Friday, August 16, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Angel sent from above

I think people need miracles like the one that seemed to have taken place in New London, Missouri.

I was so struck by the story that it occurred to me the fire chief who talked to the big news agencies might also talk to me. I’m a reporter too and I would have loved hearing from his mouth the story of the priest who came out of nowhere to pray with the young woman trapped in her car only to disappear before they could thank him for making their equipment operate properly.

I briefly wondered why they didn’t immediately reach out for him to come forward and identify himself as the flesh and blood man he turned out to be. But I think I know why it took more than a week. They wanted him to be the angel they believed him to be. I did too.

But miracles come in many forms and most it seems are wrought by mortals such as Rev. Patrick Dowling who prayed for Katie Lentz’s leg to stop hurting and for her soul on that highway in Missouri but gives credit to the emergency workers for saving her life.

It was almost 25 years ago that my niece was killed by a drunk driver as she was coming home from grocery shopping. It was the day after her two-year-old daughter’s birthday and she was planning a party for the weekend. A two-year-old doesn’t really care if the party is off by a day or two.

It happened on a hill on Hwy. 5 just a couple of miles out of Rose Bud, very near the spot where my sister put up the big blue sign warning others about the danger of drinking and driving. The man who hit her had been drinking heavily since he left the Little Rock area. As I recall, he ran a couple of cars off the road before hitting my niece’s pickup head-on.

Ordinarily, the baby would have been in her car seat. But she had fallen asleep and my niece laid her in the seat. The impact of the crash knocked her to the floorboard. She rolled under the dash and the groceries that fell on top of her helped protect her from the flames that flashed into the cab and melted the headliner above where she should have been sitting.

The state was resurfacing the road and one man who came to help said the crash was so loud that he thought two dump trucks had run together. The impact locked the two pickups together at the bumpers. Several men tried to get them apart without success. The man’s pickup was on fire and the rescuers feared my niece’s would explode. Apparently it was obvious to them that my niece and the man were both dead. But they could hear the baby crying.

They put out the fire with water from a garden hose that was nearby, the only one on the road. And then a young man drove up, hooked a chain to my niece’s bumper, jerked the trucks apart and drove away.

No one knew him and he didn’t stay around for introductions.

The baby survived with a broken leg and arm that healed. She’s married now and expecting a baby of her own.

In my mind, her survival was a miracle aided by the hands of the men who stopped to help. But that young man whom no one knew, maybe he was more than a man. At least I’ve always wanted to believe he was. – Joan McCoy

TOP STORY >> Panel to visit Jacksonville VA home site

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

A 22-member task force that will recommend whether or not Jacksonville is selected as the site for a new veterans’ home will visit the proposed location at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Alderman Mary Twitty asked at Thursday night’s council meeting for volunteers to show up at about 10 a.m. to place flags on the site.

The city of Jacksonville sent in a proposal under the flag of the chamber of commerce offering the state about 60 acres of land at General Samuels and Swift roads.

Jacksonville, along with Benton, Fort Smith and Russellville, made the cut from 61 properties offered to the state for the $25 million facility.

The state has applied for a federal $18.1 million matching grant to construct the facility, while Arkansas lawmakers have agreed to use $7.5 million in surplus funds to match the grant.

The state has only one veterans’ home in the state and that’s in Fayetteville and can hold up to 100 residents. The state’s other home, in Little Rock, was closed more than a year ago because of abuse and mismanagement.

Sen. Jane English (R-North Little Rock), head of the Veterans’ Home Task Force, said the group would visit Fort Smith (Fort Chaffee) and Benton on Monday and then Jacksonville and Russellville on Wednesday. A decision, she said, will be made by the end of the month and forwarded to the legislature for final consideration.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, drumming up support for the task force to pick Jacksonville, issued a proclamation pledging “its full support with the city of Jacksonville to cooperate with the Arkansas Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Legislative Veterans’ Task Force to initiate action to implement this project.”

The chamber, in its resolution, cited the fact that the city raised $5 million to help construct the $14 million University Education Center that now houses six colleges under one roof and is located on military property at the intersection of Hwy. 67/167 and Vandenberg Boulevard. The chamber said the community also assisted with the establishment of Flightline Academy, a charter school on base, to enhance educational opportunities there.

The Cabot Chamber of Commerce also issued a statement supporting Jacksonville as the site to pick.

English said the task force has to treat building the veterans’ home like a business rather than just an emotional project because legislators want it to be sustainable.

A three-member task force committee narrowed down the choices earlier this month. English said they worked individually, independently of each other, and each came up with the same four choices.

The criteria for the site specify it must be at least 20 acres of level land zoned for residential or light commercial use, have utilities, easy public access and be near motels, hospitals, restaurants, shopping and public transportation. The task force would also prefer it to be undeveloped and free.

In all four proposals, the land site will be donated to the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs to build the facility, which could house about 100 veterans.

“We are very excited,” Mayor Gary Fletcher said. “We are the perfect fit. I feel we have an exceptional place that exceeds what the VA wants,” he added.

Amy Mattison, who heads the chamber of commerce, said Tuesday, “We are a strong military town. Look at Little Rock Air Force Base, look at the joint-education center, this will complete the circle.”

The Jacksonville parcel is close to the air base, the hospitals, shopping and eateries. The Jacksonville site is mostly timberland, and at one time was home to a chemical faculty. It does have utilities and North Metro Medical Center is just a mile away.

The mayor said the city-chamber proposal to donate the land is the right thing to do. “We did it in 1954 to bring in Little Rock Air Force Base and would like to have history repeat itself,” he said.

Fletcher said, “We think we’ve got the best site. It’s a very centralized location with easy access. I can’t think of a better place.”

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils’ roster growing

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The second week of Jacksonville football practice saw a steady work rate and a slow increase in numbers. The Red Devils practiced with an average of 45 players the first week, but have been up to 52 most days in week two. More good news is that no further losses were incurred to eligibility or injury. Jacksonville has done full contact drills and scrimmaging, but is taking it lighter this year in preseason after suffering critical injuries last preseason and even in 7-on-7 action this summer.

“It’s been steady,” said Jacksonville coach Rick Russell. “We still haven’t reached what I think will be our full roster. That’s a little disappointing this late but we’ve got a lot of kids with jobs. We’re not in a situation here like some places where the kids don’t have to work. If these kids want anything they have to earn it. That mentality can actually be helpful in a way. But we’ve got our core group in here working and they’re getting better.”

Senior Nykel Worthen, who has the giant task of replacing current Arkansas Razorback Kevin Richardson at free safety, is one of the players’ with a job. He arrived early on Thursday to flip tractor tires for missing Wednesday’s practice for work. Worthen indicates confidence is high heading into the upcoming season.

“Everybody’s just ready to go,” said Worthen. “We can’t wait for that first game. We’ve been practicing a long time and doing a lot of stuff in the summer. I think we’re looking pretty good.”

While confidence is high, Worthen says the team understands the coaches’ message that there is still plenty of work to do.

“We can always get better,” Worthen said. “The team has been good about keeping people from loafing and keeping that intensity up. I think it’s going to be a great year.”

The team will play its annual preseason Red-White game on Saturday, Aug. 24 before heading to Cabot for the season opener at Panther Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills wins, scores a bit high

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills’ golf team hosted its home opener at The Greens at North Hills on Thursday, and two home-team golfers took first place against competitors from North Pulaski and Mills. Garrett McKibbon won the boys’ nine-hole match with a round of 48, while Ashton Williams won the girls’ event with a 62.

Scores were not as good as the Bears’ first match. The same three teams plus Jacksonville competed last week at North Pulaski’s home course, Stone Links. The wooded Sherwood course is drastically different from the links course in Scott, and scores reflected it.

“The Greens is just a very tight course and the kids didn’t adjust to it very well today,” said Sylvan Hills coach Greg Frantal. “That comes with experience. If you don’t keep it straight, you’re going to be in trouble on this course.”

The greens were also faster than last week, which also gave players some trouble. For years The Greens at North Hills featured bentgrass greens before it closed as a private club. After being bought by the city of Sherwood and reopened as a public course, it now has Bermuda grass greens.

“The greens are lightning fast and unforgiving,” Frantal said. “That’s something else the kids will have to adjust to. It’s just going to take playing some rounds out there and figuring things out.”

Race Rogers of Mills finished second in the boys division with a 52 while Sylvan Hills David Talcott shot a 53 for third place.

North Pulaski’s Jessica Erwin shot a 66 for second place in the girls while Bailey Jabara of Sylvan Hills shot a 72.

“Obviously those aren’t the scores you’re looking for in a nine-hole round,” Frantal said. “We just started so I think they’ll get a lot better. They have to learn you can’t just power through everything here like they were doing out at Stone Links. They’re going to have to give up some yardage and keep it in the fairway. Just hit it straight. That’s the key at this course.”

Sylvan Hills’ next match will be Thursday at Country Club of Arkansas in Maumelle, hosted by Central Arkansas Christian.

SPORTS STORY >> Beagling comes to area with field trial

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

A beagle field trial will be held between the Bayou Meto area and Mayflower next month. The Ark-La-Miss beagling club is holding a Beagle Fun Run on Saturday, Sept. 21 that is free of charge and open to anyone with an AKC registered beagle.

The event is a tune-up for the official American Kennel Club two-day field trial at the same location that will be held Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 23-24.

Club president John Hankins of Cabot helped get the Ark-La-Miss club started again earlier this year in central Arkansas. The club existed for years in Eudora before disbanding several years ago. Hankins and a few others, including David Bounds, a beagle breeder in Cabot, re-established the group in March.

“I just love doing it and I got to wishing we still had the club, so we just decided to start it back up around here,” Hankins said. “It’s just a labor of love. It costs about $1,200 to host an offical AKC field trial, and that’s just about what we got. We’ll start over trying to raise a little bit so we can have another next year.”

A field trial consists of four divisions and that’s how the Fun Run next month will be set up. There are male and female divisions for 13- and 15-inch beagles. Rabbitsare not tame and turned loose for competition, wild rabbits are sniffed out and run by the dogs, and are not shot or captured by owners.

“It’s not a rabbit hunt,” Hankins said. “We don’t kill anything. We’re just following the dogs. There are judges out there watching to see which dog is doing the best. It’s just a whole lot of fun watching them do what they were made to do and seeing all those instincts kick in. You will quit rabbit hunting if you start beagling-–it’s so much fun.”

The Fun Run begins at 6:30 a.m. and there will be a cookout at lunch time for all the participants. The Ark-La-Miss kennel is located at 331 Clinton Road, Mayflower. It is located on the Camp Robinson Wildlife Management Area.

The club holds its monthly meetings at Western Sizzlin’ in Jacksonville at 7:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month. The next meeting will be in October as club members will spend September’s meeting at the kennel preparing for the Fun Run.

Anyone interested in participating in the free Fun Run can contact Hankins at 501-681-7290.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther golf full of potential

By RAY BENTON 
Leader sports editor

The Cabot golf team returns a lot of players from last year, but is still fairly young with plenty of depth. The Panthers have a dozen or more players on the boys and girls teams and Cabot coach Ronnie Tollett is using the early matches as an opportunity to evaluate as many players as he can in the short season.

Only five players can play in a given match, with the top four scores tallied for the team score. Tollett has taken a different five to the first two matches, and everyone who hadn’t played yet to the third and most recent match at Red Apple Inn in Heber Springs.

“We have a couple of players that have played pretty well,” Tollett said. “We’ve got some young kids who didn’t play a lot of varsity this year who are trying to make a place for themselves. You can only take five to the conference tournament, so we’re trying to get a good look at all of them.”

Drake Oats is a junior who has played in the conference meet since his freshman year, and turned in a good score in his one match so far. Junior Joseph Denomie also played in state as a freshman, and Hayden Russell draws praise from Tollett for the improvement he’s shown since last season.

“Hayden has improved his game quite a bit and is probably our most-improved player,” Tollett said. “In two matches so far, he’s had one bad hole in each one or he’d be down there in the medalist range. He shot a 77 at North Little Rock, and took a 9 on a par 4. Butthat’s what this early stuff is about. We’ve got quite a bit of competition for our five spots.”

Senior Marlena Weatherly returns as the most experienced and consistent player on the girls team. Tollett is hesitant to single out anyone else as a top performer for the girls.

“The other four spots are very closely contested by all the other girls,” Tollett said. “Marlena is the most consistent at this point. She’s been in the top five in two of the tournaments. In a one-day match, one hole can be the difference in a big way as far as places. Every player is looking for that consistency and that’s what these early matches are about.”

Though the head Panther was reluctant to name very many leaders this early, he does see potential in the whole team.

“From my end, I’m expecting lots of improvement,” Tollett said.

“We have a number of players in boys and girls that are competing for consideration for district and state. We just need to see some more consistency. It’s a lifetime sport and it’s a game you learn in phases. You have to learn to get off the tee box, then you have to learn to play the fairways, and you learn the short game and then you learn to putt. It doesn’t come all at one time. So nothing is really set. Their performances are going to determine those spots and we have several that are very capable.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

EVENTS>>8-14-2013

GROUP WILL OFFER KIDS’ ID PROGRAM

The Jacksonville Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association will hold a free children’s identification event at Walmart on John Harden Drive from noon until 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to educate residents about the importance of having up-to-date information about their children to provide to police in case of an emergency.

The group’s members have been trained by the Arkansas State Police to fingerprint kids. They will also give instructions and identification kits for parents or guardians.

The event will also include a fundraiser for the Jacksonville Police Department’s K-9 unit, which is seeking a replacement for Roby, a longtime member and department asset that will soon be retired after years of dedicated service. Some K-9 unit handlers, along with their canines, will be on hand to meet and greet residents and their children.

Call Barbie Mellinger at 501-256-4487 for more information.

BACK TO SCHOOL BASH FEATURES DURON BROTHERS

The Duron Brothers will perform at Cabot Assembly of God’s back-to-school bash at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Singer Dez Duron, one of three brothers, placed eighth among top finishers on the television show The Voice. He will be joined by his brothers, David Dee Duron and Denny Rodney Duron, in gospel and spiritual singing.

Pastor Danny Duvall said Sunday’s event is designed for Cabot and other area youth. He described the Duron Brothers as role models, athletes and musicians. Dez, he said, scored more touchdowns than any quarterback in Lousiana history when he played for Evangel Christian Academy.

The church is at 2100 N. Second St.

PINEWOOD SEEKS DADS FOR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

Pinewood Elementary School and The Black Star Project are sponsoring a Million Father March this school year.

On the first day of school in more than 600 cities across America, men will take children to school to help keep them safe and to help them become better students.

Men and women of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds are invited to participate. In the Pulaski County Special School District, school begins on Aug. 19.

For more information, call 501-982-7571.

GRIEF SUPPORT GROUP MEETING THIRD SATURDAYS

The Caring Hearts grief and loss support group meets the third Saturday of each month. The next meeting is 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Christian Church in Jacksonville.

The church is at 200 E. Martin St.

Individual sessions can be scheduled by calling Steve Summers at 870-710-1508.

GOSPEL GROUPS WILL PERFORM IN McRAE AUG. 24

The Bull Creek Band and Hickory Hill Bluegrass Gospel will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 at McRae First Baptist Church, 703 E. Second St. A love offering will be taken for Ted Holt to help with medical-related expenses for his surgery that has temporarily rendered him unable to work.

BACK-TO-SCHOOL EVENT AT EVANGELISTIC MINISTRIES 

H.O.P.E.’s (Helping Out People Everywhere) will hold its annual Community Back to School Summit from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday in the Evangelistic Ministries Church parking lot, 101 N. Elm St. in Jacksonville. The event features free food, entertainment, free back-to-school supplies and school uniforms.

DONOATIONS WANTED FOR ‘BARKING LOT SALE’ SEPT. 14

The Jacksonville Animal Shelter at 217 S. Redmond Road is still accepting donations for its barking lot sale fundraiser that will be held at 7 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 at the shelter.

There will also be a dog wash that day to benefit the shelter and an adopt-a-thon from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

FISH FRY ON AUG. 23 FOR MEN'S MINISTRY

The Men’s Ministry of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Cabot will host a Men’s Fellowship Fish Fry at 6:30 p.m Saturday, Aug. 23 in the church’s fellowship hall.

The meal will be catered by N & N Family Restaurant of Cabot. Roy Thompson will speak.

There will be a lot of door prizes. Tickets are $10 per person and are available by calling 501-988-4989, 866-212-7874 or e-mailing zhbc@centurytel.net.

The church is on Zion Hill Road near Hwys. 89 and 107, about seven miles west of Cabot.

‘STEEL MAGNOLIAS’ WILL BE PERFORMED IN CABOT

Cabot Community Theatre will kickoff its 2013-14 season with “Steel Magnolias” Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 4-6.

Reservations are required and may be made starting on Aug. 26.

Actresses include Autumn Watson, Larrissa Kohler, Shann Nobles, Scarlett McLain, Cecelia Wilson and Kathy Whitt.

EDITORIAL>>Give credit where due

Recent Benchmark scores showed some of our schools are scoring advanced or approaching advanced and it showed others located at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Both need to be examined. Schools with good scores needed to be applauded for their performance and then observed or questioned as to what they are doing right and can that “rightness” be modeled by those schools in need.

Every year students from the third grade through the eighth must take the state-required Benchmark exams in math and literacy. Students in fifth and seventh grades also take an additional science test. The scores are used to determine whether a students is doing well or not, if a teacher is doing well or not, and likewise for schools and districts.

This current form of the Benchmark will be given through this year and by then, all students should, according to No Child Left Behind, be at or above grade level in math and literacy.

After this school year a new test or assessment, as educators call them, will be developed to take in consideration the new style or emphasis of instruction known as Common Core which started to be implemented about three years ago.

Student Benchmark scores can be placed in one of four categories: Advanced or the equivalent of an A; Proficient, or roughly a B; Basic which equates to a C; or Below Basic, which by any account is a failing score.

Schools need to be commended for either having a high number of students at the proficient or advanced levels, meaning at or above grade level, and should also be applauded for having no students in the Below Basic or failing category.

The standout among third-graders was Sher-wood’s Lisa Academy North, where all 46 students scored proficient or advanced in math and 95 percent did so in literacy.

At Searcy’s Westside Elementary, 96 percent of the 98 third-grade students made the cut in math and 94 percent did so in literacy. Overall, the school had fewer than five students with struggling scores.

Salutes go to Cabot’s Magness Creek third-graders who were also 96 percent proficient or better in math (with none below basic) and 93 percent likewise in literacy. Salutes also to Mountain Springs with 92 percent doing well in math and 96 percent making the cut in literacy.

Among the Pulaski County Special School District campuses, Little Rock Air Force Base’s Arnold Drive Elementary third-graders were tops with 93 percent making the grade in math and 91 percent in literacy.

Other third-graders may not have had as many scoring proficient or better but still need recognition because they had no students in the failing category. Carlisle, Westside, Southside, Sherwood, Sylvan Hills, Oakbrooke and Murrell Taylor elementary schools had no third graders fall into the dreaded below basic category. Congrats!

Among fourth-graders, Cabot’s Mountain Springs and Stagecoach elementary schools had the best math scores at 97 and 96 percent, respectively. Cabot Southside was tops in literacy with 95 percent of the students doing well, followed by Mountain Springs and Eastside, both at 94 percent proficient or better, and Sylvan Hills at 93 percent..

Schools with no fourth-graders in the failing category included Mountain Springs, Stagecoach and Magness Creek in math. In literacy, Carlisle, Central, Ward Central, Magness Creek, Stagecoach and Pinewood elementary schools had no below basic scores. Super!

When it came to fifth-grade math scores, Cabot Middle School North was tops in the area with 85 percent of its 426 fifth-graders making the grade. The school was closely followed by its counterpart, Cabot Middle School South, and Bayou Meto Elementary, both at 84 percent proficient or better. In fifth-grade literacy, Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School’s Upper Academy bested everyone at 96 percent proficient or better, with none in the below basic category. Next came Searcy Southwest Middle School and Cabot Middle School South, both at 92 percent. Sylvan Hills had no students fall below basic, or failing, category. Nice!

Cabot Middle Schools did well at the sixth- grade level. In math, Middle School North was at 87 percent, South at 86 percent. Just behind was Lonoke Middle at 85 percent proficient or better. In literacy, it was Lonoke Middle School at the top with 88 percent proficient or better, followed by Cabot Middle School South at 86 percent. Kudos!

Seventh-graders at Searcy’s Ahlf Junior High bested the area in math at 88 percent. At a distance second were Lisa Academy North and the Lighthouse’s Upper Academy, both with 74 percent. In literacy, it was Ahlf again, at 90 percent proficient or advanced, followed by Lisa Academy North at 86 percent. The school also had no seventh-grader in the below basic category. Superb!

It was Ahlf and Lisa Academy again at the eight-grade level in math, with both schools at 84 percent proficient or advanced. In literacy, it was Ahlf Junior High at 90 percent proficient or better, followed by Cabot Junior High North at 86 percent, then Cabot Junior High South and Lisa Academy North, both with 84 percent of its eighth-graders making the cut.

Congratulations to all those hardworking and outstanding students, teachers and their schools.

TOP STORY>>Faught always for Cabot

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Dewey Faught is perhaps best known in the Cabot area as the man who started the chamber of commerce and for spearheading the drive to build a monument honoring the veterans who lived in the area.

He was known as a man who saw a need and insisted that it be filled even if that meant he had to do much of the work himself. As director of the chamber for more than 22 years, he did it all: director, secretary and treasurer.

Faught died Aug. 10, about 10 years after the monument he wanted was built beside the community center, the Veterans Memorial Park Com-munity Center. He was 78.

Faught was proud to be a veteran of Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War. He believed the service of all veterans should be acknowledged, a fact that was made clear when he stood before the Cabot City Council more than once and said it was a shame that a community with so many veterans had no monument to honor them.

“I remember Dewey as someone who intently supported Cabot and was interested in it growing,” Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert said. “He was a very honorable man who wanted to help the city as well as those in need.”

Anyone who knew Faught understood that he was not to be taken lightly, Cypert said. He appreciated that part of Faught’s personality. The mayor noted that he was straightforward and you always knew where you stood with him.

“I liked the guy,” Cypert said.

Faught was born on Feb. 6, 1935 in Jonesboro to Mack Dewey and Thelma Faught.

His first career was in the military. He retired from the Air Force in 1974 as a senior master sergeant. As a career military man, Faught was a sustaining member of VFW Post 4584, a lifetime member of Disabled American Veterans, a member of the American Legion as well as a lifetime member of the Cabot Chamber of Commerce.

He was awarded a plaque naming him Cabot Citizen of the Year in 2001 and 2002 by the Michael W. Ray VFW Post 4548 Ladies Auxiliary.

He was secretary and treasurer of the Cabot Lions Club for more than 19 years and was president from 1999-2000.

Faught holds many honors and certificates and was listed in the September 2000 International Lions Magazine Higher Key as well as a participating member of AARP.

Faught was active in his church and many other organizations. He was Cabot’s citizen of the year in 1983 and received the Community Leader Award in 1999. In 2002, he was named honoree of the fifth Roast and Toast by the Cabot Scholarship Foundation for his work in the community.

In March 2000, Rep. Marion Berry paid a tribute to him in Congress, saying: “Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a man who is a dear friend of mine, Dewey Faught. Dewey Faught is a great American and a great Arkansan. He is the kind of citizen that made this nation the great place it is today. He has made Cabot a great place to work, live and raise a family. I am proud to call him my friend. Dewey has been married for 54 years to Jane Powell, formerly of Gillett, Arkansas, and they have five sons, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.”

In 2000, the state legislature awarded Faught the State of Arkansas Citation, which recognized his principles of strong character, good citizenship and commitment to God and country.

A memorial service will be held at Victory Baptist Church today at 10 a.m. with interment at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Cabot.

The family suggests donations be made to Victory Baptist Church, where Faught was a member.

TOP STORY>>$5 million sought in kids’ deaths

By SARAH CAMPBELL
Leader staff writer

The fathers of four children who were killed in a March 2012 fire at a Jacksonville duplex are seeking more than $5 million in a lawsuit claiming firefighters and the housing authority were negligent.

Marilyn Beavers, 30, and her children — Dequan Singleton, 10, Sydni Singleton, 9, Haylee Beavers, 6, and Emily Beavers, 4 — died from smoke inhalation between 2:21 and 5:46 a.m. inside their Max Howell Place apartment at 3A S. Simmons Drive.

The Jacksonville Housing Authority manages Max How-ell Place, which is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 program that provides homes to low-income families.

Marilyn Beavers’ fiancĂ©, Furlandare Singleton — the father of Dequan, Sydni and Haylee — and Clyde Hatchett, Emily’s father, filed the lawsuit with the Pulaski County Circuit Court on Friday.

The fathers’ complaint claims the one smoke detector in the apartment did not sound an alarm.

The Leader previously reported that the detector should have been replaced in 2003.

A label stating that is visible in a photo provided as part of a 250-page report released after the tragedy.

According to that report, the detector — found on the floor just inside the doorway of a bedroom — failed to operate, its wires had been cut, and it didn’t have a backup battery.

But two maintenance men who discovered the victims’ bodies told police it was going off when they entered the apartment.

In July 2012, William M. Griffin III with Friday, Eldridge and Clark law firm of Little Rock, the attorney for the housing authority, provided The Leader with a work order from January 2012 and six others from 2011.

The documents indicated that the detector was checked, and it was working, when maintenance men came to the apartment to make several repairs requested by Marilyn Beavers.

According to Patricia Campbell, a HUD regional public affairs officer, smoke detectors are required in the hallways and in the kitchens of older buildings. Max Howell Place was last inspected in September 2012. It scored 84 out of 100, making the complex a “standard” performer that is inspected every two years, she said.

Firefighters first responded to the address around 5:50 a.m. — four minutes after the latest time of death — because the next-door neighbor, Jennifer Gray of apartment B, said she smelled smoke.

She was told that smoke had drifted from another fire across the freeway, about a mile away. That fire leveled an unoccupied home at 3400 Northeastern Ave.

The firefighters knocked on the door of Beavers’ apartment and, after there was no response, didn’t attempt to go inside.

According to the report, at least one of them looked in a window and saw that the living room didn’t have fire damage. Most of the damage was to the kitchen, where the fire started.

The firefighters claim they saw no evidence of a fire. They left about 30 minutes later.

The fathers allege that the firefighters weren’t properly trained on the thermal imaging equipment they used to check for signs of a fire at the apartment. The equipment is designed to detect heat.

The fathers also believe an “adequate and complete perimeter check” wasn’t performed.

The bodies were found around 7 a.m., when the maintenance men noticed some signs of smoke near the rain gutter.

The complaint states that, when firefighters first responded to the address, there were large pieces of glass from the kitchen window on the ground, signs of smoke on at least one front window and burn marks on the exterior part of the roof.

Gray, the next-door neighbor who called 911 when she smelled smoke, told a detective that she “didn’t think the firemen walked around the apartment complex,” and “the firemen were playing pranks on each other and not taking it seriously.”

She also told The Leader that, although she often heard the children laughing and playing through the thin wall that divides the duplex, she didn’t hear a smoke detector going off.

Unattended cooking caused the fire and the deaths were accidental, the report states.

It is believed that Marilyn Beavers tried to extinguish it because she had severe burns on her hands, arms, forehead and neck.

She was found in the bathroom with her daughter, Haylee, cradled to her chest. The other children were found in their beds.

The fire was out when the firefighters arrived at the apartment for a second time around 7:30 a.m. that day, but the burner was still turned on, according to the report.

Director of Administration Jim Durham said on Tuesday afternoon that the city had not been served the fathers’ lawsuit yet and didn’t know what entity would respond to the complaint.

Mayor Gary Fletcher and housing authority executive director Phil Nix said they were advised by legal council not to comment. The city approves appointments to the board of commissioners that governs the housing authority.

Fire Chief Alan Laughy didn’t respond to an e-mail from The Leader by press time.

Laughy replaced 42-year veteran John Vanderhoof, who was the chief when the tragedy occurred and retired in February.

TOP STORYS>>Jacksonville’s new high school

By SARAH CAMPBELL 
Leader staff writer

Hundreds gathered Mon-day morning to celebrate the completion of Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School’s new high school, the College Preparatory Academy, on North First Street.

The $8.7 million, two-story facility is 40,000 square feet. It houses 22 classrooms, two science labs, a media center and an auditorium that doubles as a cafeteria, half of a basketball court and a full volleyball court.

The new high school for grades 9-12 is adjacent to the 28,000-square-foot elementary school (grades K-6) that opened in 2009 on 11 acres off North First Street.

The College Preparatory Academy project was primarily financed through tax-exempt bonds issued by the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, $4.5 million of which are guaranteed by ADFA. The bonds were underwritten and marketed by Crews and Associates of Little Rock.

The Walton Family Foun-dation provided an additional $925,000 in zero-interest subordinate debt and the Charter School Financing Program, a nonprofit entity, provided a $625,000 grant funded through a program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Mike Ronan, president and CEO of Lighthouse Academies, called the dedication ceremony a “historic moment.”

He said, “I think this outcome is a testimony of what can happen when adults come together to work as a community.”

Ronan noted that he founded Lighthouse Academies, which operates 21 schools in eight states, because “we have an obligation not only to serve ourselves but to serve others.”

He said college graduates make $1.9 million more in their lifetimes than high school dropouts.

The charter school system’s mission is to prepare students for college through a rigorous arts-infused curriculum.

Ronan also noted that the unemployment rate among college graduates is around 3 percent, while it is between 10 and 20 percent for high school dropouts.

Jacksonville Lighthouse schools have community support, great teachers and students, also known as scholars, who are engaged in learning, he continued.

These things are needed to achieve the goal of having 100 percent of Lighthouse students attend college, Ronan said.

Ronan explained that, even though it seems like an impossible goal, “we at Lighthouse believe. That’s what makes us Lighthouse.”

Before Ronan spoke at the dedication ceremony, Lighthouse scholars Jordan McNair and Cody Anderson shared their hopes and dreams with the crowd.

McNair said, “With this new facility, we have new opportunities. We have new tools and resources we didn’t have before. We have been given much, and we know there’s a lot to do.”

Anderson said, “My goals for this year are to keep my GPA (grade point average) above 3.5 and push myself beyond the classroom.”

He has been a Lighthouse student since the school opened the Jacksonville campus in 2009.

Anderson concluded, “I have watched the school grow bigger and better every year. We can put Arkansas on the map.”

College Preparatory Academy Principal Chris Carter added that Anderson scored in the 99th percentile on the state-mandated end-of-course biology test.

Former state Rep. Mike Wilson, who helped organize the effort to bring a charter school to Jacksonville, told the audience that the students said it best.

Wilson said, “To whom much is given much is expected. It’s clear to me that you (students) expect much from yourselves, and that is the one of the most inspiring things anyone could hear.”

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher told the audience there are still people who believe kids can do anything they set their minds too. Those people built the College Preparatory Academy, he said.

The mayor noted that Robert F. Kennedy once said some people look at the way things are and ask why, while others dream of things that never were and ask why not.

Fletcher said, “The people who think why not got together to build this.”

He told the students, “I pray you young people dream the highest dreams.”

High school English and journalism teacher Ginny Blakenship noted that she has never seen a charter school build a facility that is the envy of public and private schools statewide.

About Lighthouse teachers, she said, “We are overeducated, over achieving, overworked and underpaid public servants. And we are lucky to do it.”

Blakenship told the students that their teachers want them to, as Henry David Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

She added, “We’ll be with you every step of the way.”

Also attending the dedication and ribbon cutting were state Rep. Mark Perry (D-Jacksonville), school board president Keri Urquhart, chamber treasurer Roger Sundermeier and Phillis Anderson, senior vice president of the Southern and East coast region of Lighthouse Academies. The high school’s drumline performed in front of the school as guests were arriving at the ceremony.

The brass band, during a brief interlude inside the auditorium, played “Do Whatcha Wanna,” which the director called an upbeat New Orleans-inspired selection.

SPORTS STORY>>Head coach is happy with Jackrabbits’ improvement

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

The countdown to the start of the 2013 high school football season has entered its second week for the Lonoke Jackrabbits. The Jackrabbits opened their second week of fall camp with their annual media day for team and individual pictures followed by a morning practice.

Week two is especially trying for coaches around the state with the added hassle of teacher workshops on top of daily practice. Head coach Doug Bost said the team will go with four-hour sessions through Thursday before the length of practice time is shortened. Bost was pleased with the progress made in the first week.

“It got better Thursday and Friday,” Bost said. “We got to put the shoulder pads on, got everything done on offense Thursday, and Friday, just brushed up on some things. Defense, we were able to pick it up a little bit speed wise since we had the shoulder pads on. From where we were Monday and Tuesday to where we ended up, we were pleased as a coaching staff.”

The second week also means added focus on defense now that full contact is allowed on the practice field. The coaching staff got the opportunity to evaluate talent on the offensive side last week, and with all of the offense installed through the spring and summer, the focus can turn to defense. Some of the returners on defense are familiar faces, only in different spots.

Junior Chandler Elmore started at cornerback from the second game on last season at a light 137 pounds. He expressed interest to play outside linebacker to which Bost challenged him to bulk up, which is exactly what he did. Elmore, who holds a 4.0 GPA in the classroom, has shown just as much dedication to football over the past 12 months.

“He got in the offseason, hit the weight rooms, shakes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” Bost said. “He gained 55 pounds. He’s up to 195 pounds, and he’s going to play outside linebacker now. He’s faster. He’s down to a low 4.6, and he’s the best we have technique wise. He calls out our coverages and secondaries, so we’re really pleased with how he’s coming along.”

The plan for the remainder of the week is to continue reviewing offensive plays while picking up the intensity with full contact on defense.

“We’ve got teacher meetings, so we can’t go as long,” Bost said. “I think Thursday’s really our last four-hour practice. We’ll be able to start hitting a little bit and go from there.”

The Jackrabbits will not open the season until Sept. 6 at Star City, making their fall practice stretch nearly five weeks.

With the offense already in place and much of the leg work done defensively, Bost said part of the battle in fall camp is warding off monotony.

“It does, (get difficult to stay focused only practicing for a month) especially this year with the first game not being until after Labor Day,” Bost said. “When you start Aug. 2, yes, it does go for a long time. When Arkansas (Activities Association) said we can do team camps and do 7-on-7, everybody in the state does that now.

“A few years ago, when it came August, you were teaching from scratch. Now, that’s already in, so you’re just brushing up and refreshing stuff. It does get long, and there are times you cut practice down just to change things up so the kids don’t get into a rut of doing the same thing over and over.”

SPORTS STORY>>Beebe golf team green, committed

By JASON KING 
Leader sportswriter

The numbers are typical and the experience level is below average, but Beebe golf coach Justin Moore is enthusiastic about the group he has this year. The Badgers are coming off a solid season debut at the Eagle Mountain course in Batesville last week and are preparing for a slate of conference home matches this year at the Greystone course in Cabot.

Beebe is coming off a successful 2012 season in which the boys’ team took third place in conference and finished seventh in class 5A while girls player Taylor Harrell won the 5A East title and finished third at the state level as an individual. Most of the top players, including Harrell, have since graduated, leaving Moore with a group of less experienced players, many of them juniors.

“It’s pretty common,” Moore said of the 11-player group that includes six boys and five girls. “Two years ago, when I took over this program, they gave me a list of 10 names, and that was what we had. We get 10 to 15 sign up every year. We had 15 sign ups for this season. A lot of the girls don’t have much experience, but they all showed up, and they’ve been here every day.”

Moore said that for the female players, the willingness to learn and improve has overshadowed lack of experience. Two of the players are not even officially listed on the roster, but junior players Valerie Cook, Emily Walls and Baylee Halford make up the core of the girls’ squad.

Halford, who is also a standout on the Lady Badger softball team, led the way at Eagle Mountain last week with a 115. Moore pointed out that while it may not sound like an impressive score, the winning score on the girls’ side was a 100, meaning that Halford, a true novice when it comes to golf, is not far off the pace.

Junior Cole McNeil is the only player returning with significant experience. McNeil finished a close second place at Eagle Mountain last week with a 79, and Moore said he expects McNeil to win a number of tournaments individually this year.

Another junior, Hunter Davis, also has experience, but will most likely have to sit out the season following elbow surgery to replace a screw left in from a previous procedure. Davis is expected to be fully recovered by October towards the end of the season, making his return in 2013 questionable at this point. That gives a larger role to Davis’ younger brother and freshman Landon Davis, who shot a solid 86 at Eagle Mountain.

“The biggest thing is looking to see if we can piece a team together or have to play as individuals,” Moore said. “They are very capable of qualifying as individuals, but it just makes it easier mentally knowing you’re part of a group. We’re going to be talented at the top and looking for people to fill in below that.”

The Badgers will return to Eagle Mountain on Aug. 20 for another match before hosting their first match on Aug. 22 at Greystone.

SPORT STORY>>Red Devils, Panthers look strong this season

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Cabot and Jacksonville once again open the football season against each other when they meet at Panther Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 3. But with the Backyard Brawl being put on the backburner, at least for a time, the two teams could put on a show in what might be the series finale.

Both teams are expected to have strong offenses, so points could be plentiful and the entertainment value high. But it’s not a given. Jacksonville usually has, and is known for, strong defenses. Years of now head coach Rick Russell being the defensive coordinator is a big reason for that. Cabot won last year’s game 28-7, but most of those points were short-field touchdowns after Jacksonville turnovers. Cabot’s defense yielded almost nothing in that game, and the Panthers should be better on that side of the ball this year.

The final matchup between the two teams will be one in which both schools believe they have one of their most talented groups in a while.

Jacksonville is loaded at the skill positions, but is short on linemen, and even shorter than expected now that two prospective starters have fallen short of academic eligibility.

Cabot is in somewhat of the same boat. Two returning offensive line starters are no longer with the team, but the Panthers have more depth than Jacksonville.

And they should have more depth, and that’s a big reason why this game probably won’t happen again, at least until Jacksonville finally begins operating as its own school district and merges with much of North Pulaski’s drawing area.

As it stands, the latest enrollment figures show Cabot as more than three times larger than Jacksonville with 2,258 students to JHS’s 680. Cabot typically has between 85 and 100 players on the first day of practice while Jacksonville had 45 this year.

Even if you add North Pulaski’s entire current enrollment of 609 to Jacksonville’s, there’s still a gap of nearly 1,000 students, and Jacksonville’s new district almost certainly won’t include all of NPHS’s current drawing area.

The current numbers are almost never conducive to a competitive football game. Jacksonville has managed to keep it competitive in most years, but has only managed two wins in the last 15 years, and none since 2006.

Neither the Panthers nor Red Devils predicate their seasons on what happens in a week-one game with such a numbers disparity, Jacksonville even less than Cabot.

“We’re going to compete and we’re going in there to win the game, but if we don’t, it doesn’t make or break our season,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said during the first week of practice.

Cabot may be the heavy favorite, but the game only provides a potentially negative beginning to the season. Everyone expects the state’s third largest school to beat the 46th largest, so a win gains them little credit. But a loss, no matter how competitive Jacksonville is supposed to be in their 5A division, would be considered a sign of a disappointing season to come for the Panthers.

The game has only existed this long for monetary reasons. It’s a good gate with good concession sales, and it’s good for advertisers and generating advertisement dollars. But it serves no other purpose anymore. Some may say money is a good reason to continue the game, but that’s not what scholastic athletics is supposed to be about.

Beyond game one, Cabot and Jacksonville both have a rare chance to run the table.

Jacksonville may not be an underdog in any other game this season, but will have to find the kind of consistency that has eluded it the past several years to pull off the feat.

Cabot will need one big upset to go undefeated, but will be on at least equal footing with all its opponents except for the Pulaski County All-Stars, otherwise known as the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats.

SPORTS STORY>>NP ladies youthful this year

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski volleyball team will be relying heavily on youth for the upcoming 2013 season. The Lady Falcons have only two seniors and a lot of sophomores, but one of those seniors will be a huge key to NP’s success.

Emily Long will be a three-year starter and one of the most experienced players in North Pulaski’s 5A-Central Conference. North Pulaski coach Ben Belton went beyond comparing her to his conference, and heaped high praise on his setter.

“In my opinion, she’s the best setter in the state,” Belton said. “We haven’t played together much this summer, but she did and she came back as good as she’s always been and probably a little better. We have a young team. Emily is our setter and that’s the only given right now. We’re going to have to come together around her and just play.”

Casey Mullen is the other senior and a returning starter, though she missed some of last year with an injury. The Lady Falcons will also rely heavily on Mullen as one of three full-rotation players. Sophomore Raigen Thomas is the third.

“Casey and Raigen both will have to serve receive and that’s something we’re struggling with right now,” Belton said. “It’s something that I think is getting better the more we play together, but it’s got to get a lot better if we want to compete and make it back to state. I think, with Casey’s experience, she’s going to start bringing some of that consistency we need when we get more practice time in.”

Thomas’ role will be predominantly as a hitter, but her versatility makes her valuable even on the back row.

“She’s not very tall but she’s got a chance to be one of the best outside hitters we’ve ever had here,” Belton said. “She’s just an athlete. She strong and she can jump. We’ve got to work on our timing but she’s got a lot of potential.”

Sophomore Kierra Evans brings height to the middle and fills out the early starting rotation. The other two starting rotation position is still open, according to the head Falcon.

“We’re looking for that player or those players who are going to step up and show the consistency we need,” Belton said. “We’ve been to two camps and we’re still making some pretty big mistakes, like serving errors. At this level, serving in volleyball should be like shooting free throws in basketball. You just ought to be able to do it, but we’re not right now. So we’ve got them on a serving regimen where they have to serve so many every day and we chart them.”

The Lady Falcons went to a team camp at UCA in late July and went to another camp at Vilonia last week. Belton says play improved through both camps.

“At UCA we looked really rusty,” Belton said. “You could tell it was our first time out all summer. At Vilonia we got better every day. On the last day we played the best we’ve played so far. We had Vilonia beat for second place in our little pool, but we just didn’t get it done.”

The Lady Falcons lost to the host team 25-23 and 25-22.

“If we can just continue to get better from that match, we could possibly finish way up in the conference,” Belton said. “But right now, with the service errors and the mistakes we make serve receiving, we’re not going to qualify unless we improve, and that’s just going to take a commitment to getting better.”