Friday, February 03, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Principal rising star

Henry Anderson, the new principal at Jacksonville High School, has opened a dialogue with students and teachers. He has formed a principal’s cabinet, which includes some of the brightest students at the high school.

They told Anderson last weekend that they’re not happy with the dilapidated conditions at the school. They want better teachers and an environment that’s more conducive to learning.

A survey of students and teachers, which Anderson shared with the principal’s cabinet, produced troubling responses.

The survey revealed mostly shared concerns: The poor state of the building, the performance of students and teachers and a lack of pride in the campus.

Students said many of their teachers have poor attitudes and don’t understand how to teach. A junior who attended the meeting asked, “If they don’t have the passion, what is going to inspire us?”

Students also complained about the aging school building being dirty and even having a bug problem.

They want someone to get the school under control, set standards for students and teachers by increasing expectations.

Members of the principal’s cabinet also criticized aimless classmates who don’t care about studying. There were complaints about drug use, crowded hallways, teen pregnancy, bullying and fights – problems that could become overwhelming for faculty members.

Students want better computer technology classes, more time to study, a dress code and more extracurricular activities.

Teachers said the school lacks positive and encouraging collaboration among the faculty; that they don’t receive enough recognition for their successes; that district officials have failed to take action on gangs; that students ignore rules and don’t take pride in the campus, and that teachers lack support from administrators and parents.

Teachers also complained about the poor condition of the school; the need for additional technology training; that there has been a failure to deal with incompetent teachers, and a failure to improve classroom management. In short, staff members have no sense of unity.

After completing the school census, Principal Anderson is prepared to improve the attitudes of students and teachers. He now knows exactly what is weighing on their minds.

Both groups want the same thing. With a good leader in charge, these problems can be fixed.

The principal says morale isn’t the problem with his teachers. “I think it’s teachers reaching a standard. There hasn’t been a standard for years,” Anderson pointed out.

Anderson is open and honest. He has a passion and talent for addressing problems head-on. Concerning discipline, he knows yelling doesn’t work, but that being stern and consistent does.

He is a “speak-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick” kind of man, but his good humor helps him connect with students when they are behaving well.

He has high expectations for his colleagues. While some teachers may not like being so closely supervised, it is the only way to separate those who really want to fix Jacksonville High School from those who are content with its failures.

Anderson is an optimist who believes that the Pulaski County Special School District and JHS can reach their full potential.

Unlike his predecessors, Anderson will use his power to transfer under-performing teachers. He would be wise to reward faculty members who do their jobs well.

There may never be a better opportunity to change the school’s course. Although the professional agreement with the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers remains in force, the state Education Department took control of the district last summer and disbanded the dysfunctional school board.

PCSSD officials have announced 75 facility improvement projects at a cost of $7 million, most of them for dilapidated schools in Jacksonville and Sherwood schools. Improvements at Jacksonville High School will include roof work, intercom and bell systems, stadium-lighting fixtures, new stage lighting and controls and adding a new gas line. That’s a start. The school needs more good teachers, and the building needs a complete overhaul. After Anderson restores Jacksonville High School to its glory days and the district is released from oversight by the state, we’ll recommend him as the next superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District. He’s that good.

TOP STORY >> Pet group takes dogs from state

Leader staff writer

Several dogs at the Cabot Animal Shelter and the Beebe Animal Control shelter were given a second chance to find new homes in New York Last weekend.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had 22 dogs transported to Pets Alive Westchester in Elmsford, N.Y., a no-kill animal shelter, from JP Ranch and Rescue in Atkins after the rescue organization was forced to close because the founder has a terminal illness.

With the transport vehicle only half-full of dogs from the Atkins shelter, Pets Alive reached out to other area rescue groups and pulled 39 dogs from animal shelters. The Cabot Animal Shelter had 11 dogs and Beebe Animal Control had nine dogs taking the trip to New York.

Cabot Animal Shelter manager Jason Ellerbee said the dogs that were transported from the Cabot shelter had been there longer than other dogs and were less likely to find a home. He said some of them included a cattle dog, a couple of labs and Chihuahua-mix.

Ellerbee said many of the animals are picked up by rescue organizations, and no taxpayer money is spent on feed and veterinary care.

“We take the best possible care of the animals, providing vaccinations and deworming. It makes it easier for the rescue groups,” Ellerbee said.

“It is a positive all the way around. Rescue groups guarantee not to euthanize an animal unless it has a health condition,” he said.

At the Beebe shelter most of the dogs pulled for Pets Alive were full grown and all were neutered. Some of the dogs had been at the shelter for several weeks. One was there since November.

“It keeps us from having to put any down,” Beebe Animal Control officer Horace Taylor, said. In December, 53 dogs were taken from JP Ranch and Rescue to Pets Alive. Of those 53, 42 now have homes. The ASPCA funded testing, vaccinations, heartworm medications, flea treatments, worming, health exams and transportation of the dogs.

TOP STORY >> First Arkansas obtains credit card business

First Arkansas Bank and Trust became the full owner of an Atlanta-based credit card company on Wednesday. With the acquisition of BV Card Assets, the bank will begin offering its customers credit cards by spring.

First Arkansas owned 18 percent of BV Card Assets before this week’s deal. The Arkansas Bank Department approved the sale on Monday.

The bank did not disclose the sale price.

Larry Wilson, First Arkansas’ chairman and chief executive officer, told The Leader on Friday that the bank has “no plans to move the operation.”

He added, “Rates will be competitive. We will have very attractive card graphics. We will have specifics later.”

First Arkansas will retain BV Card Assets’ management team and keep its headquarters in Atlanta, where about 40 people are employed.

First Arkansas Bank and its previous partners, BancVue of Austin, Texas, and Virtual Point Management of Atlanta, bought the credit card company in September 2010 from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which took over the company from Silverton Bank in 2008.

“We are very excited about becoming the sole owner of this credit card portfolio,” Wilson said.

“The portfolio has performed extremely well for many years and has been a consistent revenue producer during that time. It is a conservative portfolio with an outstanding balance of approximately $115 million and has approximately 80,000 active cardholders,” he explained.

“Those cardholders, both individuals and small businesses, are spread geographically across the country, but the majority of them are in the southeastern United States,” Wilson said.

“This is a great opportunity to utilize some of our excess capital, and we are pleased that we were able to work with our partners, BancVue of Austin, Texas, and Virtual Point Management of Atlanta to purchase their stock in the company.

“We are confident that there is a great opportunity for growth in credit card programs in community banks across the country,” he added.

“We fully intend to tap this market and grow this portfolio over time,” Wilson said.

First Arkansas has 23 locations in central Arkansas. The family-owned bank, in business for more than 60 years, has $650 million in total assets.

TOP STORY >> First lady plans visit to air base

Leader staff writer

Michelle Obama will make a stop at Little Rock Air Force Base on Thursday to promote the second anniversary of her “Let’s Move!” initiative geared toward fighting childhood obesity.

While here, she will make an announcement about the military’s efforts to improve the nutritional content of food served throughout military bases, according to a White House press release Friday.

The base is one of six military installations taking part in a special pilot program designed to improve the quality, variety and availability of their food service, according to 2nd Lt. Mallory Glass, 19th Airlift Wing public affairs chief.

The first lady will be briefed about the healthy eating habits of airmen and tour the dining facility. She will sit down and eat with about 40 airmen and discuss how they feel about the pilot program.

“We are greatly excelling,” Glass says of the pilot program. “Use of the dining facility has increased due to the healthy options. It’s not just airmen who can dine there—anyone allowed on base can eat there.”

“It (the pilot program) ties in well with her initiative,” Glass said. “She takes a keen interest in military families.”

The three-day tour kicks off in Des Moines, Iowa, on Thursday morning and makes stops at Jacksonville, Fort Worth and Dallas, as well as Homestead, Orlando and Longwood, Fla.

“Let’s Move!” was launched Feb. 9, 2010, with the intent to resolve childhood obesity. Since its launch, the initiative has made significant progress in its efforts, has been made to solve the problem of childhood obesity.

According to a White House press release, some of the initiative’s accomplishments include:

President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. In January the USDA released school meal regulations updating the quality of nutrition through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. The updates to the regulations will allow more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to be served at schools, as well as meals with less sodium, saturated fat and trans fat.

Grocers, including Walmart and Walgreens, have committed to build or expand 1,500 stores in communities with little to no access to healthy food. Approximately 9.5 million people will now have healthier food choices available to them.

Walmart’s Nutrition Charter committed to lowering the cost of fruits and vegetables as well as healthier options like whole grain products by $1 billion in 2011. In addition, Walmart pledged to work with manufacturers to remove 10 percent sugar and 25 percent sodium in categories throughout the store. For more information, visit

SPORTS >> Freshmen Red Devils win in OT

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s freshmen Red Devils garnered mixed results this week, splitting their final two Metro Conference games and finishing the regular season in third place. On Monday the Red Devils had a chance to avenge a heartbreaking loss to Maumelle just a few days earlier. For a half it appeared the game would go down to the wire just it did the week before. But the Hornets took control in the second half and won by 10, 44-34.

In the regular-season finale, Jacksonville did go down to the wire for a second time against Sylvan Hills. And for the second time, came away with an exciting victory, beating the Bears 42-38 in double overtime.

“We just competed a lot better than we did against Maumelle,” Jacksonville coach Tirrell Brown said. “I thought we competed well for a half against Maumelle, then just stopped. We were in a 2-3 zone and their guards were in there getting offensive rebounds. That’s just effort.

“If we compete like we should, I feel like we have the capability to beat anybody.”

In Thursday’s game, Jacksonville never led by more than four points and Sylvan Hills’ biggest lead was two.

Kerry Knight led the Red Devils with 13 points while Maurice Young finished with 10.

Jacksonville beat Sylvan Hills by one point nearly two months ago. The final week of regular-season games shows that this weekend’s Metro Conference tournament is wide open.

The top four seeds are Maumelle, Watson Chapel, Jacksonville and Sylvan Hills. All four of those teams have played nailbiters with each other throughout the season.

The Metro Conference tournament begins today at Watson Chapel. Jacksonville has a first-round bye and will play at 3:30 Monday against Mills or Central Arkansas Christian.

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills crushes Helena-West Helena

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills got a pair of easy conference road wins over Helena-West Helena Central on Tuesday. The boys got very little resistance from the Cougars in a 74-47 victory. The girls got even less resistance, winning 54-21.

The Sylvan Hills boys (18-5, 8-0) had to force the issue when the Cougars (6-12, 3-5) decided to shorten the game. The home team got the opening tip, set up on offense, pulled the ball out toward center court and stood.

That drew Sylvan Hills out of the zone it started the game in. When they went man-to-man and stepped out on the ball, the pace of the game changed.

Still, HWHC hung tough for a while. Sylvan Hills lead was only 19-12 at the end of the first quarter. By halftime the lead had doubled. Sylvan Hills then came out of halftime with a 16-4 run and soon after invoked the mercy rule.

“Tuesday night was probably our best display of what we’re trying to get accomplished on the basketball court of the whole season,” Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said. “Our game plan, our philosophy is to be able to score on the break, get great spacing and score inside and out. We executed all of that pretty well on Tuesday. All our parts came together and when they do, it makes it awfully tough on our opponent.”

The evidence for Davis’ analysis is in the box score. Senior leading scorer Archie Goodwin had a season low 21 points. Trey Smith hit three, three-pointers and finished with 14 points. Post player Larry Ziegler had 10 points and led an inside game that posted 25 points in the paint. Senior Devin Pearson and sophomore David Johnson accounted for the points Ziegler did not get.

Lady Bears’ coach Shelley Davis wasn’t pleased at halftime of the girls game, but was glad to see her team respond to her challenges in the third quarter and pull away for a 54-21 victory.

“I’m pleased other than the fact that if you can handle somebody like we did in the third quarter, you should just go out and do it,” Shelley Davis said. “We were just letting them take shots and they were dogging some in. We just did not play aggressively in the first half.”

Sylvan Hills (7-12, 5-3) led 25-14 at halftime and outscored the Lady Cougars (1-12, 0-8) 21-7 in the third quarter. The Lady Bears didn’t give up a point in the fourth.

Sylvan Hills was on the road again on Friday against Monticello. It has two more road games next week that wraps up a seven-game, four-week stretch of road games.

“It does get a little tough,” Shelley Davis said. It’s very rare to have seven conference games in a row on the road. It gets tough for the players because the homework and makeup work starts the pile up. It’ll be good when we finally play at home.”

SPORTS >> All Stars speak to students

Leader sports editor

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and Arkansas Razorback safety Tramain Thomas highlighted a group of college football players that spoke at three Jacksonville schools on Friday. The five college seniors are playing in today’s All-Star Classic, North-South football game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, and spent Friday touring the area speaking at several local schools.

Jefferson and Thomas were joined by Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden, Arkansas State defensive end Brandon Joiner and Henderson State defensive end Antonio Leak.

Jefferson, who led LSU to a perfect regular-season record and a spot in the 2012 National Championship game, was a late addition to the All-Star game, deciding to play in today’s game late last week.

“It was just another opportunity to get in front of the scouts and show what I can do,” Jefferson told The Leader.

Despite being joined front and center with a former Razorback, Jefferson was the most popular attraction at Jacksonville Middle School, the first stop of the tour that also included North Pulaski High School and Jacksonville High School.

“It’s very shocking to know that I have these fans in other cities,” Jefferson said. “They make me feel very appreciated. I had a great time throughout the whole week and am ready to have an even better time (in the game).”

Tickets to the game are $15, but middle school student athletes who arrive at the game wearing their youth football jerseys will get in for free.

Thomas was also very popular among the students and was the most interactive with the kids clamoring for his attention.

“It feels good to be here,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the country right now. To be out here with all these kids, to try to give them a little bit of encouragement, it puts a smile on my face also.”

Thomas, who led the Razorbacks in interceptions last season with five, also took to heart his role in the promotional tour. Most of Jefferson’s speech to the students was about promoting the game. Thomas and the others talked about things like grades, work ethic and proper attitude.

“Anytime you can have a role model, or someone that kids look up to come in and talk to them, I want to do it,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have that when I was kid so anything I can do to give back I want to try to do while I can.”

Joiner was an all Sun Belt Conference selection at Arkansas State. Bolden finished his career at Ole Miss ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27). He is third all-time at Ole Miss in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604).

Leak, who played high-school football at Palestine-Wheatley and already has his master’s degree in secondary education, commanded the student’s attention when he spoke.

“How many of you want a college degree,” Leak asked the students. “Now how many of you want to be out on the streets? See, none of you want to be out on the streets. I didn’t see a single hand go up. So you have to start making right decisions now. Nobody wants to be on the streets, but they don’t think they have to start taking stuff seriously at your age. That’s not the case. You have to start making right decisions now.”

Players took a few minutes after their speeches for photographs with students and faculty. Afterward Jefferson took a final chance to promote the game. “I’ve had a lot of fun this week,” Jefferson said. “Coming out to the schools and talking to kids has taught me a lot. Now I hope they can come out and support us. It’s going to be a great game.

SPORTS >> Badgers rout Yellowjackets

Leader sports editor

Things took a little while to get into gear. Once they did, the Beebe Badgers had a lot more of them to hit than did the Wynne Yellowjackets. Neither team was able to much going offensively for a couple of minutes, but once Beebe did, it set the tone for the rest of the game.

Beebe won the opening tip-off and ran its offense for nearly two minutes looking for a good shot. The patience paid off and the Badgers lulled Wynne to sleep. Beebe post player Dayton Scott caught the ball on the left elbow and passed out to point guard Brandon Fuller at the top of the key. Scott then rolled around the right elbow to the baseline, and snuck backside to the basket. Fuller lobbed the pass from about 20 feet and the game’s first basket was an alley-oop dunk. The play was a microcosm of the rest of the game as the Badgers rolled to a 60-30 victory.

“I thought we defended well,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “Wynne is very athletic and has some good size. I just thought we defended the way we should and we shot the ball pretty well too.”

Beebe raced out to a 12-4 lead before a Marvin Norman three pointer made it 12-7 halfway through the first quarter. The Badgers then closed the first period with seven straight points, including five by guard Zach May. May hit a three at the buzzer to make it 19-7.

Things got worse for the Yellowjackets from there. Reserve center Zach Baker hit a three pointer with 6:15 left in the first quarter to make it 25-9. The two teams traded buckets all the way to 31-15, but Beebe scored the final eight points of the quarter, including two more three pointers by May to end the half. May had 15 points at halftime and finished with 22 to lead all scorers.

He hit four of six three-point attempts, and the team made eight of 14.

Neither team scored a bucket in the third quarter until Wynne’s Joseph Saintly scored at the 5:28 mark. Beebe finally got a basket 17 seconds later on a driving layup by May. The Badgers were never able to stretch the lead to more than 28 points in the third quarter. Wynne freshman Romaine Harris began to find his rhythm and scored seven points in the quarter.

Wynne point guard Marvin Norman dropped in a three pointer to start the fourth quarter to make it 54-29, but it was the last basket the Yellowjackets got the rest of the game.

Beebe invoked the mercy rule with six quick points. May hit a three pointer with 6:13 remaining to make 60-29, and there were no more field goals the rest of the game.

May was the only player in double figures. Scott finished with nine points and six rebounds and Braden Jones had seven points for the Badgers. Fuller scored three points, but grabbed five rebounds and dished out six assists.

Norman led Wynne with nine points, all from three-point range.

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits’ Carpenter goes Division I

Leader sports editor

It doesn’t seem like it could be true, but it is. No Lonoke Jackrabbit has signed a Division I college football scholarship since 1995, that is until Wednesday’s national signing day. That’s when Lonoke offensive lineman Justin Carpenter signed with the University of Central Arkansas. Carpenter ran a gauntlet of camps in an attempt to get college coaches to take notice and the hard work paid off late. The offer from UCA didn’t come through until about two weeks ago. He had received offers from Division II schools Henderson State in Arkadelphia and Arkansas Tech in Russellville.

After the visit to the Conway campus and the subsequent scholarship offer, Carpenter felt it was an easy decision.

“The facilities, the coaches, the environment, the fact that it’s DI, it just seemed like the obvious choice,” Carpenter said.

Like most freshmen lineman, especially DI freshmen linemen, Carpenter probably won’t see a lot of playing time his first year, but at 6 feet, 4 inches, 290 pounds, he has the physical attributes of a top-notch lineman and shows a lot of promise for the future. Some the evidence for Carpenter’s potential is already showing. He improved his bench press by over 60 pounds over the summer, and drastically increased the weight in his other lifts.

UCA Bears’ coach Clint Conque has asked Carpenter to try something he’s never done.

“They’re wanting me to play guard or center,” Carpenter said. “Coach asked me to work on snapping the ball. I’ve never done that before, but I’m going to work hard on it.”

Carpenter was a three-year starter for the Jackrabbits. He was named to the 2011 Super Sonic team and was Farm Bureau Player of the Year finalist his senior season.

He joins a signing class of 23, but is one of only two offensive linemen signed by UCA this season. Lance Kloker, 6-5, 275 of Owasso, OK, is the other lineman.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

EDITORIAL >> New leader: He’s ready

 Col. Brian Robinson, new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, salutes as Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay and Col. Mike Minihan look on.

Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsey, commander of the 18th Air Force, presided over Tuesday’s moving change-of-command ceremony at Little Rock Air Force Base as Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson succeeded Col. Mike Minihan as commander of the 19th Airlift Wing.

In an emotional farewell, Minihan thanked the central Arkansas community for its support of the men and women of Little Rock Air Force Base, and he thanked the airmen for their contribution to the global airlift effort, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Robinson, having served on both fronts, knows those countries well. At the start of the Operation Iraqi Freedom back in 2003, Gen. Ramsey said at the change-of-command ceremony, Robinson was named chief of the Air Mobility Division Strategy and Tactics Team at the Combined Air Operations Center in Iraq.

The colonel, a C-17 Globemaster pilot, took charge of strategic planning for air mobility and led the way for the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s airdrops into northern Iraq, an achievement, Ramsay said, that’s comparable to the greatest successes during the Second World War.

Since then, he’s served in Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. He has been vice commander of the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston AFB in South Carolina and executive assistant to Gen. Raymond Johns, the commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

As Gen. Ramsey said, the Air Force replaces the best with the best. The description aptly describes Minihan, who after a record of achievement here, will head the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where Air Force One and other planes for VIPs are stationed.

Like Minihan, Robinson is approachable, modest and a natural leader. These qualities are important as the military is retrenching on several fronts.

The Pentagon will cut spending by at least $487 billion during the next decade, although that figure could go as high as $1 trillion under a deficit-reduction deal reached between President Obama and Congress.

The Air Force has halted the avionics modernization program for about 200 older C-130s, which would have cost about $4 billion and would have kept more planes flying at Little Rock Air Force Base.

In addition, the Air Force says it will close bases across the country, retire older planes and as many as 10,000 airmen, along with thousands of civilian employees.

Air Force Chief of Staff Norton A. Schwartz pointed out last week that the Air Force has eliminated 500 planes since the last round of base closings in 2005.

“So the presumption — I think it’s a fair presumption — (is) that there is yet more excess infrastructure,” Schwartz told a Pentagon briefing. “I think our expectation is that we will actually close bases in a future base-closure round.”

Little Rock Air Force Base is in no danger of closing, but we expect the new commander of the 19th Airlift Wing will usher the base into a new era.Col. Robinson, who has been in the Air Force since 1987, will rise to the occasion. It was his namesake, the immortal R&B legend Smokey Robinson, who wrote the Motown classic, “Get Ready.” The colonel has been getting ready for 25 years for his important new assignment.

Welcome to Little Rock Air Force Base, Col. Robinson.

TOP STORY >> Cabot history emphasizes schools

Leader staff writer

Mike and Debra Carrington Polston’s book on Cabot history appropriately features a cover photo of children smiling at desks in a classroom and one boy holding a sign that reads “Cabot Elem, Grade 1, Mrs. Nipper.”

One thing that defines the state’s “boomtown” is its world-class school district, the Polstons write.

“Images of America: Cabot” has a whole chapter dedicated to the history of education in the city.

Pictures of a brick building, affectionately called Old Main, that housed the student body in 1915; a graduation ceremony from the ’50s; group photos of organizations like the Future Farmers of America, and sports teams through the decades tell the story well.

Another chapter details football in the town with team and cheerleader photos. Cabot High School has won the state championship twice in its history.

But the book also vividly describes and shows the defining moment in the history of Cabot, when a deadly tornado leveled most of downtown — the main business section — and cost five people their lives on March 29, 1976.

The only still photograph of the storm is menacing and another photo shows four chairs surrounded by flattened buildings sitting in the aftermath unmoved, as if nothing had happened.

The Polstons teach in the Cabot School District and have brought history alive to hundreds of students. He founded the Museum of American History at Cabot High School. She teaches at Cabot Middle School South, which holds an annual Frontier Day.

Cabot was founded as a railroad stop in 1873. Photos of the many prominent businesses in the downtown area and residents lining up loaded wagons in anticipation of the train that transported their goods to the world market support the Polstons’ claim that the farming community was poised for growth in its early years.

Another section shows how proud the city is of veterans with snapshots of smiling soldiers who were brave enough serve or to die for our country.

One photo, sent home from a Cabot soldier, features Viet Cong prisoners. The keepsake is remarkable because it was unusual for something like that to make it through the military’s strict censorship procedures.

The last chapter, “Faces,” is just that. It shows the people who made the city what it is today.

The Polstons’ book offers a detailed glimpse of Cabot that shouldn’t be missed. Descriptions for pictures are short and sweet but they add color to the black and white photographs.

An overview of the city’s history at the beginning of the book and few paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter offers readers the context that can be used to thoroughly enjoy the visual experience it offers.

Arcadia Publishing’s other offerings include “Images of America: Jacksonville, Arkansas,” “Images of America: Searcy” and “Images of America: Historic Pulaski County.”

TOP STORY >> Robinson takes helm at 19th Airlift Wing

Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson leaves the change-of-command ceremony Tuesday with his wife, Maureen, and their sons, Shawn and Justin. Behind them are the colonel’s parents, Judy George and William Robinson.

Leader senior staff writer

There may have been a dry eye in the house Tuesday when Col. Brian (Smokey) Robinson assumed command of the 19th Airlift Wing from Col. Mike (Mini) Minihan, but as promised, it wasn’t Minihan’s.

Minihan warned audience members, including the Black Knights of the 19th AW, that his Irish roots would betray him and “before my entire command, I will cry like a baby.”

True to his word, he appeared to choke back tears twice in farewell to the base and welcoming Robinson. (See editorial, p. 6A.)

“Smokey, every day of your command we’ll be in combat,” said the popular commander, his voice breaking. “Every hour, every minute, every second for the next two years, you will have somebody in harms way,” he warned.

“I embrace the opportunity to serve and lead,” Robinson said, and to “ensure that the Black Knights and their families are adequately prepared for the task ahead.”

“We will continue to exercise our mission safely, effectively and professionally, with an eye on innovation, to be as efficient as operationally feasible and to face many challenges that are before all of us,” Robinson said.

Lt. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay, commander of the 18th Air Force, spoke glowingly of the 19th Airlift Wing, of Minihan’s leadership at Little Rock, Robinson’s success in Southwest Asia and also of the civilian community that has embraced—and been embraced by—Little Rock Air Force Base.


“This is a great day of transition between two superb Air Force senior leaders—between Col. Mini Minihan and Col. Smokey Robinson. It’s a great day for the Air Force, for Team Little Rock and for a great day at the Rock,” Ramsay said.

The microphone Ramsay was using kept cutting out, and when he was brought a functional one, he said, “The Air Force has a primary and a backup for everything.”

Ramsay spoke of the rich histories of the base and of the 19th Air Wing.

“The missions of both these organizations have been the backbone of our nation’s past,” he said, pointing to “strategic reconnaissance for bombing, for Cold War nuclear deterrence, air refueling to enable global reach, air mobility, command control and for operations in support of counterinsurgency.”


“These organizations accomplished their missions with excellence,” he said, and “rest assured that when the next call comes, and it will come, we will answer it. You may ask why. Simply put, somewhere, someone trusts us explicitly to deliver so they can win. Team Little Rock will deliver.”

Ramsay said Little Rock has been the No. 1 tasked Air Force base in support of Southwest Asia overseas operations and that the Black Knights had flown 40 percent of all the lifts in Afghanistan and Iraq and 30 percent of the airdrop missions and flown 13,000 sorties a year “and done it incredibly safely.”

He praised Minihan for taking on the challenge to realign the units and the aircraft on the flightline to make up for years of base realignment and closure movements and the arrival of the C-130J aircraft.

In awarding the Legion of Merit medal, Ramsay also cited Minihan for great work with the housing privatization effort, with the food service transformation, with establishment of the Air Mobility Command’s first base charter school and with the $15 million Jacksonville/Little Rock Air Force Base Joint University Center, which opened about one year ago.


“Smokey epitomizes combat airlift,” Ramsay said.

Robinson started in C-130s, transitioned to the larger C-17 Globemasters. “What Mini is to C-130s, Smokey is to C-17s. They epitomize combat airlift,” Ramsay said.

Robinson “has literally written the book on combat tactics and deployment of the C-17,” Ramsay said. “He is the first weapons-instructor course graduate in the history of C-17 to command a squadron.”

“His most noteworthy accomplishment was when his wing got the daunting task in 2003 of figuring out how to insert an entire aviation brigade—the 173rd of Italy—into Iraq. It had never been done before in the C-17 platform. The mission was textbook. He was awarded the bronze star, pinned on by Vice President Cheney,” the general said.

Robinson comes from Scott AFB in Illinois, where he was executive officer to Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., commander of Air Mobility Command there.

Minihan, who has been commander here since August 2010, will assume command of the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md., whose responsibilities include Air Force One and other planes assigned to top officials.

In an open letter to the base community, Minihan wrote in Friday’s Combat Airlifter newspaper, “You dominate our nation’s enemies in combat. You train daily to a standard worthy of the title ‘C-130 Center of Excellence.’ You execute a state mission to a level that leaves 49 other states extremely envious.”


“On April 25, 2011, I watched you fight for each other on ‘Miracle Monday.’ I’ve seen some powerful things in my life…but never to the level of what I witnessed after the tornado struck.

Minihan’s new assignment will include worldwide special airlift missions, logistics and communications support for the president, vice president, cabinet members, combat commanders and other senior military and elected leaders.

Robinson was previously assigned to the Pentagon and was vice commander at the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina.

Robinson graduated from Philadelphia University in 1987 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in computer science and received his commission from Air Force Officer Training School in December 1987 at Lackland AFB, Texas.

His career as a pilot began in 1989 after earning his Air Force pilot wings at Vance AFB, Okla., followed by a position as a T-38B instructor pilot.

Minihan commanded an airlift squadron and four deployed expeditionary airlift squadrons.

Before he took over the 19th Airlift Wing, Minihan served as vice commander, 60th Air Mobility Wing, Travis AFB, Calif. Minihan is a command pilot with more than 3,200 flying hours in the C-130 and KC-10.

TOP STORY >> Musical comedy in Cabot

Myrtle (left), played by Catherine Roberts, and Maude, played by Kathleen Whitt, gasp in horror at seeing dancing in the small Baptist church.

Leader staff writer

The cast of the musical comedy “Smoke on the Mountain” expects to fill the Cabot Community Theater with laughter Friday and Saturday night.

The musical takes place in 1938 when the wacky but lovable Sanders Family Singers get back on the gospel singing circuit after a five-year hiatus. They’re making their comeback at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Carolina for an evening of singing and witnessing. More than two-dozen bluegrass gospel songs are interspersed with hilarious testimonies from the family.

Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at 7:30. The play will be staged at 204 N. First St.

The theater is taking reservations for the performances and dinner, which will be held again Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and Feb. 11. On Feb. 12, the musical will be performed without dinner.

Tickets for dinner and the show are $25 for adults. Tickets for just the show are $15.

Children ages 12 and under get dinner and the show for $15 or just the show for $10.

Director Brian Wolters explained that the central conflict in the plot is that members of the small church aren’t ready for “fiddles and guitars” in the house of the lord.

He couldn’t find a fiddle player in Cabot, so the theater’s production will feature guitars and a piano instead.

Traditionally, every cast member played an instrument, but that won’t be the case for this production.

“We’re lucky to have singers and actors. All three would be great,” Wolters said. That was one challenge he faced getting the musical together.

“This has been a fantastic cast. They’re seasoned singers. I was blown away,” he added.

This is the sixth production of “Smoke on the Mountain” Wolters has directed, he said. He has done it at the Arkansas Arts Center, Searcy Community Theater and in Cabot. The play is performed daily in Branson and it has been on Broadway before.

Preacher Mervin Oglethorpe, Wolters’ character, is “goofy, but he means the best. He wants his church to go into the modern world,” the director/actor explained.

Wolters said, “I fell in love with it (theater) in high school, back in ’86. Every time I wanted to give it up (to spend more time with family), it kept pulling me back in. I work and live and play in Cabot pretty much.”

Catherine Roberts plays the role of Myrtle, one of the small church’s two benefactors. “We’re appalled at what they’ve (the Sanders family) done in here (Mount Pleasant). We don’t do things like this (music in the church),” she explained.

Bob Morris is Burl Sanders. “He’s the patriarch of the family. He’s a pretty steady part of the family, but a little eccentric. He’s a good old dependable father,” Morris said.

Dee Clark is Vera Sanders, the mother of the singing group. “She puts on airs that her life is perfect and she has perfect children,” Clark said.

Ashley Shearers, Clark’s real-life daughter, is Denise Sanders, Vera’s daughter. “She (Denise) is 17 and she’s very impressed with herself. She makes a huge mistake and realizes that she’s not perfect.”

Tyler Kibbe plays Denise’s twin brother, Dennis. “He’s naive, very scared to speak in public. I get to play someone I’m not normally like,” Kibbe said, adding that Dennis wants to be a pastor and addresses sermons to his dog as a way to get over his fear of public speaking.

Johnny Hunt is Stanley, Burl’s brother. Stanley went to prison, their mother passed away after he got out of jail and Stanley straightened up his life after that.

Hunt said he enjoys playing the part because, “I get to sing a lot of old stuff. It’s a kind of real country get-up.”

Other characters are Jude Sanders, the eldest daughter who does sign language and a Sanders cousin who plays guitar.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SPORTS >> Cabot moves past Cyclones

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers secured second place in the 7A Central Conference standings with a 68-58 victory at Russellville on Friday. The two teams were tied for the second spot going into the game, one back of unbeaten North Little Rock.

Senior Laci Boyett led the Lady Panthers with 17 points while Melissa Wolff and Elliot Taylor each had 14 points. Free-throw shooting turned out to be the difference for Cabot as Taylor went 6 of 8 at the stripe and Wolff was 7 of 8. Senior forward Sydney Wacker had a season-high 13 points and was also solid at the line, going 5 of 6.

“You never know about free throws,” Lady Panthers assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “I’ve been doing this for 40-something years, and I can’t tell you what to do. I can tell you this – what we shot on Friday is pretty good for a team.” In all, the Lady Panthers shot 73 percent at the foul line against Russellville (16 of 22).

Free-throw shooting has been a strong point for the Lady Panthers since the start of league play. Their only game to fall below 68 percent was also their only loss to North Little Rock at 58 percent.

For Russellville, Carroll Davis led with 15 points while Susan Taylor added 11 points.

“They didn’t handle the press well,” Ruple said of the Lady Cyclones. “We kept it on longer than we normally would. Sometimes, there might be a team where we feel like we need to keep pressure on them a little longer. What was really surprising is that they only hit one three pointer in the first quarter.”

Outside shooting was not a mainstay for either team. Wolff and junior Ally Van Enk each scored beyond the arc once in the second quarter for all of Cabot’s three-point baskets.

Junior point guard Jaylin Bridges finished with six points for the Lady Panthers, including 4 of 4 at the free-throw line. Cabot is now 17-5 overall and 6-1 in the 7A Central Conference through one round of league play.

Free-throw shooting did just the opposite for the Cabot boys as the Panthers fell to the Cyclones 49-44. The Panthers (11-4, 3-4) shot 8 of 16 at the foul line while Russellville went 18 of 22. Sam Howe led Cabot with 10 points while seniors Arthur West and Adam Rock each added eight points. Junior Clayton Vaught finished with seven points for the Panthers.

“It’s been our Achilles’ heel,” Panthers coach Jerry Bridges said of his team’s inconsistent free-throw shooting. “We’ve won every game where we’ve shot 65 percent or better from the line. I would like to up that a little more up to 70 percent, but 65’s been our magic number. That made a big difference.”

Cabot was up by six with five minutes left to play when Russellville began to close in with a three-point basket that cut the advantage in half. The spotty foul shooting led to Cabot missing the front ends of two straight one-and-one fouls, and the Cyclones were there for key defensive rebounds.

The Cabot teams played at Conway last night and will host Little Rock Catholic/Mount St. Mary on Friday.

SPORTS >> JHS ladies hang on, knock off Bombers

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devils are sometimes making things a bit more exciting than they should be, but they’re still coming away with wins. That was the case again Friday night when Jacksonville beat Mountain Home 46-42 despite the Lady Bombers controlling the pace for most of the game.

“We want to get to 60,” Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms said. “We feel like if we can get to 60 we’ve given ourselves the best chance to win. We didn’t get there, but we found a way to pull it out. So I’ll take it. A win is a win in this league.”

Jacksonville appeared to be taking control of the game when sophomore guard Tiffany Smith hit a three pointer with 3:50 left that gave the Lady Devils their biggest lead of the game at 43-34, but it was the last basket Jacksonville would make the rest of the way.

Over the next 2:16, Mountain Home added a bucket and a free throw while Jacksonville made one of four attempts. With the score44-37, Lady Bomber Anna Floyd hit her fifth three pointer of the game to make it 44-40 with 1:10 remaining.

Smith was fouled but missed both attempts at the line with 53 second left. Mountain Home stayed patient on offense. After a miss, Katie Kepler got an offensive rebound and putback to make it 44-42 with 25 seconds remaining. Jacksonville got up the floor quickly and Sacha Richardson took a three-point shot from the corner and missed. Jacksonville’s Jessica Jackson got the rebound and was fouled. Jackson made both free throws with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Since things worked out, Mimms wasn’t too upset about Richardson’s ill-advised shot.

“The poor kid does all our dirty work,” Mimms said. “She’s our best defender and it’s her job every game to guard the other team’s best player. She is our dirty-work kid and she doesn’t really look to score a whole lot. When we finally went man number 21 (Floyd) had four threes. After that she only got one and that was because Sacha was on her. Without her playing defense the way she did, we may not be in the position we were in. So you can’t scream at her too much.”

The Lady Red Devils began controlling the action late in the third quarter. Jacksonville scored the final eight points of the quarter, turning a 27-26 deficit into a 34-27 lead by the start of the fourth.

Freshman guard Shakayla Hill closed the half with a steal. She got the steal at midcourt, passed to Jackson, who went back to Hill for the bucket to end the third quarter.

“We started to get control in the third and then just hung for dear life from there,” Mimms said. “You know, just hang on.”

Only four Lady Red Devils scored with Jackson leading scorers with 23 points. Kepler led all scorers and rebounders with 16 points and 13 boards. Floyd finished with 15 for Mountain Home. Hill scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds, got five steals and dished out five assists. Nichole Bennett had seven points and seven rebounds for Jacksonville.

The Lady Devils were off Tuesday, and return to action on Friday at home against Little Rock Hall.

SPORTS >> Falcons’ playoff chances still alive

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Falcons came off their most disappointing loss of the year with a big win over White Hall on Friday. After losing a late lead and dropping a crucial home game to Helena-West Helena Central on Tuesday, the Falcons did what they needed to do to keep playoff hopes alive, they went on the road for a conference win. North Pulaski (3-16, 2-5) beat White Hall (5-11, 1-6) 73-61 with intense pressure defense.

“It showed a lot about my kids to come off a loss like that emotionally,” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson said. “They went right back to work the next day after the loss. We had two really tough practices and they came back with some intensity and worked hard. Due to that hard work, we came out with a victory.”

The hosting Bulldogs handled the pressure early. White Hall held an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the pace favored the Falcons. With more quickness and depth, North Pulaski’s constant defensive pressure began to wear on the Bulldogs in the second quarter. The Falcons had forced several turnovers and started getting transition baskets. By halftime they had taken a 34-26 lead.

“They’ve got a really good point guard who can handle the ball,” Jackson said. “I just think in the second and fourth quarters, we started getting in his legs. That’s why we were able to make runs. They handled the pressure pretty good in the first and third quarters when they were rested, but we made our runs in the second and fourth quarters, mostly with some easy buckets in transition.”

White Hall didn’t go down without a final stand. The Bulldogs made a run that started late in the third and moved into the fourth quarter. North Pulaski’s lead had stretched to 14, but was back to eight by the end of the third at 46-38.

Another bucket cut it to six points, but that’s where it stopped. After another miss, center Jeremiah Hollis got a big offensive rebound and putback that sparked a Falcon run. After Hollis’ basket, Senior guard Brandon Simpkins got a steal and a layup. Daniel Drone followed with another steal and layup and in less than a minute, North Pulaski’s lead was back to 12 points.

“Jeremiah’s bucket was big,” Jackson said. “They were making a run and had all the momentum. Being at home, we knew they were going to make a run, but it was going on a little too long. That putback was big for us because it kind of sparked us and we were able to take back control. Finally making that basket, we were able to set up our press again and got a couple of steals.”

Jackson also gave his bench much of the credit for the win.

“My bench played most of the third quarter, and that’s really what allowed us to come in fresh and make that run in the fourth,” Jackson said. “Courvasiea Allen came in and played real well. Carlos Fuller made some big plays for us. Really I just have to give it up to my whole bench because when we made those runs, it’s because of what they did.”

Jamalin Nash led North Pulaski with 16 points. Simpkins added 13 and Allen scored 10.

The Falcons caught a tough break over the weekend when White Hall forfeited two of its three conference wins due to using an ineligible player. White Hall had beaten Helena-West Helena Central and Crossett. But the forfeit puts each of those teams a game ahead of the Falcons in the 5A Southeast standings. North Pulaski is still very much alive in the playoff race. Only one game separates third place from seventh place. Sylvan Hills and Mills lead the league at 7-0 and 6-1. HWHC, Crossett, Watson Chapel and Monticello are all 3-4. North Pulaski is 2-5 and White Hall, whose win over Monticello on Tuesday still stands, is 1-6.

The Lady Falcons fell in their game 51-13.

The Falcons traveled to Watson Chapel on Tuesday and will host Mills on Friday.

SPORTS >> Jackrabbits control inside

Leader sportswriter

Physical play inside was the key for Lonoke as the Jackrabbits out-muscled Southside Batesville for a 50-32 victory in the 4A-2 Conference at the LHS gymnasium on Friday.

The Jackrabbits (13-6, 6-2) kept the pace slow in the first half while establishing the lead, then opened things up in the second half. Lonoke outscored its guest 19-9 in the third quarter and kept its intensity high through the final eight minutes.

Sophomore Blake Mack led the Jackrabbits with 15 points, eight rebounds and five steals while senior guard and team captain Tarrale Watson added 14 points and three blocked shots for Lonoke. Senior reserve Keli Bryant finished with eight points.

“What I’m really excited about is the fact that we really defended,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said. “We talked about doing that before we could get in transition. To be able to have fun just playing the game, you’ve got to pay your dues – defend on one end and get rebounds, and we did that.”

Bryant gave the Jackrabbits a 13-7 lead to end the first quarter when he took an assist from Darrius McCall and hit from three-point range just before the buzzer. That was how the margin remained until Mack scored under the goal at the 4:23 mark of the second quarter. Mack finished the first half with five points before turning up the heat in the third quarter along with Watson. The pair bullied their way inside against a Southside Batesville defense that appeared to be timid at times.

“We’re bigger than they are and at some positions, I feel like we’re stronger,” Campbell said. “In our conference, that’s the way you have to be. Heber’s very strong, Marianna’s strong, even Newport and some of the other teams that are up there are pretty strong physically.

“And that’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to get and-ones, not trying to go to the free-throw line. And that’s what we talk about is trying to finish at the basket.”

Watson pushed Lonoke’s lead into double digits for the first time when he scored on a reverse lay up off a steal and assist from Mack 7:02 mark of the third quarter. He also earned a trip to the free-throw line during the play and converted the and one to give the Jackrabbits a 22-11 lead.

Mack was next to convert a traditional three-point play to stretch the lead to 25-11 with 6:11 left to play in the third quarter. Mack went on to score nine of his game high 15 points in the third quarter.

“Blake is one of those guys that when things are going good, he’s pretty good,” Campbell said. “He was a lot more aggressive defensively, and those are things he can do. When a team is like that where they won’t let him get to the rim, for him to defend and try to get boards and do something on the offensive end is big for us.

“When he does that, we’re really good. When we try to do things in a way other than that, that’s what hurts us.”

Other Lonoke players got in on the scoring later in the period as Dra Offord scored on a putback at the 4:10 mark to give the Jackrabbits a 30-14 lead.

Mack scored on two more possessions before Bryant hit again from the outside with his second three pointer of the game to give Lonoke its largest lead at 37-15.

With the game in hand midway through the fourth quarter, Watson decided to give the home crowd a show with a dunk at the 3:35 mark to up Lonoke’s lead to 46-25.

Lonoke shot 43 percent from the floor (17 of 40) While Southside Batesville went 31 percent (11 of 35).