Friday, January 13, 2006

TOP STORY >> PCSSD hopefuls give views

Leader managing editor

IN SHORT: Candidates for the district’s top position have varied backgrounds working with the issues that have plagued the Pulaski County Special School District.

Experience working with desegregation, finances and a history of improving financially troubled school districts is a common theme among the eight applicants for the superintendent position at Pulaski County Special School District.

The Leader talked with seven of the eight candidates who have completed the application process, and all were looking forward to the possibility of accepting a challenge to not only help the district’s financial woes, but also help develop plans to cure uneasiness in many areas the district is facing.

“(The problems) have to be fixed by somebody,” said Bettye Wright of Villa Rica, Ga., one of the applicants for the position.

Thomas Jacobson with the Omaha, Neb.-based national search firm, Mc-Pherson and Jacobson Executive Recruitment and Development, will be meeting with the PCSSD Board on Monday to go over the resumes and backgrounds of the eight candidates.

From there, a list of finalists, typically four, will be formed. Those finalists will then begin an interview process, which is scheduled to be held the week of Jan. 23.

The candidates, listed alphabetically, their educational and professional backgrounds, and comments regarding their interest in the PCSSD position:

Dr. Craig Bangston,
Leitchfield, Ky.

Bangston is very familiar with the Pulaski County Special School District, being a finalist for the position when Gary Smith was hired in 1999 to replace longtime superintendent Bobby Lester.

“I was happy to learn the position was open again,” Bangston said Thursday from his home in Leitchfield, Ky. “When I came down a few years ago for an interview I met a lot of good people and felt there were a lot of positives about the position. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed I didn’t get the job. I just wasn’t the person they were looking for at the time.”

Bangston was superintendent at Grayson County (Mo.) School District when he interviewed for the PCSSD position in 1999 and he held that position until 2002 when he became superintendent at Bartow County (Ga.), a school system with 15,000 students.

He retired at the end of last school year and became a financial consultant for a group of doctors, but recently discovered that “he missed the schools.”

“And I learned that being a financial consultant is a little boring,” he said.

Bangston received his bachelor’s from Bemidji State University in 1972, his master’s from Bemidji State in 1972 and a doctorate from Columbia Pacific University in 1987. He also spent 1995-1998 receiving post-doctorate studies in education administration from Harvard and Vanderbilt universities.

He has been superintendent at five school districts in four states, ranging in student enrollment from 450 to the 15,000 at his last job.
“The biggest challenge with anyone coming in is being accepted in the community and learning the positives and negatives of the system,” Bangston said.

And he’s aware there’s an array of negatives with the PCSSD post.

“I feel it’s a good challenge,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to prove my skills. It’s a lot easier to follow a superintendent tenure that has had bumps rather than a perfect one because all you can do is go up.
“I do feel, with the help of the board and the community, the focus can be put back on the students.”
Getting the district’s financial situation straight would be one of his top priorities, he said.

“My background in finance has helped me in the past and I’m sure it will help me again in the future,” Bangston said. “But I feel you need a happy balance with fiscal and economic strategies to curriculum strategies. That balance is hard to find.”

Dr. Betty Cox,
Baton Rouge, La.

An extensive background in desegregation is why Cox feels she would be a good fit for the district, she said Thursday.

“My interest in the position was the demographics of the school district and the requisite for their superintendent,” she said. “What I know about (PCSSD) is that I feel they need a seasoned superintendent with a desegregation background.”

Cox is currently an attorney with Barnes and Greenfield Law Firm in Baton Rouge, La., most of her cases involving school law, but said she has the desire to return to leading a school system.

She last worked with a school district when she was vice-president of Edison Schools in New York City from 2001-2002. Prior to that, she served from 1994-1998 as superintendent at Rapides Parish (La.) School District, which has 26,000 students.

Other superintendent posts have included Darlington Co., S.C., with an enrollment of 13,000, from 1991-1994 and Towanda Area schools in Pennsylvania, 2,500 enrollment, from 1989-1991.

“I have been a teacher and a principal as well and I realize the great success in these roles,” Cox said. “There is not much I am not familiar with as far as an administration for a school district.

“I feel like I would be able to realize the tremendous efforts in student achievement and work well with the communities, the parents and the employees and certainly be in compliance with federal regulations.”

Cox received her bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of Tennessee in 1973, her master’s in curriculum and instruction from Tennessee in 1975 and her doctorate from Tennessee in 1982. She received her law degree from Louisiana State University.

Dr. Carl Davis,
Powder Springs, Ga.

Davis has been deputy chief of human resources for the Cobb County Schools, a 106,000-student district near Atlanta, since the start of this school year.

He was an area assistant superintendent at Cobb County from 2002-2005 and prior to that served from 1999-2002 as superintendent at Natchez (Miss.) Public Schools, which has 5,600 students.

When contacted by The Leader Thursday night, Davis politely de-clined to comment on the Pulaski County Special School District position.

Davis, who has also worked in administrative roles with the Hattiesburg and Moss Point school systems in Mississippi, received his bachelor’s in elementary and secondary education from Southern Mississippi University in 1975, his master’s in elementary education from William Carey College in 1987 and his doctorate from Southern Miss in 1995.

Dr. Bruce Harter,
Wilmington, Del.

Harter, who has been superintendent of Brandywine (Del.) School District since 2001, could not be reached for comment on the PCSSD position.

Harter started his administrative career as a principal and associate superintendent in a 27,000-student district in Vista, Calif., from 1988-1992 before landing his first superintendent position in Corvallis, Ore., a district of 7,500, from 1992-1997.

From there, Har-ter moved to the Lee County School District in Fort Myers, Fla., a district with 70,000 students, where he was superintendent from 1997-2001, before moving to the Brandywine district.

Dr. Aquine Jackson,
Milwaukee, Wisc.

After almost reaching the top of the educational ladder during an entire career with the 100,000-student Milwaukee Public School system, Jackson is hoping to use his array of strengths to help improve the Pulaski County Special School District, he told The Leader on Friday.

“I see the position (at PCSSD) as a challenge, but as a challenge I am prepared for,” said Jackson, currently the chief academic officer with the Milwaukee district.

After three years of working as an elementary school principal, Jackson become an area and community superintendent in Milwaukee, where he oversaw a 20,000-students area of the district, from 1985-1990.
“It was like I was a superintendent equivalent to the size of many large districts across the country,” he said.
Jackson became director of students services at the district in 1990 and held that position until 2001, when he became director of neighborhood schools, a spot he held from 2001-2004. “I feel my experience here is an excellent match for what the Pulaski County Special School District needs,” Jackson said.
Jackson has certainly done his homework regarding PCSSD.

“The needs of the district seemed to match my skills as far as working with the court-ordered desegregation, raising student achievement levels, helping the fiscal situation of the district and improving a relationship with the board and the various communities,” said Jackson, who was born and raised in Milwaukee, but his father is from Pine Bluff, he said.

Jackson received a bachelor’s in physical education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1969, a master’s in education from Wisconsin-Mil-waukee in 1973 and a doctorate from the school in 1980.

“I’ve been responsible for implementing a court-ordered desegregation plan here and we met the stipulation of the court order,” he said. “ … and one reason why the superintendent put me in the position I have now is to get the area’s finances in order.”

Dr. Ed Musgrove,
Waynesville, Mo.

Moving to Arkansas has become a priority for Musgrove and the PCSSD seems like the perfect fit, he said.
Musgrove, who has been superintendent for the Waynesville (Mo.) School District (enrollment 5,200) since 2000, has family in central Arkansas and spends a lot of time in the area, he said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the Natural State and I’ve been researching a lot about the history of the school district,” Musgrove said Friday.

Musgrove received his bachelor’s in education from Missouri Southern University in 1976 his master’s in education from Southwest Missouri State in 1979 and his doctorate from the University of Missouri in 1988.
He has been superintendent at four school districts in Missouri, which ranged in enrollment from 250 students to the 5,200 at Waynesville. He has also been assistant superintendent at the 3,000-student Union (Mo.) School District from 1994-1997 and the 6,000-student St. Charles (Mo.) School District from 1997-2000.

“I feel I bring a wealth of experience and background, including a lot of multicultural diversity,” Musgrove said.
“My focus is doing what can be done to improve the education of the children.”

He’s familiar with the struggles of the district and, if hired, looks forward to working to continue a pattern to help fix the problems PCSSD has recently faced.

“My entire career has been involved with school districts where there has been some unrest and I’ve moved into the area and facilitated improvement,” Musgrove said.

“If there is dissension at Pulaski County, there must be reason for that. But no one person can do it. It takes a team of adults listening to the needs of the children and help make things happen.
“Every place I’ve been at things have improved.”

James Sharpe,
Little Rock

Sharpe, the current interim superintendent, has been with PCSSD since 2000, when he was hired as assistant superintendent for human resources, a position he held until being named interim superintendent in December.

“I feel as if I can lead the district successfully,” Sharpe said, adding he felt he could help bring the district out of fiscal distress and that he enjoyed the support from others in the central office and elsewhere.
He said understands the various challenges facing the district and is ready to lead.

Sharpe has been a principal and director of human resources at St. Cloud Schools in Minnesota from 1994-1998 and was also executive director of Flint (Mich.) Community Schools from 1998-2000.

He received his bachelor’s in chemistry from Philander Smith College in 1964 and his master’s in chemistry from Pittsburg State University in 1974.

He was certified to be an administrator at the University of Tulsa in 1990.

Dr. Bettye Wright,
Villa Rica, Ga.

While Wright has been a principal in the Atlanta School District since 2001, she has very strong ties to Arkansas, still owning a home in White Hall.

“Arkansas is a state I love,” Wright said.

Wright, who earned her bachelor’s in business education from Stillman College in 1970, her master’s from Chicago State University in 1975 and a doctorate in education from the University of Ark-ansas in 1994, spent 20 years in the Pine Bluff School District, including 11 years as an assistant superintendent.

She’s currently a principal at Boyd Elementary in a low-income area of Atlanta, one of three elementary schools in the 50,000-student district which has a year-round calendar.

“I left Pine Bluff in 2000 to be with my husband, who moved to Georgia to attend seminary to be a Presbyterian minister,” Wright said. “I hated to quit my job, but I felt the Lord was calling him to do that.”

While she hasn’t been involved in helping oversee a district since leaving Pine Bluff, she said she feels she has the qualities to quickly adapt to the superintendent role at PCSSD.

“I understand the educational system there,” Wright said of the PCSSD and Arkansas. “I have worked on many committees with the state Department of Education when I was in Pine Bluff and have been president of the Arkansas Association of Administrators.”

Due to her connections to the state, Wright said she is aware of the woes the district has faced in recent years.
“Somebody in the leadership of the district has to fix the problems and I just know I’m a person who can fix problems,” Wright said. “I know how to work through conflicts and I know how to work with people.

“But, the main thing is, I believe in the children.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2006



Johnnie Sue Edmondson, 38, of Jacksonville, earned her wings early Jan. 9. After years of pain and suffering, she will hurt no more.
Johnnie Sue gave true meaning to the words “determination” and “will” – exceeding every life expectation given her. She will truly be missed by those whose life she had touched along the way. She was preceded in death by her father, Johnny Edmondson, her grandfathers, Tilmon Edmondson and Leon Sullivan.
She is survived by her mother, and step-father, Gwen and Mike Turpin of Jacksonville, her brother and sister-in-law, Greg and Staci Edmondson of Cabot, her maternal grandmother, Ruby Sullivan, her paternal grandmother, Louise Edmondson, two nieces, Sydne Squires and Mackie Edmondson, and one nephew, Drew Squires.
The family would like to express its gratitude to the staff at Arkadelphia Human Development Center for their years of love, concern and care.
They would also like to thank all the special nurses and CNA’S at Arkansas Hospice. They are all truly special people — Adrian, Cindy and Casey, and extra thanks to Nurse Cheryl Fite who gave special loving care.
There will be a graveside service held at 2 p.m. today at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Jacksonville with her uncle, Dr. Ted Edmond-son officiating.
In lieu of flowers, we ask that you please donate to Arkansas Hospice so that others may continue to receive the wonderful care our family witnessed first hand.


Morene Stroud, 79, of Conway passed away Jan. 8. She is survived by her husband, Gerald Stroud; two sons, Jerry Stroud and his wife Patty of Mayflower and Terry Stroud and his wife Janette of Conway; two sisters, Betty Evans and Eathel Howard of Lonoke; two grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Graveside Services will be at 10 a.m. today at Lonoke Cemetery, arrangements by Boyd Funeral Home, Lonoke.


William Nathan Henderson, 76, died on Jan. 1.
Survivors include his wife, Marilyn, daughter Deborah and son Kip.
He is also survived by his children’s mother Velma, five step-daughters and a host of other family and friends.
Service will held at 11 a.m. today with church visitation prior to the service at the LDS chapel in Jacksonville. Burial will follow at Griffin-Leggett Rest Memorial Park in North Little Rock.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to any charity.


Patricia Louise Breese, 62, of Ward, passed away Jan. 6. Born June 5, 1943 in Havana, Ill., to the late Ralph and Winnifred Daw-son.
Also preceding her in death is a grandson, Joshua; a granddaughter, Talauna; and one sister Ada.
Survivors include her husband, Clarence Breese of the home; five daughters, Melissa Yaeger, of Cabot, Launa Pratt of Ward, Rebecca Breese of Georgia, Karen Specketer of Williamsburg, Ill., and Kathy Welch of Ward; Seven grandchildren, Michael, Rachael, Zach, Timberlee, Curtis, Christo-pher and Eric; two great-grandchildren, Logan and Skylar; three brothers, Ron, Richard and Virgil; and two sisters, Judy and Florence.
A wake memorial service will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. today at No. 15 Deer Run Drive in Ward.
Arrangements by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


Billy Earl McCurley, 37, of Little Rock, passed away Jan. 3. He was preceded in death by parents, Billy and Judy McCurley.
Survivors include sister, Shelly Dillman, and brother, Mike McCurley.
A memorial services was Sunday at Christ Worship Center in Cabot.
Arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

EDITORIAL >> Answered prayers

With rain in the forecast for Monday night, Gov. Huckabee issued a proclamation in the afternoon asking people to pray for rain. Those who received the governor’s encouragement in time got their prayers answered in much of the state.

The weather service is predicting rain again this weekend or the first of next week, which gives Huckabee another window in which to seek divine intervention in the machinations of nature.

The governor’s ecclesiastical strategy is considerably more promising than that which Homer Berry, the celebrated Arkansas rainmaker, used to employ. Berry tried to manipulate nature to his will in summer droughts when there was no forecast of rain. Such was the frequency of his success, or luck, that groups were willing to hire him from time to time.

Berry had read about cloud-seeding, and in the 1960s and ‘70s he began to offer his services. He started a fire in a barrel in the back of his old pickup and, at times and places where his instincts told him it would be advantageous, he dropped crystals of a compound in the barrel and sent fumes into the clouds.

Meteorology was a lot less precise in those days and any good fortune Berry had seemed a miracle. A summer heating shower might bless a parched community soon enough after Berry’s seeding that he could claim the credit. The Arkansas Livestock Show Association hired him to keep rain away from the state fair so that gate receipts would meet the budget. Berry claimed to be able to steer moisture away from a place as well as bring it and, indeed, his record at keeping rain at bay was even better than his record at bringing moisture.

Berry got to be a celebrity and engaged in a bit of self-promotion. The great expectations from too much fanfare produced celebrated failures and Homer Berry became a joke. Thus did a promising commercial enterprise fail, a precursor of the technology bubble maybe.
He could have learned from Mike Huckabee to take low risks.

EDITORIAL >> David vs. Goliath

It was David vs. Goliath in the contest for speaker of the state House of Representatives this week, but this time the big guys beat the little guys.

The most powerful lobbyists lined up behind Rep. Benny Petrus, D-Stuttgart, in his race against Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, which is why old-style politics won out: But hive him credit, Petrus built a coalition that included support from both parties and the backing of black legislators, many of whom received campaign contributions from Petrus. Talk about old-style politics.

Idealistic young Will Bond may have reminded you of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” as the Jacksonville lawmaker addressed his colleagues before the vote, telling them, “We don’t want special interests to tell us what’s good for Arkansas,” but his plea fell mostly on deaf ears. Petrus won, 58-42.

Several members who told Bond they were voting for him didn’t really mean it or changed their minds in the last minute. Petrus’ people were making more deals than Bob Barker makes on “The Price Is Right.” Legislators may have been promised chairmanships and plenty of pork for the folks back home, which shouldn’t shock anyone, but it still amazes us how much horse trading went on behind closed doors. It’s a good thing members of Boys and Girls State weren’t there.

It was disappointing to see Bond, the far more competent candidate, lose to an opponent who has been especially close to Deltic Timber, which tried but failed last year to get the House to allow a fancy housing development at Lake Maumelle. Bond’s Government Affairs Committee killed the Deltic proposal in committee.

With Petrus in charge next year, Deltic seems likely to try again and will probably succeed unless the courts stop the development.
Our state representatives decided they did not want an independent young Democrat as their speaker, a man who would protect the people’s interests and not the polluters. The House instead elected a politician who’s been cozy with lobbyists and will likely do their bidding when the Legislature meets in regular session next year.

The winds of change are in the air in Washington, but not in Little Rock. Rep. Tom Delay has been stripped of his powers in our nation’s capital, but our legislators are still sticking with politics-as-usual.

If war is the continuation of politics by other means, as Clausewitz said, then the speaker’s race was a form of warfare against the people, definitely politics at its rawest. Even the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to reform itself, but not our Ledge. To paraphrase Chicago’s Paddy Bauer, Arkansas ain’t ready for reform.

SPORTS >> Cabot gets huge East road win

Leader sports editor

The 10th-ranked Cabot Panthers pulled off the upset of the week of conference openers around the AAAAA classification. The Panthers repeated last year’s feat of knocking off the defending state champion West Memphis Blue Devils 42-40, only this time, they did it on the road.
The game was close throughout as No. 3 West Memphis took a 34-28 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and managed just six points the rest of the way.

Cabot junior Justin Haas hit a three pointer with 30 seconds left to give his team a 42-40 advantage, and the Panthers held onto that advantage until the final buzzer.

Cabot coach Jerry Bridges was happy with the win, but by Monday was only worried about the upcoming games.

“I’m tickled to death to get the win,” Bridges said. “We start with four of our first five on the road, so if we’re not careful, we could be out of it before it really gets started. There’s no doubt it was a big win, but dad-gum you can’t enjoy anything too long in this conference. I’m tickled to be where we’re at, but you can’t enjoy it too long when it happens. We have to forget about it and move on to this week. If we’re still lingering on beating West Memphis, we’re going to lose. I guarantee you that.”

While Bridges quickly moved focus to upcoming games, he was still able to look back at how his team performed, and was happy.
“The kids played hard,” Bridges said. “I’m not kidding you they play hard all the time. They give me everything they’ve got.”

The scoring was very balanced for Cabot. No Panther scored in double figures. Michael Tyson led the way with nine points, his best game since a severe ankle injury several weeks ago.

“We’re very glad to have him back and he’s helping us,” Bridges said. “He’s about 90 percent right now, and he stepped up and hit some big shots for us all game long.”

Michael Lowry and Chad Glover each scored eight points. Point guard Matt Shinn added seven and Haas scored six for the Panthers, who are now 11-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play. West Memphis dropped to 6-6, and 1-1.

The girls also had a tough time, and managed to pull out a big road win by squeezing by the Lady Blue Devils 49-48 in an exciting league opener.

Senior Kim Sitzmann led the way with 15 points while junior guard Leah Watts added 12.

The win lifts the third-ranked Lady Panthers to 11-3 and 1-0. West Memphis fell to 8-5 and 0-2 inside the AAAAA-East conference.

SPORTS >> Comeback falls short for Red Devils

Leader sportswriter

Lavar Neely saved the day twice for Jacksonville in their conference opener against Forrest City, but the Red Devils couldn’t save themselves in overtime against the Mustangs. Forrest City took the overtime win 77-71 on Friday at the Devils Den after trailing most of the second half.

The loss was not due to a lack of effort on Neely’s part as the senior put up 37 of the Red Devils’ points in the contest, including a three-pointer at the end of regulation to tie the game and send it into overtime.

“Lavar has a big heart,” Red Devils head coach Victor Joyner said. “Everybody talks about how wild he is, but Lavar has settled down and is playing within the confines of our offense. Everybody is doing what they are asked to do.”

The game got underway to a blistering tempo, and that tempo would not decrease until the overtime buzzer. Neely showed his hand early for Jacksonville, scoring the first six Red Devil points, including a steal he took all the way to put his team ahead 6-0 at the 4:45 mark in the first quarter. Neely came away with 14 points at the end of the first quarter, as the Red Devils led Forrest City 18-10 after one.

Forrest City junior Marcus Britt began to make his presence known in the second quarter, helping the Mustangs pull to within four. Neely pulled off one of his many heroic feats at the halftime buzzer with a lay up to give Jacksonville a 33-27 lead at the half.

Britt came alive for the Mustangs in the third quarter, scoring 16 points in the period to tie the game at 47-47 at the 1:47 mark.
Kelsey Credit put Jacksonville back out front moments later with a lay up with 1:09 remaining. The game saw a rare cooling-off period at that point, and the score remained 49-47 at the end of three.

The frantic pace picked back up at the start of the final quarter, with both teams trading shots back-and-forth. The score quickly grew to 51-51 before Neely came away with five unanswered points to put the ‘Devils out front once again 56-51.

The Mustangs quickly shrank that lead back down to one, with a pair of baskets from Stephen Weaver.
A three-point shot from Britt tied it up at 62-62. It would be the last contribution from the Forrest City guard on the night, as he fouled out on the following Jacksonville possession while trying to pick Neely with 1:43 left in the game.

A basket from Kelson Stewart and a pair of free throws from Weaver put Forrest City ahead by three with 9.7 seconds left in the game, but Neely had one more incredible shot left in him.

Neely took the ball down court, almost dribbling it off his foot at one point. Neely pulled up at the arc as time expired, and the shot went all net to put the game into overtime.

When Neely ran out of gas, so did the Jacksonville offense. A basket from Will Christian and a three pointer from Kajuan Watson were the only Red Devil points in the extra period, as Stewart, Weaver and the rest of the Mustangs rolled on for the overtime win.

“We didn’t want to lose it, but that was a very good basketball game,” Joyner said. “Both teams battled. We had opportunities; we just didn’t get to the free- throw line in the second half. You’ve got to get to the rack and shoot free throws.

“I thought Lavar got to the rack a couple of times, but nobody else was attacking the bucket very hard.”
While Neely’s 37-point performance was the strongest of the night offensively for Jack-sonville, Kelsey Credit turned in the best defensive performance with nine rebounds and seven blocked shots for the Red Devils.

Marcus Britt led Forrest City with 32 points on the night.

The Lady Red Devils also lost their conference opener, falling to the Lady Mustangs 41-33. Tarneshai Scott led the Lady Devils with 13 points, while sophomore Morgan Waits added eight points for Jacksonville.

NEIGHBORS >> Remington: Working around the clock for 35 years

Leader staff writer

hile celebrating its 35th year in Lonoke County, Remington Arms produced close to a billion rounds of centerfire and shotgun shell ammunition and another billion rounds of rimfire ammunition in 2005.

“A billion is a huge number when you consider there’s a thousand people working here 24 hours a day,” said Vince Scarlata, spokes-man for Remington Arms.

Despite the volatile nature of working around gunpowder, the plant has an excellent safety record.

Remington employees recently completed two million work hours without a work-related, loss-time injury.
Remington Arms, founded by Eliphalet Remington II of Ilion Gulch, N.Y., in 1816, purchased 1,126 acres of land in Lonoke County to build the ammunition plant in 1968 and in 1970 started producing ammunition.

The plant is about seven miles west of the city limits of Lonoke and is bordered by I-40 to the north, by Bayou Meto to the south and west and to the east by Hwy. 15 North.

Only about 300 acres are actually in use by the plant. The remainder of the property is habitat for a variety of animals as part of the company’s wildlife program.

The most distinguishing feature of the Remington Arms plant is the 13-story “shot tower,” essential in the production of lead shot. At the top of the tower, lead ingots, weighing 125 pounds each, are melted and poured through a sieve where the liquid lead falls, forming perfectly round balls of shot. The shot falls into a pool of water to cool and then is dried and sorted into bins at the base of the tower where the noise of the shot pouring into the bins sounds like a never-ending hailstorm. In contrast, each grain of steel shot has to be shaped by machines.

The company has its own in-house machine shop to fix the hundreds of specialized machines throughout the plant that make the ammunition, box it and pack it on pallets for shipping.

Remington makes plastic shotgun shell casings, the metal caps on the end of the shells as well as brass casings for bullets. In all, the company produces about 100 different types of ammunition from .22 bullets to the most expensive bullet the company produces, the Premiere A-Frame Safari ammunition for big game hunting such as bear and cougar. A 20-round box of the Premiere Safari ammunition retails for about $80.

Remington faces the same challenges as the rest of the ammunition industry, according to Scar-lata. The cost of commodities used, such as copper, brass and steel, has been steadily rising while the market is being flooded with ammunition exported from Europe.

“There seems to be a shortage of community college degrees in machinists and computer aided manufacturing right now,” Scar-lata said.
“As we upgrade the equipment, we need people with more and more skills.”

TOP STORY >> Speaker contest: political hardball

Leader staff writer

Failure to solidify promised votes from Pulaski County legislators cost Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, the election Monday to become the next speaker of the state House of Representatives, according to state Rep. Sam Ledbetter of Little Rock.

Bond lost the race to Benny Petrus, D-Stuttgart, 58-42. Nine more votes would have given Bond a 51-49 victory. (See editorial, p. 8A.)
Petrus will become speaker in the next regular session, a year from now, provided that he’s re-elected to his current position.

“I’ve analyzed the race, said Ledbetter, who was active in Bond’s campaign. “Pulaski County votes we should have had moved on us late. Some people changed their minds.”

Bond said he was surprised and disappointed by the outcome.

Many have speculated that Deltic Timber and other powerful outside interests swung the vote for Petrus, an ally of theirs, but “Third party influence wouldn’t have much effect,” Bond said after the defeat.
Not everyone was so charitable.

“This outcome signifies, better than anything, that the 2007 session will be Old School,” Arkansas Times said on its Web site just minutes after Bond’s defeat. “The lobbyists will be sitting pretty in the House.

“Petrus has not a hint of progressivity. … He was a firm supporter of Deltic Timber in the Lake Maumelle fight and a reliable opponent to progressive school legislation.”

But Bond said simply, “The members just decided who would be best for them and best for the job and it wasn’t me.”
Petrus began campaigning earlier and Bond said that probably helped.

“He had a better plan for winning than we did,” Bond said. “Our plan to win was to appeal to people’s better angles.”
It’s a leap to say some special interests get a boost from the speaker’s race, Bond said.

“There will be 30 new members,” he said. “You can’t predict what their thoughts and views are.”
Bond sought Petrus out after current Speaker Bob Stovall, D-Quitman, announced the results to congratulate him.
“Benny is the winner,” Bond said.

Bond, who held an important chairmanship under Stovall, said he didn’t know if Petrus would give him such a chairmanship.
“We promised (regardless of the outcome) to sit down and talk about our ideas, but he’s the speaker designate,” Bond said. “Those are choices that he gets to make.”

“I never said ‘I’ll be the next speaker,’” Bond said.

In addition to dealing with big questions about education, Bond said he was concerned about the elderly.
“We’ll have double the number of elderly by 2030, and we need to make sure they can stay in their homes as long as possible,” he said. “It’s cheaper (than nursing homes) and that’s what people want to do.”

He said he would continue to push the state to be more progressive, and to press the Pulaski County Special School District for a reconfiguration favorable for Jack-sonville.

“I’m a big supporter of Will Bond,” said Ledbetter, who will be out of office next January because of term limits. “I think he is among the smartest, hardest-working, most-talented legislators I’ve had the opportunity to work with. He’s at the top of my list. He’s a good person, has good values, and he would have done a wonderful job.

“The (Jacksonville) district is fortunate to have a person of his caliber; I’ve been proud to serve with him.”

Ledbetter, who sat next to Petrus in chambers, said he had his differences with Petrus.

“We’ve disagreed on many issues,” Ledbetter said, including Deltic Timber’s Lake Maumelle Reservoir’s development, with Pet-rus supports.

TOP STORY >> Teacher gets suspended

Leader staff writer

Following a two-and-a-half hour public hearing Tuesday night, the Pulaski County Special School District board declined to fire a Homer Adkins Elementary School teacher accused of telling fourth-graders that blacks are cursed.

The teacher, Phoebe Harris, instead has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the school year and for the 2006-2007 school year. She can be rehired under contract after that pending completion of sensitivity training and written apologies to offended parents.

Harris allegedly told the students at the Jacksonville school that blacks were cursed and descended from the devil, according to an account from Laura Johnson, mother of a black child in that class.

“My son came home from school and asked me if he was cursed,” Johnson told district officials in December.

“I looked at him and said no. Then he asked me are black people cursed? I looked at him again and said no and asked him where did he get that from.

“He said his teacher (Mrs. Harris) told him that black people were cursed. She went on to say that Europeans didn’t like black people and that’s why they were used as slaves.

“(Harris) told the kids that if they didn’t pray they would go down there where it’s hot.”
Harris allegedly pulled the classroom door shut and warned the students that she could be fired if they told anyone what she was about to tell them. According to Johnson, she also threatened to give a failing grade to any student who betrayed that confidence.
“There is no way that this teacher should be allowed to teach this in class ever,” Johnson said in December.
“She shouldn’t be allowed to instill her beliefs in other children (besides her own).”

Harris told Johnson that Horace Smith with the District Court’s Office of Desegregation Monitoring had told her it was okay to teach that message to the children.

“I did not give her permission to teach that,” Smith, a black man himself, said in December.

“She asked me how to teach about skin color and I advised her to discuss melanin, human migration and adopting to various climates.”
Smith said Harris then asked about religion and, thinking it a new topic, he told her “We can’t teach religion, but we can teach about religion, its importance in society and different beliefs, but we cannot teach about a religion.”

TOP STORY >> Rain helps, but doesn’t cure threat

Leader staff writers

Tamara Jenkins, office of emergency services director for White County, said the rain the area received Monday night and Tuesday wasn’t enough to call off the burn ban that has been in place since Dec. 31.

“It hasn’t been lifted and it won’t be until we get a lot more rain,” Jenkins said Tuesday afternoon. “What fell is just going to sink in and with the wind tonight it’s going to be back as dry as it was.”

Fire officials from Jacksonville, North Pulaski and Sherwood agree.

On Tuesday, Jacksonville Fire Chief John Vanderhoof said, “Weather officials are predicting that the positive effects of Monday night’s rain will be gone by Wednesday.”

Adam Baker with the Sherwood Fire Department, simply said, “This rain’s not going to help.”

Central Arkansas received less than a half-an-inch of rain Monday night and Tuesday morning, which was not enough to change the drought status. According to National Weather Service officials, central Arkansas is in a severe drought. Conditions across the state, starting in the southwest corner and heading to the northeast corner, run from exceptional, severe, moderate and then minor.

Jenkins said fire departments across White County were paged out 20 times on Sunday. Many were called to the same fire, she said and some were called to assist fire departments in Jackson County.

Searcy was paged Sunday to a fire that started at the country club on Hwy. 36 that burned 10 acres. They were called out again Monday for “hot spots” in the same area, she said.

Additionally, fire departments were paged out five times on Saturday, she said.

Robert Darr, a firefighter with North Pulaski Fire Department, said, “If you add up the small and large wildfires this past week, we’ve had more than 100 acres burned.”

“We’ve definitely been busy,” he said.
Vanderhoof said Jacksonville crews have worked just a few small brush fires within the city, but have been busier giving mutual aid to other area departments.

Baker also said Sherwood has been relatively quiet.

Vanderhoof credits the media blitz.

“The word has really gotten out about the burn bans,” he said.

Beebe Police Department pages out the Beebe Fire Depart-ment as well as the volunteer departments at Antioch, McRae and El Paso. Beebe Fire Chief William Nick said Tuesday that the weekend was a quiet one with no fires and considering the high wind on Sunday that was a good thing.

Jenkins said although the fine in White County for burning during a burn ban is $250 to $500, so far no one has been cited.

TOP STORY >> District looking at eight hopefuls

Leader managing editor

Only one school official with Arkansas ties is among the eight candidates who have completed the application process for the superintendent position with the Pulaski County Special School District.

PCSSD interim superintendent James Sharpe is the only district employee and the only applicant working in the state who has completed the initial process, according to the list of names released Tuesday by McPherson and Jacobson, an Omaha, Neb., consulting firm conducting the search.

“We have some very strong candidates,” said Thomas Jacobson, who has headed the search.
Along with Sharpe, the other applicants include:

• Dr. Craig Bangston of Leitchfield, Ky., a former superintendent with both the Grayson County (Ga.) and Bartow County (Ga.) School Districts. Bangston has more than 30 years of education experience.
He holds a doctorate in finance and business administration from Columbia Pacific University and a doctor of education degree in curriculum and finance from Texas A&M University.
He also holds a master’s of science degree in elementary administration and elementary education and bachelor’s of science degree in physical education, special education and coaching, both from Bemidji (Minn.) State Uni-versity.

• Dr. Betty Cox, of Baton Rouge, La., former superintendent with Rapides Parish School District in Louisiana who also does work for the Louisiana State University School of Law;

• Dr. Bruce Harter, of Wil-mington, Del., current superintendent of the Brandywine (Del.) School District, which has an enrollment of 10,602 students.
Harter has also been superintendent in Fort Myers, Fla., and Corvallis, Ore., and associate superintendent in Vista, Calif. He received his bachelor’s from the University of Michigan, his master’s from Eastern Michigan Uni-versity and a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado.
Harter has worked in nine different states and has a connection to Arkansas, serving as an assistant principal at Paris High School from 1978-1981.
• Dr. Aquine Jackson of Mil-waukee, chief academic officer of Milwaukee Public Schools;

• Dr. Kenneth Musgrove, superintendent of Waynesville (Mo.) School District, which has an enrollment of 5,058 students;

• Dr. Bettye Wright, of Villa Rica, Ga., principal of William M. Bond Elementary in Atlanta;

• Dr. Carl Davies of Powder Springs, Ga., whose current position could not be verified at deadline.
Jacobson, the consultant, said that he will meet with the PCSSD board at 6:30 p.m. Monday to review the applicants and assist in selecting final candidates, typically four.

Those finalists will then begin an interview process, which is scheduled to be held the week of Jan. 23.
Jacobson said two of the applicants, which he wouldn’t name, were recruited to apply for the position by his firm.

“We have been reading all of the applicants’ files and scoring their responses to answers on their forms,” Jacobson said.
“We’re going to go through everything.”

TOP STORY >> Mayor keeping money for race

Leader staff writer

The leadership of the Lonoke County Republican Committee has decided to ask Cabot Mayor Stubby Stum-baugh to give back a $1,000 donation to his campaign for Congress, but the mayor says they need not bother.

The full com-mittee overwhelmingly voted last year to give him that money and he won’t give it back unless the full committee asks for it, he said.

The Monday night committee meeting that heated up over the donation issue was the first since news broke that Patrick D’Andrea, an-other Republican, who also has announced his candidacy for the First District seat held by Marion Berry, D-Gillett, had been turned down for a donation.

The committee actually gave Stumbaugh $2,000 in October, but he gave half of the money back after the committee learned that $1,000 was all the law allowed.

Vince Scarlata, second vice chairman of the committee, pre-sided over Monday’s meeting and announced a decision by chairman Chuck Graham to send a letter requesting the return of the other half of the money after a woman asked about the status of the donation.
Scarlata had earlier cautioned members to be aware that media were present, telling them not to say anything they didn’t want in the newspaper.

The committee violated its bylaws and the bylaws of the state committee by donating to Stum-baugh’s campaign before the May primary, when voters would choose the person they want to run, Scarlata said in response to the woman’s question and to the insistence from the mayor and others that a discussion of the matter should take place.

Since the committee had no right to violate its own bylaws by giving him the money, it would also be incorrect to vote on whether Stumbaugh should keep the money, Scarlata insisted. He could not even allow a motion to bring it to a vote, Scarlata said.

Showing favoritism to one candidate over another is a violation of the committee bylaws he said and refused to make a distinction, as some committee members did, between giving a donation and showing support.

“If contributing money doesn’t show support, I don’t know what does,” Scarlata said.
Larry Clark, a member of the Lonoke County Election Commis-sion, implied in his remarks that it went without saying that the committee supported Stumbaugh for Congress.

“Let’s look at Stubby Stum-baugh and what he’s done for this committee,” Clark said. “And we’re not going to support him? Come on.”
Donating to D’Andrea’s campaign to negate the appearance of favoritism also was not an option, Scarlata said.
“Neither Chuck nor myself believes two wrongs make a right,” he said.

Neither could the committee override the chairman’s decision to ask Stumbaugh to return the money. All the committee can do is call a meeting and vote to remove the chairman, he said.

Scarlata said the decision to give the money back is Stum-baugh’s to make. All the chairman can do is send a letter asking for it.
“You can save the money on sending that letter because I’m not giving it back unless this committee votes for it,” Stumbaugh said.

TOP STORY >> Cities must give back taxes

Staff and wire report

Local government officials across the state said Tuesday they were dumbfounded when letters from the state finance office arrived this week notifying them that they would have to refund some tax collections.

The state Department of Fi-nance and Administration sent letters to county judges, mayors and other city officials notifying them that they must repay $4.2 million in local sales and use taxes to an unnamed business that erroneously reported and overpaid local sale taxes between August 2001 and August 2004.

At least 127 governments across the state will have to repay thousands of dollars, state tax officials said.

“It was quite a shock,” Cabot city Finance Director Dale Walker said of the $46,142 it was notified it owes.
Sherwood owes the most of local communities, being informed by a letter dated Jan. 5 that it must pay $66,547.78, which will be divided into 18 monthly deductions of $3,697.

“We don’t have any choice but to pay — they’re going to hold it out,” said Sherwood City Clerk Virginia Hillman, the chief financial officer.
Jacksonville was notified it owed $42,090.68, an amount that has caused City Finance Director Paul Mushrush to send a letter to the DFA asking for clarification.

“I don’t dispute the refund at all, that’s what they do and what they’re paid to do, but what I do question is the calculation,” Mushrush said. “They charged us three percent of our revenue to collect (the tax) and the notification we got reads as if they’re charging us that three percent again.
“So, we’ve asked for an explanation.”

Mushrush said whatever amount he’s told the city has to pay, he’d prefer to pay it in one lump sum rather than the 18-month deduction agreement that most cities will do.

“For our records, I’m choosing a one-time adjustment in February of this year,” Mushrush said. “So, whatever we owe will be paid in February as a one-time adjustment.”

Cabot was told it owes $46,142 and will use the 18-month payback plan beginning in February, meaning the state will deduct $2,563 from the monthly sales tax disbursements to the city, Walker said.

“(The letter) came in last week,” Walker said. “I don’t know how it happened. It was at the state level. It was nothing we did.”

Pulaski County’s amount to pay is $163,735.39, White County owes $43,682.15 and Lonoke County owes $27,598.71. Searcy must pay $22,628.63 and Lonoke city officials confirmed they received a letter asking to pay $8,900. Beebe Clerk-Treasurer Paul Hill said he had not received anything from the DFA saying the city must repay any tax.

John Theis, DFA’s assistant revenue commissioner, said that state tax officials have worked out an arrangement that will allow the 56 counties and 72 cities to reimburse the undisclosed business over an 18-month period, beginning this month.
“The refund results from errors the taxpayers made when filing their monthly sales tax returns,” Theis said.

DFA officials won’t divulge the name of the business that requested the repayment. By law, tax records and files maintained by DFA are confidential and the state is not authorized to disclose the name of the taxpayer receiving the multimillion-dollar refund.

Theis said DFA sent notices to local governments be-cause of the unusually large refund claim and because affected cities and counties would need time to adjust their budgets.

Don Zimmerman, ex-ecutive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, said the problem could have been worse.
“It’s my understanding that it was negotiated down from about $10 million to about $4.2 million,” Zimmerman said. “They were fearful that litigation would have resulted in a greater refund than what was negotiated. It was probably not as bad a deal for local governments as it could have been.”

Zimmerman said local governments will have slightly reduced sales tax receipts for the next 18 months as the refunds are being repaid.
“Some of them operate on pretty thin margins and every little bit hurts,” he said.

“But I don’t think this will put anybody in a bind. It should amount to less than a 1 percent reduction on their sales tax receipts.”
Fort Smith must make the biggest repayment, $204,101.15, while Sebastian County has to repay $129,232, according to DFA records.

TOP STORY >> Renewable; Group Pushes Energy independenCe

Leader staff writer

Gathered at Waste Management’s Twin Pines Landfill in Jacksonville on Tuesday, Democrats in the Arkansas Congressional delegation called on President Bush to put greater focus on the development of renewable sources of energy at home.

The news conference included Ark-ansas leaders and pioneers in renewable energy resources such as bio-diesel and ethanol.
It was set against the backdrop of six giant generators that a month from now will begin turning the methane gas generated by the landfill into electricity to power 4,000 homes in North Little Rock.

Although Waste Management currently creates electricity at 60 of its landfills around the nation, this one was financially feasible because of renewable energy tax credits, according to George Wheatly of Waste Management.

The company has about $6 million invested in it. The electricity will be put directly into the North Little Rock Electric grid, sold to the city for 5 percent less than the city pays for its other electricity.

“I am pleased that this site and others like it have benefited from landfill gas conversion tax credits that I worked hard to include in the last energy bill,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who organized the event.

Other Arkansas innovators/businessmen who spoke were Tommy Foltz, CEO of Patriot Fuels; Jim Wimberly, a global energy consultant, and Bob Stobaugh of Stobaugh Brothers Farms near Conway. Stobaugh has been using a diesel/biodiesel mix for his tractors and pumps since 2002.

“We’re here to talk about how we can best reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” Lincoln said.
Of President Bush, Lincoln said, “He has not provided the leadership that this issue requires.”

In a letter to the President signed by Lincoln, Sen. Mark Pryor, Cong. Vic Snyder and Cong. Marion Berry — all of whom spoke — and Cong. Mike Ross, who was not there, the delegation recommended more money for 16 programs, grants or credits that could stimulate biofuels industry.

“We recommend appointment of a current member of your staff to evaluate these programs and the work of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative,” the letter said.

“We are determined to put America on the path toward energy independence by 2020.”

“We’ll always be a trading country,” Snyder said. “But let us be the leaders, the seller of technology, to be ahead of the curve. We have to invest in research and technology.”

Other lawmakers also pitched renewable fuels as an energy alternative.

Pryor said importing more than 20 million barrels of foreign oil into the U.S. a year is not good for the nation’s trade balance, currency valuation or work force.

“We have to acknowledge we have a problem,” he said. “We are missing opportunities to make America stronger by having a smarter energy policy.”

Foltz, who founded Patriot BioFuels, a former deputy energy director in the Clinton Adminis-tration, said his company will begin commercial production of 3 million barrels a year in March of bio-diesel fuel, with potential at the site to produce 25 million barrels a year.

He said that at current prices, the U.S. is sending $2 billion a week to OPEC countries that are not always America’s friends.