Wednesday, January 18, 2006

EDITORIAL >> Wage earners still lagging

If you work for wages in the United States, chances are that the past six years have not been stellar ones, and if you happen to toil in Arkansas they have been darker still. We have Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families to thank for quantifying for us just how badly things have gone for working families in the Wonder State and why. Having lived it, most Arkansans we imagine need no reminders, but if you are interested, you will find its fact-filled report, “2005 State of Working Arkansas,” illuminating. You can find it at

Most of the reasons for the decline of the working family, measured by its statistical mean, have been duly chronicled: The best-paying jobs, in manufacturing and technical fields, have shifted overseas and job growth has tended to be in low-paying service businesses. The result has been that inflation-adjusted earnings have steadily dwindled even while corporate and shareholder earnings have been skyrocketing.
Health costs have been rising while millions lose their health insurance.

Energy costs have climbed far more than wages or general inflation, and thanks to the Bush administration’s regulators, Arkansans are about to be hit with another steep hike in electricity costs. Finally, the traditional protections for low-wage earners like the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit have been flat for nearly a decade.

Those are national phenomena and are owing to nothing in particular that our policy makers in Arkansas have done or failed to do.

Better national policies surely would have helped but Americans, like their major political parties, are in relentless dispute about which policies would correct those dismal trends.

But why is the picture with a few exceptions even gloomier in sunbelt Arkansas? We have made some strides in educating a greater percentage of our youngsters (the share of Arkansans with some college has risen from 17 to 29 percent in 20 years) and providing more of them with medical care through the expanded Medicaid program. We have at least kept up with the national pace of improvement even if we have not nearly caught up.

Still, since the year 2000, unemployment rose faster in Arkansas than the nation as a whole, the poverty rate in Arkansas is far above the U.S. rate, 16.4 percent compared with 12.4 percent nationally, and more people file for bankruptcy each year in Arkansas than in all but five states.

The Advocates’ report at least implies that there is a mean streak in our policies.

n For a few years now, we have allowed payday lenders to pillage the poorest working families by trapping them in rollover debt that charges them interest rates many times the constitutional limit. Pray that the state Supreme Court takes care of that this year.

n We have not raised the state minimum wage in eight years, which means that the buying power of the 120,000 or so minimum-wage workers has declined by 17 percent. An Arkansan working at $5.15 an hour, the current floor, can buy fewer goods and services than they could in all but one of the last 50 years. We will have a chance in November to correct that with a constitutional amendment that would raise the wage floor by $1 and automatically adjust it in the future to inflation.

n And then there is our tax structure, which is about the most punitive to low- and middle-income workers in the country. That is primarily because a quirk in the state Constitution forces the state and local governments to depend upon the sales tax to pay for government services. State and local general sales taxes plus specialized sales taxes stack up as some of the highest in the country. Together with personal and corporate income tax rates that have over time become virtually flat except for very low incomes. The highest marginal personal income-tax rate now applies to all income over the near-poverty wage of about $27,000 a year.
Arkansas Advocates offers the stark effect of the Arkansas tax system on various income classes: The poorest fifth of non-elderly Arkansas families — those earning $12,000 or less — pay 12.4 percent of their income in state and local taxes each year. At the other end, the top 1 percent — those taking in more than $242,000 a year — pay only 6.1 percent to government. Congress and the Arkansas Legislature have been driving this trend in the wrong direction, lowering burdens at the top, raising them for those in the middle and on the bottom.

They have raised sales and excise taxes and repealed or slashed taxes on huge estates, corporations, dividends and capital gains.

The Constitution’s three-fourths requirement to raise most taxes except the sales tax lets lawmakers take the easy course, which is to yoke the poorest families with the burden.

Next time that taxes are broached, ask your representatives to first review the Advocates’ report on workers. Better still, the Sermon on the Mount.

REVIEW >> They were never simple days

IN SHORT: Original Mike Disfarmer photos are now on display at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena.

Special to the Leader

Looking at salvaged Mike Disfarmer photographs displayed recently at the Steven Kasher gallery in New York City might make one think that simple times made for simple people. But such a thought would be as deceiving as the photographs themselves. At first look, Disfarmer’s subjects look simple. But it’s a farce. Disfarmer captured a complexity hidden beneath a veneer of simplicity. After all, these photos weren’t taken in simple times. Many were shot during and after the Great Depression.

Disfarmer was a native of Heber Springs who rejected his German immigrant family’s occupation as farmers and set up a photo gallery on Main Street. When he died in 1959, the studio was abandoned. Some of the glass plate negatives from the 1930s and 1940s were rediscovered in the 1970s.

Many of these Heber Springs residents had probably never been photographed. Some look stunned, others looks unsure of why they are being photographed as if they really don’t want to be there, and others show off for the camera.

But for these photographs, they would have re-mained anonymous forever.

Unfortunately, these photographs only give the slightest glimpse into their lives. We are left wondering who they were. This gap leaves Disfarmer’s subjects looking more like specimens than people.

He had a hard time capturing their humanity. One couple, for instance, stares uncomfortably into the camera as if to say, “What does the photographer want from us?” They look cold and distant.

Then there are those who were obviously proud to be having their pictures taken. They put their personalities openly on display. A bikini-clad woman sits on a bench, with one leg strewn across it.

She’s happy someone is paying attention to her.

There are also family photos of people who look tired, like they traveled far to get to the Heber Springs gallery.
One family appears in what looks to be their Sunday best. The man is in a khaki soldier’s uniform standing behind two young girls in matching white dresses. They all look unhappy, as if someone is forcing them to be there. The girls, no older than 10, look as exhausted and miserable as their parents do. “Why are you interested in my simple family?” the smaller of the girl’s face seems to say.

Then there are photographs of subjects who are not so easy to tell how they relate to one another. There is a photograph of three middle-aged men and one elderly woman. It is impossible to tell the relationship between some of those in the photographs, but Disfarmer captured others perfectly.

Almost all of the subjects look like they are hard workers, that they had little free time, and that to be in front of a camera was their chance to be part of a world that was foreign to most Ark-ansans then.

More Disfarmer photographs are now on display at The Delta Cultural Center. “Disfarmer Photographs: Heber Springs Circa 1945” will be on exhibit there through Feb. 11.

These photographs are on loan from the Arkansas Arts Center.

The Delta Cultural Center is located at 141 Cherry St. in Helena.

For more information, visit or call (870) 338-4350 or (800) 358-0972.

Aliya Feldman is a writer and legislative aide living in New York.

ON TAP >> Helena exhibits Disfarmer photographs

The Delta Cultural Center’s latest traveling exhibit, “Disfarmer Photographs: Heber Springs Circa 1945,” is on loan from the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock and is on display through Feb. 11 at the Delta Cultural Center Visitors Center, 141 Cherry St. in historic downtown Helena.

Mike Disfarmer (1884 – 1959) was a talented and eccentric man who photographed everyday life in Heber Springs from its glory days as a spa in the 1910s and 1920s through the Depression and World War II years.
After Disfarmer’s death in 1959, the studio he built was abandoned and fell into disrepair.

Some of the glass plate negatives from the 1930s and 1940s were rediscovered and salvaged in the mid-1970s, just before the studio was demolished.

Since then, his compelling portraits have formed the basis for two books and several regional and national exhibitions.

Disfarmer’s photographs now sell for $10,000 or more.

The Helena exhibit is one of 15 traveling exhibitions available through the Arts Center’s State Services Department. Designed to be both educational and aesthetically appealing, these exhibits are organized by the Arts Center’s curatorial staff from the permanent collection or from artist loan.

All touring programs are supported, in part, by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Her-itage and the National Endow-ment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

For more information on the Arkansas Arts Center’s touring programs, call (501) 396-0350 or (800) 264-ARTS.

Other agencies within the department are the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Arkansas Arts Council and the Natural Heritage Commission.

EDITORIAL >> Huckabee's plea for help

We here in the first decade of the 21st century have been privy to a sudden revolution in the federal system, made evident again the past two weeks in the catastrophe that is the government’s new Medicare drug program.

A premise of the great expansion of the federal government after World War II was the general incompetence of state governments to deal with social and economic upheaval. The government that built Social Security and ran the most idealistic and successful war and postwar efforts in history was called upon to end racial segregation across the breadth of the land, secure voting rights for a disfranchised people and build a system of health security for the elderly, disabled and poor.

Now the national government is so inept that it can do nothing expertly or seamlessly.

Its giant intelligence apparatus could not provide enough simple knowledge about a decimated society to keep an eager administration from leading the nation into a destructive war, the government launched a fiscal policy that took the country overnight from vast surpluses to the most humongous budget deficits in history, and the nation awoke last fall to see its national government flounder helplessly in even getting ice to the desperate people of the Gulf Coast because the administration’s corrupt political managers had dismantled its great emergency management program.

Last week, we were treated to the spectacle of Gov. Huckabee deploying the state government to bail out a bewildered and helpless Washington, which was shocked to discover that it had inadvertently cut off life-saving medicine to hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable elderly people in the country. Like governors in most states, Huckabee directed his state health agency to pay for the prescriptions of former Medicaid patients who could not get them when the new Medicare law went into effect Jan. 1.

When Congress passed the changes, it expected simply to switch people from Medicaid to Medicare, shifting the costs from one account to another, a gesture that was to mollify states by saving them matching funds.
Arkansas cannot bail the administration out for long because it cannot borrow money.

Huckabee says he is promised quick reimbursement by the Bush administration once they get the mess straightened out. Having had some experience with this administration the last six months, Huckabee must have troubled sleep. The governor is on shaky ground legally in authorizing the state expenditure, but it is what a caring and efficient government does. Thank you, Mr. Huckabee.

The administration had three years to implement the plan. It had become clear early last year that neither Congress nor the administration that wrote and implemented the plan knew what they were doing. Efforts were made in 2003 when Congress was debating the plan to fix it to protect the aged poor, but the administration said no. Not needed, it said. Last year, Senate Democrats introduced a bill to delay the transition to Medicare for six months to work out the kinks so that the elderly poor might have continuous drug coverage. Spurred by the White House, every Republican voted no.

Simple incompetence is not all that is at work in this disaster.

When Karl Rove advised President Bush that it would be expedient to counter the Democrats’ appeal by co-opting the idea of insuring medicine for the elderly, the administration decided that if needy citizens were to be helped, the big corporations that had been so helpful in election season ought to be cut in on the billions. So instead of a simple expansion of Medicare coverage to prescription drugs, the administration established an elaborate program that had huge gaps for the elderly and required them to purchase the government coverage through commercial health-insurance companies, which would administer the program for the government in ways that would maximize profits.

The Bush administration even by the first week of the program was making changes itself to thwart the elderly sick. The now famous “doughnut hole,” which created a huge gap in coverage for every senior regardless of their financial condition, was not enough perversity. For example, heart patients whose only help was a drug called Niaspan, which raised levels of good cholesterol, learned from their druggist that the government had told the insurance companies not to pay for patients’ Niaspan even if it was covered in their formularies. Heart-disease sufferers could pick a less effective drug or else pay for it themselves.

Huckabee expects his friends in Washington to fix Medicare and do the right thing next week. Good luck, governor!

SPORTS >> Sylvan Hills runs over Blue Devils

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills pulled off an upset Friday night, going to West Memphis and coming home with a 53-48 victory to improve to 2-1 in league play.
The loss was the second at home for the Blue Devils in conference play, and drops them to 7-7 overall and 1-2 inside the AAAAA-East conference.

The Lady Bears weren’t as fortunate, losing 65-39 and giving the Lady Blue Devils their first conference victory.
Sylvan Hills rotated guards Victor Roy and Darrell Cren-shaw on West Memphis’ Jason Henry. The duo didn’t shut Henry down in the scoring department, but the strategy did hamper West Memphis’ ability to run the offense.

Roy and Crenshaw rotated every three minutes, and picked Henry up immediately wherever he was on the court.

Even when Henry threw the ball inbounds under Sylvan Hills’ goal, Roy or Crenshaw was there as soon as he stepped inbounds.
He still finished with 26 points to lead all scorers, but the rest of the team struggled with the Bears’ defense.

The Blue Devils also struggled with the Bears’ offense. Sylvan Hills didn’t make a three pointer the entire game, but they didn’t need them. The offensive execution created several layups, and the Bears were nailing mid-range jumpers throughout the game.

Senior guard Michael Gross led the Bears with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Junior post player T.J. Shelton came off the bench to turn in a solid game. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

“We were really proud of T.J.” Bears assistant Wayne Herren said. “He got in there and got real physical and helped us out. He played well.”
The Lady Bears fell behind big early on, and never recovered. Too many turnovers was the key problem against West Memphis’ defense.
The Lady Bears are also now 1-2 in league play and 6-9 overall.

Sylvan Hills traveled to Searcy Tuesday night after Leader deadlines, and will host league-leading Jonesboro Friday.

NEIGHBORS >> Silver Screen theater expands

Cabot cinema adds two auditoriums

Leader staff writer

The growth of Cabot can be seen everywhere around town including the Silver Screen Theater at 1000 Cinema Blvd. where the addition of two additional auditoriums is nearing completion making it a six-screen theater.

“These auditoriums are going to be cutting edge,” said Matt Smith, 36, owner of the theater, who declined to comment on how much the addition is costing.

The two new auditoriums at Silver Screen will have Dolby Digital surround sound and feature contoured screens that curve towards the audience ever so slightly. The new auditoriums will have 400 chairs arranged in stadium seating where each row is 18 inches higher than the row in front of it, allowing for an unobstructed view of the screen.

Each chair has a 44-inch back, a 24-and-a-half-inch seat, and rocks. The cup-holder armrests fold up making the chairs love-seats. The two auditoriums will seat 400.

“These are the biggest chairs in the industry,” Smith said of the seating.

After the completion of the new auditoriums, Smith plans to retrofit the existing auditoriums to stadium seating, add a new restroom, a bigger game room and expand the existing concession stand at Silver Screen.

Smith said he is planning to add two auditoriums to his Searcy Cinema Six theater as well.

“If you go to a movie in Cabot now, and then go to a movie in one of these new auditoriums, it will be a totally different movie-going experience,” Smith said.

For more information on Silver Screen, call (501) 843-7469 or visit

SPORTS >> Beebe girls rise to 3-0 with victory

Leader sports writer

The Beebe Lady Badgers made it three straight AAAA-East conference wins on Friday night at the Badger Sports Arena, holding off a stubborn Nettleton Lady Raiders team 41-36.

After winning only two of their first 12 games in the non-conference season, the Lady Badgers have gone from struggling to sparkling by winning their first three conference matchups of the season.

“I think we have just come together and started playing well,” Lady Badgers head coach Lora Jackson said. “We played well in our Christmas tournament.

“ We have played some really good competition, and that has really helped us see the things we need to work on. They are a great group of girls. They really like to be around one another, and all that counts.”

Emily Bass kept Beebe in the lead in the early going, scoring nine of the Lady Badgers’ 10 points in the first quarter. Bass ended with 10 points on the night, with her strong run in the opening making up the bulk of her scoring.

Beebe maintained its advantage in the low-scoring second frame, leading the Lady Raiders 16-13 at the half.
Things heated up in the second half, as both squads settled down and began to execute better shooting. Nettleton briefly took the lead at the 4:21 mark of the third quarter off a three-point shot from Lindsay Farris to make the score 21-20. The Lady Badgers quickly rallied with five-straight points from sophomore Ashley Watkins, and Beebe was on top once again 28-26 by the end of the third.

Another mid-quarter rally from the Lady Raiders tied the score at 32-32 with 4:06 left in the game, setting up a late-game shootout. Beebe led 37-35 with less than a minute remaining when Nikki Sietz missed the second of two free throws.

Bass made the game-saving move for the Lady Badgers, pulling down the rebound and getting the ball to Watkins. Watkins hit a layup and was fouled by Megan Simpson. Watkins added the free throw, sealing the game.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well at all,” Jackson said.

“We had a lot of good looks at the basket, we just couldn’t get them to drop. We came up with some big rebounds off some shots that they missed that we had to have, and we did a good job at the tail end taking care of it off the press.”

Watkins led the Lady Badgers with 15 points, going 5 of 10 from the free-throw line. Bass added 10 points for Beebe, making the sophomore duo the standouts for the Lady Badgers in every game since the start of the conference season. Ferris led Nettleton with 20 points.

The Badger boys were not as fortunate on Friday, falling to Nettleton 62-54. Beebe kept the game fairly close through the entire contest, but could never overcome a 28-21 halftime deficit. The Badgers held a brief 14-11 at the beginning of the second quarter.

The closest Beebe came in the second half was at the 2:37 mark of the third quarter, when a Rogers McAffee jumper narrowed the Raiders’ lead to 36-32. It took less than a minute for Nettleton to stretch the lead back out to nine points, and the Raiders never looked back..

The biggest factor in the game was a perfect 18 of 18 at the foul line for Nettleton, while the Badgers made nine of their 13 attempts from the charity stripe.

“We’ve struggled scoring sometimes,” Beebe boys coach Chris Ellis said.

“But tonight, we struggled defensively. We gave up too many easy shots.”

Junior Charlie Spakes led the Badgers in scoring with 17 points, while Jordan Gierach added 12 points for Beebe. Matt Mouzy led Nettleton with 22 points on the night.

The Beebe teams were off on Tuesday night, but will return to action Friday on the road at Paragould.



Daisy “Sandy” Caracciolo, 68, of Jacksonville passed away on Jan. 14 at Rebsamen Medical Cen-ter in Jacksonville. She was born June 12, 1937 in DeRidder, La.

She was an auxiliary volunteer at Rebsamen Medical Center, and an owner of Country Treasures in Jacksonville. She was preceded in death by her husband, Louis Caracciolo and her parents, Fred McKnight and Aughtobert Droddy McKnight.

She is survived by her children, Rick Caracciolo and wife Margue-rite of Atlanta, Ga., Tina Bolte and husband Tony of Charlotte, N.C., Scott Caracciolo of Oxford, N.Y., Tony Caracciolo and wife Susie of Clarksville, Tenn., and Joe Carac-ciolo and wife Debbie of Valencia, Calif. She is also survived by her sister Jane Skinner of Bridgeport, Texas, and 13 grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills. Services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home with Rev. Andy Buege officiating. Arrange-ments by Griffin Leggett Rest Hills inNorth Little Rock.

Memorials may be made to RMC Auxiliary, 1400 Braden, Jacksonville, Ark., 72071, Attn. Rita Joyner.


Bess Stofan went to be with the Lord on Jan. 15. She was born Nov. 16, 1923.
She was a member of St. Judes Catholic Church. She was a 22-year volunteer at Rebsamen Medi-cal Center where she was known as the candy kisses lady. She was an avid bowler and was a secretary for the NCO Wives Club.

She was preceded in death by her husband, John E. Stofan.

She is survived by son, John E. Stofan Jr. and wife Joanie of Greenbrier; Joseph C. Stofan of Montgomery, Ala.; Dorothy J. Belk and husband Mark of Mabelvale; and Thomas M. Stofan and wife Connie of Odessa, Texas.

Services were held Tuesday at St. Judes Catholic church in Jacksonville. Burial was at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Memorial Park in North Little Rock. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Arkansas Lung Cancer Society.


Olen Lee “Muscles” Johnson, 71, passed away Jan. 13 at his home.

Preceding him in death was his wife, Shirley Walters Johnson: his parents, Birt and Lucy Smith Johnson; and a brother, Wyndle Johnson.

Survivors include his wife, Judy Cook Johnson; children, Yvonne and husband Eddie Gates of Carlisle, Jackie Johnson of Hazen and Michael Cook Sr., and wife Glenda of Carlisle; sister, Laura May Johnson of Houston; grandchild, Don Gates of Carlisle, and six step-grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; nine nephews and six nieces, and a host of friends.

Services were held Tuesday, at Carlisle Pentecostal Church of God, with interment at Hamilton Cemetery. Arrangements were by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Margaret “Trick” Liles, 86, of Searcy died Tuesday, Jan. 17.

She was a Methodist. She is survived by her sister, Wilma Langley of Searcy; six nieces, Betty Weir and Judy Harmon, both of Searcy, Linda Elish of Tennessee, Phyllis Claho of Boulder, Colo., Mae Lackey of Searcy, Mary Clayton of Heber Springs; and five nephews, Jackie Liles of Searcy, Carthel Langley of McRae, Larry Holt of Alabama, Eddie Liles of Searcy and Jimmy Engester of Baton Rouge, La.

Family will receive friends from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Westbrook Funeral Home, Beebe.

Funeral will be 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Westbrook Funeral Home, with burial in Antioch Cemetery.

TOP STORY >> Controversy on Elm Street could find its way in court

Leader staff writer

The proposed opening of Elm Street in Cabot could soon have the city in court.

The city wants to buy about a quarter acre from Larry Nipper to build the 40-foot wide roadway that would reportedly keep a lot of traffic off Hwy. 89. The land appraised at $18,600 as residential property, but Nipper had it rezoned commercial and it later appraised for $60,000.
The city council Monday voted to offer $66,000, but Nipper said two different appraisers told him that was not enough. He asked for $85,000, which the council refused to pay.

The city already owns a right of way for the street, but the mayor and many on the council agree that it is too crooked.

Nipper said he bought his lot 33 years ago because he believed it would be worth a lot as commercial property when Elm opened.
“Y’all are voting tonight to deprive me of what I’ve been waiting for all these years,” he told the council, which voted 6-1 to offer $66,000 and no more.

Alderman Jerry Stephens voted against the offer.

He questioned the necessity of opening the street.
Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said he regretted that the next step would be to take the property through eminent domain but he honestly believed that opening the street was in the best interest of the residents of Cabot.

Nipper told the council that taking the sale to court would end up costing the city more than the $85,000 he asked for.
In other business, the council turned down the low bid for a copier contract Monday night in favor of the next lowest bid, which came from a local business.

Alderman David Polantz led the discussion that ended with Cabot Office Machines receiving a $74,490, five-year contract to provide the city with five copiers. The lowest bid of $71,760 for the same service was submitted by Copy Systems, a Little Rock company.

Polantz said in a later interview that he has always believed that when bids are separated by only two or three percent, it is better to go with a Cabot company.

“These are the people who pay the money we spend every month,” Polantz said.

Alderman Eddie Cook ab-stained from voting when the council turned down Copy System’s bid 4-2. Aldermen James Glenn and Patrick Hutton Cook voted to give the contract to the Little Rock company.

Cook said later that the owner of Cabot Office Machines is a personal friend, and even though he is in favor of using local businesses when possible, he didn’t want to appear biased against the Little Rock company.

The council then voted unanimously among the seven aldermen present to give the contract to the Cabot company.

Alderman Odis Waymack, in Bermuda with his wife, Barbara, for their 50th wedding anniversary, did not attend the meeting.
Also in other business, the council voted against allowing a driveway on Hwy. 367 across from Steeplechase Apartments.

The request came from Jim Hensley, an attorney who plans to build a 6,000 square-foot office in a five-acre commercial development.
Council members and Police Chief Jackie Davis said accidents were already a problem there because of a nearby hill.

TOP STORY >> Superintendents’ pay justified

Leader and Arkansas
News Bureau report

Cabot School Superintendent Frank Holman’s salary and benefits packages put him near the top earners among Arkansas school superintendents, but local supporters say he’s well worth it as Cabot continues its steady growth with new school openings plan-ned at steady intervals.

According to a survey by state auditors, Holman’s pay and benefits package ranks him fifth in the state at $181,329.
“Dr. Holman is extremely organized, meticulous, employee-oriented and balances all of his duties with whatever is best for the students,” said Alan Turnbo, a Cabot Board of Education member.

“It’s not an easy job, it’s very strenuous,” said Brooks Nash, another Cabot board member.
“First, he oversees 8,500 students, which is a huge responsibility all in itself,” Nash said.

“A lot of people don’t realize how active Dr. Holman is in the legislature. He works to help all the school districts, not just Cabot.
“He does a great job of keeping the board up to date on our finances,” Nash added.

Besides a $6,000 car allowance, Holman receives $10,495 in health insurance benefits, plus $1,150 in life insurance premiums and $1,620 for professional dues.

Holman is the second highest paid superintendent in the area, just behind the Little Rock superintendent, who runs the largest district in the state and earns $232,554 with benefits.

Although the Pulaski County Special School District is searching for a new superintendent, the troubled district offers one of the highest pay-and-compensation packages in the state.

Pay and benefits amount to $175,324, just behind Holman’s compensation, although PCSSD has 17,280 students, more than twice the number in Cabot.

North Little Rock’s superintendent makes $154,194, followed by Searcy Superintendent Tony Wood with $137,237. Beebe Superinten-dent Belinda Shook makes $101,545.

Lonoke Superintendent Shar-ron Havens makes $97,625.

Springdale’s superintendent is the second highest in the state, earning $215,853, while Fayetteville’s superintendent is the third highest paid with $198,234. The fourth-highest is Forth Smith at $174,174.

Calico Rock has the lowest-paid superintendent at $61,000.

State auditors said a second study on school administrative costs is expected later this year.

The information should go a long way in helping the legislature address one of Gov. Mike Huck-abee’s prerequisites for calling a special session on education reform to address a court order declaring Arkansas’ school funding system unconstitutional, legislative leaders said.
The survey, presented to the Legislative Joint Auditing Comm-ittee, detailed superintendents’ annual salaries and annual salary and benefits packages.

It also detailed which superintendents receive a housing allow-ance, which receive a vehicle allowance and how much each district pays in premiums for health and dental insurance for its superintendent.

“This is good information,” Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, said after the meeting.

He said the salary survey and study of administrative costs “should be the information we need to make a de-cision.”
Broadway asked legislative auditors Friday to find out the education backgrounds of the 252 su-perintendents, and asked if studies have been done on superintendents and administrative costs in other states.

Senate Pro Tem Jim Argue, D-Little Rock, said the superintendents’ salaries were interesting but that the information, coupled with the administrative costs, should give lawmakers a good picture of how much schools spend outside the classroom.

“I think it relates to the Lake View litigation in that clearly the state has got the duty to make sure school districts have the capacity to employ every administrator hired,” Argue said.

Argue, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, also said he wants more information on the benefits that superintendents receive.

He questioned why some superintendents receive better benefits than regular teachers.

“I’m not sure that the leader of the district should have a more generous benefit package than troops on the front line,” he said.
Gov. Mike Huckabee said in a statement released by his office that the survey of superintendent sala-ries was a “good first step in assessing the transparency of our schools.”

In a 5-2 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled Dec. 15 that the legislature failed to make education spending its top priority in this year’s regular session and “grossly underfunded” school building re-pairs and construction.

The court set a Dec. 1, 2006, deadline for lawmakers to remedy what Justice Robert Brown called “a constitutional infirmity which must be corrected immediately.”

On Dec. 30, the governor listed a series of prerequisites before he would call a special session on education reform. He wants a study done on superintendent salaries.

One of the items he said he wanted was a study done that included current salaries of superintendents, their experience, education attainment, responsibility, length of service and cost-of-living adjustments based on where they live.

Huckabee has said he wants lawmakers to consider developing a pay grid or schedule that would pay superintendents based on education, like teachers are paid.

Currently, there is no pay scale for superintendents, and their salaries and benefits are negotiated with the individual district that hires them.
“In response to the Supreme Court ruling on Lake View, my priorities are to look at the accountability, transparency and efficiency in Arkansas schools,” Huckabee said Friday.

The governor said he looks forward to getting the information on school administrative costs and said he hopes a survey is done on the costs incur for athletics.

During Friday’s committee meeting, Legislative Auditor Charles Robinson cautioned lawmakers that while the information on superintendents’ salaries is interesting, it doesn’t tell the whole story about superintendents and the school districts where they work.
He said the second survey will show each school district’s overall administrative costs and the salaries and benefits packages for assistant superintendents.

“Some of the smaller districts may have just one superintendent, while a larger district may have one superintendent and 40 assistant superintendents,” he said. “We’ll need to put both reports together so we can compare school districts.”
After the meeting, Robinson said hopes the survey can be completed by late spring.
The legislative audit survey can be found at, under the Jan. 12-13 meeting listing.

Rob Moritz of the Arkansas News Bureau contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD finalists excited

Leader managing editor

The five finalists vying for the superintendent position with the Pulaski County Special School District better get plenty of rest before their day in the spotlight next week.
They’ll likely need it.

A 13-hour day of non-stop meeting and greeting is scheduled each day next week for the candidates for the position, which was trimmed from eight applicants to five finalists during a special meeting Monday night with the school board and consultants from Mc-Pherson and Jacobson Executive Recruitment and Development, the firm organizing the nationwide search. Those approved by the school board to go through the interview process are:

• Dr. Carl Davis, 52, of Powder Springs, Ga., deputy chief of human resources at Cobb County (Ga.) Schools, a district of 106,000 students in Atlanta.
• Dr. Bruce Harter, 58, of Wilmington Del., superintendent of the 10,700-student Brandywine School District in Claymont, Del.
• Dr. Aquine Jackson, 59, of Milwaukee, chief academic officer of the 100,000-student Milwaukee Public Schools.
• Dr. Ed Musgrove, 54, of Waynesville, Mo., superintendent of Waynesville R-VI School District, with an enrollment of 5,200.
• James Sharpe, 64, of Little Rock, current interim superintendent with the PCSSD.

The five finalists were recommended by the search firm from a list of eight candidates who completed the application process.
“I’m really pleased with the fact we have five high-quality finalists,” consultant Thomas Jacob-son said. “When the numbers were coming in, we were get ting nervous because we didn’t have the numbers we had hoped for.

“But once we started screening, we realized that this is a very strong slate of candidates and that is unusual.”
Each finalist will visit the district during a different day next week, where they will meet with members of the district’s communities, tour schools and facilities, meet with the media and close the day by interviewing with the school board.

The day will start at 8 a.m. and conclude with the formal interview with the board, scheduled for 7:30-9 p.m. each day.
“I’m looking forward to meeting them, talking to them and finding out their vision,” said Rev. James Bolden III, a board member from Jackson-ville.

“I’m looking forward to bringing up Jack-sonville.”

Jackson will start the interview process on Monday, Sharpe on Tuesday, Davis on Wednesday, Jan. 25, Harter on Thursday, Jan. 26 and Musgrove on Friday, Jan. 27.

“I want to know what the concerns are from the board members, from members of the communities, and I’d like to talk to students and see what their concerns are and see what things they’d like to see in place,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward for the board to get to know me to see if there is a match.”

Davis, who was superintendent for four years at Natchez (Miss.) Public Schools, said he’s also looking forward to meeting with members of the community and finding out all he needs to know about the district.

“I’m going there to listen,” Davis said. “I want to get the community to share with me the good and the bad and the things that need to be worked on. I want to know the community’s vision of the district.”

Musgrove will be the final candidate on Jan. 27, wrapping up a long interview process.

“I’m happy to be given the opportunity to explain my qualifications and experiences and hopefully they’ll be a desired fit for what the needs of the district are,” Musgrove said.

The finalists were recommended after an extensive screening process conducted by Jacobson and Loe Dunn, another consultant, using criteria developed after numerous focus-session groups with board members, teachers, students and members of the district’s communities were conducted in October and Novem-ber.
The top criteria determined by the board in-cluded:

• Someone of integrity and high ethical standards who possesses strong moral values.
• A seasoned administrator with a proven track record of fiscally and organizationally managing a multi-facility school district.
• Someone who possesses strong managerial leadership abilities with the ability to motivate, encourage and honestly evaluate staff and administrators.
• Someone who possesses outstanding communication and public relation skills with the ability to relate to a racially-diverse population.
• Someone who has experience as a superintendent and district administrator.
• Someone who has experience working with districts that have experienced financial and academic difficulties.
Whoever the board chooses as its next leader, they will receive a base salary of $165,000-$175,000, an amount approved by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The new superintendent will be someone the board hopes will provide stability in the district. The board has bought out the contracts of the past two superintendents — Gary Smith and Don Henderson — and has had four leaders since longtime chief Bobby Lester retired in 1999.

TOP STORY >> Activists question the delay by Deltic

Leader staff writer

Deltic Timber’s petition for more time to get its appraisal of the land Central Arkansas Water has condemned in the immediate Lake Maumelle basin is not a stalling tactic to allow Deltic another chance to get its way in the state General Assembly, a spokesman said Tues-day.

Currently, a trial is scheduled for Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce’s court on April 15 to determine the amount that CAW must pay Deltic for the 900 acres Deltic had hoped to develop into mini-estates on central Arkansas’s primary drinking-water source, but Deltic last week petitioned Pierce to postpone the beginning of the trial until the original September date.

That has fueled speculation that Deltic would try again next January, when Benny Petrus takes over as House speaker, to get legislative relief that would allow its Lake Maumelle development.

“In regard to possible legislative action, there’s been absolutely no discussion of that,” according to Craig Douglas, the Deltic spokes-man. “I think I would be aware of a plan and there is no plan.”

Likewise, Petrus said Tuesday that he had no plan to promote Deltic’s interests when he becomes speaker and has heard no discussion of such a plan.

“Nobody has contacted me on that issue,” he said.

Petrus said he was upset that he had been tied to Deltic in the media.
“I didn’t have anything to do with Deltic last time,” Petrus said. “Everybody in the world had me associated with Deltic. I didn’t have anything to do with it. I don’t serve on that (House Local Affairs) committee.”

“As far as Deltic Timber and CAW, I didn’t know a firm could run legislation. Like any legislator, I will evaluate each and every (piece of legislation) proposed. There’s another 134 legislators out there other than myself.”

“If I had to guess, I say neither (Deltic nor CAW) would try to introduce legislation,” when the General Assembly reconvenes, Petrus said.
Disclaimers by Douglas and Petrus were scant comfort to Patricia Dicker, a Pulaski County Quorum Court member who represents the county on the Policy Advisory Council for the development of the Lake Maumelle Watershed Plan, being formulated by consultant TetraTech.
“I think (Deltic is) doing everything (it) can to slow stuff down. If I were guessing, I’d say they are interested in putting something in the legislature now that Petrus is in,” she said. “I think they’ve got something up their sleeve. If they develop the area, they’ll ruin the lake. Even best management practices would pollute it.”

State Rep. Sam Ledbetter, D-Little Rock, and CAW’s attorney, said Tuesday that Petrus was elected speaker on Jan. 9 and “On the 12th, we received the motion for the continuance. It does make you wonder.”

Ledbetter campaigned for state Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, who lost to Petrus 58-42 in the speaker’s race.

“It’s a gray area as to whether or not the legislature can change the ground rules in the middle of the game,” Ledbetter said.
Deltic says it needs more time because many of the appraisers it would like to choose among wouldn’t have sufficient time to do the job right by April 15, and points out that the original trial date was Sept. 12.

CAW has until about Jan. 27 to answer Deltic’s petition.

“I’m sure our attorneys will ask that we continue on the grounds that the judge granted an expedited trial,” said Bruno Kersh, CAW’s chief operating officer. “I would assume there are appraisers who could do the job (for Deltic).”

Kersh said the bond money currently earmarked for the acquisition must be used within the next 18 months, but that money could be shifted around so that the land purchases could still be made after that time.

TOP STORY >> Schools graded on their teaching

Leader staff writer

Four area schools were among the worst performing in the state in the 2004-2005 school year, according to the recently released School Performance Index.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas calculate the index, which takes into account benchmark test scores and a host of student and community traits and resources.

The poor performing schools include:

• Jacksonville Middle School, ranking 1,099 out of 1,116 with a School Performance Index of 75 (the national average is 100).
• England High School ranked 1,103 with an SPI of 74.1.
• McRae High School ranked 1,104 with an SPI of 73.1. The school has since been converted to a middle school (5th and 6th grade).
• England Middle School, ranked 1,109 out of 1,116, with an SPI of 68.3.
Searcy had the best performing schools in the area, followed by Cabot and Lonoke.
Overall, the School Performance Index finds, after adjusting for student characteristics, Arkansas schools, as a whole, are performing slightly better than the national average. The national average is 100 and Arkansas’ average is 100.33.
Altheimer Unified School District had the top SPI in the state at 147.47, nearly 48 points above the national average of 100.
Searcy School District was in the top 20 performing school districts in the state with a SPI of 111.68.
According to the report, accountability tests, like the state’s bench mark exams, are often used to assess the quality of schools, but the tests, by themselves, don’t tell the whole story. The UA researchers said test-score results are only partially a reflection of the quality of school instruction; they are also partially a reflection of the advantages and disadvantages that students bring to school.
The researchers developed the School Performance Index “in an attempt to disentangle school quality from student advantages and disadvantages.”

Baker Interdistrict Elementary School in Little Rock had the highest SPI in the district at 128.7 (with 100 being the national average). Locally, the best were Arnold Drive and Clinton elementary schools. The worst performing score be-longed to Jacksonville Middle School.
• Arnold Drive Elementary had an SPI of 112.5 and a ranking of 180 out of 1,116.
• Bayou Meto Elementary had an SPI of 100 and a ranking of 573.
• Cato Elementary had an SPI of 107.5 and a ranking of 304.
• Clinton Elementary had an SPI of 112.3 and a ranking of 187.
• Harris Elementary had an SPI of 80.9 and a ranking of 1,062.
• Homer Adkins Elementary had an SPI of 89.5 and a ranking of 924.
• Jacksonville Elementary had an SPI of 87.8 and a ranking of 968.
• Jacksonville High School had an SPI of 100 and a ranking of 572.
• Jacksonville Junior High had an SPI of 80.5 and a ranking of 1,065.
• Jacksonville Middle School had an SPI of 75 and a ranking of 1,099.
• Murrell Taylor Elementary had an SPI of 91.2 and a ranking of 870.
• North Pulaski High School had an SPI of 91 and a ranking of 878.
• Northwood Middle School had an SPI of 84.4 and a ranking of 1,034.
• Oakbrooke Elementary had an SPI of 109.2 and a ranking of 264.
• Pinewood Elementary had an SPI of 111.4 and a ranking of 212.
• Sherwood Elementary had an SPI of 101.4 and a ranking of 526.
• Sylvan Hills Elementary had an SPI of 105.7 and a ranking of 363.
• Sylvan Hills High School had an SPI of 91.2 and a ranking of 871.
• Sylvan Hills Middle School had an SPI of 95.5 and a ranking of 759.
• Tolleson Elementary had an SPI of 108 and a ranking of 295.
• Warren Dupree Elementary had an SPI of 99.6 and a ranking of 595.
Overall, the school district had an SPI of 98.23 and was ranked 179th out of 255 districts.

Only one of Searcy’s schools — Searcy High School — was not above the national average. Sidney Deener and Westside elementary schools were substantially above the national average.
• Ahlf Junior High School had an SPI of 103 (with 100 being the national average) and a ranking of 459 out of 1,116.
• McRae Elementary had an SPI of 112.5 and a ranking of 179.
• Searcy High School had an SPI of 97.3 and a ranking of 690.
• Sidney Deener Elementary had an SPI of 124.8 and a ranking of 46.
• Southwest Middle School had an SPI of 109.9 and a ranking of 249.
• Westside Elementary had an SPI of 121.4 and a ranking of 56.
The district, overall, had an SPI of 111.68 and was ranked 18th in the state.

In the Beebe School District, McRae High School had the worst performance while Beebe Inter-mediate had the best score.
According to the study:
• Beebe Elementary had an SPI of 97.1 (with 100 being the national average) and a ranking of 683 out of 1,116.
• Beebe High School had an SPI of 99.2 and a ranking of 617.
• Beebe Intermediate had an SPI of 105 and a ranking of 380.
• Beebe Junior High School had an SPI of 95.9 and a ranking of 747.
• Beebe Middle School had an SPI of 94.7 and a ranking of 781.
• McRae Elementary had an SPI of 104.1 and a ranking of 411.
• McRae High School had an SPI of 73.1 and a ranking of 1,104.
Overall, the district had an SPI of 97.45 and was ranked 190 out of 255 districts.

Magness Creek Elementary had the best score in the Cabot School District while the Academic Center for Excellence had the worst ranking in the district.
• Academic Center of Excel-lence had an SPI of 88.2 (with 100 being the national average) with a ranking of 956 out of 1,116 schools.
• Cabot High School had an SPI of 94.2 and a ranking of 795.
• Cabot Junior High North had an SPI of 91.8 and a ranking of 850.
• Cabot Junior High South had an SPI of 96 and a ranking of 742.
• Cabot Middle School North had an SPI of 98.2 and a ranking of 662.
• Cabot Middle School South had an SPI of 107.4 and a ranking of 306.
• Central Elementary had an SPI of 106.6 and a ranking of 334.
• Eastside Elementary also had an SPI of 106.6 and a ranking of 331.
• Magness Creek Elementary had an SPI of 108.3 and a ranking of 287.
• Northside Elementary had an SPI of 104.7 and a ranking of 393.
• Southside Elementary had an SPI of 95.9 and a ranking of 744.
• Ward Central Elementary had an SPI of 101.3 and a ranking of 529.
• Westside Elementary had an SPI of 107.1 and a ranking of 314.
Cabot School District, overall, had an SPI of 100.36 and was ranked 155th in the state out of 255 districts.

Lonoke Elementary had the highest score in the district while Lonoke High School had the lowest.
• Lonoke Elementary had an SPI of 113.1 (with 100 being the national average) with a ranking of 167 out of 1,116.
• Lonoke High School had an SPI of 96.3 with a ranking of 733.
• Lonoke Middle School had an SPI of 98.2 with a ranking of 659.
• Lonoke Primary School had an SPI of 105.4 with a ranking of 370.
Overall, the district had an SPI of 104.42 and ranked 90th out of 255 school districts in the state.
• Carlisle Elementary had an SPI of 99.8 and a ranking of 584.
• Carlisle High School had an SPI of 95.3 and a ranking of 764.
The district had an overall SPI of 98.32 and was ranked 177th out of 255 school districts.

• England Elementary had an SPI of 97.1 and a ranking of 699.
• England Middle School had an SPI of 68.3 and a ranking of 1,109.
• England High School had an SPI of 74.1 and a ranking of 1,103.
At an overall SPI of 84.76, only ten districts in the state were ranked lower than England.