Wednesday, December 14, 2005



Allen Keith Schmidt, 47, of Cabot, went to be with the Lord Monday, Dec. 12 at Cooks Lake Lodge at Casscoe.
He was there deer hunting with his friends on a special deer hunt for the disabled. Allen suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but loved to spend time in the outdoors, hunting and fishing. He was a 1976 graduate of Cabot High School and a Baptist.
He is survived by his wife of 26 years, Debbie; two sons, Keith and Christopher Schmidt of Cabot; his parents, LeRoy and Patsy Schmidt of Austin; one sister, Carol McCabe of Austin; and a special niece, Lauren McCabe.
The family wishes to express their appreciation to Allen’s nurse and friend, Peggy Johnson.
Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe. Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, at Cabot First Baptist Church, with burial in Oak Grove Cemetery.


James R. Magness, 77, of Cabot, passed away Monday, December 12. He was born Aug. 20, 1928, in Beebe. He was a member of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Lonoke.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Emmett and Cleo Magness; a son, Jerry Magness; two brothers and one sister.
Survivors are his wife of 60 years, Betty Jean Magness; two daughters and sons-in-law, Pam and Ken Murphy of Cabot and Shirl and Ken Welch of Little Rock; five grandchildren, Jeremy and April Murphy, Tonya and Jayson Hefley, Heather and Todd Graves, Thomas Murphy and Nicholas Welch; three great-grandchildren; and one sister, Doris Robbins of Cabot.
Visitation begins at 10 a.m. Thursday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe, with family receiving friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16 at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church, with burial at Hicks Cemetery.
Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


Pauline Pickard Thompson, 91, of Beebe died Dec. 13. She was born in the Antioch community near Beebe on Oct. 24, 1914, to the late Maynard and Ethel Pickard. Pauline was a member of Beebe First Church of the Nazarene.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Orville Thompson; three brothers, Murray Pickard, Alton G. Pickard and Harry Lee Pickard.
She is survived by two daughters, Willie Mae Nemec of Fayette-ville, and Mary Margaret Phillips, of Beebe; two sons, Bobby Ray Thompson of Upland, Calif., and Hays Thompson of Cabot; nine grandchildren; one step-grandson; 14 great-grandchildren; two great-great-grandchildren; and one sister, Martha Gasaway of Jonesboro.
Family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, at West-brook Funeral Home, Beebe. Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday, at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial at Antioch Cemetery.
Memorials can be made to the Beebe First Church of the Naza-rene Building Fund, 104 Camp-ground Road, Beebe, Ark., 72012.
Arrangements are by West-brook Funeral Home.


Paul William Dean, 76, of Searcy, died Dec. 13, at White County Medical Center in Searcy under Hospice Care.
He was born July 27, 1929 in Hamilton County, Ohio. He was preceded in death by his parents, John and Velma Wright Dean.
He was retired from the Air Force.
He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Mildred; a son, Kenneth of Kingsman, Ariz.; eight brothers and sisters, Ralph, Rosa, John, Leonard, Betty, James, Mary and Linda.
Thanks go to the wonderful doctors and nurses for their excellent care, with special thanks to the staff of Arkansas Hospice of White County.
Paul will be laid to rest in Liberty, Ky., at a later date.
Cremation arrangements un-der the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

EDITORIAL >> Vote no Tuesday on more debt

Forget about all the legal questions surrounding the two bond proposals that will appear on the ballot Tuesday and consider only the sheer wisdom of the propositions, or the lack of it.

Sure, there are mind-boggling legal questions about both the interstate highway bond issue and the higher education bonds. The highway bond law that authorized this election seeks in the distant future to bypass the constitutional prohibition against state borrowing without first having a popular vote, and the higher education proposal seems to do the same, although the authors and sponsors of it have been equivocal on whether that was a purpose.

There are other legal riddles, but voters need not concern themselves with those, even though opponents urge you to. Defeat or passage of the propositions Tuesday will not affect those questions. They are part of the statutes passed by the legislature this year and those questions will remain after the election because Gov. Huckabee and his successor can call special elections on these questions until doomsday under the law. If the propositions pass, there will be lawsuits, perhaps friendly ones, to settle the questions before bonds can actually be sold. So they are almost immaterial to any voter’s consideration.

No, evaluate them on two premises: Do you agree with the purposes of the money that they will cause to be spent and their priority — repair of interstate mileage starting five to seven years from now and construction of new buildings on college campuses and tying all the Arkansas campuses to an interstate research network?

Second, is more or less permanent state indebtedness the best way to pay for the improvements?
You have to ignore the pitches of Gov. Huckabee and the other proponents of both issues. Like most campaign pitches, they are simple, appealing and wrong.

Paying for highway improvements as you go just does not work, said Gov. Huckabee, who 10 years ago said it did work and that bonded debt was wrong. (That was when Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was proposing highway bonds.) If you remember what the interstate highways were like six or seven years ago, the governor says, you know that paying as you go does not work. If you like all the improvements the past six years he says, you will vote to authorize the Highway Commission to do it again, and again, whenever it wants.

That assumes that nothing happened except the issuance of $575 million of highway bonds in 2000 and 2001. But that is wrong. When the legislature authorized the bond election in 1999, it also raised taxes, three cents a gallon on gasoline and four cents a gallon on diesel. Those taxes gave a big boost to highway building and would have done that even without bonds.

The gasoline taxes went largely to non-interstate construction but they freed money for the interstates, too. All the diesel taxes were dedicated to the interstates. They were obligated to pay off the bonds, but they could just as easily have been dedicated to an ongoing maintenance program. And the Federal Highway Administration pumped hundreds of millions more into interstate maintenance because the interstates were in bad shape everywhere, not just in Arkansas.

Without the highway bonds, there would have been a huge interstate highway program the past six years. In fact, there already was. It already had been under way a couple of years before the bonds were issued in 2000 and it seemed that those pesky orange barrels were everywhere.
Here is what the highway bond proposal is all about: With or without bonds, the diesel tax and the federal interstate aid will be used every year to repair interstates. If the bond proposal passes, from now on about one third of the road-use taxes dedicated to interstates both from Washing-ton and Little Rock will go to investors for their interest on the bonds. Without the bonds, that money would be spent on the highways.
You decide which is the wiser course.

In the case of the college bonds, the proposal contemplates two or more bond issues — one to raise the money to pay investors in one lump sum the $100 million that they would earn from now until 2017 on the current college bonds and then another issue of $150 million or more to get the cash for new buildings and equipment on the campuses — a nice little pot for every one of them.

Gov. Huckabee and his higher education chief say that enrollments have risen rapidly the past decade or so and that building on the campuses have not kept pace.

The implication is that there aren’t enough classrooms for the youngsters anymore. But a check with state treasury report shows that the state has spent nearly $1 billion on buildings and capital equipment in the 10 years ending in 2004. Private fortunes spent another $250 million or so on university buildings. It has been the biggest building boom in the state’s history. Visit your favorite school and see the transformation.
If the college bond issues are approved, the governor says he will call a special session the week before Christmas to appropriate the $150 million for the campuses. But he could save the state millions of dollars if instead he simply asked the legislature to appropriate $150 million of surplus state funds for the buildings, if they are urgent. They could be built instantly and the taxpayers could be spared tens of millions of dollars of interest and 20 years of debt.

Again, your choice.

EDITORIAL >> Time to raise minimum pay

Talk about the Spirit of Christmas and family values. A coalition of church, union and community leaders calling itself Give Arkansans a Raise Now announced Monday that it would try to offer voters a chance to amend the state Consti-tution to guarantee the poorest Arkansas workers a halfway-livable income.

It is long overdue, and the perfect time to begin such a labor is Christmas, the one period of our sinful years in which we strive to live by the injunctions of the Prince of Peace. Blessed are the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers ...

The amendment would raise the minimum wage in Arkansas from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour and thereafter raise it automatically in consonance with the Consumer Price Index. The group will have to get the signatures of more than 80,000 Arkansas voters to get the proposition on the 2006 general-election ballot. That is a physically daunting task, but it should be no political problem. A poll shows that roughly 87 percent of Arkansans support the idea. That will change, no doubt, when the opposition ads pose the ruin of the state’s economy if voters ratify it but Arkansas voters have nearly always embraced proposals that undergird the economic security of workers and their families, starting with child labor laws and workers compensation. It will be no different this time.

Even at $6.15 an hour, the neediest workers will be far off the pace of previous generations. American hourly wages adjusted for inflation have been falling for 30 years, most dramatically since 2000. The minimum wage has been flat at $5.15 an hour since 1997. Congress and the Bush administration seem adamant that it never be raised again at the federal level. Raising the lowest wages could affect profit margins, executive bonuses and shareholder values. The Arkan-sas Legislature early this year emasculated a bill that would have raised the floor for Arkan-sas workers. Arkansas voters, we suspect, will not be so flinthearted.

The president of the Ark-ansas State Chamber of Commerce implied that the organization would not oppose the proposal if it gets on the ballot, but we have a hunch that will change. He said it would not affect many Arkansans because the vast majority of businesses pay more than $6.15 to all their employees.

True, it is not a large share of the workforce, but raising the incomes of the 127,000 workers who are at the floor now is not an insignificant step for the state and certainly not for them. They are the workers who almost certainly have no employer health insurance and no pension plan, and those most vulnerable to retail price hikes, big leaps in fuel costs and economic dislocation. They have some of the most dangerous and degrading day-to-day jobs. They are less likely to get paid vacations, paid holidays and sick and family leave.

“We live in a great nation,” said Rev. Stephen Copley, senior pastor of North Little Rock First United Methodist Church and chair of Give Arkansans a Raise Now. “Folks should not work hard, play by the rules and live in poverty.”
They would still live in poverty if the proposal is ratified, but not quite so deeply as now.

Next year, the campaign against the amendment will say that the beneficiaries would merely be youngsters in part-time jobs, mainly fast-food restaurants, who are on their way up the economic ladder anyway. That has been the battle cry in every minimum-wage effort in Congress for 50 years but it does not fly.

It is a myth. Economics professors Sheldon Danziger of the University of Michigan and Peter Gottschalk of Boston College found that most low-wage workers no longer move up to the middle class. About half of people whose family income ranked them in the bottom fifth of the country in 1968 were still there in 1991. Of those who did move up, 75 percent were still well below the median income. The U.S. economy no longer provides much mobility for low-income workers.

They are not only restaurant workers but childcare-givers, security guards, nursing-home and hospital orderlies, teachers’ assistants, retail clerks, poultry line workers and call-center employees.

We will hear the familiar argument that raising the minimum wage is bad for the poor because employers will just make up the difference by reducing the number of jobs. But minimum-wage increases have nearly always led to greater job creation, not less. Wasn’t that a message of the Sermon on the Mount? There are rewards for doing for the least of those among us.

Sign a petition if you find one.

EDITORIAL >> Governor is biggest loser

Arkansans went to the polls Tuesday to vote on several local issues. Sherwood residents decided to extend the terms of city council members from two years to four years, and voters in Lonoke passed a 2-cent hamburger tax.

But yesterday’s big story was Gov. Huckabee’s ambitious proposal to give the state Highway Commission a permanent, $570 million slush fund for interstate im-provements. The voters said they wouldn’t trust the Huck-ster or the commission with that kind of revolving credit. They said let’s just keep paying for highway improvements as we go and save all that interest on the bonds.

The highway proposal has gone down in flames, like Huckabee’s presidential ambitions. If he can’t pass a bond issue in Arkansas, how will he fight global terrorism? Definitely not ready for prime time.

The governor and his highway pals had hoped to sneak the issue past most voters during the holiday season — no one was supposed to be paying attention, you see — but the people were not fooled.

Huckabee also lost the support of conservative Republicans, along with the state’s truckers, who did not want the state to take on more debt.
Another bond issue on the ballot to help state colleges would have passed easily if the highway bonds hadn’t been on the ballot. With friends like Mike, who needs enemies?

The people have acted wisely, as they usually do.

SPORTS >> Red Devils fall short in Cyclone title game

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils won the second-place trophy Saturday at the Russellville tournament, but if it were up to head coach Vic Joyner, they wouldn’t have accepted it.

Joyner was unhappy with the officiating in the championship game against the host team, and left the second-place trophy sitting at midcourt during post-tournament ceremonies, shortly after his team lost 61-60 to the Cyclones.
Assistant coach Jerry Wilson went back minutes later and picked the trophy up.

“I wouldn’t accept that trophy for anybody’s money,” Joyner said Monday. “There wasn’t anyway we were going to win. There was one official that I don’t think called any other game in the whole tournament, and he called us for everything in that fourth quarter.

They had us in a catch 22 and they knew it. We couldn’t go zone because they can shoot well, but we couldn’t play man because they’d just go to the line for every little thing. Their coach kept yelling drive, drive. And I don’t blame the coach. I commend him. He knew he was getting that call every time, so he was calling for that call every time, so he was calling for it. But there was nothing we could do with that one official.”
The line score seems to indicate a sudden burst of fouls by Jacksonville and a definite burst of scoring for the Cyclones.

Russellville’s score-by quarter was 10-10-11-30. The Cyclones shot 31 free throws in the game, 17 in the fourth quarter. They hit 25 of those, including 13 in the fourth.

Jacksonville shot 15 free throws, and made four of six in the final period. The two misses in the fourth were the only two the whole game.
Jacksonville led by 31-20 at halftime and 44-31 at the end of three.

Joyner admitted his players lost their composure amidst the controversial fourth-quarter.

“Did they lose their heads? Yes,” Joyner said. “Should they have lost their heads? Maybe not, but I’m telling you I can’t blame ‘em too much. We did have some plays in the fourth quarter where we went down there and threw the ball away. We still could have won that game, maybe. I don’t know. Maybe the only reason they didn’t call something is because they didn’t have to.”

Joyner says he’ll never return to a Russellville tournament again, but admits he probably won’t be invited.

Russellville guard Marcus Pillow led all scorers with 27 points. He was 13 for 15 from the line. Lavar Neely led Jacksonville with 17, while K.C. Credit added 11 for the Devils, who are now 6-2 on the season.

Jacksonville is off until Friday when it hosts the rematch with North Pulaski.

SPORTS >> Cabot handles Wampus Cats

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers controlled every aspect of its their game Friday night against Conway but one, and one wasn’t enough for the Wampus Cats as Cabot cruised to a 52-37 victory and kept its record un-blemished after eight games.

Conway guard Quincy Maxfield was the only going for the Wampus Cats, while the Panthers controlled the tempo, the boards and most any other action in the game.

Cabot didn’t shoot from the outside very well, but didn’t have to with a dominant inside game and a tenacious defensive effort.
Cabot coach Jerry Bridges was very pleased his team.

“We played very good defensively,” Bridges said. “They really got after ’em and gave ’em very few open looks. No. 20 (Maxfield), you just have to take your hat off to him.

“We were in his face for most of those shots. He was just hitting ‘em anyway. Overall though I thought it was a really good effort. The kids played really hard.”

The first quarter was tightly contested, but guard Justin Haas hit a three pointer at the buzzer to end the first that gave the Panthers a 12-8 lead and momentum.

They carried that momentum throughout the game. Cabot extended its lead to 27-16 by halftime, and all but had the game wrapped up with a 41-21 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Cabot center Chad Glover led his team in scoring, despite spending much of the game on the bench in foul trouble.
Michael Lowry scored all six of his points in the third quarter to spark the run that gave the Panthers their 20-plus-point lead.
In the midst of Lowry’s scoring burst, Haas hit his second three and Glover added an and-one that effectively sealed the game, although the Panthers didn’t play like it in the fourth.

Cabot’s defense stayed intense throughout the fourth quarter, even when both teams went to the benches with about two minutes left in the game.

Maxfield was Conway’s only bright spot. The 5-foot-9 guard hit three of four three-point attempts, and was even more deadly with his mid-range jumpers. He finished with 20 points to lead all scorers.

Glover led the Panthers with 14 points. Point guard Matt Shinn added nine while Shawn Tramel came off the bench to score seven for the Panthers. Three players scored six for Cabot.

The Panthers also dominated the boards and were outstanding at the free-throw line.
Cabot grabbed 21 rebounds to Conway’s 14, with Lowry leading the way with seven.
The Panthers made 16 of 19 free throws, 84 percent.

The Panthers are off until Friday when they will host Lonoke in a quadruple header.
Junior Varsity boys and girls will precede varsity boys and girls for a full night of action at the Cabot gymnasium Friday night. Activities begin at 5 p.m.

NEIGHBORS >> Video with class

Leader staff writer

Cabot High School students learn the art of broadcasting

Cabot High School recently premiered the television program CHTV (Cabot High School Television) created by the school’s radio and television-broadcasting students.

The 15-minute-long program airs on Cebridge Cable Channel 15 at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday nights. It features segments such as athlete of the week and senior spotlight as well as news about the school and community.

“I enjoy being on camera and interviewing people,” said Shannon O’Nale, 16. “It’s fun and you get to experience new things.”
The radio and television broadcasting program at Cabot High School was created in August when the school got a 12 foot-by-12 foot video screen with the scoreboard at the new fieldhouse at Panther Stadium.

“The biggest challenge was such a short time span to get everything together for the class,” says Chuck Massey, the radio and television-broadcasting instructor. Massey also teaches choir.

Since the school did not know exactly when the video scoreboard would be installed, the radio and television broadcasting class was not offered to students last spring.

“In August, when we decided to offer the class, we contacted students in the mass communication courses to see if they wanted to take it,” Massey said.

Currently the class, which is part of the workforce education curriculum at Cabot High School, has 25 students enrolled in it.
Massey said he anticipates the class growing to 100 students next year when the classroom and studio is moved into the new high school building.

“This is what I want my career to be,” said Sarah Shelton, 16.

When school started, the first step for students was learning television-broadcasting terminology before getting hands-on experience with the cameras and editing equipment by filming high school football games.

As some students operated the cameras filming all the action on the field, other students in the field house’s studio broadcasted the instant replays, advertisements and announcements that appeared on the video screen. Additionally, the class formatted footage of two of the games that were broadcast on Cebridge Cable.

Now that football season is over, students have been putting together footage for the CHTV program.
Upcoming projects for the class include doing a MTV Crib’s style program showing off the new field- house.
Later this spring, Massey says the television broadcast class will work with the drama and theater department on a student film festival.
“I enjoy the editing process,” said Josh Lee, 18.

“It’s a challenge making group decisions sometimes, we all have different ideas but we’re all on the same team.”

TOP STORY >> Cabot police kick off new alert program

Leader staff writer

A program created almost 10 years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to help find missing Alzheimer’s patients and children is now available to law- enforcement agencies all over the country, and the Cabot Police Department is one of the first in the area to use it.

It’s called “A Child is Missing” or “ACIM.” It doesn’t cost anything and it is capable of notifying 1,000 residents within one minute that a child cannot be found.

Cabot Police Chief Jackie Davis first heard about the program three months ago during a police chief’s convention.
“He heard about it and we just had to get it,” said Sgt. Dwayne Roper, department spokesman.

Its use is limited to notifying neighbors by phone that a child, disabled person or Alzheimer’s patient is missing or that a sex offender has moved into an area.

So far, Cabot Police Department has used it twice, first to notify neighbors that a sex offender had moved in and more recently to alert residents in the southern part of Cabot that a 2-year-old boy was missing.

The child was recovered safely since he had really never left his home. He was found peacefully asleep under a pile of pillows in a bedroom, Roper said. His family and the first officer to respond to the call had not seen him.

But the test showed that the system worked, he said, because several residents called to say they had received the message and to ask how the search was going.

On the negative side, the service does not include calls to the same 1,000 people to tell them the child has been found, so Davis told city council members recently that his dispatchers were overworked when the calls from concerned residents started coming in.

But on the positive side, it offers an opportunity to get more people involved in the search early on when FBI statistics show a child is the most likely to be killed.

It works like this: When a child or other person allowed by the program is missing, the police agency contacts ACIM and gives all the pertinent information, such as description, what the person was wearing, area where last seen and home address. A technician tapes a telephone message with that information and makes the call to homes and businesses in the area where the subject was last seen. If an answering machine picks up, the call goes to the machine instead.

According to FBI statistics, 3,000 children and elderly go missing every day, Roper said, and if that isn’t food for thought, he added, “There’s a one-in-42 chance that your child is going missing.”

TOP STORY >> 463rd: Inside look at war on terror

Leader staff writer

Besides being a schoolhouse for all things related to the C-130 cargo plane, Little Rock Air Force Base houses the 463rd Airlift Group, which transports “beans and bullets” as well as troops, all over the world.

“Airlift is one of the most vital part of the war on terror,” said Col. Scott Lockard, deputy commander of the 463rd, which was established at Little Rock Air Force Base in 1997.

“We’re using it to get over some of those areas that are hazardous to military convoys,” Lockard said, adding that this year the 463rd helped train the first all-Iraqi C-130 Hercules crew.

The 463rd has about 1,200 airmen under its command divided up among an aircraft maintenance squadron, maintenance operations squadron and an operations support squadron, as well as two airlift squadrons, the 50th and the 61st.

The 61st Airlift Squadron flies 12 of the older C-130E aircraft and the 50th Airlift Squadron flies 14 of the C-130H3 aircraft.
Currently about 20 percent of the 463rd is constantly leaving or arriving on rotating de-ployments that typically last 180 days.
“They’re ours in our hearts, but while they’re in the theater (of war) they belong to the commander over there. As a commander, you have to trust them to take care of your troops,” Lockard said.

“It’s tough on a commander to not have that day-to-day involvement with your airmen.”

“The personnel are performing magnificently across the board in the AOR (Area of Responsibility). The personnel are coming back feeling fulfilled because they understand the importance of what they’re doing over there. They’re fired up when they get back,” Lockard said.
Currently, there are five C-130s from the 463rd in South-east Asia which includes Iraq and Afghanistan.
Like personnel, the aircraft are rotated back to Little Rock Air Force Base regularly.

“We fly the aircraft hard and we land in austere conditions. It’s hard on the tires and brakes,” Lockard said. “We bring them back for the maintenance we can’t perform in the desert.”

Originally stationed at Ard-more Air Force Base in Okla-homa as the 463rd Troop Carrier Wing, the Wing received the first C-130A from Lockheed Aircraft Corpo-ration on Dec. 9, 1956.

To celebrate the 50th anni-versary of the first C-130, Lockard said the 463rd is planning a variety of events to make 2006 “The Year of the Herk,” referring to the Hercules.

TOP STORY >> Hospitality tax passes in Lonoke

Leader staff writer

Lonoke voters approved a 2-cent hospitality tax on Tuesday, dedicated to improving and expanding city parks, by a vote of 176 to 137.
That should raise about $100,000 a year for city parks and free money for other uses.

Approval also means 3-percent across-the-board pay raises for city employees beginning in July, accor-ding to the city budget, approved Monday night.

The money will allow the city to erect lights on more of its ball fields, to landscape and put benches along the walking trail from downtown to the ball parks and to develop an exercise trail behind the Lonoke Community Center, accor-ding to Mayor Thomas Priv-ett.

Approval of the tax also means the city can stop diverting money from the street, water and sewer department for use at the parks.
The tax was the idea of city treasurer Walls McCrary.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD votes to trim costs; Adkins to be Pre-K school

Leader staff writer

Homer Adkins Elementary School in Jacksonville will be closed at the end of this school year and reopened as a pre-kindergarten school, the Pulaski County Special School District Board voted 4-3 Tues-day night after more than two months of intrigue, anxiety and community meetings over which small elementary school would be closed or reconfigured to help alleviate the district’s dire financial straits.

Spared in the process were elementary schools at Scott, a fast growing area near North Little Rock and Warren Dupree in Jacksonville, which has nearly 300 students and relatively good benchmark test results.

Voting against the reconfiguration were Gwen Williams, whose zone includes Adkins; Rev. James Bolden III, who doesn’t want to close any Jacksonville schools, and board president Pam Roberts, who said she feared the resulting transfer of some ABC classes at Crystal Hill Elementary would create a hardship for parents in her west Little Rock area.

The state’s Edu-cation Department placed the district on a fiscal distress list this year, and the district had to submit a plan to balance the budget and begin to restore its depleted financial reserves by cutting about $5 million a year.

Part of its fiscal distress improvement plan, approved late last month by the state, called for saving about $600,000 by closing two elementary schools from among nine with enrollments of fewer than 300 students, but in the plan suddenly submitted by interim Superintendent James Sharpe, the district will save at least $530,000 and only close the one school.

Two other elementary schools will actually increase overall enrollment by adding their own ABC Pre-K programs, where the state picks up the expense, including a portion of the not-insignificant utilities, according to the new plan.

The savings include: changing Homer Adkins to an ABC/Pre-K school, $297,040; adding the Pre-K program at Oak Grove Elementary in North Little Rock, $10,000; adding Pre-K to Daisy Bates Elementary in Little Rock, $10,000, and finally, eliminating a vacant assistant principal’s job at Alpha Academy, $95,000.

Sharpe’s plan notes that another $70,000 to $100,000 in savings might be realized, depending on “student assignment considerations.”
The plan was not part of the original agenda, but arrived as an addendum and took at least one school board member, Mildred Tatum, by surprise.

During the public comment period early in the meeting, state Rep. Linda Chesterfield said she had received telephone calls not only about the feared school closings, but also about alleged racist remarks made by elementary school teacher Phoebe Harris to Homer Adkins fourth graders last month.

“That left a bitter taste in the citizens who have called me,” Chesterfield said.

“We have come a long way, but we have not come far enough. All people have value. Send a message — if racist remarks occur in the classroom, that can not be tolerated.”

In other business, area coaches told school board members of the downside of moving sports, band, theater and cheerleading to after-school events, including safety issues, and some parents spoke in favor of keeping block scheduling, at least at Mills University Studies. Both changes are among cuts approved, and now required, by the state’s Education Department.

TOP STORY >> Sherwood aldermen get terms extended

Leader staff writer

Voters in Sherwood on Tuesday approved extending the terms of aldermen from two years to staggered four years by a vote of 682 to 584.
The city, following Jacksonville’s lead, which voted in four-year terms last year, has four wards with two positions each.

Starting in November 2006, those winning Position One terms will serve four-year terms, while Position Two aldermen will continue to serve two-year terms.

In November 2008, the Position Two seats would be up for election again and this time the aldermen would be elected to four-year terms.
State law allows cities the size of Sherwood to have their council members serve four-year terms. Until now, cities could only allow their council members to serve two-year terms.

Alderman Sheila Sulcer likes the idea of the staggered terms because it would guarantee that there would always be council members with experience.

Alderman Butch Davis agreed.

“With two-year terms, you immediately have to run for office again,” Davis said. “When you are always running for office, you are not getting a lot accomplished.”

Davis said the longer terms just make good sense.

Alderman Keith Rankin said he believes shifting to four-year terms is a good move for Sherwood.
“Two years is not enough time,” Rankin said.

“It is a learning process and in your last year, you are running for re-election.”

TOP STORY >> Voters split on bonds

Leader staff writer

Like voters statewide, area residents rejected by a wide margin Ballot Question 1 on Tuesday, which would have given authority to the state’s Highway Commission to finance interstate maintenance through bond sales.

Voters in White, Lonoke and Pulaski counties also rejected the other statewide referendum, which proposed funding higher education through bond sales even though Jacksonville and Sherwood residents voted for it.

The college-funding proposal, with 99 percent of the state precinct totals in, was passing by just a few hundred votes.

In Lonoke County, voters rejected the highway bond plan with 1,670 votes, or 68.3 percent, against it, and 776 votes, or 31.7 percent for it. Voters in Lonoke County said no to the college funding with 1,405 votes, or 57.8 percent, against it and 1,025 votes, or 42.2 percent, for it.
White County voters rejected the highway plan with 1,625 against the idea and 927 for it. On the college funding proposal, there were 1,502 against it and 1,182 for it.

In Pulaski County as a whole, 62 percent of those who voted rejected the highway bonding authority, while 55 percent voted in favor of the higher education bonds.

Jacksonville voters turned thumbs down on the highway financing measure, even though it would not have increased the amount of taxes currently paid, by a vote of 1,394 to 996.

But the same voters approved the education funding by a margin of nearly three to two.

Results were similar in Sherwood, where voters were against the highway bond measure 765 to 654, but voted in favor of the education bond measure 918 to 505. The actual highway bond vote in Pulaski County was 11,229 against, 7,022 for, while voters there favored the education bonds question 10,023 to 8,225.

The $575 million road-repair measure lost in 63 of the state’s 75 counties.

The plan to refinance $100 million in higher education debt, plus borrow another $150 million for college and university construction and programs just squeaked out victorious.