and residents of Sherwood helped the team attend the competition in Maryland by donating the needed funds.

The team would like to thank everyone who donated because the trip would not have been possible without the donations.

TOP STORY >> Technology grant to JHS worth $2M

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT:  Over the next three years, the troubled high school could get as much as $5.7 million if it does well.

Jacksonville High School is the recipient of a $2 million federal school-improvement grant that will be used to promote academic achievement through more technology and professional development for teachers.
The high school is ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state, along with Dollarway, Helena-West Helena and Marvell, which 

also received similar grants.Jacksonville’s grant could be renewed for two additional years if the school uses the money appropriately and has positive results. The school would receive the same amount for the second year and $1.7 million for the third year, said assistant principal Chris Jones.
Jones, with help from Kathy Golf, a grant writer provided by Pulaski County Special School District, composed a plan for improvements last summer. The school didn’t meet the deadline to apply for the grant last year.

Superintendent Charles Hopson said, “We want this school to be one of the premier schools in the state.”

The grant will provide students with electronic devices, campus-wide wireless Internet, Promethian interactive whiteboards, new computers in labs and classrooms, equipment for science labs, recording-studio equipment for band, choir and television production classes, access to on-campus licensed social workers, credit recovery and concurrent enrollment with Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. The school will also offer ninth-graders an orientation in July.

Jones said the school has not decided whether the students will be given laptops or iPads to use at school and at home. Right now, five interactive whiteboards are being used in classrooms and two of those are demonstration units.

“When students are hands-on and involved, they tend to learn more,” she said.

Government and world history teacher Lori Lachowsky agreed. “In today’s 21st Century, classroom technology is a must for students to learn. We must communicate to them in a medium they use to communicate, which is technology.”

The school’s library still has a vintage paper card-catalogue system and its newest encyclopedia set is six years old. The school also has a basement-like computer lab open to students. It houses 16 computers. English teacher Elizabeth Lanius said she would love to see the library updated to a competitive media center.

She said she’s had seniors in class who didn’t have an e-mail address or know how to sign up for a free e-mail account and therefore couldn’t utilize available online learning tools, since most of those require an e-mail address to activate an account.

“They didn’t know how to navigate the Internet. If they don’t keep up now, I’m worried they’ll be left behind in today’s job market,” Lanius said. “I can provide online learning tools all day long, but if my kids don’t have e-mail addresses, how will they utilize those inside and outside the classroom? Hopefully, technology will remedy that.”

The college courses, which will be in English and math, will be available to seniors who are on track to graduate. Credit recovery will allow students who are behind to catch up so that they can graduate on time.

The grant will also fund a week of professional development for teachers the week before they return to the classroom in the fall, advanced-placement training for all teachers, compensation for teachers to come in over the summer and assess where students need improvement based on their test scores, and the hiring of an on-campus liaison for parents.

The school currently offers some AP history, English and math classes. Training everyone to teach AP classes will improve the staff’s skills and allow the school to have more sections of AP courses. If a student scores a three or higher, the highest grade being a five, on an AP exam, he or she can earn credit for college before graduating from high school. Jones emphasized that the grant will change the culture at the high school, and Lachowsky agrees.

To be eligible for grants, schools must also take one of two actions—replace most of the teachers or replace the principal.

Principal Bobby Pruitt, who was promoted to that position this school year and is the fourth principal in less than two years, announced his retirement at the graduation ceremony on May 27. Pruitt has more than 30 years of service as a coach, teacher and administrator for the district.

Hopson said the requirement for the grant did not have anything to do with Pruitt’s decision to retire. He said the district would be seeking out a candidate with a track record of having high standards or the promise of bringing high standards to the school’s leadership.

He said some of the teachers could be transferred, voluntarily or involuntarily, if they don’t mesh well with the changes that are planned. He emphasized the district’s commitment to make education in Jacksonville a priority and to move the high school away from being a “school of failure” to a “school of choice.”

TOP STORY >> Williams filing suit over plot

IN SHORT: Despite calling scheme “shameful,” prosecutor didn’t file charges against pair.

Infighting on the Pulaski County Special School District Board continues with one member suing another for a bribery scheme that misfired.

Board member Gwen Williams has sued former board president Tim Clark for allegedly plotting with Mills High School Principal Mike Nellums to make a video of her accepting a bribe from a fake contractor.

Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley called the incident “shameful” but did not file charges against the conspirators.

Williams wants $2 million in punitive damages, as well as $3 million for pain and suffering, mental anguish and harm to her reputation.

She has hired former Pulaski County Circuit Judge Willard Proctor Jr. as her attorney.

In a statement Friday, the Pulaski County Special School District said,  “The district learned today that PCSSD Board member Gwen Williams has filed a lawsuit against another board member and others that will play out in the courts in the coming months. Although the district is indirectly involved in this litigation, the lawsuit is a private-civil matter between parties which makes further comment by the district highly inappropriate. Our focus will remain on educating students as we prepare for an exciting, upcoming school year.”

Nellums has been placed on administrative leave with pay for the rest of the school year, and he could end up being fired from his $103,000 position for violations of the state ethics code.
Clark has denied any involvement in the incident. He can’t be removed from the board unless he is charged with a felony, misses meetings or moves.

Nellums was formerly the principal at Jacksonville Middle School and was reassigned. At that time he sued the district and reached a settlement last year of $50,000 plus attorney fees.

He is also a member of the Little Rock School Board but can’t be removed from the board unless he’s charged with a crime.

After almost a year of investigation, Jegley released a three-page letter May 20 stating that the person purported to be the contractor was a man named Ervin Bennett.

Bennett, who volunteered to cooperate with authorities, said he was brought into the scheme by Nellums and Clark. He said Nellums and Clark believed that Williams was taking bribes and they wanted to prove it.

Cell-phone records show that the three did make numerous phone calls to each other the month before the incident occurred.

The person who actually filmed the “bribe” was identified as Craig Tissue.

Clark was interviewed by Pulaski County sheriff’s deputies and Jegley said it was apparent that he was trying to “perpetuate the ruse.”

Jegley concluded that Clark and Nellums were not trying to capture an actual crime but the appearance of impropriety.

The prosecuting attorney wrote that the “juvenile cloak-and-dagger means to discredit Williams would verge on the ridiculous if it weren’t for the sad fact that both these men hold important positions in the education of the children of this community.”

Jegley went on, “The entire affair is sad and has been a terrible distraction of law enforcement resources and of a beleaguered school district which has been struggling to improve. Put bluntly, what happened is shameful.”

The bribery incident goes back to last summer when many board members received a videotape that appeared to show Williams taking a $100 bribe from a contractor.

“I didn’t do it. I’m innocent,” Williams said last August, and then referred all other questions to her attorney. She is having her lawyer field all calls on this latest turn.

All board members, except Williams, received a letter and two recordings last summer that apparently showed her taking a $100 bribe.

The one-page letter delivered to most board members at their homes included the typed name but no written signature of a man identifying himself as Ricky Weathers, who said he was a masonry specialist from North Little Rock.

“I’ll give ya’ll a chance to get this woman straight,” the letter said about Williams. “All I can say is ya’ll need some help on this school board. This woman is a crook and doesn’t care one bit who knows. Somebody ought to call the police on her.”

The man told board members in his letter that he was seeking a contract to pour concrete sidewalks at Harris Elementary School, which is in Williams’ school board zone 7 in the McAlmont community.
“After speaking with Mrs. Williams, I was concerned about her general integrity and intent,” the letter said.

“Mrs. Williams in a roundabout way told me if I took care of her, she would take care of me. I’ve done school work before but never had a board member tell me that. She kind of stated that she needed some help with her bills, and could use some help getting her car fixed. It did look like it needed some shocks or something.

“The contract is a state contract for concrete work so I thought I should just help her,” he said in the letter, “but to protect myself and to let you know how it really works out here, I videotaped, and audio taped the meeting.” Neither the videotape nor audiotape seem to be clear or conclusive enough to say for sure that a bribe took place.

Clark accused the prosecutor of cutting a deal with Bennett in return for immunity against prosecution.
“We believe individuals in Mr. Jegley’s office offered Mr. Bennett immunity and it appears those people based their report entirely on this man’s allegations. Mr Jegley’s office did not contact me prior to releasing last week’s report,” Clark wrote in an e-mail last month.

“I never asked Mr. Bennett or anyone else to contact Gwen Williams to make any type of bribe. Mr. Bennett called me a number of times and that is reflected in phone records. He asked for money, and I never gave him a cent.

“I never recruited Mr. Bennett to do anything, much less provide him with a script. I met with Mr. Bennett once and recorded the conversation. During that conversation, he again asked for money. I never gave him a cent. I told him to call the police numerous times. There are witnesses to these conversations that overheard my telling Mr. Bennett to contact the police.

“I have never laid eyes on Mr. Tissue (the private investigator).  I did not hire him; I did not give him money; and I did not ask him or anyone else to create a video.  I did not give money to Mr. Nellums to give to Mr. Bennett, Mr. Tissue or anyone else.

“Gwen Williams originally stated the money was a gift, and $100 was in the envelope. Mr. Bennett said the envelope contained $250. I don’t know what was in the envelope because again, I had nothing to do with it.

“I am extremely disappointed that reports have circulated that dispute the actual events that occurred. I am innocent and will make every effort possible to clear my name. I intend to set the record straight once and for all.”