Saturday, May 14, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> BHS girls win opening game

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

HARRISON – The Beebe softball team met up with a pitcher it just couldn’t do much with Friday in the quarterfinal round of the Class 5A state tournament.

The end result was a season-ending 6-1 loss to 5A-South champion DeQueen, but not before a dramatic victory in the first round on Thursday that provided some valuable postseason experience for a young team.

The Lady Badgers were counted out twice in the first-round game before roaring back both times and finally prevailing 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh.

Farmington, the three seed from the 5A-West, took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth on back-to-back leadoff doubles and a one-out sacrifice bunt. Beebe had just one base hit up to that point, and none since the first at-bat of the game, but got one more big one in the bottom of the fifth.

Elizabeth Shellenberger drew a leadoff walk before a strikeout and 5-3 grounder left her on second with two outs. Leadoff hitter Katlyn Gordon then walked to put two runners on, and Baylee Halford slapped a two-run double to tie the game.

Farmington jumped right back on top in the top of the sixth. The Lady Cardinals got a walk, a hit batter and a fielder’s choice to put runners at first and second with one out. Three-straight singles followed to drive in two more runs and give Farmington a 4-2 lead.

Beebe failed to answer in the bottom half, despite getting its leadoff runner to second base with no outs. Farmington got a great start to the top of the seventh when nine-hole hitter Brooke Smith hit a leadoff single.

Gordon then made what might have been a run-saving play when she made a diving, parallel to the ground, catch of a Brandy Wallace line drive. Routine outs at third and left field followed to leave the Cardinals scoreless in the top of the seventh.

Beebe’s half of the inning also got off to a great start when nine-hole hitter Lexi Devore reached on an error at second base. Farmington intentionally walked Gordon for the third-straight time. Halford then singled to load the bases, and Haley Dinapoli hit a two-RBI single that tied the game and left runners on the corners.

Aleighu Porterfield then made the first out, and simultaneously drove in the winning run when a deep fly ball to center field scored Halford for the victory.

“I think this game is the best we’ve done all year as far as not getting down when we could’ve gotten down, and just kept plugging,” said BHS coach Eric Chambers.

In Friday’s semifinal game, Beebe hit the ball hard in the first inning off DeQueen hurler Josie Vaught. The first three batters, Gordon, Halford and Dinapoli, each hit hard and deep line drives, but each went almost directly to each of the three outfielders for a 1-2-3 inning.

After that, Beebe struggled with Vaught’s rising fastball and seamless change-up. The Lady Badgers struck out 11 times, and only got one ground ball the entire game. Every other out was a fly ball.

Beebe wasn’t without base runners or scoring opportunities. Vaught walked two in the second inning, but then got two strikeouts to get out of the jam. She retired the side in order over the next three innings, including five-straight strikeouts at one point.

The Lady Leopards scored on a double, a walk and a two-RBI, two-out single in the bottom of the second. They added to that lead two unearned runs thanks to two Beebe errors in the fifth that made it 4-0.

Beebe got a little momentum going in the top of the sixth. Gordon annihilated Vaught’s first offering in the sixth inning, hitting a line drive over the scoreboard in left field. Halford followed that with a hard line drive single to left and Dinapoli was hit by a pitch. But Vaught fanned Porterfield and got Shanie Young to ground out to second base to end the threat.

DeQueen then added two insurance runs to its lead in the bottom half on a hit batter, an RBI double and an RBI single to set the final margin.

Beebe finishes the season 16-12 while DeQueen improves to 22-6 and advances to today’s semifinal game against Vilonia. The other semifinal will be Jacksonville vs. Greenbrier.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS ladies get back to semis

Leader sports editor

HARRISON – For the first time in 16 years, the Jacksonville Lady Red Devil softball team is among the final four teams remaining in the state. Jacksonville beat Valley View 4-1 Friday in the semifinals.

This year’s Lady Devil squad already won the school’s first conference championship since 2004, and is now one win away from doing something no Jacksonville softball team has ever done, appear

in a state championship game.

Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk didn’t hesitate when asked what it means for this team to advance this far, something only done once before in school history.

“It means these girls are getting what they deserve,” said Hawk. “They’ve worked so hard for so long, and it’s just paying off now. They’re just seeing it all pay off.”

Things didn’t start well for Jacksonville. Pitcher Briana Loyd walked leadoff hitter Erin Harrison, struck out Kayla Roethlisberger, and walked Kirsten Cooney to put two on with one out. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners into scoring position, and an errant pickoff throw by catcher Allison Seats allowed Harrison to trot home for a 1-0 Valley View lead in the first inning.

Loyd settled in from that point, and when the Lady Blazers did get a rally going, Jacksonville (26-4) found a way to thwart it.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of the first, Zylah Richardson started a three-run rally with a one-out, infield single to third base. She simply outran the throw on a routine ground ball. Bailey Holt then singled before House got Richardson tagged out at third on an unassisted fielder’s choice.

Mackenzie Rodgers took a pitch off the thigh to load the bases with two outs, and Payton Mullen fouled off three strike-two pitches before drawing an RBI walk to tie the game.

Loyd then hit a two-RBI single into shallow center field to put the Lady Devils up for good.

The game’s only other run came in the bottom of the second. Seats hit a one-out double off the wall in center field and Richardson brought her around with a single to center.

Richardson, Loyd and Holt each had two base hits to lead Jacksonville’s seven-base hit game.

Loyd threw five innings plus one batter, finishing with only two hits allowed, seven strikeouts, four walks and no earned runs.

Kym House replaced her on the mound and gave up three hits over the final two innings with three strikeouts and no walks.

Valley View (18-9) got a leadoff single to start the seventh inning, but Seats picked Allison Fowler off at first base. It proved a huge play because Alye Freeman then singled to left. House then struck out nine-hole hitter Kiri Wood and leadoff hitter Harrison to seal the victory.

“We’ve made incredible defensive plays in this tournament just when we needed them,” Hawk said. “They’re coming through in the clutch when they have to. Payton Mullen has made some ESPN highlight plays out there in center. And I don’t think we’ve played our best. We hit a lull with the bats today. We can hit up and down the lineup. If we can put it all together we’ll go play some more.”

Dominant pitching early, stellar defense late and just enough hitting in the middle led the Jacksonville softball team to a 2-0 win over Maumelle in Thursday’s first-round game. Maumelle is owner of one of Jacksonville’s four defeats, a wild 14-11 final back on March 17. The Lady Red Devils only managed four base hits the entire game Thursday, but two of them came in the third inning and Jacksonville got both base runners across the plate. House also allowed just four hits by Maumelle, and earned the complete game shutout.

In the bottom of the third, Seats started the inning by drilling a double to the wall in center field. Richardson’s sacrifice bunt turned into a bunt single. Jacksonville pulled off a double steal before a passed ball allowed Seats to score the game’s first run.

With one out and Richardson on third, House hit a fly ball deep to center that drove in Richardson for the game’s second and final run.

Jacksonville got two runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings, but couldn’t capitalize.

In the top of the seventh, Maumelle’s five-hole hitter drilled a line drive to center field, where Mullen made a running, leaping catch almost against the wall for the first out. Mullen’s catch proved an even bigger play when the next batter singled to left. The Lady Devils were a split second late on turning a game-ending double play on the next at-bat, but House finished it off with a three-pitch strikeout to seal the victory.

House finished with nine strikeouts and no walks. She struck out the side in order in the first inning and fanned six of the first eight batters she faced.

Bailey Holt got both of Jacksonville’s two other hits in the game to finish 2 for 3 at the plate.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears baseball still alive

Leader sports editor

HARRISON – For the second year in a row, the Sylvan Hills baseball team is in the semifinals of the Class 5A state tournament. The big difference between this season and last is, this year, the Bears expected to be here.

Sylvan Hills beat Farmington 8-4 in the first round, then handled Valley View 5-3 in the quarterfinals Friday. The Bears (27-5) will take on Watson Chapel at 2:30 p.m. today in Harrison in the semifinal round. A win today means a trip to Baum Stadium in Fayetteville to play for the state championship.

“I think the mentality is totally different this year,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “They’re not just happy to be here this year. They expected to be here. It was a little bit of a surprise for everybody when we got this far last year. This year, I think they at least want to get there (to the championship game).”

On Friday, the Bears took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning and soon made it 4-0 in the third. The Blazers got on the board in the top of the fifth, but the Bears pushed their margin back to four in the sixth.

Valley View made things interesting in the top of the seventh. The seven, eight and nine hitters got a double, a hit batter and a two-RBI single that made it 5-3 with no outs and the top of the lineup coming up. But pitcher Nick Fakouri got a groundout, a strikeout and another 6-3 grounder to finish the complete game victory.

Sylvan Hills’ first-round game against Farmington was in jeopardy until a drama-filled, four-run fourth inning turned a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

The Bears had just tied the game with two runs in the third inning. River Hunt reached on an E6 and Michael Coven doubled to right-center field to drive Hunt home. Coven moved to third on the throw home, and scored on a sac fly to right field by JoJo Craft.

Farmington scored twice in the top of the fourth to reclaim its two-run advantage.

The major drama came in the bottom of the fourth. There had already been a controversial call at the plate. Sylvan Hills believed it had clearly thrown a Farmington runner out, but he was called safe.

When a run was taken away from Sylvan Hills because of a foul ball from the other field, things got heated. Tipton was incredulous when an apparent two-run base hit was waived off because a foul ball from the other field landed on their field during the play.

“My interpretation is that you only stop play if the ball from the other field effects your game,” Tipton said. “This foul ball wasn’t involved. None of their players reacted to it. The umpire walked over and picked it up after our play was over. We’ve scored two runs, and they have a big meeting and decide to send all my runners back. Of course, I went crazy. And then they decide to compromise and give us one run. Now I’m upset and yelling at umpires and everybody else probably, and I think the kids fed off that a little bit because it sort of opened up the floodgates.”

Sylvan Hills followed the controversy with a walk and three-straight base hits that drove in three more Sylvan Hills runs, giving the Bears a 6-4 lead they would not relinquish.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Mackenzie Seats sent the first pitch over the wall in left field to make it 7-4. Lumpkin later drew a one-out walk, moved into scoring position on a single by Zac Douglas and scored on another RBI base hit by Hunt that set the final margin.

Hunt finished the game going 3 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs. Seats went 2 for 3 with a home run and a double. Coven went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles for the Bears.

Hunt went three and two-thirds innings while Seats threw the final three and a third for the win.

SPORTS STORY >> Rogers upsets Cabot in quarters

Leader sportswriter

BRYANT – Two innings made all the difference in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal round of the Class 7A state softball tournament, and Rogers was the beneficiary of those two innings, as the Lady Mounties upset the top-seeded Cabot Lady Panthers 8-4.

Rogers’ freshman starting pitcher Alex McManus kept the ball away from the middle of the plate in the early goings of Friday’s game, and the game stayed scoreless through the first two innings of play. Rogers, the No. 4 West seed, scored seven runs over the next two innings to take the lead for good.

The Lady Mounties (20-9) scored the majority of their runs in the top of the third, and all four came with two outs. Faith Edwards drove in Cele Copps with a two-out standup double to left center, giving RHS a 1-0 lead, and the next at-bat, Sarah Hulsey hit a three-run home run to center field that pushed the Lady Mounties’ lead to 4-0.

Cabot (22-4), the No. 1 East seed, answered with two runs in the bottom of the third. With two outs, shortstop Heather Hill hit a two-run homer that drove in teammate Macee Abott, who reach base after being hit by a pitch at the start of the inning.

Rogers, though, scored three more runs in the top of the fourth to further its lead to 7-2. Leadoff hitter Allyn Hensley reached on an error at shortstop and Copps followed with her second bunt single of the game.

A second error at shortstop off the bat of three-hole hitter Maddie Massanelli allowed Hensley to score to make it 5-2 Lady Mounties, and Rogers’ sixth run came on an RBI single by McManus. Massanelli later advanced to third base on a passed ball, and scored on an ill-advised pickoff attempt from home plate that went to shallow left field, putting RHS up 7-2 after 3 1/2 innings.

Cabot, however, scored a run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 7-3. That run came on a two-out, solo home run by Kaitlyn Felder, and the Lady Panthers had their best opportunity to get back in it in the bottom of the fifth.

They held Rogers scoreless in the top half of the inning, and loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half, but couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, and a strikeout ended the inning with the score 7-4.

“We made some errors that we hadn’t made all year,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope, “and then we had some opportunities with the bases loaded a couple of innings and just didn’t get the job done like we needed to and like we’ve done all year.

“This wasn’t the time to do that, but hey, our girls fought every inning and I can’t fault them for that.”

Despite the effort, the Lady Panthers were unable to push another run across the plate, and Rogers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh to set the final score.

It wasn’t the ending the Lady Panthers, last year’s Class 7A runner-up, were hoping for, but the program has made significant strides over the last couple of years, and this year’s group of seniors have played a big part in building the program into what it is today.

“We’ve been conference champs for three years in a row,” Cope said. “Those six seniors, they’ve had a great career and they’re going to be missed.”

Rogers, who entered Friday’s game coming off a dominant 11-0 win over Conway on Thursday, outhit Cabot 13-5. McManus earned the win in the circle, pitching over four innings and finishing with two strikeouts while giving up just three hits.

Six different Lady Mounties had multiple hits Friday. Hill and Felder, both seniors, led Cabot with two hits each, including a home run apiece. Fellow senior Rachel Allgood had the Lady Panthers’ other hit of the day, a single to right field.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers go 1-1 at 7A state

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers got a 4-0 win over Rogers in the first round of the Class 7A state baseball tournament on Thursday at North Little Rock’s Burns Park, but had to turn around and play tournament favorite Bryant in Friday’s quarterfinal round, and despite a valiant effort, Cabot came up on the losing end of that 4-0 decision.

Cabot (19-10) could only manage two hits off of Bryant senior pitcher Zack Jackson on Friday, but the Panthers got a solid outing from junior right-hander Logan Gilbertson, who pitched all six innings while giving up just three hits.

The game was scoreless through the first four innings of play, but Bryant (26-2) got all four of its runs in the bottom of the fifth to secure the lead for good. The Hornets loaded the bases with one out before Logan Allen was hit by a pitch. That allowed Arron Orender to score and give Bryant a 1-0 advantage.

Dylan Hurt followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, and fellow senior Evan Lee hit a two-RBI triple the next at-bat to set the final score.

Lee, Orender and Seth Tucker had Bryant’s three hits Friday. Three- and four-hole hitters Denver Mullins and Eric Larsen had Cabot’s two hits. They each went 1 for 3. Jackson threw all seven innings for Bryant, finishing with eight strikeouts and no walks. Gilbertson had two strikeouts and issued just two walks.

In Thursday’s tournament-opening game, Rogers didn’t start University of Arkansas signee Harrison Heffley, a senior left-hander. The Mounties were hoping to save him for a quarterfinal game against Bryant, but they had to beat Cabot in order to get a shot at the No. 1 Central-seeded Hornets, who received a bye to the quarterfinal round.

Instead, the No. 3 West seed Mounties (17-7) started freshman McKayden Templeton, and the Panthers jumped on the freshman early. Cabot, the No. 3 East seed, scored two of its four runs in the top of the first inning.

Jake Slunder hit a bloop double to start the game and Mullins and Larsen followed with consecutive singles. Larsen’s single drove in Slunder for a 1-0 Cabot lead. Braden Jarnigan followed with a squeeze bunt that turned into a single and scored Caleb Harpole, Mullins’ courtesy runner.

The Panthers added another run in the third inning. Right fielder Brett Brockinton walked to lead off the inning. Shortstop Kyler Franks followed with a bunt single and Slunder blooped a single to left field the next at-bat.

That brought left fielder Bobby Joe Duncan to the plate, and he laid a bunt down the first base line that scored Brockinton for a 3-0 CHS lead. The Panthers’ final run of the day came in the top of the fifth on a two-out, RBI single off the bat of first baseman Brodey Schluter. That drove in Jarnigan to set the final score of that game.

Panther ace Chase Kyzer earned the win on the mound Thursday. He pitched all seven innings, finishing with five strikeouts and no walks issued. Cabot outhit Rogers 12-7, and four different Panthers had multiple hits.

Slunder, Mullins, Jarnigan and Schluter each had two hits against the Mounties, while Duncan, Larsen, Dillon Thomas and Franks had one hit apiece. RHS center fielder Grayson Lee led all players at the plate, going 3 for 4. First baseman Max Horton was the only other player with multiple hits for the Mounties. He was 2 for 3.

SPORTS STORY >> Senior leads way to Wolves’ first-ever state championship

Leader sports editor

In the first year that Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School had a full slate of high school classes, it brought home a state championship. The Wolves, led by senior Jordan McNair’s high-point effort, won the Class 1A boys’ track title last Monday in Harrison. Lighthouse scored 109 points to edge out defending champion Caddo Hills by seven points. Trinity Christian School of Texarkana took third place.

A year ago with no seniors, the Wolves finished second to Caddo Hills, and JLC coach Kelvin Parker was confident his team could get it done this season.

“I already knew it,” said Parker. “I had predicted it. I told them, all we have to do is get certain kids in certain races, and we could get enough points. There were some events we knew we would win going in, and we just had to get a little help in some other areas.”

McNair once again broke his own Class 1A state record in the 100-meter dash and became the first 1A runner in state history to break the 11-second barrier with a 10.99. His sophomore teammate Robert Whitfield was second at 11.34, and Lighthouse junior Chris Mims made it a Wolf sweep with an 11.96.

“Those 24 points in one event was big,” Parker said.

McNair and Whitfield also finished one and two in the 200-meter dash. McNair ran a 23.05 while Whitfield was close behind at 23.78.

McNair also finished second with personal best jumps in the long and triple jumps, despite having the seventh best seed distances in both events. He had never gone 40 feet before in the triple jump, but blew by that with a 41-6 to come up just five inches short of winner M.J. Griffin of Wonderview. He beat his best long jump by nine inches when he leaped 19-5.50, just 1/4 inch short of Griffin’s winning jump.

He also anchored the Wolves’ dominant 4x100-meter relay team. Mims, Whitfield, Josiah Tudryn and McNair finished in 45.02, almost three full seconds ahead of second-place Acorn’s 47.98.

The meet was not without some drama. Parker knew his team was ahead going into the final event, the 4x400-meter relay, but he didn’t know by how much. Things got even more nerve-wracking when the Lighthouse team, which had the third-fastest seed time, was disqualified for failing to make a baton exchange within the required distance.

“Before that last race I had asked the official for a point count and he wouldn’t give it to me,” Parker said. “I felt like if we could just get any points at all we would win, but then we didn’t, so I was a little nervous before they announced the final points.”

Whitfield picked up six points with a third-place finish in the 110-meter high hurdles while Darin Burnett added a point by finishing eighth.

Burnett took fifth in the 300-meter hurdles while teammate Tre Crutchfield made it a seven-point event for the Wolves by finishing sixth.

The Wolves’ team of Braylon Jones, Hezekiah Coote, Darin Reed and Devin Hildreth took fourth in the 4x800 for five big points.

Billy Whitehead gave the Wolves some needed points in the high jump by taking third place for six points. Joshua McNair earned the team 12 points by placing second in the discus and fifth in the shot put.

Abundant Life’s Daniel Carrell earned the state championship in the 1,600-meter race, and took second in the 800. His performance might have helped the Wolves.

“We don’t have any distance runners,” Parker said. “Last year Caddo Hills and Trinity dominated those events. So for him to get up there like that, it knocked them back a little and cost them some points. I think that helped us.”

Friday, May 13, 2016

EDITORIAL >> State flunks report cards

Do you know what the recent round of state report cards on schools showed? They showed that Arkansas should get an F – not education — but the state for ignorance.

Of the 1,058 public schools across Arkansas, the state-generated report card showed only 10 of those schools were A-quality schools. The state had twice as many F’s. So who suffers the most with this information out there among the public? We all do.

Everyone knows about reports cards and their meanings, so people looking to relocate — businesses and industries wanting to come to the state are all concerned about the quality of education, the education level of the workforce and where local schools are headed — will see a false picture of our students based on misleading state information.

According to the state, our schools are dumb and dumber. But don’t believe it.

Last year, there were more than 100 schools with A’s, and this year just 10. How can a multi-million business look at that and want to come here and invest millions? They won’t.

In giving out these report cards, the state is bypassing one of the top mantras in education: “grade students through many different means.” A good teacher and a good school, of which we have many, many more than the state thinks, give students a chance to show their braininess through written assignments, oral presentations, artistic means and even through performance. The state uses only the state-level test scores to determine if schools are good or not – and that’s not good.

Schools and their students shine bright in so many different ways. North Pulaski High School has a culinary program that is to die for, and the awards that those students have brought in might fill a showcase larger than one needed for sports awards.

Sylvan Hills Middle School has consistently been a winner in the Odyssey of the Mind contest. That contest focuses on teamwork, problem solving and creative thinking – something potential businesses are keener on than an annual state test. By the way, that team is heading to the national contest.

Students at Warren Dupree Elementary and Beebe High School always seem to be winners in the twice-annual Stock Market Game, showing that we have students that have a solid understanding of the stock market and the research skills and vision to make money. Again, more important than a standardized test score.

Let’s not forget Cabot High School, which received a B from the state with a score that puts it close to being a C school. It had 20 students selected for this summer’s Governor’s School, plus the school has 192 honor students and 41 high honor students who have been awarded $5 million in college scholarships. Does that sound like an almost C school?

In fact, according to U.S. News, 24 of our high schools ranked in the top 10 percent nationwide. Shouldn’t they all be A schools? But very few of them are, according to the state.

Perhaps Arkansas should trash the report cards, save the money it cost to produce and focus on a PR push about the innovation, creativity and tangible achievements of its young people. Doing that would grab the interest of every business and industry in the nation, as not only are we a natural state, we are a naturally smart state—unless you read those incredulous report cards.

TOP STORY >> Unity Health, Mayo Clinic team up

Unity Health has joined the Mayo Clinic Care Network, which will give the Searcy-based hospital and its patients access to the prestigious Mayo Clinic’s team of expert doctors.

Unity Health is the first hospital in Arkansas to join the network, which will provide the latest Mayo Clinic knowledge and promotes collaboration among the two hospitals’ physicians and help answer complex medical questions.

The Mayo Clinic is considered one of the best hospitals in the world and is based in Rochester, Minn.

“Our membership in the Mayo Clinic Care Network is the result of our shared commitment with Mayo Clinic to improve the delivery of health care through high-quality, evidence-based medical care and treatment,” said Dr. John Henderson, Unity Health’s chief medical officer.

“Although some patients will still need to travel to Mayo Clinic for specialty care not available in our community, by sharing medical expertise through the Mayo Clinic Care Network, we hope to provide most patients with the ability to stay close to home for care whenever possible,” he said.

As a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Unity Health will be able to offer and access:

eConsults that enable Unity Health physicians to connect electronically with Mayo specialists for additional input on a patient’s care;

The AskMayoExpert database that offers Mayo-vetted information on disease management, care guidelines, treatment recommendations and reference materials for medical conditions;

eTumor Board conferences that invite Unity Health physicians to discuss complex cancer cases with a panel of Mayo specialists, and

Unity Health will also be able to learn about Mayo’s clinical, operational and business models, including their design and implementation.

Unity Health providers can access the Mayo Clinic’s extensive library of patient education materials and view archived Mayo Clinic grand rounds presentations that feature Mayo physicians and scientists.

The network began in 2011 has more than 35 member organizations in the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico and Singapore.

“We are pleased to welcome Unity Health to the Mayo Clinic Care Network,” said Dr. Ryan Uitti, medical director of Mayo Clinic Care Network’s Southeast Region.

“Patient-centered care is the foundation of our collaboration. We are eager to work toward our common goal of improving the delivery of health care for our patients,” he said.

Unity Health, formerly White County Medical Center, is the largest employer in a seven-county area with more than 150 physicians and 2,000 associates. It has three hospitals and more than 15 clinics, including primary care, oncology, cardiology, behavioral health and orthopedic care.

TOP STORY >> Fines seen doubling in Wynne

Leader executive editor

Wynne’s city coffers are filling up since District Judge Joseph Boeckmann Jr. became the focus of a state investigation last fall over allegations that he was forgiving fines for sexual favors in his Cross County court in east Arkansas.

The Wynne City Council learned this week that in the first four months of this year, the town has collected two-thirds of what was budgeted for income from fines for the whole year. In other words, the city is now collecting twice what it collected while Boeckmann worked as a part-time judge until November, when he stopped hearing cases as the state investigation into alleged sexual abuse of young men got underway.

Apparently most of the fines collected before Boeckmann got caught came from black defendants, women of all ages and older men. But now everyone’s paying fines. Mayor Bob Stacy told us Friday the city had budgeted $185,000 for fines for the whole year and has collected $123,000 so far. At that pace, Wynne could collect $300,000 in fines at year’s end.

That was about the amount the city collected before Boeckmann became judge seven years ago. Fines had been dropping for years.

He was also city attorney and deputy prosecutor for 30 years. Accusations of sexual abuse go back at least that far.

Several lawsuits were filed this week against Boeckmann because of the alleged abuse. The city could also be held liable. One of the lawsuits filed against him alleges sexual abuse in 1985.

Boeckmann may have forgiven up to $1 million in fines during those three decades.

Mike Smith was elected district judge in March and was supposed to take office in January. But that could come sooner as Boeckmann, 70, resigned this week. The governor will appoint a successor to fill out Boeckmann’s term.

Jack McQuary has been named special prosecutor in the case.

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Com-mission found several ethical and possibly criminal violations by the judge.

Charges against him include sending young men to his house, where they would be spanked, photographed nude and made to perform sex acts as a “community service” for the judge, who forgave their fines and kept them out of jail if they happened to be young white men.

The town’s residents had long suspected Boeckmann of abusing his court when young men came before him, usually for traffic violations, nonpayment of fines and other misdemeanor charges.

Some charges were more serious, but Boeckmann would make them go away if the defendants submitted to his perverse sexual desires.

Police called the judge “Let Them Go Joe.” They complained about investigating serious crimes in town only to see defendants get off if they let Boeckmann abuse them, sometimes for years.

Sometimes the judge paid their fines and showered them with gifts, including cars and boats, bought them groceries, paid their utility bills and let them live in his rental homes for free.

In addition, Boeckmann may have shared these young men with others in the legal community. If true, expect disciplinary proceedings against other lawyers and judges.

Not surprisingly, Boeckmann allegedly had child pornography on his home computer, along with photographs of the defendants.

It wasn’t the abuse of young men that caught state investigators’ attention. The judicial discipline commission received a report last fall that Boeckmann tried to protect a woman facing elder abuse charges at a nursing home and home-care business owned by the judge’s family.

Crystal Avellino, the nursing-home employee, was accused of theft of property and elder abuse of two clients of Wynne Elder Care. She is the sister of Anthony Avellino, a longtime lover of Boeckmann’s who was a defendant in the judge’s court.

Boeckmann reduced Crystall Avellino’s bond from $50,000 to being released on her personal recognizance. That’s when the house of cards fell. When investigators showed up to talk to court employees, everyone thought they had come to talk about “the boys.”

“Boeckmann’s method of operation is to gain access to Caucasian male litigants, most of whom range between 18-35 years of age, because of their traffic or criminal citations before Cross County District Court,” ac-cording to a state investigative report issued last fall.

“Boeckmann has allowed certain male litigants to linger after court and receive instructions on where and how these ‘substitutionary sentences’ shall be conducted. Court staff received little or no information regarding when and or how these sentences are completed.”

You can see the full report here, if you have the stomach for it:

Jeff Rosenzweig, Boeckmann’s lawyer, told us his client denies all charges and will fight them in court.

He said the judge’s resignation wasn’t an admission of guilt. His term expires at the end of the year, so it wasn’t worth the stress to fight the charges to stay in office for a few months longer, Rosenzweig said.

“He wasn’t running for re-election,” Rosenzweig said.

And for good reason: His client was facing hundreds of potential charges since the investigation began last year. He would have lost after allegations against him surfaced.

Boeckmann might follow in the footsteps of another crooked judge: Judge Mike Maggio of Conway, who took a $50,000 campaign contribution from a nursing home owner after Maggio reduced to $1 million a $5.2 million wrongful-death judgment against the nursing home.

No allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced against Maggio.

TOP STORY >> Officials tour water plant

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority celebrated the completion of its $58.9 million water intake and water treatment facilities at Greers Ferry Lake with an open house on Friday.

Planning for the project began 21 years ago. The water intake facility can withdraw 20 million gallons of water a day from Greers Ferry. It has three 700 horsepower pumps and standby generator. It is able to withdraw water from three different lake elevations.

The water treatment plant can treat and clean 10 million gallons of water a day.

The facilities include a one million gallon storage tank. Water is delivered using 76 miles of distribution lines.

The Lonoke White Public Water Authority is owned by Austin Water, Beebe Water and Sewer Commission, Fur-low Public Water Authority, Grand Prairie Bayou Two Public Water Authority, Jacksonville Water, Mid-Arkansas Utilities Public Water Authority, Vilonia Waterworks Association and Ward Water and Sewer System. Lonoke White Public Water Authority sells water to the Mountain Top Public Water Authority.

Funding for the project was provided by a $30.9 million loan from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, a $24.5 million loan from USDA Rural Development and a $2.5 million from Lonoke White Public Water Authority members.

Sen. John Boozman (R- Ark.) said, “It is a great example of public and private entities getting together and getting good things done.”

Boozman said water projects are not glamorous but are the underpinnings of the state.

“As a result we are going to have economic development, increased property values and jobs,” Boozman said.

Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville) said having an alternative water source is critical to the area and the future of Little Rock Air Force Base.

“In an emergency, we wouldn’t need Central Arkansas Water,” Johnson said.

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Lisa Mensah said, “We can’t grow without this kind of infrastructure. Today we face challenges with a shifting climate, threats of droughts and more frequent storms that have significant implications to agriculture production and the rural economies.”

She said the USDA helps with mitigation plans, water conservation and provides clean drinking water. The strategies help with clean soil and air and provide productive sustainable working lands.

“When you improve a water infrastructure, it improves manufacturing and other growth. When we improve water systems we are supporting the future generations,” Mensah said.

She said the Lonoke White Public Water Authority serves in an area of the Sparta and Alluvial Aquifers, which have been classified by Arkansas as a critical groundwater area that’s vital to the state’s growing demand for water. Finding a source of surface water was needed.

“When you have a safe and sustainable water system, you are building the future in the state. You are alleviating the fiscal pressures of small rural communities that are dealing with combined effects of aging infrastructure, climate change and drought and in some places declining tax revenue. As Lonoke White has proved, when we work together to improve our water systems we contribute in key ways to help all of us grow. Water is critical to health and viability of our rural areas,” Mensah said.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

EDITORIAL >> How to fix our roads

Leadership sometimes surfaces in the most shocking places, which is to say, in Arkansas, where it should surface. That would be in the lawmaking branch of government. Four senators—all Republicans!—are proposing that the legislature raise excise taxes on motor fuels when they convene next week in a special session that is intended to raise a little cash to repair the state’s deteriorating streets and roads.

This will be Gov. Hutchinson’s special session. Special sessions belong to the governor, who alone can call them and who controls what the legislators can consider. Hutchinson says the state desperately needs a road program both to repair streets and roads damaged by years of unusually bad weather for infrastructure and to match heavy aid that Congress and the president finally offered to the states.

But Hutchinson’s own plan offers next to nothing, a highway program in name only.  It takes a little money from terribly underfunded public education and gives it to the Highway Department and then projects huge budget surpluses each of the next 10 years that he could divert to highways. Everyone knows that the budget surpluses will never happen, unless he and the legislature can contrive to steal even greater sums each year from schools and the state’s health services.

We must note parenthetically here that the governor and legislature are already flagrantly violating the Constitution, the school-funding statutes and the Lake View settlement order by scaling down school support each year far below the levels required by the Constitution. They will get by with it until someone files a fresh lawsuit to hold them accountable.

But back to these legislative leaders. Raising taxes, for any purpose, for any reason, any time, is a no-no in the brave new world of Republican orthodoxy. Since 1986, Americans for Tax Reform, a big-business group headed by Grover Norquist, has been getting federal and state lawmakers and candidates for governor and president to sign a blood oath that they will never vote for or sign a tax increase for any purpose. Norquist’s goal is to reduce government everywhere to a size where it can be drowned in the bathtub.

Nine state senators and 20 state representatives signed Norquist’s pledge. Nine senators are all that are needed to block the gasoline and diesel tax increase the four senators are proposing. But they are talking about introducing it anyway. That is leadership. They put the needs of their communities ahead of their political careers. They were elected to do something, not be robots. Let’s name them: Bill Sample of Hot Springs, Ronald Caldwell of Wynne, Jimmy Hickey of Texarkana and Greg Strandridge of Russellville.  All, as we said, Republicans.

Let it be said that most of the Democrats, though a distinct minority in each house, would vote for road and street taxes, but they are not going to sponsor a bill that is certain to be defeated and certain to get them a Republican opponent financed by Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Prosperity.

Except one. Rep. Joe Jett, D-Success, who is co-chairman of the Joint Revenue and Taxation Committee, says he and his counterpart, Sample, are working on a highway tax that might fly with a majority vote in each house rather than the staggering three-fourths vote that the Arkansas Constitution (alone among all the states) requires for most taxes. A three-fourths vote is required to raise a tax that existed in 1934. They are toying with simply repealing or reducing the exemption from the sales tax that motor fuels enjoy. The legislature would not be raising a tax rate but merely removing an exemption. Besides, the sales tax did not exist in 1934.

Here’s our own passable tax plan for the highways: Repeal the sales-tax exemption for motor fuels and slice the excise tax in half. A majority could do it. Simple democracy.
Gov. Hutchinson, who undoubtedly would love such a plan and would sign it (he refused to sign Norquist’s pledge when he was running in 2014), ought to publicly embrace it. It would give some cover to weakhearted legislators of his own party who would like to tell people they did something about the potholed streets and roads and that their governor made them do it.

In another time, Gov. Dale Bumpers told caviling legislators: “If you’ll vote for this tax, I’ll come to your district and tell your voters: ‘If you hate this tax, vote against me, not him, because I begged him to do it.’” He did, and not one legislator was ever defeated for voting for higher income taxes, cigarette taxes and motor-fuel taxes or to close special-interest exemptions, all to improve highways and streets, schools, colleges, state parks and medical facilities. Not one was beaten. Not one.

In those days, taxes were not loved but were still considered the price of civilization. Now they are a plague to be avoided if you want to be sure of drawing your per diem, monthly state check and taxpayer-provided health insurance next year. In those days, giants strode the halls of the Capitol. OK, maybe we’ve gone too far, but we think Gov. Hutchinson got the message. After all, Bumpers trounced him in 1986 after he attacked the senator for opposing President Reagan’s giant tax cut for the rich while supporting spending cuts. We looked it up. Bumpers defeated Hutchinson 63 percent-37 perent. Now he can join the senator in the pantheon of Arkansas statesmen.

—Ernie Dumas

SPORTS STORY >> New faces for Cabot’s spring

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers are in the middle of their third week of spring football practices and this year’s group has nothing but new faces up front.

The Panthers return plenty of experience in the backfield, but because of injuries and other spring sports, a good number of inexperienced players have seen a lot of reps this spring, on both sides of the ball.

“We’re working in a lot of kids,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “On the offensive line, we’re totally new – a lot of kids working. On the defensive line, we’re missing Dayonte Roberts and Chris Jones because of operations, and (Connor) Daigle hurt his knee Friday and we’re using (Colin) Thompson on offense right now.

“So, four of the eight back on defense aren’t over there right now. A lot of different kids are getting looks.”

Senior three-year starting quarterback and University of Arkansas commit Jarrod Barnes and returning senior fullback Alex Roberts each entered spring practice healthy, but haven’t been in spring drills long because of track.

The state track meet concluded last week and the Meet of Champs is approaching, but the track participants have been able to don pads this week.

“We finally got Jarrod and (Alex) Roberts back,” Malham said. “They’ve been doing track and they’ve still got the Meet of Champs, but that’s not a team thing and they wanted to practice, so they’re practicing now. That makes it (the offense) look a little better. But like I said, the offensive line is just totally brand new.

“With Jarrod back and Roberts back, (Adam) Flores, (Austin) Morse and Braxton (Burton) back at the halfbacks, the backfield is pretty seasoned. And now that track’s over we’re getting those kids back.”

Traditionally, the Panthers have had their most depth on the offensive and defensive lines, but it’s the opposite way around with this group of Panthers. As Malham noted, his team has solid talent and depth in the backfield, but zero varsity experience on the offensive line.

“Of course we’ve got most of the offensive backs back,” Malham said. “So back-wise we’re not sitting too bad. Usually it’s the other way around. Now we’re just kind of the opposite.”

On defense, the Panthers return eight starters, but because half of those starters are absent on that side of the ball, that’s forced others to step in and contribute right away. Because of the inexperience, mistakes can be expected, but it also means those players can gain some valuable reps before August.

“It hasn’t looked the best at times, but they’re all working hard and a lot of kids are getting some work,” Malham said. “Hopefully it’ll help our depth problem when we get some of the others back, like Dayonte and Chris Jones on defense, because we’re having to work other kids in their spots right now.”

Thompson started the last two seasons at defensive end, but has been working at guard this spring because of the Panthers’ lack of depth up front.

“We’ve been working him at offensive guard,” Malham said of Thompson, “trying to see if we can find some other kids that can play D, because we need him on that offensive line. We’re thin there.”

Despite the inexperience on the offensive line, Malham has seen potential in his first unit, but said the second teamers have some work to do.

“The first group’s not looking too bad,” Malham said, “the second group – a little shaky. But there’s no Friday night experience with those kids across the offensive line. It’s all brand new, so that’s why we’ve been working hard, and with the two defensive linemen out (Dayonte Roberts and Jones) and Thompson, that’s three off that front five that are not in there.

“Thompson came with us on offense and the other two are coming off of elbow surgery and shoulder surgery. They should be ready by August, but a lot of new faces on the offensive and defensive lines getting some experience. Everybody was a senior last year and the backups were seniors, too. These kids played on Monday nights last year, so they’re going to get their feet wet real quick.”

With it being spring practice, Malham and his staff can’t run through the bulk of the playbook with this largely inexperienced group, but they can get a lot of valuable reps before summer, and the head Panther has enjoyed the work ethic and positive attitudes displayed throughout these spring practices.

“We’re getting better,” Malham said. “We’re trying to keep it simple and just rep, rep, rep, rep, rep. Repetition, that’s how you learn. And the thing about it is they may not be the most physically-gifted kids in the world – the biggest kid, he’s not going to be very big, but they’re working their butts off. They’ve got good attitudes and they’re working hard, and you can’t ask any more than that.”

Cabot will practice in pads again today and Friday, and wrap up spring drills on Monday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot ladies defeat Eagles

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panther softball team got one final nonconference game squeezed into its schedule Friday before the Class 7A state tournament, and pulled out a 3-1 home victory over 5A-East champion Greene County Tech.

Cabot (22-3) went 14-0 in conference play and will carry the 7A-East’s No. 1 seed into the state tournament in Bryant. That means a bye for Thursday’s first round, and a 3 p.m. matchup on Friday against the winner between Conway, the three seed from the Central, and Rogers, the four seed from the West.

Cabot has not played Rogers, but did beat Conway 11-1 back on March 15.

In Friday’s game, Cabot scored one run in the bottom of the first inning and held that lead until the top of the sixth when a walk and a Lady Panther error allowed the Lady Eagles to tie the game with two outs.

In the first at-bat of the bottom of the sixth, leadoff hitter Leah Gerald got a big infield single to start the winning rally.

With one out, Tech returned the error favor by failing to catch a fly ball to right field by Heather Hill. That left Gerald and Hill in scoring position for Hannah Montgomery, who hit a hard line drive to left field to score Gerald while Hill stopped at third base.

Rachel Allgood then singled to center field to score Hill and set the final margin.

Cabot pitcher Lauren McCluskey retired GCT in order in the top of the seventh to seal the win.

Cabot’s first-inning run also started with a leadoff single by Gerald. She was moved to second base by a sacrifice bunt by Bethany Knowles. Hill popped up to second base for the second out, but Montgomery came through with an RBI line drive to center field.

Montgomery finished 2 for 2 with a walk and two RBIs to lead Cabot. Gerald went 2 for 3 and scored two runs while Allgood’s RBI was the only other base hit for the Lady Panthers.

Four different players got one hit apiece for the Lady Eagles.

McCluskey threw all seven innings, giving up four hits and no earned runs while striking out five and walking one.

McCluskey will likely be on the mound in Friday’s game. She has a 15-1 record as a starter with a 1.82 earned run average in 100 innings pitched this season. Montgomery is second on the team in IP with 24 1/3. She has a 4-1 record and a 1.15 ERA.

Hill leads the team and is among the best in the entire state at the plate. The Southern Miss signee has a .607 batting average this season, a .711 on base percentage and an outrageous slugging percentage of 1.148.

She leads the team in walks with 18, RBIs with 38, runs scored with 37, and shares the team lead with Hannah Montgomery in doubles with 10, and shares the team lead with Kaitlyn Felder in home runs with seven.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke holds off JW Warriors

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jack-rabbits couldn’t get their bats going in the semifinal round of the 4A-East Regional tournament on Friday at Lonoke Ballpark, but they made up for it in the third-place game on Saturday. The Jackrabbits beat Jonesboro-Westside 11-9 and will carry the three seed from the East into the Class 4A state tournament that begins tomorrow in Ashdown.

Lonoke will face Hamburg (18-8), which will likely have its senior southpaw Drake Streeter on the mound, and lefties gave Lonoke trouble in the regional tournament. The Jackrabbits struggled for seven innings against Brookland’s lefty in the first round of regionals before getting three base hits off of him in the first of two extra innings.

On Friday, Gosnell lefty Andy Roberts held Lonoke to two hits, both by Savonte Rountree, in a 3-0 victory in the semifinal round.

Lonoke coach Nick Smith said preparing for left-handed pitching is a big priority as the Jackrabbits prepare for Thursday’s opening round game at 10 a.m.

“We’re working a lot in the cage against left-handed pitching,” said Smith. “We have one pitcher who is left handed. He’s not out on the mound throwing live or anything like that, but he’s in the cage and we’re just trying to get used to seeing that left-handed delivery.”

Streeter carries an 8-1 record and a 1.22 ERA into Thursday’s matchup.

Another key to an extended run in state is good defense, and Lonoke didn’t display that in Saturday’s victory. Westside only had five base hits, but seven Lonoke errors kept the Warriors in the game.

Lonoke wasn’t able to get on its field on Tuesday to work on defense, but Smith has addressed the issue with the players.

“Hamburg can hit, one through nine, so we’re going to have to make plays,” Smith said. “We talked about focusing on just making the regular plays. If you make the routine plays, the great plays will come. Even if you aren’t able to make the great play, if we’ll just make the regular plays, we’ll be fine.”

In Saturday’s game, junior Razorback commitment Casey Martin hit for the cycle and the Jackrabbits piled up 13 base hits in the victory. Westside led 7-4 going into the sixth inning, but Lonoke tied the game and added four runs in the top of the seventh to take an 11-7 lead.

Westside could only manage two in the bottom half of the final inning, and will settle for the four seed.

The Jackrabbits were held to just two hits over seven innings by Roberts in a 3-0 loss on Friday. Rountree was solid on the mound Friday as well. He threw 5 1/3 innings, giving up just five hits and one earned run.

Playing as the visiting team on Saturday against Westside, Lonoke took a quick lead in the first inning as Martin got the hardest part of a cycle out of the way early. Haven Hunter drew a one-out walk, and Martin drove a pitch to the wall in center field for an RBI triple.

The Warriors grabbed the lead in the bottom of the same inning with one earned and one unearned run. They made it a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the second with three runs on a walk, two hits and an error.

Hunter hit a one-out single in the top of the third, and Martin followed with a double that left runners in scoring position.

Kade Stuart sacrificed to right field to score Hunter while Martin held at second base. Rountree then doubled to make it 5-3.

Westside added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on no hits, two errors and a walk.

Martin hit a leadoff single in the top of the fifth. Stuart and Rountree also singled with Rountree driving in Martin and leaving runners on the corners with no outs, but Lonoke failed to add another run.

Martin tied the game with one swing in the top of the sixth. Caleb Horton and Hunter each singled before Martin completed the cycle by sending a 1-1 pitch over the wall in straightaway center to make the score 7-7.

After holding Westside scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, Lonoke took the lead for the first time since the top of the first.

Gabe Rooney was hit to start the inning and Keith Lingo singled. Brayden Hardy walked to load the bases, and Kameron Cole walked to score Rooney and give Lonoke an 8-7 lead.

Horton hit a sacrifice grounder that scored Lingo, and Hunter followed that with a two-RBI double to left field.

TOP STORY >> The A, B, C’s of cooking

Sylvan Hills juniors Steven Anderson (from left), Terriya Jones, Douglas Whidden and Hayley Cross plan to sign up for a second year of culinary classes in Jacksonville.
Leader staff writer

It’s been two years since Drew McLain roamed the halls of North Pulaski High School, but he frequently pops in, updating culinary-arts teacher Teresa Perkins on his progress. McLain, now in his second year at Pulaski Technical College, is working on a culinary-arts degree, but he recalls his high school days fondly.

Prior to entering his sophomore year at NPHS, he signed up for a culinary arts class “just to try it.” The program focused on professional food preparation, from nutrition to fancy French cuts. It was a great fit for him.

“I loved it,” he says without hesitation.

The North Pulaski cooking program and its student-run restaurant Simply Delicious have been cherished by the community for years. Since North Pulaski will become a middle school next year, and its students will attend Jacksonville High, the future of the cooking program may have seemed uncertain.

But Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District officials said the culinary arts program will have a place at the new high school campus when it’s completed in 2019.

In the meantime, the cooking classes and restaurant will continue at the North Pulaski campus.

“This student is a great example of what our goals are,” said Jeremy Owoh, JNP assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “We want to provide students with direction and opportunities.”

The high school’s culinary arts program offers students a number of classes, including Culinary Arts I and II. There are supplemental classes such as nutrition that benefit students, Perkins said.

The culinary program is currently open to students from Jacksonville, Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski high schools.

Perkins usually has about 23 students, give or take a half dozen, who complete the program, and for those graduating students who maintained at least a 3.0 GPA, it can be worth free tuition at Pulaski Tech.

The two-year college in North Little Rock offers a variety of culinary studies, such as classes on baking, pastry, basic food prep, wine and spirits and hospitality management. McLain says his time at NPHS prepared him well for his post high school studies.

As important as their studies, Simply Delicious, the only student-run restaurant in Arkansas and now in its 28th year, provides students with on-the-job training, Perkins says. It’s part of the culinary program.

Owoh says the new district will embrace the program, saying, “We’re pleased to have it for our students and the community.”

While architectural plans of the new high school have not been finalized, the district is making room for the culinary arts and automotive programs, he said.


Perkins, who has taught the program for eight years, says she hopes students gain experience and learn through the operation of Simply Delicious.

“I want them to know what they’re capable of and leave with a good idea of the demands of the business,” she says.

For others, she says, “They might realize that they don’t want to be a chef.”

She wants them to understand the workings of the back of the house (the kitchen area), as well as the front of the house, referring to the staff who fill positions like waiter or hostess.

More than learning the lingo and developing a skill set that translates into real-world employment, she says the kids get to earn a little money.

Restaurant sales are split between the students and the program, with 80 percent split going to students. The size of a student’s check depends on the number of hours worked over the year, Perkins says. The balance is used to buy new equipment and purchase supplies.

Students like Nate Robbins, a Jacksonville High School senior, and Zachary Diaz, a North Pulaski High School senior, learn restaurant-musts like menu planning, ordering produce and the supplies needed to prepare meals, rolling silverware, cleaning and customer service.

Zachary, who sports a second-year black culinary arts’ jacket, plans to join the Air Force, and he sees cooking as a future hobby, but he says, “I learned a lot and really enjoyed the classes.”

First year students wear white jackets.

“It’s a great learning tool,” Perkins says about Simply Delicious.

First year culinary-arts junior Terriya Jones says she plans to complete the program next year as a senior.

Like McLain, she said she “loves” the program and has “learned how to cook properly.”

NPHS senior and Brazilian exchange student Fernando Domingos is also a fan of the program and says he plans to use the skills he has learned in this class to pay for his college education.

Students have also won state and national awards for their cooking and management skills.


According to a Thomas Fordham Institute study, published in April by Shaun M. Dougherty, Arkansas leads the nation in collection of data about the value of career and technical education (CTE).

The report states that this type of education “is a far cry from vo-tech. No longer isolated shop classes for students showing little future promise. CTE coursework is now strategic and sequenced. It entails skill building for careers in fields like information technology, health sciences and advanced manufacturing. Secondary CTE is meant to be a coherent pathway, started in high school, into authentic technical education option and credentials, at the postsecondary level.”

Jake Walker, Ph.D., project director for CTE and Workforce Research at the University of Central Arkansas at Conway, provided data for the study.

Walker said Arkansas students that are exposed to CTE are more likely to graduate high school and enroll in a two-year college.

“We’re very proud of the study,” said Kathy Edgerton, Arkansas Department of Career Education’s communication director.

The ADC’s division of Career and Technical Education also participated in the study and oversees the CTE curriculum in schools across the state.

After years of being considered “a dumping ground” for troublemakers and academic underachievers, Walker said education is coming full circle. Attitudes are changing and CTC is considered a valuable resource for students, whether they plan to study at a university or not.

“The vision of CTE is being reshaped and the trend toward CTE is increasing,” he said.

Perkins said, “College is not for everyone.”

Owoh agrees.


Instead of kids graduating, or not, and spending years trying to find a suitable and money-making job, CTE is designed to give kids a head start. Walker also said CTC is having a positive impact on students that are male, and who qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Edgerton said ACE is trying to get more girls interested in many of the CTE’s male-dominated professions.

Owoh said, “We definitely see the value of CTE…We want to make sure all our students have a plan in place before graduation.”

Jacksonville Alderman Kenny Elliot said he supports the continuation of the CTE programs at the high school level.

“When talking to industries that are considering relocating to Jacksonville, their first question is about a trained workforce,” he said.

“I feel it should be important part of the new district,” and Elliot said he supports a possible expansion of the new district’s CTC offerings.

Owoh said the new district is talking with the Pulaski County Special School District about allowing students to attend CTE programs off campus so PCSSD students could sign up for the culinary-arts program or JNP students could attend a program at PCSSD.

They are also talking with Pulaski Tech and Arkansas Welding Academy in Jacksonville about a CTE welding partnership, Owoh said.

Not only are industries pushing for more advanced manufacture-ready graduates because of skilled workforce shortages, but groups like the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce are forming partnerships with school districts like North Little Rock to introduce CTE at a younger age, Walker said.

Edgerton said, “We’re working closely with industries and that’s driving the kind of classes we’re offering. We want to make sure the classes are up-to-date, and we don’t want to offer classes that won’t benefit the student.”

As much as capturing the imagination of the students, Edgerton said, “We have to educate the parents.”

Many parents grew up in an era when a four-year college degree was the goal. These days CTE students can graduate high school with a certificate—and job ready.

“Welders,” which are in short supply in Arkansas, “might make $20,000, $30,000 to start,” Edgerton said.

They can also build upon their high school CTE at a two- or four-year institution.

Perhaps also impacting the trend was the economic downturn of the mid-2000s when the college-educated unemployed had difficulty finding jobs and turned to two-year institutions for “real life” job training, Walker said.

TOP STORY >> Report cards mixed bag

Leader staff writer

Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final in-depth look at state report cards released last month.

Using its own grading system, the state went from more than 100 A schools last year to 10 this year and none of the 10 were in this area. Lonoke followed the trend of other area districts with its school staying the same or dropping.

The one exception in the Lonoke, Carlisle and England school districts was England High School, which actually improved from a D to a C.

Interestingly, in Lonoke all the schools received a D except the high school, which earned a C, down from a B a year ago.

The state bases the letter grade on a score the schools receive based on academic growth and performance. Graduation rates are added into the high school scores.

In Lonoke, Superintendent Suzanne Bailey and Amanda Rather, the district coordinator, are putting more stock in the ESEA school reports rather than the state report, which shows that both the district’s primary and elementary schools received D’s.

“In contrast to the letter grade report released by Arkansas Department of Education, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) School Report showed our primary and elementary schools as ‘Achieving Schools’ in all areas: percent tested, literacy, and math—meeting the 2015 Annual Measurable Objective set by the state,” said Bailey.

Rather added that Lonoke Primary School is a feeder school for Lonoke Elementary. “Whatever grade or ranking the elementary school receives, so will the primary school. This year, the elementary school grew seven points overall as a school. They ended the year with a score of 209, which is one point away from moving up a whole letter score to a C, which requires a 210 score. Lonoke Elementary received points for achievement gap adjustment. This tells us that the gaps are closing.”

Bailey said her district is working to ensure the schools improve in both reports.

“We are focusing on reading instruction and planned targeted professional development for teachers that address needs indicated by administration, self-reflection, and shifts in curriculum. Our curriculum teams are building maps to align curriculum both horizontally and vertically; and we are working hard to be constituent in our literacy and math instruction,” explained Rather.

Bailey said the effort is working. “Flexible reading groups showing 18 percent growth in second grade literacy and 12 percent in first grade literacy,” she said.

Bailey also said that the ESEA report paints an entirely different picture of the middle school compared to the state report. She said Lonoke Middle showed growth on the letter grade reports, ending up one point shy from moving up from a letter D. “LMS scored 209 points showing 11 points of growth from last year,” the superintendent said.

The ESEA report shows Lonoke Middle achieving in math, percent tested, but needing improvement in literacy among two subgroups of students.

“In literacy, when looking at all students, they, too, met (annual growth), but the compilation of the subgroups did not. The subgroup population missed the (annual growth) by 0.88 points,” explained Rather.

“What are we doing to continue to increase student achievement at LMS? We focused on consistency, curriculum alignment, culture building using the Rachel’s Challenge (Kindness Matters) program and providing professional development for teachers to incorporate literacy instruction/skills into content classes,” Bailey said.

At the high school level, Bailey said the score was seven points shy of a B. “However, this year, the gap at LHS between gender and racial groups, showed to be bigger in years past, which affected the school’s rating. But, just like all other Lonoke schools, LHS performed well on the ESEA report. The school was achieving in English/Language Arts, Mathematics, and Graduation Rate.”


The state gave the primary school a D with a score of 209 compared to a D with a score of 203 last year. The elementary school had identical letter grades and scores both years. The middle school received a D this year with a score of 209 compared to a D last year with a score of 198.

The high school dropped from a B last year to a C this year with the score going from 254 down to 233.


The elementary school got a C on its state report card this year with a score of 213 compared to a C and a score of 226 last year. The high school dropped 25 point from a 241 to a 216 and from a B to C.


According to the state, Lonoke Elementary is a C-rated school with a score of 234. Last year it had a score of 213 which was still a C. The high school improved from a D to a C. Last year it had a score of 191 compared to this year’s 214.

TOP STORY >> Road work seen key to area growth

Leader senior staff writer

Most of the action and all of the controversy over the state Highway and Transportation Department’s 30-Crossing highway plan may center on expanding and replacing the I-30 Arkansas River Bridge and changes on I-30 between the river and Ninth Street in Little Rock, but more than 50 people turned out in Jacksonville to see proposals to make the north end of that project safer and easier to navigate for them.

The entire 30-Crossing project covers about 6.7 miles from the I-30, I-440, I-530 nexus in the south to the I-30, I-40, Hwy. 67/167 north terminal and is expected to cost about $631 million.

Bids will be accepted in 2018 and the project should be completed sometime in 2022.

Many residents of Jacksonville and Cabot are concerned about the difficult one-mile segment along I-40.

Called the north terminal of 30-Crossing, it is a dangerous one-mile stretch that leaves local traffic weaving and merging across as many as four lanes with through traffic—much of it big trucks—in time to either continue on I-40 or to get to the Hwy. 67/167 interchange.

“At 65 or 70 miles an hour, that’s a very short run in heavy traffic and nobody’s letting you over,” Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher said on Tuesday morning.

“It’s bad planning. What they proposed is good common sense, built to accommodate traffic through 2041,” he said.

Most of the traffic coming south off Hwy. 67/167 onto I-40 is headed for the I-30 Bridge, according to Benjamin Browning, 30-Crossing build-design project director, who spoke at Jacksonville, where Hwy. 67/167 will be widened to Cabot.

Currently, residents of Jacksonville and farther north, going to Little Rock take Hwy. 67/167 south, entering I-40 on the two outside, westbound lanes, while through traffic from Memphis, including semi-tractor trailers, is in the two inside lanes of I-40.

The problem is, over the next mile, most traffic from Hwy. 67/167 must merge onto the inside lanes, while the trucks and other westbound traffic must merge onto the outside lanes.


This is a dangerous situation, according to Fletcher.

The solution is to leave the I-30 bound traffic in the outside lanes of I-40 and the westbound I-40 traffic in the inside lanes—no merging.

Instead, the highway will split near the megachurch and, Browning said, a new flyover would take I-30 bound traffic over both east and westbound I-40.

Browning said a new flyover would replace the existing structure, which passes over only the eastbound I-40 traffic.


Going the other direction, traffic from Little Rock and North Little Rock headed east would merge onto I-40, much as it does now. But those headed to Jacksonville and Cabot, instead of weaving across I-40 east to merge onto Hwy. 67/167, stay in the outside lane until after North Hills Boulevard, then loop onto a new flyover that will cross all remaining lanes of I-40 to merge onto Hwy. 67/167.

Meanwhile, through traffic eastbound on I-40 will remain in the two left lanes, go under the new flyway and continue east.


The Highway Department says the 30-Crossing project will help alleviate traffic congestion, improve roadway safety, improve roadway conditions and correct deficiencies, improve navigational safety and improve the decaying I-30 Arkansas River Bridge.

The Highway Department proposed four alternatives for 30-Crossing, with most of the difference along the downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock I-30 corridor, but both the mayor and Alderman Kenny Elliott prefer the six-lane configurations, which would allow three lanes to merge from I-30 onto I-40 east in the north terminal. They say that would help alleviate congestion, and Browning agrees.

The public comment period for written comments for any or all of the 30-Crossing proposal is open through June 10. A public comment form can also be found and submitted online at the website.

The 3-D models and simulations are available at the same site, under the heading “public information” then “videos.”