Saturday, November 23, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bison outrun Eagles for win

Special to The Leader

It was wet, cold, and windy at Fred C. Hardke Field as Carlisle hosted Conway Christian in the second round of the class 2A state football playoffs. The Bison were the favored team and did not disappoint as senior running backs DeRon Ricks and Bo Weddle again led the charge and Carlisle came away with the 48-26 victory.

The Bison extended its record to 11-1 and move on to the third round of the playoffs against Rison, while Conway Christian’s season ended with a record of 6-6.

Ricks had 243 yards, three touchdowns, and one two-point conversion, giving him a total of 1,590 rushing yards for the season. Weddle rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the second Bison back to go over the 1,000-yard mark with 1,104 yards. Justice Bryant added 52 yards, one touchdown, two two-point conversions, and an interception. Thomas McCallie rushed for 58 yards and one touchdown.

Carlisle finished with 507 total yards, all rushing, while the Eagles had 275 combined rushing and passing yards.

“It was one of those nasty nights when you know you couldn’t do everything right because of the conditions, but our guys physically played hard and did what we had to do to keep playing,” said Carlisle head coach Brandon Barbaree.

“We get to play again. I thought our offensive line moved bodies well for how many they had up on the line, and I thought DeRon Ricks and Bo Weddle ran the heck out of the football. It was a good team win.”

The Bison got on the board first with a 51-yard opening drive that consumed over seven minutes of the first quarter clock. Weddle and Ricks, along with Bryant and McCallie, moved the ball down the field with Ricks finishing the drive from the 1-yard line. The extra point try was no good, leaving the score 6-0.

The same backs marched down the field again on Carlisle’s next possession, but it was Weddle with the touchdown from 7-yards out. Ricks added the two-point conversion for the 14-0 lead. Conway Christian’s next possession ended when Bryant intercepted quarterback Chandler Ferrand.

A block in the back penalty brought the return back to midfield. The Eagles quickly turned the tables when Chase Kehler stripped the ball from a Bison running back and returned it all the way to the end zone. The extra point try was unsuccessful, but Conway Christian was on the board, trailing 14-6.

Carlisle answered back with an 85-yard scoring drive, this time with Bryant taking the ball in on a 31-yard touchdown scamper. Bryant also added the two-point conversion, making the lead 22-6 with 1:27 to go in the half.

It took the Eagles only one minute to answer back, with first-down runs by Andrew Steely and Ferrand, before Ferrand connected with Casey Roark in the end zone. The two-point conversion was no good, and the score at the half was 22-12 in favor of the home team.

The Bison’s second half scoring was all Ricks on the first two possessions, as he took the first play from scrimmage to the end zone on each, with touchdown runs of 64 and 69 yards. Bryant added the two-point conversion on the first, and the next attempt was no good.

The Eagles scored between the two drives however, with Ferrand finding Jon Mark Weed in the end zone for the score. The two-point conversion was good on that drive, and the score was 36-20 with 7:03 to go in the third quarter.

After a long kickoff by Carlisle and a short punt by Conway Christian, the Bison found themselves with very good field position on the Eagle 28-yard line. Weddle found the end zone from 15-yards out and Carlisle pulled ahead 42-20. The two-point conversion was no good.

Conway Christian answered back with a 76-yard scoring drive. Seth Smith broke free to the Carlisle 11-yard line and Ferrand ran the ball in from the 1-yard line. The two-point conversion was no good, leaving a 42-26 lead for the Bison.

Carlisle added one touchdown in the fourth quarter, following a time-consuming drive culminating with an 8-yard touchdown by McCallie. The two-point conversion was no good, setting the final score of 48-26.

Jordan Sheets recovered an Eagle fumble as Conway Christian tried to answer to help preserve the Bison victory.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS holds off Lions’ rally for road win

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils didn’t have to come back in the fourth quarter to win like it did in its opener, but it did have to hold off a hard-charging Searcy team after building a large lead on Thursday. The Red Devils beat the Lions 70-66 on the Lions’ home court in the first-round of the Searcy Bank Classic on the campus of SHS.

Jacksonville built leads of 11 and 16 in the second half only to see the home team charge back each time. The Red Devils led 44-33 midway through the third quarter before Searcy, 0-2,went on a 9-0 run to cut the margin back to two. Jacksonville then answered with the final six points of the third quarter, and then the first nine of the fourth.

When sophomore LaQuawn Smith hit junior Tedrick Wolfe for a backdoor alley oop that made it 59-42 with 3:31 left in the game, it seemed all but over. But Searcy made a furious comeback, utilizing half-court traps to force turnovers on four-straight Jacksonville possessions.

The Red Devils also obliged Searcy’s efforts by making just 13 of 29 free-throw attempts, including missing 4 of 6 attempts during the Lions’ run. In less than a minute, the margin was down to 63-56. With 2:08 left, it was 63-58. When another Red Devil turnover turned into fastbreak points by Searcy guard James Wade, that made it 64-61 with 1:34 remaining in the game.

Jacksonville finally began handling the pressure and Searcy was forced to foul to extend the game. The Red Devils also finally began knocking down free throws. They made their last six of their last eight to keep Searcy from ever tying or taking the lead.

Wade hit a three pointer with 53 seconds left that made it 66-64, and Searcy had two possessions with a chance to tie or take the lead, and came away empty each time.

Jacksonville junior Devin Campbell hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 67-64 with 35 seconds left, and Wade threw up a wild shot at the other end that missed everything. Searcy then sent senior Sergio Berkley to the line, who drained both his attempts for a 69-64 lead with 20 seconds to go.

Searcy sophomore Jeremiah Clifton missed a three at the other end, but Wade got the rebound and put it back. Searcy called timeout with seven seconds left and fouled Campbell again after less than a second ticked off the clock.

Campbell again hit 1 of 2 and Searcy’s final three was no good.

“We’re still trying to find the core group that we can count on,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “I know I saw a few early in this game that proved they’re not ready. It’s all about getting ready for January. We need to do better closing teams out, but we’re just searching for the right chemistry right now. We’re a long way from being a championship level basketball team, but we’re finding ways to win. We could be 0-2 right now.”

Jacksonville, 2-0, shot poorly from the line, but shot well from the floor, hitting 25 of 49 attempts while Searcy made 21 of 62. The Lions were 21 of 33 from the foul line.

Searcy also pulled off the rare feat of out-rebounding Jacksonville, holding a 28-27 advantage on the boards.

Campbell led all scorers with 27 points while Berkley added 20 for Jacksonville. Wade scored 25 to lead Searcy, including 12 from the foul line. He missed his first free throw of the game before making 12 straight. Emaje Young added 12 points for the Lions while sophomore Jeremiah Clifton had nine points and 10 rebounds.

The Red Devils also faced Greenbrier last night, and will face Benton at 4:30 p.m. today.

SPORTS STORY >> Hornets topple Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

Despite out-gaining Maumelle in total yards, Lonoke committed five turnovers, and as a result, had to watch the Hornets celebrate midfield following their 34-13 victory over the Jackrabbits in the second round of the class 4A state football playoffs Friday at James B. Abraham Stadium.

Lonoke (9-3) came out fired up at the start of the game, and after the Jackrabbit defense took the field, it forced a three and out on Maumelle’s first possession. After the punt, Lonoke’s offense answered with a seven-play drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior quarterback Kody Smith.

Jose Garcia’s extra point was good, giving the ’Rabbits an early 7-0 lead with 6:32 to play in the opening quarter. Unfortunately for Lonoke, the lead wouldn’t last long. On the second play of the Hornets’ ensuing possession, quarterback Tyshaun Robinson found a wide-open JB Minix behind the Jackrabbit secondary, and Minix took the pass 82 yards for an easy touchdown.

The successful PAT tied it up with 5:44 to play in the first. Lonoke’s offense retook the field after the kickoff, and after starting on its own 22, the Jackrabbits picked up two first downs before converting a fake punt on fourth down near midfield.

A bad snap the following play put the ’Rabbits in a second-and-26 situation, and it didn’t get any better from there. A false start penalty and an incomplete pass followed, and after a 2-yard run by Smith on third down, that made it fourth and 28 near the Maumelle 40.

Instead of electing to punt, Lonoke coach Doug Bost decided to go for it, and Smith’s desperation pass was intercepted by DaRayun Canada at the Hornet 20. Canada broke free down the Jackrabbit sideline, and took it the distance for the go-ahead touchdown with 11:42 remaining in the second quarter. The extra point made it 14-7 Maumelle (10-3).

Lonoke’s momentum appeared to be lost as it went three and out the following possession, and Maumelle answered with another score on its following drive.

Starting at their own 38, the Hornets scored after a seven-play drive that ended with another touchdown pass by Robinson, this one to junior Braylon Waits from 18-yards out with 7:35 to play in the half. The PAT set the halftime margin at 21-7 Maumelle.

“They scared us early,” said Maumelle coach Mike Buchan. “They went right down the field, and I thought it was going to be a long night. But we went to a different defense and that worked the rest of the half.

“Our guys just played hard. The offense played great tonight. We moved the ball and held onto the ball, and it was just a rotten night. In years past, we usually don’t play well when it gets cold. We don’t see this muddy stuff much, but they played great and I’m proud of them.”

Maumelle’s offense finished the game with zero turnovers. Lonoke received the ball at the start of the second half, and played like its season was on the line. Starting at its own 29, the ’Rabbits scored after a five-play drive ended with a 16-yard run by sophomore tailback Josh Coleman with 10:04 to play in the third quarter.

The extra-point attempt was no good, leaving the score 21-13 Hornets. Maumelle went three and out on its first possession of the half, but after its defense forced a Lonoke turnover on downs the next series, the Hornets put together a lengthy drive that ended with another score.

Penalties stalled the Hornets’ ability to move the ball down the field, but their playmakers got it done when the visitors needed it the most. On the 11th play of the lengthy drive, Robinson appeared to be stuffed in the backfield at the Lonoke 12-yard line on third down, but Robinson threw a lateral pass to Waits, who took it to the corner of the end zone for another Maumelle touchdown.

“It was just the way we drew it up,” Buchan joked about the lateral touchdown play. “He’ll try and do something every once in while that you don’t think would ever work, but most of the time it does.”

The PAT was blocked, but the touchdown put Maumelle up two possessions, leading 27-13 with 47 seconds to play in the third. Lonoke committed three of its five turnovers in the fourth quarter. The fifth one had a lot to do with the wet conditions.

With just seconds to play, Smith dropped back for a pass, but as he threw, the ball slipped out of his hand as he went through his delivery. As a result, the pass was intercepted by Maumelle’s Michael Cole at the Lonoke 22-yard line, and Cole returned it the distance for the game’s final touchdown. The successful PAT set the final score.

It was a tough ending for the Jackrabbits, who before Friday was on a four-game winning streak. Lonoke finished the game with 258 yards of offense. Maumelle totaled 210. Robinson threw just four passes in the game, but completed two of them for a total of 100 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.

Coleman was the star offensively for Lonoke, as he finished the game with 24 carries for a game-high 158 yards and one touchdown.

Maumelle advances to next week’s quarterfinal round with the win. The Hornets will be the visiting team yet again as they travel to Valley View, who beat Prairie Grove 14-12 in northwest Arkansas on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Ex-Devils shine, Tech rolls UCA

LTU Sports Information

CONWAY – It was home sweet home for Arkansas natives Raheem Appleby and Kenyon McNeail as the duo combined to score 39 points in leading the Bulldogs to a 94-57 win over Central Arkansas on Wednesday night in the Farris Center.

The game-high 21 points from Appleby, a junior from Jacksonville, were particularly special since the guard became the 35th Bulldog to reach 1,000 points.

“I was pleased with the overall effort and energy level of our guys on both sides of the basketball,” said head coach Michael White. “I thought that we got good contributions from a number of our guys offensively and defensively, but overall I thought we played extremely hard. That is the first step in giving yourself a chance to win on the road.”

Central Arkansas (1-2) came into the game averaging 101 points per game and wanted to make it a track meet from the get go, but LA Tech (2-1) was up to the challenge and then some.

After three missed scoring opportunities on the `Dogs’ opening possession, UCA had a jumper fall to give them a 2-0 lead. It would be all LA Tech for the next five minutes.

Six different Bulldogs scored during an 18-0 run, including back-to-back three-pointers from the Conway native McNeail, who came off the bench.

UCA cut the lead down to 12, 20-8, on a fast break dunk and a three pointer by DeShone McClure, another former Jacksonville Red Devil, but the `Dogs raced right back with an 18-4 run capped by an under handed layup from Kenneth Smith.

Later, Appleby drained a three from the corner and then with three seconds left in the half put in a layup off the glass from the baseline, giving the `Dogs a 47-19 advantage at the break.

“We tried to play some zone early and try to slow the game down,” said UCA head coach Clarence Finley. “But they knocked down dome threes and got it inside, so we had to get out of it. They got it up to a 16-point lead and we had to play some man, and they were just too strong for us.

“And I thought their press gave us some problems. We had a freshman that didn’t get in the middle of the zone like we had worked on it, and we ended up with 20-something turnovers. They were just very long and very athletic, and we didn’t handle the pressure.”

The second half began much like the first half with UCA getting on the scoreboard first, this time with one of their eight three-pointers. Then in just 35 seconds, LA Tech poured in seven straight points.

Appleby hit a jumper with 6:53 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 76-38 lead, but it was his next two shots 20 seconds later that made the history.

Even though one would think he would hit a running floater to make his 1,000th point, it turned out to be two simple free throws that got him to the mark. He scored his next two points though on a high-flying dunk, giving LA Tech their largest lead of the game, 80-38.

In scripted fashion, McNeail followed with a conventional three-point play to give him 18 points.

The Arkansas duo was subbed out by coach White with less than two minutes remaining and given a big round of applause by the Bulldog fans who made the trek to Conway.

“[Raheem and Kenyon] are two great young men that I have had the privilege to coach and that I was very happy to see play well in front of their friends and family,” White said.

As much as the Bulldog offense was clicking on all cylinders, it was largely created by their suffocating defense in the victory.

The team scored 34 points off 24 turnovers and Michale Kyser swatted five blocks, giving him 17 in just three games this season.

LA Tech ended the game shooting 34-of-75 from the field for 45 percent and limiting the Bears to just 35 percent shooting.

UCA was led by McClure, who had a team-high 19 points.

LA Tech returns to action on Monday at 11 a.m. in an opening round contest versus UNC Greensboro in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla.

The Bears will hit the road for a Sunday afternoon matchup with Arkansas State in Jonesboro. Tip-off is 2 p.m. at the Convocation Center. UCA is back home hosting Troy on Tuesday night at 7.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot bounces Tigers

Leader sports editor

The old adage is that it’s always difficult to beat a good team twice, but when Cabot met Little Rock Central for the second time this season, the second session was easier than the first. The Panthers rolled over the Tigers at Panther Stadium on Friday 35-7 to advance to the semifinal round, where they will face another previous foe, North Little Rock. The Panthers established control early by stopping Central after one first down, then scoring on their first two possessions.

“With a week off it takes a little while to get the engines revved up, but we got it going pretty quick and played pretty good on both sides of the ball,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “We gave up one big play on third and long, but that (Logan) Moragne, he’s a good athlete. We kept him contained most of the night, but he got a little space and that’s all he needs. I just thought both sides of the ball played pretty good. I’m sure there will be lots of mistakes when we watch the film, but we did what we needed to do and we get to move on.”

The first drive was all fullback Zach Launius, who broke the 1,500-yard mark for the season with 25 carries for 204 yards. He also scored all five Cabot touchdowns and now has 1,556 yards rushing this season.

The game was also highlighted by several big plays on defense.

The first came on Central’s third drive when junior defensive back Logan Melder knocked down a pass on third and 7. On Central’s next drive, Moragne got loose for 20 yards on the first play, but defensive end Brian Marshall put the Tigers on a hole on the next play by blowing up his blocker and knocking wingback Tyler Fountain backwards for an 8-yard loss.

Junior linebacker Jack Whisker made two critical plays. The first came late in the second quarter when, on a Central punt attempt, he was in the backfield, the punter had to pull it down and try to run, but Whisker tackled him for a 10-yard loss, setting up Cabot’s final touchdown of the first half. Whisker also intercepted a Cooper Westbrook pass right after a 24-yard gain early in the fourth quarter that all but sealed the win.

After a false-start penalty to start the game, Launius went 3 yards on first down, then broke one for 57 yards to the 3-yard line on the second play. He got the rest on the next play to put the Panthers up 7-0 with 8:59 left in the first quarter.

Central got one more first down before being forced to punt on its next drive, and Cabot scored again. It took a few more than three snaps, but the Panthers went 75 yards in 10 plays. The key play was a 26-yard gain on the option pitch from Kason Kimbrell on third and 6. That play took it to the 6-yard line, where Launius took the next handoff into the end zone. The extra point attempt hit the upright, leaving it 13-0 with 3:31 left in the opening frame.

Things bogged down for both teams for most of the second quarter. Each team received personal foul penalties on defense for late hits on opposing quarterbacks, and both were on third and 17. But neither offense was able to capitalize on the defensive mistakes. Central was unable to convert another first down, and tried a 35-yard field goal. Cabot defensive tackle Aaron Henry got a hand on the kick and it fell well short of the goal post.

Cabot’s first drive of the second quarter ended when Dylan Thompson fumbled at the end of a 9-yard run and Central covered it. The Panthers next drive looked stalled at the their own 46, but Central’s late hit kept it going. Still, Cabot turned it over on downs without another first down.

Central took over on its own 36 with 2:42 left in the half, and used just 20 seconds throwing three incomplete passes.

That’s when Whisker flew into the backfield to sack the punter.

Three Launius runs and a two-point conversion later, the Panthers led 21-0 with 46 seconds left in the half.

Cabot got the ball to start the second half and took 11 plays to go 54 yards for another score. Launius punched it in from 4 yards out on third and 1 with 6:42 left in the third quarter and the PAT made it 28-0.

The two teams traded three-and-out possessions before Central finally got on the board. The Tigers converted twice on third and long, and scored on second and 24 when Westbrook hit Moragne on a short inside screen. The tailback did the rest, first cutting up field between the hash marks, then finding a seam on the left side for a 47-yard touchdown reception.

Cabot wasted little time answering. After covering an onside kick attempt, Cabot picked up 2 yards on first down before a false-start penalty. On second down, Launius got loose again, this time for 50 yards and his fifth touchdown that set the final margin with 11:04 remaining in the game.

The Panthers gained 404 total yards while Central amassed just 182. Moragne finished with 133 total yards, 76 rushing and 47 receiving.

Cabot halfback Chris Henry had six carries for 64 yards.

The Panthers will host North Little Rock next Friday. The Charging Wildcats beat Bryant 28-7 and have not lost since falling 48-32 to Cabot in week four.

“We’ll get the tape and start work in the morning and see if we can beat them again,” Malham said of the Wildcats. “They’ve got more talent than anyone in the state so it’s going to be tough.”

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville big winner

Jacksonville may soon get what it has long wanted: to break away from the Pulaski County Special School District and form its own independent school district. That could happen next year after a dramatic week in a federal courtroom.

U.S. Judge G. Price Marshall ruled Friday that PCSSD has met most criteria to be considered desegregated, clearing the way for Jacksonville’s release from the chronically failing district that is headquartered on Dixon Road in Little Rock.

A stand-alone Jacksonville school district is possible within two years thanks to resolution of the expensive desegregation effort that has tied up schools in central Arkansas for at least 31 years at a cost of more than $1 billion.

Jacksonville voters will now have to approve the split in an election to be held as soon as next September.

Patrick Wilson and Daniel Gray of Jacksonville-North Pulaski Education Corps, which has been leading the effort to leave PCSSD, are pleased that Judge Price appreciated the importance of settling the long-running desegregation lawsuit now instead of letting it drag out for several more years.

Jacksonville is fortunate that the case has finally ended up in Judge Price’s courtroom. He’s a brilliant jurist who has a full grasp of the issues. The interests of students matter the most to him.

“I can’t see how it could have gone better,” said Jim Durham, Jacksonville’s director of administration, after the judge issued his historic decision.

Gray, who has steadfastly worked to help the city reach this point, said his efforts will now focus on getting area school patrons to vote for the separation.

Jacksonville residents have sought an independent school district for about a decade after suffering the consequences of an incompetent and dysfunctional school board, which the state Education Department dissolved two years ago, after realizing that the district’s financial and academic problems weren’t going to get better.

In recent years, the PCSSD school board had become one of the worst in the country. There was constant arguing during meetings by members who had no idea how to improve the failing schools, sidelining a string of superintendents who eventually all left in frustration.

Before the state stepped in, Jacksonville had only one board member, Bill Vasquez, who achieved little for his hometown and was hamstrung by employee union squabbles. In the end, he was happy to see the state take over. We all were, figuring the district would continue its shameful decline without state intervention.

PCSSD refused to help Jacksonville, where school buildings have been neglected for years and a new one has not been built in about 35 years. A locally-based district will mean Jacksonville will have the opportunity to reverse that trend. It should also help attract and retain families, who have instead been drawn to Cabot and other communities in central Arkansas.

The new district will probably have to raise its millage rate from 40.7 mills to pay for improvement to school buildings — but the state would pay half the cost because Jacksonville would be classified as a poor district.

At least one of the provisions preliminarily approved by Marshall can be traced back to Will Bond’s tenure as a state representative for Jacksonville. Succeeding his mother Pat, who introduced legislation earlier in the House making an independent district possible, young Will in 2007 drafted legislation ordering the districts to try to reach an agreement and dangling a carrot before the districts by offering to pay up to $250,000 in legal fees to each district to pursue an agreement. And the agreement Marshall approved Friday included $250,000 in legal fees for each of the three districts. Lawyers aren’t cheap, but that fee will be well spent.

In recent years, Sherwood, which has suffered less under PCSSD, has been working to break away. It, too, realizes the advantages of managing its own schools. For now, though, Sherwood, along with Maumelle, which also wants to split, will have to stay in the Pulaski County district, because the agreement that the judge approved only made room for Jacksonville’s exit.

PCSSD, under the leadership of interim Superintendent Jerry Guess, had supported Jacksonville’s aspirations to leave the district. He knows PCSSD has failed the city. But the split also means that PCSSD is no longer responsible for the problems at Jacksonville High School, which has won federal grants in the last few years because it ranks in the bottom 5 percent of schools in Arkansas. That alone will boost PCSSD’s test-score averages. Many other Jacksonville schools are also failing, but there’s now hope.

We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

TOP STORY >> Drug suspect shoots an officer during raid

A Pulaski County man who shot a Jacksonville police officer at 6:20 a.m. Friday will be charged with criminal attempt to commit capital murder.

The officer was treated and released from the hospital a few hours after the incident.

Mark Lyle Dodson, 53, allegedly opened fire on sheriff’s deputies, a Drug Enforcement Agency worker and the Jacksonville Police Department’s SWAT team when they entered 2327 Backbone Road near Cabot to search the house for narcotics.

Police returned fire to Dodson, who sustained potentially life-threatening injuries, according to Lt. Carl Minden of the sheriff’s office.

Late Friday afternoon, Dodson was still being treated at Baptist Hospital-Springhill in North Little Rock.

Minden said there would be additional charges after further investigation.

Capt. Kenny Boyd with the Jacksonville Police Department said the wounded officer’s name would be released on Monday.

“He’s going to be OK,” he added.

Dodson’s house is in a wooded area off Hwy. 5 and past the Cabot RV Park.

Backbone is a one-lane road with a dead end where the few neighbors nearby have private property and no trespassing signs posted.

TOP STORY >> Special CHS students find work

Leader staff writer

The special-education class at Cabot High School has a new program called Preparing for and Acquiring Community Employment for Students (PACES).

The program uses working environments along with therapy to help students with their development.

So far, four students are in the PACES program. They have been working two-hour shifts for four weeks at two nonprofits in Ward — Beyond Boundaries and Allied Therapy.

Beyond Boundaries is a therapy center that uses horses to help children and adults with disabilities develop their motor and sensory skills, speech and behavior. Allied Therapy works to enable, train or retrain an individual to perform the independent skills and activities necessary for daily living, according to its website. Beyond Boundaries spokeswoman Tiffany Mattzela explained how the nonprofits participate in the PACES program.

“Staff members at both Allied Therapy and Beyond Boundaries developed sessions that allow jobs to be broken into steps that can be learned, practiced and performed more independently through a skilled progression. The jobs can vary based on student interests and abilities as well as access to employment opportunities within the community,” Mattzela said.

The desired progression for a student in the program is to move from job training and job shadowing to a paid position somewhere.

Allied Therapy and Beyond Boundaries offers the students jobs that are based on what office assistants, childcare workers, housekeepers, maintenance personnel, supply inventory employees, animal caregivers and lawn care providers do. The students are developing a work schedule, time management skills, social skills and taking an initiative, program organizers say.

Mattzela said, “This is our environment. We’re used to working with these kids.”

She added that it is exciting to see the students transition from horse therapy to taking on an active role and being responsible. Mattzela said they feel like they are a part of the organization and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

Occupational therapist Garrett Polk said the therapists apply physical and thinking skills to everyday activities for students to address the skills they need to improve.

Polk said the instructor walks a student through a chore list the first time. The next time, the student has to refer to the task list and follow the steps before seeking help. The goal is for students to remember a sequence of steps or be able to use resources to find help and perform it independently.

Aubrey Romines is an 11th grader who works twice each week at Allied Therapy. She vacuums, cleans, escorts children to their parents, gets their school bags ready for them and gives them a calendar of events.

Romines said she likes working at Allied Therapy “because they are nice people.”

She has learned how to fill out a timesheet and complete paperwork.

Romines said, after graduation, she would like to be a special-needs model.

Hannah Roe and Jesse Covington are 12th graders who work at Beyond Boundaries.

Covington said he likes to water the arena and sweep. Roe wants to work with animals after graduation.

PACES organizers are hoping more businesses will provide learning opportunities to the students. “We are looking for positions for our students. We provide job coaching and sample the job, before they hire (the students),” said Special education teacher Shelley Moore.

TOP STORY >> Ruling allows Jacksonville district

Leader senior staff writer

A stand-alone Jacksonville-area school district is likely within two years, and an end to state support of the expensive, extensive 31-year-old central Arkansas desegregation effort is set for the 2017-18 school year.

That’s because U.S. District Judge Price Marshall III on Friday granted preliminary approval to a six-party desegregation settlement agreement that would clear the way for detachment of a Jacksonville-area district from Pulaski County Special School District. It also specifies a sum and date certain for the end of state desegregation financial support, which has exceeded $1 billion.

Final touches on the agreement, which PCSSD, the North Little Rock and Little Rock school districts, the Joshua and Knight Intervenors and the state all signed off on, were completed Tuesday evening. The state Legislative Council on Monday approved the agreement for presentation to the court, provided that all parties, with the possible exception of the Joshua Intervenors, signed off. Eventually, all parties agreed.


The settlement agreement calls for the state to continue desegregation funding for rest of the 2013-14 school year. (See editorial, p. 6A.)

In 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17, PCSSD would receive about $21 million annually in such funding, Little Rock would get about $37 million and North Little Rock would take $7.6 million. Then, for the 2017-18 school year, final payments of the same amounts would be earmarked for new construction, remodeling and repair of the neediest schools in those districts.


If Marshall’s preliminary approval stands the challenge of a January public fairness hearing, PCSSD will still lack unitary status in several areas and is not excused from achieving that status. Any responsibility of PCSSD would apply to a Jacksonville district as well. One of the trickiest unitary hurdles is good and adequate school buildings. A Jacksonville detachment would benefit both the new district and the rest of PCSSD in that regard. Because of the area’s wealth index, the state only pays half-of-one-percent of approved academic facilities. Because Jacksonville is relatively poor, the state would match about 50 percent of those costs.

Walker told Marshall he did not favor a stand-alone Jacksonville-area district, but that it is a racially-balanced area that would not impact the racial balance of the rest of PCSSD.


“The state and the districts agree that the state may immediately authorize the creation of a Jacksonville/North Pulaski area school district consistent with state law,” part of the agreement read.

It’s not that simple, says Daniel Gray, president of the Jacksonville/North Pulaski area Education Corps. It will require the vote and approval of area school patrons. A temporary school board would probably be appointed with an election to follow for new school board members. He said a new district is likely two years off — maybe more.


But while the agreement authorizes pursuit of a Jacksonville area district, “the state will oppose the creation of any other school districts from PCSSD’s territory until PCSSD is declared fully unitary and is released from federal court supervision.”

That’s the language to which some Sherwood and Maumelle residents who want their own districts object.

Walker said that while a Jacksonville district wouldn’t upset racial balance in PCSSD, that was not true of other areas interested in breaking off from PCSSD. Areas such as Maumelle, Sherwood and Chenal, which are predominantly white, would leave the remaining areas of PCSSD predominantly black — a clear violation of the intent of the 30-year-old desegregation agreement.

Walker seemed to suggest that the court did not need to hear objections at the fairness hearing from those other areas interested in their own districts.


“I’m not inclined to close the courthouse doors,” the judge told him.

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman attended the Friday hearing.

State Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, has written asking Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to explain how the agreement could exclude Sherwood and other cities from the opportunity to form stand-alone districts, while allowing Jacksonville to have one.


“This is a great day,” PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess said. “Another step taken in the process.”

Gray, the Jacksonville school district spokesman, said, “I’m still stoked. I appreciate what (John) Walker said—the creation of a Jacksonville/north Pulaski County district does not affect (racial balance) numbers.”

Education Corps lawyer Patrick Wilson said Walker recognized that state partnership money for academic facilities serves the black students he represents. The kids he represents will be attending school in better buildings if Jacksonville breaks off from PCSSD.

“A Jacksonville district is even closer,” Gray said.

Wilson said, “I’m even more optimistic.”

Sam Jones, who has represented PCSSD in desegregation matters since 1982, said of the agreement and the ruling, “No party got everything it wanted, but they all got something.”


Final approval of the agreement is pending until a Jan. 13-14 fairness hearing, at which the court will hear objections to be sure the settlement is “fair, reasonable and adequate,” he said. The judge said that those wishing to object and appear at the fairness hearing must inform the court by Dec. 23.

Had Marshall not tentatively approved the agreement, all sides would have battled it out in his court, where he had set aside two weeks beginning Dec. 9.

Marshall postponed the Dec. 9 hearing, which may be unnecessary, but reserved March 17-28 in case the settlement agreement fails to get final approval.


“This is not the end,” Marshall said. “But it’s the beginning of the end.”

He said that he had ruled in favor of the agreement because it was “in the range of reasonable,” agreed to by all parties, had legal precedent, didn’t seem skewed in favor of any one party, the proposed attorney fees seemed reasonable and it seemed to have no glaring defect or omission.

“Nothing here causes me concern,” the judge noted.

He praised the hard and able work undertaken by the litigants and their attorneys.

Marshall ordered the parties to make the terms of the tentative settlement known widely and in language a middle school student could understand.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Bison face same style, only faster

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison will look to take one step closer toward their postseason dream Friday when they host Conway Christian in the second round of the class 2A state football playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

Conway Christian (6-5), the No. 4 seed from the 2A-5 Conference, advanced to the second round after upsetting Walnut Ridge, the No. 2 seed from the 2A-3 Conference, 36-28 last week in northeast Arkansas.

Like Carlisle (10-1), the Eagles like to run the ball, but unlike the Bison, they do it primarily from the Spread formation. The Bison defense held Marked Tree’s Spread offense to 211 yards last week, but Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree says Conway Christian’s skill players could pose different problems than the ones that gave his team little trouble last week.

“I tell you what, as far as their skill guys, I wouldn’t say they’re big, but they’re extremely fast,” said Barbaree. “They do look quick on film. They make plays against the ball. They make people miss in space, especially on the films we have. We’re really going to have to be fundamentally sound, be good tacklers this week, and keep everything in front of us.”

Some of the Eagle playmakers Barabree said stood out on film is senior quarterback Chandler Ferrand, and running backs Andrew Steely and Casey Roark. Ferrand is a true dual threat at quarterback. He was an All-Conference receiver a season ago, but has been solid throughout the 2013 season taking snaps, and hurting opposing defenses with both his arm and legs.

Ferrand has rushed for 1,101 yards and passed for 1,567 yards in the 11 games played. He’s even lined upat receiver at times, as he’s totaled 536 receiving yards this season as well.

“He’s dangerous, no doubt,” Barbaree said of Ferrand. “He’s the real deal back there.”

Defensively, Barbaree said the Eagles on film often line up in a three man front, but will bring their outside linebackers up to the line to make it look like a 5-2.

“They look really aggressive on the outside with those outside linebackers,” Barbaree said. “Inside, they’ve got some big kids. Caleb Dather is a pretty good football player. He’s another senior for them – a big kid, 6-4; 220. They’re physical up front.

“Typical Spread teams, sometimes you’ll say they’re not physical. But these guys, they play hard. They got after two run-base teams in the films we’ve seen against Bigelow and Walnut Ridge, and they beat them up front. That’s how they won those two games.”

Dather was an All-State selection at defensive end a season ago. Even though Barbaree and his team are giving Conway Christian well-deserved credit for its solid play as of late, Carlisle is considered the overwhelming favorite by more than one publication.

One of those publications has picked the Bison to win by at least 21 points Friday. Perhaps part of the reasoning for that is the Bison appear to be getting healthy at the right time, especially in the backfield.

Running backs Bo Weddle, Justice Bryant and Chance Richards were bothered by nagging injuries at the tail end of the regular season, but all three are expected to be back and near full strength for Friday’s game, along with other key players that have missed playing time as of late because of various injuries.

“It was good that we took care of what we were supposed to take care of, and got to play everybody,” Barbaree said about last week’s win over Marked Tree. “We got in our sophomores and our freshmen, and really saved our seniors who’ve had a bunch of carries and have played in a bunch of big games. They got out early.

“It was good to rest those guys some. We’ve got a lineman coming back – Jaden Daniels will be back from a concussion. We’ll have Cory Hart back from an ankle injury. Both of those guys provide us depth on offense, defense and special teams. So we should have just about everybody back.”

SPORTS STORY >> Maumelle’s speed equals Jackrabbits’

Leader sportswriter

After earning their first playoff win since 2009 last week, the Lonoke Jackrabbits will look to push their current win streak to five games on Friday when they host Maumelle, the No. 2 seed from the 4A-4 Conference, in the second round of the class 4A state football playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

The Jackrabbits (9-2) have actually already played the Hornets (9-2) this year, when the two teams squared off in a preseason scrimmage at Maumelle High School in late August. However, not much could be taken away from that exhibition, as the game itself was reduced to just 20 total minutes with a continuous clock.

Taking that into consideration, it wasn’t difficult to point out who the Hornets’ playmakers are, even in the very limited time both offenses had on the field that day. Maumelle has six players that run at least a 4.5 40-yard dash, and as a team, the Hornets are one of the few left standing that can match the Jackrabbits’ speed and athleticism at the skill positions.

“They’re a good football team,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of Maumelle. “They’ve got a lot of speed. We’re expecting a dog fight come Friday night.”

Lonoke and Maumelle both won their first-round games convincingly last week. The Jackrabbits ran all over Pocahontas en route to a 49-7 win at home, while the Hornets beat Stuttgart 31-10 at their place.

The Ricebirds narrowly fell to Lonoke 20-18 in week nine of the regular season, and if the ’Rabbits expect to survive another week, Bost knows his defense will need to contain the Hornets’ playmakers, starting with junior quarterback Tyshaun Robinson.

“It all starts with their quarterback,” Bost said. “That’s their player. If you get any kind of pressure on him, he’s going to take off running or if he doesn’t find somebody down field he likes, he’s going to take off running. It definitely starts with him. That’s the one you’re going to have to be able to contain.”

Robinson ran 16 times for 109 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 21-point win. Some of the other Maumelle players Bost was quick to point are senior running back Corry Cullins and junior receiver J.B. Minix.

Cullins also had a big game last week, as he ran for 101 yards and a score on just nine carries.

It’s very difficult to simulate speed, but at least the Lonoke defense won’t have too much to prepare for this week, because Maumelle and Lonoke both primarily run the Spread offense. Like the Jackrabbits, the Hornets break most of their big plays by running the ball from that formation, but Bost said they’re about 50/50 with their run/pass plays.

Defensively, Bost said Maumelle will primarily line up in a 4-4, and will blitz from every direction. It’s not a style of defense that the Jackrabbit offense hasn’t seen this year, as Bost compared the Hornets’ speed and style of play in the secondary to that of Newport and Dollarway.

“Newport blitzed us a lot, and that’s what Maumelle’s going to do,” Bost said. “They’re very similar to both of those teams, Dollarway and Newport. That’s what we’ve seen on film, and that’s how they played us in the scrimmage. It’s a 4-4, and they’re not going to be afraid to send them.

“They’re going to be coming from every which way. Their defensive linemen just blow and go up field. We’re going to have to stay on our blocks.”

Since Lonoke lost to Dollarway in week seven, the Jackrabbits have reeled off four-straight wins, and appear to be getting better with each passing week. Bost hopes this Jackrabbit team can continue progressing, and perhaps play their best game to date against Maumelle.

“We’re on a four-game win streak,” Bost said. “We got that loss to Dollarway a few weeks back. Since then, we’ve rebounded from that. We keep showing up each week with good attitudes, and ready to keep on working hard, and keep on advancing. So we’re hoping for another good week this week as we get ready for Maumelle to come to town.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies dominate Chapel

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panthers were dominant in their season opener against Watson Chapel on Monday, forcing turnover after turnover on their way to a convincing 53-24 mercy-rule win in the first round the annual Heavenly Hoops tournament at Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock.

Cabot (1-0) forced a whopping 33 turnovers in the game, 26 of which came in the first half. Watson Chapel (0-1) had no answer for the Lady Panthers’ press defense, and after falling into a 22-5 hole at the end of the first quarter, things didn’t get any easier for the class 5A Lady Wildcats, as they went into halftime trailing 36-8.

“We got on a roll,” said Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple. “The only bad thing was we missed some easy shots. With Watson Chapel, they’re young, and anybody can play like that. But one way or another, we showed up. They lost a couple of really good players from last year, but, you know, we feel fortunate.”

Watson Chapel is a young team with just one senior and one junior on the squad, but so is Cabot. The Lady Panthers started three sophomores and two juniors against the Lady Wildcats. Only one of those juniors is a returning starter, and she played like a superstar Monday night.

Forward Alyssa Hamilton is Cabot’s only returning starter, and she was stellar in the first half of the Lady Panthers’ season opener, as she scored 19 points, grabbed five rebounds, had two steals, and one assist. She finished the game with a high of 23 points.

“I told Hamilton to make a list of everything she had to eat today,” Ruple joked, “because you don’t play like that very often. She took some good shots, and she got on a roll.”

Cabot pushed its lead to 30 right at the start of the second half with a driving basket by sophomore point guard Leighton Taylor, which made the score 38-8. Watson Chapel answered with a basket on its next possession, but the Lady Panthers responded just seconds later with an and-one play by junior post Maddie Willhite, which pushed the lead to 41-10.

The Lady Panthers’ lead grew to 49-17 by the end of the third quarter, which invoked the sportsmanship rule at the start of the fourth. Cabot’s starters sat for the entire fourth quarter, and all of the Lady Panthers’ points in the final period came at the free-throw line.

Sophomore guard Anna Sullivan scored the first two points for Cabot in the final period by draining 2 of 2 free throws with 3:51 remaining. Watson Chapel then scored on a short jumper by sophomore guard LaDajah Scott, but Lady Panther sophomore guard Lilly Sinclair added a free throw with 2:35 to play, which pushed the Cabot lead back to 30 with the score 52-22.

Cabot’s final point of the evening came with 1:55 remaining as senior guard Lakyn Crumbly drained a free throw, which upped the Lady Panthers’ point total to 53.

The Lady Panthers committed just 13 turnovers in the game – 20 fewer than Watson Chapel’s total. Cabot was also the better team on the boards as it finished with 24 rebounds, which was slightly better than Watson Chapel’s total of 21.

Even though it was an overall solid showing, the Lady Panthers did struggle at the free-throw and three-point lines. Cabot made just 55 percent of its free throws on 12 of 22 shooting, and made just one three-pointer on 11 attempts for 9 percent.

Hamilton was the only Lady Panther with double-digit points. Sophomore guard CoCo Calhoon was second on the team’s scoring list. She finished with eight points, all of which came in the first half. Taylor and Willhite added seven apiece.

The win put Cabot in tonight’s semifinal round of the tournament against North Little Rock, who manhandled Sylvan Hills 76-33 on Monday. Tonight’s game is scheduled to tip-off at 8:30 at the Mount St. Mary Academy gymnasium.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils find an answer for Blue Devils’ run

Leader sports editor

Fouls and long delays mired the Jacksonville Red Devils’ opening basketball game of the season, and the mire almost cost the young team a win. Jacksonville blew an early 23-point lead and trailed by seven in the fourth quarter, but the 64 fouls called, 35 against Jacksonville, wasn’t enough to kill the players’ spirits, as they rallied from the deficit to beat West Memphis 68-65 on Friday at JHS.

“All those fouls just messed up the whole flow of the game,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “Our press was killing them early and we built that big lead. But we had so many fouls piling up and so many people in foul trouble, we couldn’t stay aggressive and keep pressing. It altered the way we had to play the game.”

Early foul calling was going against West Memphis. The class 7A Blue Devils were called for 13 fouls in the first quarter as Jacksonville built a 19-7 lead. That all began to change dramatically in the second period. West Memphis was called for only four fouls in the second period while Jacksonville was called 12 times. In total, Jacksonville was whistled 18 times in the first half and West Memphis 17.

Despite being on the wrong end of the whistle for most of the second quarter, the Red Devils were able to stretch their lead to as much as 33-10 before the visitors began to mount a comeback that culminated in a 61-54 West Memphis lead with 3:30 left in the game.

Jacksonville’s lead reached its peak with 4:30 left in the first half when junior Kerry Knight drained a three pointer to make it 33-10. From that point, the Blue Devils started going to the line and making the most of it. The Blue Devils outscored their hosts 16-4 the rest of the half and had the margin down to nine at 36-27.

With the Red Devils forced to come out of the press, West Memphis continued to slowly chip away in the third quarter, and exploded early in the fourth to move ahead by seven.

Jacksonville’s Devin Campbell drained a three pointer with 3:00 remaining to make it 61-47. After a West Memphis free throw, junior Jarvis McChristin hit another three pointer to pull the Red Devils to within 62-60 with 2:20 left.

Knight then hit another three pointer that put the Red Devils ahead for good after a West Memphis timeout.

The comeback showed poise by a young team, and could pay big dividends down the road for the Red Devils.

“Coming back and winning that game was paramount,” Joyner said. “To lose a big lead like that against a top 7A team, that could’ve been devastating to a young team if they lose that game. For them to pull together and collectively pull that thing out of the fire like that, hopefully that shows what will be the character of this team. They didn’t get discouraged or start blaming each other or anything. They pinned their ears back and found a way to win.”

Campbell led all scorers with 20 points while senior Sergio Berkley added 11, despite having to play out of position.

“Sergio had to go inside because all our big men were in foul trouble,” Joyner said. “We had to come together and, individually, we had to do some things out of our comfort zone to help the team. I was pleased to see them do that this early in the year. People talk about a good loss or a bad loss or a good win or bad win. This was a good win for a young team. This is one of those games that if you pay attention to what happened, you can build off of it. Hopefully this will go a long way.”

Gary Patterson led West Memphis with 19 points.

The Red Devils will be back in action at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Searcy Bank Classic at SHS. Jacksonville will face the host team.

SPORTS STORY >> Expecting tougher Tigers

Leader sports editor

A first round bye and a week off seems to have served Cabot well as it prepares for its quarterfinal-round playoff game on Friday at Panther Stadium. The opponent in that game comes as a minor surprise. The Panthers will be facing conference foe Little Rock Central for the second time this year after the Tigers went to Fayetteville last week and knocked off the two-time defending state champions.

It was the biggest upset of the first round of the playoffs, and Cabot coach Mike Malham believes the team his squad beat 35-20 in week seven is playing a better brand of football five weeks later.

“They’re making plays,” Malham said. “They made a bunch of them against Fayetteville. That quarterback is playing pretty well and the running back, (Logan) Moragne, is about as good as we’ve seen. They went 50 yards in that final minute to win that game last week. Fayetteville helped them out with some turnovers, but we turned it over twice in a row to start the second half last time. We can’t give them anything or it could be a long night. They’ve got the athletes to make you pay for mistakes.”

Cabot, 10-0, used its open week to rest sore bodies and work on fundamentals. The Panther coaching staff focused on individual and position training and worked very little on team offense or defense.

“We didn’t do much team stuff at all last week,” Malham said. “We just did the basic stuff. We didn’t keep them out a long time and let them get some rest. We did weights two days and were out on the field for about an hour and a half the other two days. We’ve been at this for three months. If they don’t know what they’re doing by now, a lot of it at this point is mental anyway.”

When Cabot takes the field on Friday, it will be two weeks removed from a season-ending, 44-14 win over Searcy. Cabot led that game 31-0 at halftime, but were outplayed by the Lions in the second half.

Having to play more than half of its conference games against lower classification teams, Malham talked all season about not getting complacent, remaining focused and executing. That didn’t happen in the second half of the week-10 game, but the head Panther isn’t too concerned that it will carry over into the playoffs.

“We sputtered a little bit in the second half,” Malham said. “The game was practically over at halftime and we played a lot of kids in the second half. They ran a kick back on us for a score, but I’ll tell anybody, that No. 25 was probably the fastest thing we’ve seen all year. We had a good regular season, went undefeated. Had a bad half at the end, but none of that matters now. Everybody is even. What you did the last 10 games doesn’t matter when the playoffs get here.”

For Central, the playoffs were here last week, and what they did in that game does matter. The Tigers did benefit from five Fayetteville turnovers, but they also out-gained the Bulldogs in the 34-28 victory.

Moragne carried the ball 36 times for 142 yards as Central went to a ball-control offense in the second half with a 14-7 lead.

“It’s going to be tougher the second time around,” Malham, who earlier faced a Central team that ran the spread and tried to throw much more than run, said. “They know what we did to be successful the last time, so they’re going to do something to try to counter that. We’re looking for their best so we’re expecting a pretty good game if we don’t help them out.”

EDITORIAL >> Gettysburg

Tuesday marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, one of the most famous speeches in American history. It memorialized the soldiers who perished only four months earlier in the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Lincoln urged the nation to remember the 51,112 Union and Confederate soldiers who died there for the sake of abolishing slavery and preserving the union. The war went on for a year and a half after the speech. In the end, 620,000 soldiers were estimated to have died.

Here in its entirety, the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

EDITORIAL >> Jacksonville goes it alone

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who made the parties settle their long-running Pulaski County school desegregation lawsuit, said Tuesday that Jacksonville can begin the process of setting up its own district.

A decade-long effort to split from the troubled county district is finally paying off, thanks to the pioneering work of former Reps. Pat and Will Bond, the mother-and-son team of Jacksonville legislators who pushed through bills making it possible for the city to form its own school district. The Jacksonville-North Pulaski Education Corps, lead by Daniel Gray and attorney Patrick Wilson, pushed relentlessly for an independent district, which should be more responsive to the needs of students and parents.

“We’re excited there’s a settlement in place agreed to by all three districts and the state,” said Daniel Gray, president of the Jacksonville-North Pulaski Education Corps.

“We’re closer than ever to a Jacksonville-North Pulaski school district—the district we’ve sought for most of my life,” said Patrick Wilson, attorney for Jacksonville-North Pulaski Education Corps. “We’re anxious for there to be a complete settlement that says our dream is going to be a reality.”

Independence is now closer after McDaniel managed to bring the parties together for a historic deal that now awaits approval from a federal court.

U.S. District Judge G. Price Marshall heard details of the agreement during a special hearing Tuesday afternoon and could decide as soon as Friday on whether to approve the settlement of a lawsuit that was filed back in 1982 by civil rights attorney John Walker. He told the Little Rock School Board on Monday that he and the Joshua intervenors, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, will accept McDaniel’s offer of $263.2 million in state aid to the three Pulaski County schools through 2018, when the annual subsidies will end.

All three school districts are now on board for the historic agreement, but Judge Marshall must also approve such as separation, and there is a catch: The draft agreement between the parties states that PCSSD must convince the Joshua intervenors and the court that the district has been desegregated. PCSSD remains deficient in nine areas, including poor student achievement, alleged disciplinary bias against black students and shabby facilities. Walker says he won’t quit the lawsuit until he’s satisfied PCSSD meets his exacting standards.

Walker could keep PCSSD tied up in court for a while longer. But Jacksonville leaders who sought their own district for more than a decade must feel they are closer to attaining that long-elusive goal. Maumelle and Sherwood have expressed their interest in detachment, but the latest agreement says they must stay in the county district.

As for Jacksonville, community leaders can start forming an exploratory committee that will present candidates for an independent school board as soon as next year. Adequate funding to upgrade the city’s crumbling schools is essential. The county district estimates it will cost between $80 to $90 million to fix the city’s schools. That will require a millage increase, which local residents will support because they know their tax dollars will stay in the community.

All in all, this has been a good week for Pulaski County schools, but especially for Jacksonville, which can now build a better future for its students.

TOP STORY >> Allen’s excuse admissable

Leader staff writer

A statement in which the Jacksonville man charged with the first-degree murder of Fire Capt. Donald (Donnie) Jones blames the incident on a malfunctioning gas pedal will be presented as evidence at his January trial.

A motion from the defense to suppress the statement was denied at a pre-trial hearing Monday afternoon.

The trial for Bryce Allen Jr., 47, is set to start at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 28 in Courtroom 220 at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. It could be held through Jan. 30.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Allen’s statement, written the night of the March 2012 incident, claims that he was using cruise control and the accelerator was stuck when he allegedly ran over Jones, firefighter Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo with his van at 8411 S. Hwy. 161.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, was the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Bowmaster and DiMatteo were seriously injured.

According to a police report, the investigation showed that Allen made no attempt to brake — as he claimed in the statement — when he drove around emergency vehicles, accelerated before hitting the three men and appeared to be aiming toward them.

Deputy public defender Cheryl Barnard argued that the statement was taken before her client was read his Miranda rights and while he was in de facto custody. She said, while he wasn’t handcuffed, Allen wasn’t free to leave either.

Sgt. Robert Slash, the first to arrive at the fatal accident, testified that Allen was not a suspect when he was asked to fill out the statement. He didn’t need to be read his Miranda rights, according to deputy prosecuting attorney Melanie Martin.

The sergeant also said that he would have pursued Allen if he had left the scene.

The three men who were hit had been responding to the scene of a single-vehicle accident involving Allen’s mother, Thelma. She struck a gas main but was not hurt.

Slash testified that Thelma Allen and another man at the scene filled out statements and were not read their Miranda rights.

The sergeant also described arriving at the scene after the first responders were hit. Slash testified that, at first, he assumed he was responding to an accident with injuries, not a homicide.

Slash said he saw DiMatteo first. The officer was lying on the ground near a patrol car.

DiMatteo said he was badly injured but the firefighters were worse and needed to be taken care of first, according to Slash.

The three men were lying on the ground within 10 to 15 feet of each other, he continued.

After collecting the witness statements, Slash testified that he was told to take Allen to North Metro Medical Center for tests to determine whether he was impaired by alcohol or drugs. The sergeant said that was standard procedure.

Slash said, while he was walking Allen to the car, “He was fine with me. Someone provoked him. I’m not sure what happened. He started yelling, jumping around…He was just yelling. He was just lunging out.”

Allen was restrained and handcuffed. That is when he became a suspect, the prosecution argued.

Jacksonville detective Cassie Blackerby also testified. She said she read Allen his Miranda rights before trying to interview him three or four hours after the incident. The interview and the reading of his rights were recorded on video, Blackerby said.

The 10-15 minute interview was halted when Allen asked for an attorney.

She continued, “He did not express any excitement or real emotion. He was nonchalant…He was just there. After an incident or an accident, people are at least shaken up just a little bit. He didn’t say anything other than I’ve already had my rights read to me.”

Blackerby said, “He didn’t seem concerned. He did not ask about the well-being of anyone. And that was pretty much it.”

She testified that he wasn’t fidgety and that she wasn’t afraid of him getting up from where he was sitting during the interview.

Blackerby testified that Allen seemed to understand the questions she asked him, but later said he didn’t understand the charge against him. At the time, he was charged with second-degree murder and two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder.

The detective said she asked him which charge he meant and Allen responded, “never mind.”

DiMatteo, Bowmaster, their wives and Jones’ family sat quietly in the front row of the spectators’ gallery during Monday’s hearing.

Judge Barry Sims, who ruled in July that Allen is mentally fit to stand trial, also denied a motion from the defense to prohibit first responders who attend the trial but are not testifying from wearing their uniforms.

Barnard argued that it would prejudice the jury.

The judge explained that keeping the first responders from wearing their uniforms would violate the First Amendment.

“They have the right to wear their uniforms,” he said.

Barnard withdrew a motion to prohibit video and audio of the accident scene and a motion to disclose the dispatch log or key sheet, which would show the numbers Jacksonville police use to identify officers speaking on radios.

Martin said she would get the dispatch log to the defense before the trial, but that the Jacksonville Police Department doesn’t have a key sheet.

The judge then set a Dec. 16 deadline for both sides to turn in any paperwork he needs to look at before the trial.

On Monday, Allen seemed calm and attentive. He did not look at the families during the hearing.

Allen’s behavior stood out in stark contrast to an August 2012 appearance when he talked over court officials as they worked to reschedule one of his hearings, accusing “everybody” of “hating” him.

Allen said then that the prison guards were abusing him and changing his medications in an attempt to kill him.

As he was escorted out of the courtroom at the earlier hearing, Allen said, “Guess I gotta get back in there and get killed. I’ll get back to preachin’ one of these days.”

This week, Allen’s back was straight rather than stooped as it was in August. His gait was normal rather than plodding.

Allen has a history of mental illness. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions that included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

He was arrested in 2009 for second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening. According to court records, Allen was acquitted by reason of mental disease or defect.

The former Army corporal told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

Allen has also been accused of hitting an Ohio police officer with his car in October 2011.

The guard, who sustained a minor injury, was an off-duty police officer.

TOPSTORY >> Sherwood left behind in deal

Leader staff writer

State Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) is upset that the proposed settlement in the federal desegregation case would allow Jacksonville to form its own school district but halt Sherwood’s efforts toward the same goal.

Sherwood supporters have raised more than $16,000 in donations for a feasibility study state law requires for the city to detach from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Nickels wrote in a letter to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, “I have no problem with the citizens of Jacksonville obtaining their own district. My problem is with the language that ‘the state will oppose the creation of any other school districts from PCSSD’s territory until PCSSD is declared fully unitary and is released from federal court supervision.”’

Nickels’ understanding of state law is that Jacksonville can’t get its own district until PCSSD is declared unitary, according to the letter. The representative writes, “If that is correct, how can the settlement agreement ignore that statutory requirement? The settlement agreement seems to throw my Sherwood constituents under the ‘school’ bus by denying them their rights under Arkansas law to form a district. I would appreciate a response the recognizes that Sherwood and Jacksonville will be treated equally based on their rights under state law.”

The Sherwood Public Education Foundation committee is leading the city’s efforts to detach from PCSSD.

Two longtime former Pulaski County Special School District administrators, Beverly Williams and Linda Remele, are chairing the committee.

The group held its third public meeting last week at Kellogg Valley Baptist Church in the Runyan Acres area near Northwood Middle School.

Williams said during the meeting that, although the feasibility study is underway, volunteers and more donations are needed. She said previously that it would take between $25,000 and $40,000 total to get everything for the detachment prepared.

The study, which is being compiled by retired superintendent Norman Hill, would have to show that the area has the tax base to support a school district, meets state student number requirements and that the racial makeup of the district would comply with federal desegregation rulings.

Williams and Remele reiterated at the meeting that Sherwood and Jacksonville must break away from PCSSD at the same time.

State law requires that PCSSD have at least 15,000 students the year before de-tachment, Williams explained.

She noted that Jacksonville residents could vote on their detachment during the September 2014 school board election or the November 2014 general election.

According to the district’s 2013-14 eighth-day count, PCSSD has 17,705 students.

State law also requires any new district to have at least 4,000 students.

Jacksonville would take at least that many — and up to 4,500 — from PCSSD’s enrollment when it detaches.

The enrollment of Sher-wood’s proposed school district is 4,770.

If Jacksonville detaches before Sherwood, PCSSD would be left with — at best — 13,705. If Sherwood were to detach first, PCSSD would have 13,305.

Both figures are too low to meet the 15,000 requirement. The law would have to be changed if Jacksonville detaches first and Sherwood still wants its own district, Williams explained.

One attendee asked the chairwomen at the meeting how this move would affect taxes.

Williams said, unless voters approve a millage increase later, the new district would receive the same 40.7 mills PCSSD is receiving right now.

Another audience member asked how soon the new district would come about.

The committee’s tentative plan, Williams said, is:

 Present completed study to the community in February,

 Seek signatures on a petition for a vote on whether Sherwood should leave PCSSD in March,

 Present completed petition to the state Board of Education in April,

 Seek the attorney general’s opinion about the impact of the proposed detachment on desegregation in May (the next hearing in that lawsuit is Dec. 9),

 Hold the election on whether Sherwood should detach in September,

 Have a Sherwood School Board appointed by the state board in September 2014 until an election can be held in September 2015,

 Employ a superintendent who will begin staffing the new district in December 2014,

n Register students, create master course schedules and hire personnel from January through March 2015

 and have students start school in the new district in August 2015.

At the meeting in Runyan Acres, the committee was criticized by one audience member for not getting the word out about this issue.

Remele said the law prohibits them from sending letters home in children’s backpacks but there are fliers at the schools.

Meetings are not held at the schools because Superintendent Jerry Guess does not support the detachment, Remele said.

“I would be remiss to say Dr. Guess is thrilled by this. He’s not. He would like to keep Sherwood,” she explained.

The audience member suggested the group get on Parent-Teacher Organization meeting agendas. Williams said they would pursue doing that.

The proposed Sherwood district’s schools — Clinton Elementary, Cato Elementary, Oakbrooke Elementary, Sher-wood Elementary, Sylvan Hills Elementary, Harris Elementary, Northwood Middle, Sylvan Hills Middle, and Sylvan Hills High have an enrollment of 4,770, according to PCSSD’s eighth-day count for the 2013-14 school year.

The new district will include McAlmont and Runyan Acres, which are outside city limits, but organizers have said several times that Sherwood has no hidden agenda to annex those communities.

They have explained that it is too late for McAlmont and Runyan Acres to join the proposed Jacksonville District because those supporters would have to re-do all of their work. The communities can’t join an existing district, like North Little Rock, because there is no law that allows that to happen.

If the two communities do oppose joining Sherwood, they would remain with PCSSD and students who live there would have to be bussed to Little Rock for high school, the chairwomen have said.

But both Williams and Remele admitted they’ve heard no one speak out against McAlmont and Runyan Acres being part of the Sherwood district.

Also, according to the eighth-day count, the new district would be about 46 percent black. That is within the acceptable federal range for desegregation. For more information, visit the foundation’s website or Facebook page,

TOP STORY >> Judge could decide district split Friday

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville-area residents could know Friday morning whether or not they can start forming their own school district after decades of hard work and frustration.

U.S. District Judge G. Price Marshall said Tuesday afternoon that he would decide Friday morning whether or not to accept the settlement of the desegregation agreement that for 30 years has yoked Pulaski County Special School District to the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts with the state Department of Education, the Joshua Intervenors and the Knight Intervenors.

Joshua represents PCSSD’s black students; Knight, its employee unions.

The state Legislative Council last approved the agreement, clearing the way for McDaniel to present it to the judge.

Interim superintendent Jerry Guess and attorneys Sam Jones and Allen Roberts represented PCSSD in court and in the negotiations.


One provision of that settlement agreement allows a stand-alone Jacksonville/north Pulaski County-area district, and Attorney Gen. Dustin McDaniel said that could begin when and if Marshall approves the agreement.

McDaniel called Tuesday “a historic day,” and spread the credit around to all participants, but particularly to his assistant attorney general, Scott Richardson, who has been in the trenches for years on desegregation matters, particularly the new settlement.

“I’m stoked,” said Jacksonville resident Daniel Gray, president of the Jacksonville Education Corps, which has led the effort to form an independent school district. “We just got fast tracked, but there are still a lot of unknowns,” Gray said. “The next couple of days will tell a lot.”

“We look forward for this process to unfold in the coming months. Now the hard work starts,” said Gray.

With the addition Monday evening of Joshua Intervenors, represented by John Walker, and the Little Rock School Board, all six parties have now signed on to the plan to phase out state desegregation funding, majority-to-minority transfers and magnet schools.

In a hearing Tuesday, with all parties represented, Marshall asked for a motion to accept the settlement agreement and set Friday morning to argue, discuss and rule on that motion.

While the litigants seem optimistic, Marshall reserved Friday afternoon for pretrial motions, in case he couldn’t accept the settlement and needed to proceed to the scheduled Dec. 9 hearing.

Marshall has set aside two weeks to hear the case, which would be primarily about cutting offstate desegregation aid to the four districts.


Since 1989, the state has paid $1.2 billion in desegregation funds, in addition to the minimum foundation aid it gives to all state schools on a per-student basis.

The court has declared the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts unitary (desegregated) and PCSSD has nine areas in which it has not yet been ruled unitary, but some officials say it may be unitary in most of those.

That call awaits further argument before Marshall.

One important area in which PCSSD is not unitary is adequate academic facilities, and both the state and PCSSD agree that a separate Jacksonville/north Pulaski district would qualify for much more state aid in building those facilities, make it easier for PCSSD to address that issue.


Gray said residents within the already established district borders would be given a chance to vote on a stand-alone district.

The state would have to appoint members of a temporary school board, boundaries must be set for school board representation zones and then school board members elected.

A superintendent would have to be hired, as well as other administrators, teachers and classified employees.


“I feel no city has the potential Jacksonville has. This has been an answer to our prayers for many years,” said Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

“When you’ve looked at all the new schools built in central Arkansas in the last five years, I’ve asked why we’ve been punished and ignored, but I’ve come to realize that as Scripture says in Ecclesiastes that all things have a time and season, and I think it is our time.”

State Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) represents constituents in both Jacksonville and Sherwood, and he has asked the attorney general’s office how Jacksonville can be allowed to detach, but the agreement doesn’t allow the formation of any other districts — such as Maumelle and Sherwood — “until PCSSD is declared fully unitary and is released from federal court supervision.”