Saturday, October 20, 2007

SPORTS >>Jackrabbits manhandle Trojans

IN SHORT: The Lonoke football team had an easy time on the road with Marianna, winning a blowout.

Leader sportswriter

Lonoke got perhaps its biggest win of the year on Friday with a 35-0 shut out win over Marianna in Lee County. The Jackrabbits took advantage of eight Trojan turnovers in the contest, turning four of them into scores on their way to the dominating victory.

Three of Lonoke’s scores would come in the opening quarter, two of which were pass plays from senior quarterback Rollins Elam to receiver Michael Howard. Elam had a total of three touchdown passes in the first half, but would sit out most of the second half after sustaining a leg injury in the third quarter that did not sound promising.

The Jackrabbits’ passing game was spot on during the game, but Marianna’s was seriously lacking. The Trojans threw a whopping five interceptions to the heads-up Lonoke secondary, and three more turnovers came on the ground.

Jackrabbits coach Jeff Jones said the performance by his team was one of the best of the season.

“I really like the way we played tonight,” Jones said. “We played fast and smart. We went about our tackling really smart also. The receivers ran great routes all night long; it was just a great team effort.”

Jones, like most people, expected a much stronger showing by the Trojans.

“They’re a lot better team than what showed up tonight,” Jones said. “Their offense has been really productive, and their defense has stingy. We were expecting a hard- nosed game, but we were able to come out and take that first drive for a score, and that seemed to give us a boost.”

Marianna coach Billy Saia could do nothing but state the obvious afterward.

“We played terrible,” Saia said. “If you can’t block and can’t tackle, you’re not going to win. That’s just basic stuff right there. They pushed us off the ball and controlled the line all night.”

The first two scores for Lonoke came on the Elam-Howard connection. The first was a 25-yard pass, and the second was from 45 yards out for two touchdowns in the first five minutes of the game, with successful extra-point attempts from Daniel Smith.

Junior flanker Clarence Harris ran in the next Jackrabbit touchdown in the final two minutes of the first quarter from 13 yards out, and Smith’s PAT made it 21-0.

Elam would get one more TD pass before his untimely exit, with a 16-yard toss to Alvin Farmer in the middle of the second quarter. Smith missed the extra-point, leaving Lonoke with a 27-0 lead at halftime.

Farmer’s efforts on offense were solid, but paled in comparison to his three-interception performance on the defensive side of the ball for Lonoke. He would not be alone, as Michael Nelson and Lance Jackson both made interception grabs for Lonoke also. Smith led in turnovers off the ground for the Jackrabbits by picking up two of the three coughed up balls from the Trojans.

Jacob Taylor came in at quarterback for the Jackrabbits in the third quarter, and would make his mark with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Howard. It was Taylor’s first varsity TD, but it would make the third of the night for Howard. Harris ran in the two-point conversion to activate the mercy rule at 35-0 in favor of Lonoke.

The Jackrabbits are now 5-2 overall and 5-0 in the 4A-2 Conference. Marianna falls to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in conference. Lonoke will host Stuttgart next week.

SPORTS >>Sylvan Hills gets lead, holds off Marion rally

IN SHORT: The Bears held their ground and still stand firmly in second place after beating the Patriots 28-18.

Leader sportswriter

The Patriots found their genuine taste of Miller to be decidedly bitter Friday night during Sylvan Hills’ 28-18 win over Marion at Bill Blackwood Field. Bears senior quarterback Hunter Miller stunned the Patriots defense with 190 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the first half, which would turn out to be badly needed for Sylvan Hills in a completely unproductive second half.

A 15-yard touchdown run by junior fullback Lawrence Hodges with 6:19 left in the third quarter would be the end of the road for the Bears’ offense, but the defense held its ground. Hodges’ TD scamper put Sylvan Hills up by three scores at 28-10, but the Patriots would not fade without a fight.

Marion senior Justin Blackwood pulled the Patriots to within two scores just before the end of the third quarter with a six-yard touchdown run, with a two-point conversion added by Bubba Cooper that made the score 28-18. Sylvan Hills’ main objective for the final period would be clock management, but a plethora of penalties made that task unproductive most of the time.

The Bears avoided the penalty bug for the most part in the first half, but the third and fourth quarters were loaded with flags against the Bears; eight for 50 yards to be exact.

The Patriots had their final shot with 3:23 left in the game, but two big defensive plays by SH junior defensive back Devin Scott, along with a big stop by sophomore Juliean Broner would give the ball back to the Bears with less than a minute remaining. It was a big win for the Bears, but coach Jim Withrow was not anticipating having to fight the Patriots to the bitter end.

“You got to put them away,” Withrow said. “We really didn’t do that. Going down the stretch, we better do that or it’s going to cost us. But I’ll tell you; a win is a win is a win. That’s the bottom line, and we did that. I would like for us to take care of the ball a little better and play with a little more intensity than what we did tonight.”

Withrow said his quarterback’s services in the first half were a big part of the win.

“He did a good job of reading what he had,” Withrow said. “Our offensive coaches did a good job up there in the booth seeing things. It was a team effort; we came off the ball pretty hard, and tried to take what we could get.”

Miller proved unstoppable against the Pats’ defense in the opening 12 minutes. The SH quarterback took the second play from scrimmage 28 yards to move the ball into Marion territory at the 41-yard line. He followed that with a nine-yard draw play before running it in two plays later with another 28-yard run, this time cutting from the middle of the field to the left side for the score with 9:26 left in the first quarter. Stephan Kettle’s extra-point attempt was successful for an early 7-0 Bears lead.

Miller would strike again before the end of the opening period with a 32-yard touchdown run with 6:25 left in the first quarter. The drive was set up by a fumble by Marion’s Deoppolis Smith that was recovered by SH defender Clint Thornton at the Sylvan Hills’ 44-yard line.

The Bears had a chance to put Marion away before the first quarter even ended, when the Patriots fumbled the ensuing kickoff into the hands of Bears special teams player Brandon Davis. This gave Sylvan Hills a first down at the Marion 43-yard line. Miller and company drove into the Patriots’ red zone with two running plays by Hodges for seven yards, followed by three keeps for Miller for a total of 20 yards. This set up the Bears with a first down at the Marion 16-yard line, but Miller would prove himself human on the following play.

Miller dropped back to throw on first down, but was scrambled out of the pocket by the Marion defensive line. He rolled right with open field in front of him, but delivered up the middle with a pass into heavy coverage. Patriots senior Jordan English came down with the ball to end the Bears’ threat of three straight scoring drives.

The Patriots would hold on to the ball from that point on, and began to move the ball on the heels of junior running back Smith. Smith had five carries for a total of 41 yards during what would become Marion’s first scoring drive of the night.

The second quarter began for the Patriots with a second and 14 at the Sylvan Hills’ 20-yard line, but a two-yard run for Smith and an incomplete pass by Sophomore QB Jonathon Milikin left them with fourth and eight at the 18. Marion decided for a field goal, and senior kicker Jerry Patton delivered on a 35-yard field goal that just stayed inside the left goal post for three points, making the score 14-3 with 11:14 left in the first half.

Sylvan Hills’ drive after Patton’s FG would stall out at the Patriots’ 40-yard line, and a swing gate play by the Bears on fourth and 13 fooled no one. The unusual formation that lines seven players up to the left and two to the right, with Miller in the shotgun and Broner in motion worked for a first down earlier in the year against North Little Rock, which was apparently on the films scouted by Marion. The give from Miller to Broner went nowhere, and the Patriots took over on downs at their own 38-yard line.

They would not settle for three this time. Smith broke loose on a 55-yard touchdown run with 5:27 left in the first half. Patton added the extra-point to make it 14-10, and the Bears found themselves in a dogfight at that point.

Marion kept Miller somewhat reigned in during the second quarter, but not enough to prevent another score before halftime. The Bears drove from their own 19-yard line on the next drive in 10 plays, capped off by an 18-yard sprint from Miller down the right side for his third rushing touchdown of the night with 46 seconds left in the half. The score was set up by a 15-yard pass to Shaw one play earlier that took the ball from the Marion 34 to the 18-yard line. Kettle’s extra-point was good, and the Bears took a 21-10 lead into the locker room.

Kettle’s extra-point boots were money in the bank on Friday, but his kickoffs in the second half would be a little less spectacular. The sophomore place kicker had three attempts at the opening kickoff before keeping it inbounds to set the Patriots up with great field position at their own 45-yard line.

The SH defense did its job on the next Marion drive, holding the Patriots to eight yards on four plays. Senior fullback Cooper got the call on fourth and two, but he would be met at the line by Jacob Clark and Casey Cerrato, and the ball would go back to the Bears on downs.

The Patriots’ defensive line filled gaps nicely in the second half, but it only took one play for the Bears to squash those efforts. On second and five at the Marion 15, the SH line opened a huge hole in the middle of the line, and Hodges took the give from Miller nearly untouched into the end zone. Kettle’s PAT made the score 28-10 with 6:19 left in the third quarter.

Miller led the Bears with 26 carries for 191 yards and three touchdowns. He added 40 more yards in the first half with 3 of 7 pass attempts for 40 yards and one interception. Hodges carried 16 times for 70 yards and one touchdown, and Broner added 51 yards on seven rushes with one fumble turnover. The Bears ended the night with 252 total yards of offense. For Marion, Smith had 20 carries for 156 yards and one touchdown.

Sylvan Hills is now 4-4 overall and 4-1 in the 6A-East Conference. Marion fell to 4-4 overall and 2-3 in conference. The Bears will play at Searcy next week, while the Patriots host Jonesboro.

SPORTS >>Bryant storms back, dominates Panthers

IN SHORT: The Hornets scored 38 straight points to overcome a 14-0 deficit and down Cabot Friday night at BHS.

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers could have used a few lightning bolts Friday night at Bryant, literally. If lightning had struck at about the halfway point of the second quarter and put an end to the game, the Panthers would have been in good shape. Instead, the Bryant Hornets struck lightning numerous times, in the figurative sense, and blew Cabot away 38-14 to keep their unbeaten record intact and stay in first place in the 7A-Central conference.

The Panthers took a 14-0 lead with 7:35 left in the first half on a 75-yard touchdown run by halfback Jordan Carlisle, and from that point it was all Hornets. Bryant scored 10 before halftime, and 28 more in the second half to turn a competitive game into a blowout.

The Panthers had to deal with numerous turnovers and strange calls in the first half, but still managed a 14-10 lead at intermission. Senior Jeremy Wilson got the start for the Panthers in the absence of Seth Bloomberg, who went down last week with a broken collarbone. Sophomore Powell Bryant stepped in for Bloomberg last week, but it was Wilson that got the starting nod, and the uncertainty of playing quarterback for the first time in his high school career against the No. 1 ranked team showed early. Wilson bobbled the first snap of the game, dropped the third snap for a 3-yard loss on third and six, and bobbled the snap on a 34-yard field goal attempt that was no good.

Bryant gave it right back with a fumble on the first snap of the ensuing possession, and Wilson’s played improved. Cabot went the 20 yards needed for the first score of the game in six plays. Jordan Carlisle capped the drive with a 1-yard dive for the score with 4:34 left in the quarter.

Bryant got one first down on its next possession, but three consecutive incomplete passes forced a punt back to the Panthers.

Cabot started on their own 26 and were barreling down the field. Plays of six, 14 and 11 yards were all for naught, as fullback Michael James fumbled on the fifth play of the drive and Bryant recovered on their own 42.
From there the two teams traded three consecutive three and out series.

Cabot finally got past the three-play mark, but Carlisle fumbled on the fourth play and Bryant recovered on the Panther 37.
Cabot was called for pass interference on first down, moving it to the 22, but Bryant didn’t gain another yard. On fourth and 11, Bryant attempted a 40-yard field goal that fell short and gave Cabot possession at its own 20.

Michael James went 5 yards on first down, and Carlisle followed with the biggest play of the game to that point. The senior halfback broke through the line on a dive play and outran the Bryant secondary for a 75-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 14-0 with 7:35 left in the second quarter.

Bryant didn’t lie down, though, and scored the final 10 points of the half as a precursor for the domination to come in the final 24 minutes.

The Hornets took the ball at their own 35 and drove to the 15 where they settled for a 32-yard field goal with 5:44 remaining in the half.

Cabot failed on fourth and short on its next drive, turning the ball over on its own 33.

On Bryant’s first play, Cabot was called again for pass interference. After a rush for minus 4 yards and an incomplete pass, Bryant hit an inverted screen for 22 yards and the score by receiver Tim Floyd. The extra point made it 14-10 with 1:37 left on the clock.

Floyd would become the go-to guy for the Hornets in the second half, scoring the first two touchdowns of the third quarter. After the two teams traded three and out series, Cabot put together a long drive, but came up empty when Blake Carter was tackled for a 4-yard loss on fourth and 9 from the Bryant 22.

Bryant took over from there and struggled for the first two first downs. Quarterback Logan Parker then hit Jake Jackson for 22 yards on a quick throw down the line of scrimmage. On the next play, Parker threw up a jump ball that the 6-foot-4 Floyd easily to give the Hornets their first lead at 17-14 with 4:12 left in the third quarter.

With the running game immobile, Cabot took to the air on its next possession, and was picked off on the third play. Ethan Passmore interecepted Wilson’s pass and Bryant took over at the Cabot 30.

A 24-yard pass put it at the 6. After a holding penalty called back one touchdown play to Floyd, Aspen Trevino got the penalty yardage back with a 10-yard reception, and Floyd got his third score of the game on the next play. Austin Bradley’s extra point made it 24-14 with 40 seconds left in the third.

Cabot was forced to punt after another penalty, and Bryant was in cruise control. Starting at its own 49, Bryant went one yard, 28 to Jackson and the final 29 to Taylor Masters who was all alone at the goal line, with 9:58 left.

Bryant’s Dijon Benton picked off another Wilson pass on the first play of the ensuing possession, and Bryant put the final score on the board 5 plays later with a 1-yard snaek by Parker with 8:09 left in the game.

Bryant finished with 325 total yards, while Cabot had 260. Parker completed 22 of 41 passes for 268 yards. He was 12 of 16 for 174 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.

Floyd led all receivers with 85 yards and three touchdowns on six receptions. Jacksonville finished with eight catches for 83 yards and Masters totaled 74 yards and a score on six catches.

Carlisle led the Panthers with 16 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown. Fullback Michael James finished with 17 carries for 60 yards.

The Panthers are now 6-2 overall and 3-2 in league play. They will host Pine Bluff next week at Panther Stadium. Bryant will travel to North Little Rock.

SPORTS >>Bombers get hot, beat JHS volleyball

IN SHORT: The Lady Devils lost their last conference match to a streaking Mountain Home team Tuesday night at Jan Crow Stadium. After starting 0-8, MHHS finished the conference regular season with wins over West Memphis and Jacksonville.

Leader sportswriter

What was almost the most amazing comeback of the year would be all for naught at the Devils’ Den on Tuesday, as the Jacksonville Lady Red Devils came back from an 0-2 deficit against Mountain Home to tie the match at 2-2, only to fall to the Lady Bombers in the final frame 10-15.

Errors hampered the Lady Devils in the first two games, but solid games by seniors Brittany Harrison and Vanessa Brown in games three and four put Jacksonville back in the hunt. Soph-omore setter Bailee Herlacher had several key assists in the two frames to help the Lady Red Devils’ efforts, but the Lady Bombers would not let the match slip away from them in the very late going.

The Jacksonville crowd was stunned in game one, when the Lady Bombers took a 25-15 win over the Lady Devils with a number of kills from junior Katie Thomas.

Tyra Terry generated most of Jacksonville’s offense in the first game, with some assistance from Harrison. It would not be nearly enough, as Mountain Home won by one of the biggest margins allowed by Jacksonville all season.

The second game would be much closer, but the Lady Bombers would still come out on top. Harrison’s game got stronger at the net for game two, but Terry began to lose effectiveness. She would share floor time with sophomore Allison Cox from game three on. Cox, who has seen limited varsity time this season, did a solid job from the left side save for some small rookie mistakes.

Game two would end up as a loss for Jacksonville, but it would not be without its spectacular moments for the Lady Devils. The Lady Bombers led 21-20, but the first varsity kill for sophomore Tiara Clark tied the game at 21 all, and lit up the Jacksonville crowd.

Brown was very quiet during the first two games, but began to take over at the net during game three. Herlacher’s solid assists helped Brown to eight kills over the next two games, with sophomore Jessica Lanier inheriting the net in Brown’s absence for four kills and a block in games three and four.

The only part of Jacksonville’s game that did not pick up in the second half of the game was serving.

A number of bad serves for the Lady Devils kept the Lady Bombers in games three and four, but solid defense by Raven Pickett and senior Amber Pawloski on the back row prevented a full comeback.

Jacksonville matched Moun-tain Home point-for-point in the final game until the score reached 9-9, then fatigue set in for the Lady Red Devils. Mountain Home took six of the final seven points, with only a serve into the net by Mountain Home serving as the final Jacksonville point in the match.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Jack-sonville coach Melissa Reeves said. “I don’t think we were focused like we should have been. I think there was more focus on it being senior night than the actual match itself. We were silly and goosey and not focused on the things we should have been focused on.”

Reeves was also complimentary on the drastic improvements by the Lady Bombers after two easy wins by Jacksonville earlier in the season.

“They have definitely improved since the Harrison tournament,” Reeves said. “They have come together; I don’t think last place in the conference is really indicative of where they are at as a team.”

The loss puts Jacksonville’s record at 13-11 overall and 3-7 in the 6A-East Conference. The Lady Devils will be the No. 4 seed out of the East Conference, and will take on Little Rock Parkview in the first round of the 6A state tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

EDITORIALS>>Richard Allin, RIP

Richard Allin died Thursday, although we had already adjusted some years ago to abiding the mornings without his gentle wit.

Allin wrote the Our Town column for the old Arkansas Gazette for almost 30 years and carried his followers with him to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette for a few years afterward, until his old Gazette contract ran out and the publisher turned him out to find a writer who was more “with it” for young readers.

Allin was a humorist who wrote about the mundane planes of life. He might object to the characterization, but he was a social critic as well.

He just happened to tolerate and even to love what he criticized, which was unschooled and often uncouth people in this lovably uncouth state.

Especially its politicians. He often recounted the official deliberations in the mythical twin Arkansas towns of Wad and Gudge.

Our favorite were the two wonderful pocketsize books that he wrote in collaboration with the late great cartoonist George Fisher, two editions of the Southern Legislative Dictionary, “wrote by Richard Allin, pitchers by George Fisher,” according to the cover. They were collections of colloquialisms and barbarisms uttered on the floor of the Arkansas legislature. He had covered the Ledge while he was at the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Gazette.

The opening entries of the Second Edition will suffice for examples:
About half preacher: (pejorative) holier than thou, superficially pious. “Don’t take a drank around him. He’s about half preacher.”

Afred: askeered.

Agonna: signifying future action. “We’re not agonna put up with none of this.”

Aggculcher: farming, the art of farming.

Aholt to: firmly grasped. “She got aholt to his hair and give it a good tug afore the sergeant-at-arms run her off.”

Aim: intend. “He never aimed for the bill to pass.”

We needed Richard Allin and will miss him.

EDITORIALS>>Boozman hurts kids

Stung by the defections from the Republican Party for its spendthrift and reckless ways on his watch, President Bush picked a fine time to suddenly get frugal: when the health of children is at stake. Somehow, we do not think his veto of the expansion of the children’s health insurance program, better known as SCHIP, will bring back the disaffected fiscal conservatives.

He should have listened to the self-proclaimed “most conservative governor in Arkansas history,” Mike Huckabee, who likes the program and tried in Arkansas to expand the concept to give government health coverage to working adults as well as children. Huckabee was not admirably forthright on the issue, ducking the question of whether he would have signed or vetoed the bill if he were president, but he indicated frustration with the administration’s acting so beggarly on funding children’s health. That is more than what the other GOP presidential candidates did.

And more than our Republican congressman from Arkansas did. Rep. John Boozman from northwest Arkansas stuck with the president, as he always does no matter how it affects his constituency. He alone in the six-member Arkansas delegation voted against the SCHIP expansion and then Thursday voted to uphold the president’s veto. Almost a third of Republicans in Congress bucked the president on expanding a program that was one of the Republican Congress’s proudest achievements in the late 1990s. It was still a little short in the House of Representatives of the two-thirds vote needed to override Bush’s veto.

The bill, crafted with key Republican help, notably Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, would increase spending on SCHIP by $35 billion over five years, covering 4 million children who now are uninsured, by adding a stiff tax on cigarettes and tobacco products. Some 50,000 of those children, maybe more, live in Arkansas. Boozman lives in one of the most affluent areas of Arkansas, but we suspect that he would not have to travel many blocks from his home to find children who desperately need the law.

SCHIP and the Medicaid program from which it derived provide health insurance to the very poorest Americans. SCHIP, like the ArKids First program fathered by Mike Huckabee and Mike Beebe (he sponsored it as a state senator in 1997), covers children in families up to 200 percent of the poverty line, which is about $40,000 for a family of four.

Unless a parent works for a company that provides group coverage, those families rarely have health insurance because the premiums are simply unaffordable. It is unaffordable, too, for millions of families with marginal middle incomes. They form the largest portion of the 47 million Americans who have no public or private insurance.

Boozman parroted the standard arguments for blocking coverage for children of families with marginal incomes: (1) The government should cover only very, very poor children, not those of struggling working families. (2) Some illegal immigrants’ children might benefit. (3) Lots of parents might benefit, too. (4) It would be the beginning of “socialized medicine,” the scare term that disappeared after the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in the 1960s.

His stand is ironic because his late brother, Fay, a conservative ideologue, had softened on universal health insurance after Huckabee made him state health director. Dr. Boozman and Huckabee announced a goal of guaranteeing medical coverage for every single Arkansan before they left office. Fay died in a farm accident and Huckabee left office before the goal was realized.

As for the fear that it would lead to the government covering more adults as well, Boozman should remember that it was his political ally, Huckabee, who fathered the program to extend government-subsidized health care to working families, including adults.

Huckabee got the Bush administration last year to grant a waiver that allows Arkansas businesses, big and small, to sign up their low-wage employees and families for Medicaid, which obliges the federal government to pay for three-fourths of their health-care costs. The businesses or the employees would bear the other fourth. If that is not socialized medicine, how does it differ from SCHIP?

Huckabee still brags (when he’s not in front of right-wing audiences) that the government-paid health programs that he innovated as governor are his proudest achievements.

The SCHIP bill specifically prohibited benefits for the children of illegal aliens, but illegals are now the party’s best political lightning rod and best way of arousing enmity for the program.

The bill had a proviso assuring coverage for citizen children whose parents just never got a birth certificate. And, yes, there are still hundreds of thousands of poor children just like that.

The Republican foes said the proviso might be used by illegal immigrants to get medical attention for their children. But it makes no difference in the end what this or any other bill says; the U. S. Constitution prohibits the government from offering any benefit to one class and excluding others, including non-citizens. Every resident on American shores is guaranteed equal protection of the laws.

A bipartisan group is going to craft new wording to address the spurious arguments of people like Boozman. For the sake of our children and his neighbors, we hope the new language gives Boozman and the necessary dozen of his colleagues the cover to do the right thing.

OBITUARIES >> 07-20-07

Jewel Howell
Jewel Ernest Howell, 84, of Cabot died Oct. 18.  

He was born March 16, 1923, in Paragould, the younger of two sons of Julia and Ernest Howell of Paragould.

He spent his entire life devoted to his family, his church and higher education in Arkansas.  

 He was married on Christmas Day of 1942 to Tomazene Olita Thompson, his wife of 64 years, who preceded him in death last October.  

He was also preceded in death by his mother, Julia Howell; his father, Ernest Howell and his brother, Lloyd How-ell, all of Paragould.  

He is survived by his three children, Samuel Ernest and wife Jo Howell of Cabot, Juliana and husband Mike Coleman of North Little Rock, and Ronnie Allen and wife Lynne Howell of Memphis, Tenn.; six grandchildren, Laura Howell and husband Mike Ferguson, Brian Howell and wife Sarah, David Coleman and wife Angie, Justin Coleman and wife Tonie, Amy Coleman and Steven Howell; and nine great-grandchildren, Grant, Matthew, and Sam Ferguson, Austin and Elizabeth Howell, Joshua and Andrew Coleman, and Grayson and Shelbie Coleman.

He was an active member and deacon of Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro for 37 years and a member and deacon of the First Baptist Church of Cabot for the last five years of his life.  

He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and a decorated veteran of the Second World War, who, as a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, participated in the airborne invasion of Holland, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of the Wobbelin concentration camp at Ludwiglust, Germany.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas at Fayette-ville and worked for Arkansas State University for 31 years, serving as the dean of the junior college branch at Beebe and as the director of auxiliary services at the Jonesboro campus.

A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at First Baptist Church of Cabot.

A private burial will be held at Arkansas State Veterans’ Cemetery in North Little Rock.  

If desired, donations may be made to the Music Ministry of First Baptist Church of Cabot at P.O. Box 1023, Cabot, Ark. 72023.

Funeral arrangements are by Moore’s Funeral Home of Cabot.

Carlos Sumler
Carlos Lee Sumler, 64, of Beebe died Oct. 18.

He was born March 12, 1943, in Conway to Roy and Ruby Sumler.

He was a retired heavy equipment operator and a Baptist.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

He is survived by his wife, Sheila Sumler; two sons, Darrell Sumler of Joplin, Mo., and James Sumler of Hickory Plains; one daughter, Karion Miller of Jacksonville; seven grandchildren, Lisa Hagan, Michael Beck, Pamela Sumler, Christina Sumler, Christopher Sumler, Elizabeth Sumler, Donna Sumler; 11 great-grandchildren; two brothers, Dewight Sumler of Camden, Tenn., and Keith Sumler of Judsonia; two sisters, Delores Ramsey of Beebe and Alice Walker of El Dorado.

Family will receive friends from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 22 at Westbrook Funeral Home with burial in Lakeside Cemetery in Des Arc.

David Silva
David J. Silva, 45, of Little Rock, formerly of Manteca, Calif., left this world Oct. 15 to be with the Lord in pain-free eternity.

He was born Dec. 1, 1961.

He is survived by two sons, Matthew Silva and Martin Silva of Greenbrier; parents, Joseph and Doris Silva of Manteca, Calif.; sister, Yvonne and husband Leonard Rodriques of Manteca, Calif.; one nephew, two nieces and best friend Rodney Brown.

Funeral arrangements were by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.

TOP STORY >>Cabot not eager to aid MEMS

IN SHORT: City council holds special meeting to consider a request by ambulance service of a $50,000 a year subsidy, which it needs to meet Medicare cuts and rising costs.

Leader staff writer

Officials in Cabot have been satisfied with MEMS, which has provided ambulance service there for more than two years, but they are not completely agreeable to paying the $50,000 a year subsidy MEMS will require beginning in January.

When MEMS (Metropolitan Emergency Medical Service) moved into the city in January 2005, it did so at the request of a city council that had become disillusioned with two other companies in a matter of months.

However, Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams pointed out during a special council meeting Thursday night that the city’s contract with MEMS, ending in June, says nothing about a subsidy. And besides for its first six months in Cabot the city paid MEMS an $8,000 a month subsidy, the only one ever before collected by the service since it was started by the city of Little Rock 23 years ago.

Williams made his case to Jon Swanson, MEMS executive director, and plans to repeat it during the Tuesday meeting of the MEMS board.

But in the meantime, Alderman Eddie Cook has called a special meeting of the budget and personnel committee for 6:30 p.m., Monday to look at ways to redistribute the revenue from the city property tax to pay the subsidy without taking additional money from the general fund.

Swanson made it clear that someone must subsidize Cabot, where the cost of providing ambulance service exceeds the revenue and that someone can’t be MEMS. State law won’t allow it, he said. MEMS is a department of the city of Little Rock and as such is not allowed to give its service away.

He also told the council essentially that MEMS can provide the service at a lower cost than the city can because the record keeping mechanism is already in place and that Cabot’s part is only about $33,000 a year.

Cuts in Medicare are the root of the request for a subsidy, Swanson said.

The cuts were phased in over four years beginning in 2002 and fully implemented in 2006. To compensate for the loss in revenue MEMS has lowered operational costs by such actions as increasing workloads of paramedics and EMTs, lowering insurance premiums by improving driving records of employees and using only EMTs for non-emergency transports.

But those cuts have not made up for the losses and those service areas that are not breaking even will have to pay a subsidy, Swanson said.

The projected cost of providing ambulance service in Cabot for 2008 is $665,022, Swanson told the council. The projected revenue is $614,403.

Swanson spoke to the mayor and council about ways to narrow the gap between the cost and the revenue.
Selling MEMS memberships at a cost of $60 to $80 a year would help, he said. So would eliminating or cutting the cost of housing for MEMS employees which runs about $17,000 a year.

Swanson said MEMS purchased a FEMA trailer to house the paramedics and emergency medical technicians who work in Lonoke, where the subsidy will be even higher at $87,000 a year.

The MEMS board voted Sept. 25 to charge subsidies, beginning in January, in the areas where the service operates at a loss.
In addition to Cabot and Lonoke, the MEMS board voted to charge Grant County $179,000, Sherwood $28,000 and Maumelle $63,000.

TOP STORY >>Boy, 6, safe after leaving school

IN SHORT: After a Cabot Northside Elementary student walks off the campus, principal revists policies and procedures that can be changed based on incident; parents choose not to switch schools.

Leader staff writer

Thanks in part to two good Samaritans, a 6-year-old Cabot student made it home safely after he walked out the doors of Northside Elementary School Monday.

Kindergartener Adrian George didn’t want to sleep during naptime, so he asked his teacher if he could go to the office to look at the school’s aquarium. He never made it to the office to see the fish, but instead ran out a side door of the school, which cannot be locked because it’s a fire exit.

George was found playing in the rain along West Locust Street by Century 21 Unlimited real estate agents Barbara Shown and Billie Howard as they were driving back to their 801 W. Locust office, which is near the school.

“We stopped and asked him if he needed help,” Shown said. “He looked a bit scared, and we told him we would follow him home so he wouldn’t be afraid.”

Wanting to make sure he got home safely, the two drove behind him as he walked in the rain to his home on Mockingbird Street.

“Once he got to his house, we got out and knocked on the door to let his mother know. You could tell he was worn out from walking several blocks,” Shown said. “We were concerned and wanted to make sure he was safe and sound and got home alright. It would have bugged us if we hadn’t followed him home.”

Dr. Tony Thurman, Cabot School District superintendent, said George was in class the next morning and doing fine.
“The parents were given the option of moving him to another school in the district but refused that offer,” he said. “He is progressing at Northside Elementary and the parents also agreed that he will remain in the same classroom.”

According to Thurman, typically the school’s policy is to call ahead to the office or escort the student when a situation involves behavior.

George wasn’t in trouble, but just going to look at the fish in the office.

“He had requested to go to the office and see the fish instead of taking part in rest time. The aquarium is next to the counselor’s office and the school has found that this is a good time for the counselor to interact with students,” Thurman said.

Students are allowed to “free flow” at times during the day within the building, he said, including going to the library or specialized classes like speech and gifted and talented.

“It’s an unfortunate incident and the principal is working with the staff to revisit the policies and procedures that can be changed based on this incident,” Thurman said. “But it is also important for parents to reinforce to their own children that leaving the school without permission is not acceptable,” he said.

“If there is a problem at school, the student needs to go to the office and call their parent, not run out the door,” he added. “The school can and will do everything possible to ensure the safety and security of every child there, but there are times during the day when a student may have the opportunity to leave the school grounds.”

Northside’s location at 814 W. Locust isn’t the ideal location for anyone to be walking along the street, let alone a child, due to no sidewalks paired with the volume of traffic the street sees.

But being hit by a passing vehicle wasn’t the only danger George faced as he walked by himself. He could have been picked up by a sex offender or kidnapped.

Arkansas Crime Information Center lists five sex offenders living in Cabot with charges listed as sexual solicitation of a child, sexual abuse in the first degree and sexual assault in the fourth degree.

One offender, according to the ACIC Web site, lives on North 8th Street, within half a mile of the school.

TOP STORY >>Housing group out of trouble

IN SHORT: The new director is praised as the Jacksonville agency is no longer in violation of federal rules on spending and turnover rates.

Leader staff writer

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development notified the Jacksonville Housing Authority on Monday that the agency is no longer in trouble with the federal agency.

JHA, which gets much of its funding from HUD, was placed on the troubled list in February for violating federal guidelines and was removed from the list at the end of September after complying with spending rules and requirements.

“It is a rare feat to be removed from troubled status within less than a year,” said chairman Jim Durham.The Real Estate Assessment Center, a division of HUD that evaluates housing authorities with a report card, made the assessment after JHA made several improvements in its operations.

There are four parts to an REAC report — an independent inspection of housing authority facilities, a management assessment by an authority, a financial assessment of the authority and a survey of residents living at its Max Howell Place housing units.

Phil Nix, JHA executive director, commended the JHA staff and board members for their work.

“We’ve come a long way with the staff that was willing to learn,” Nix said.

“At JHA we corrected the required policies and procedures with the capital funds programs by having money obligated for capital projects before HUD deadlines,” he explained.

“We also lowered the turnover rate of the housing units from vacancy to occupancy. Before it was taking 60 to 90 days to get an apartment ready to rent, and we’ve got that down to REAC’s required 20 days,” Nix said.

“Phil’s knowledge is great. He has sent the staff to training seminars and has given us the right tools to follow the rules and regulations to get the job done correctly,” said Gisela Williams, JHA Section 8 administrator, a federal housing subsidy. Section 8 is a HUD voucher program for housing assistance.

Nix was hired in January by a newly appointed board of directors, with Jim Durham as chairman and Mike Wilkinson as vice chairman, to oversee the JHA’s daily operations after last year’s critical review by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD had asked for the records of contracts and work orders for more than $132,000 spent by the authority that were not properly awarded.

While on the troubled list, HUD sent specialists to Max Howell Place to oversee the agency. If the JHA had not come off the troubled list within two years, HUD could have taken over the authority.

The next goal for the JHA is to move from the standard performer list to the high performer list.

Durham said, “As a high performer, HUD will allow JHA to apply for grants for capital funds.”

The money would be available for improvements to Max Howell Place. The concrete work on the sidewalks to make the playground handicap-accessible is complete.

Nixon told board members there were two evictions from the housing units at Max Howell Place. One eviction was for non-payment of rent.

The other eviction was for illegal drug use. The renter was arrested by Jacksonville police at the Jacksonville Wal-Mart parking lot.

After the meeting Nix said, “We follow the federal standard on drugs. One strike and you’re out, even if anyone in the household on the lease is arrested (on drugs).”

TOP STORY >>City eyes business landscape

IN SHORT: A new ordinance requires greenery when the cost of remodeling is more than 25 percent of the assessed value.

Leader staff writer

Businesses remodeling in Jack-sonville will have to spend more green on the green as the city council tightened its landscaping ordinance Thursday night.

The old ordinance required businesses that remodel to include a landscaping plan if the cost of the remodeling was 50 percent or more of the assessed value of the building.

Now, landscaping will be required for any remodeling that is 25 percent or more of the assessed value. The new ordinance does state that landscaping costs will be capped at 7 percent of the remodeling costs.

Alderman Bob Stroud pushed for the change after a business in Jacksonville recently spent $1 million in renovation its building and zero on landscaping. “They found a loophole in our current ordinance,” Stroud complained.

“Technically they followed the ordinance, but they violated the spirit and intent of what we are trying to do here,” he added.

Ron Newport, chairman of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful, suggested the council require all businesses that remodel to have to landscape. “The 25 percent threshold is just a Band-Aid,” he insisted. “Any business that requires a building permit or a license must meet all landscaping requirements right there and then.”

“We can’t be that strong,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said. “We would lose businesses by the dozen. Let’s not go helter-skelter on this.”

Alderman Terry Sansing was concerned about moving the threshold from 50 to 25 percent. “I don’t want us to discourage businesses from making renovations. We could be shooting ourselves in the foot here,” Sansing said.

The mayor told the council that the developers for Office Depot, which will occupy a portion of the old Kmart building, went before the planning commission last month asking for a waiver.

“Under the ordinance, they would have been responsible for landscaping all of the property even though two other businesses moved in without landscaping,” the mayor explained.

“Our commission was forward thinking in capping the developer’s expense to about $80,000. Without doing that we would not be getting that business,” the mayor said.

Alderman Bill Howard, who is also on the planning commission, said the commission doesn’t mind looking at landscaping issues on a case-by-case basis.

In other council business:
- In a 7-2 vote, the council passed an ordinance requiring the council and planning commission have an annual joint meeting with an outside facilitator for the purposes of long-range planning for the city.
Alderman Reedie Ray, who voted against the measure, said, “I don’t need a law to tell me to be at a meeting. Just tell me when it is; I’ll be there. You don’t have to order me.”

- The council passed an ordinance allowing the county to collect the city’s millage for 2008. The mayor explained that nothing has changed in the ordinance, but the council was required to reauthorize it every year.

- The council approved spending $25,000 of the $205,000 it has received in one-time state turnback money. Aldermen authorized spending $20,000 to buy two lots of land to expand the Reed’s Bridge Civil War Battlefield and $5,000 to build a pavilion at the new recycling park off Marshall Road.

TOP STORY >>18 Schools in area go on state's watch list

IN SHORT: Cabot has three schools on the 2007 improvement list as does Lonoke, while Pulaski County Special School District has six schools in Jacksonville and three in Sherwood that must make adequate progress on their test scores or face possible takeover by the state Education Department. Beebe has one school listed, and Searcy has two that are in trouble.

Leader staff writer

Eighteen schools in four local school districts are on the state improvement list because they are not making adequate yearly progress, according to last year’s benchmark and end-of-course exams.

Overall, the 2007 school improvement list for Arkansas includes 325 schools, compared to 304 for the previous year, according to Dr. Ken James, the state’s education commissioner.

In Cabot, Cabot Junior High South and Cabot Middle School South are on the list for the first time. Cabot Middle School North is in its second year on the list.

In Lonoke, Lonoke High School is in year one, the elementary school is in year two and the middle school is in year three.
Pulaski County Special School District schools in Jacksonville and Sherwood that are on the list include Jacksonville Elementary (year two), Jacksonville Middle Girls School (year three), Sylvan Hills Middle School (year five), Jacksonville High School (year four), North Pulaski High School (year four), Oakbrook Elementary (year one), Northwood Middle School (year four) and Murrell Taylor Elementary (year three).

It’s also the first year for Beebe Middle School, as well as Southwest Middle School and Ahlf Junior High School in Searcy.
Schools can be placed on the list when their overall benchmark scores do not adequately progress toward the state goal of having all students on grade level in mathematics and literacy by the 2013-2014 school year, or if one of six subgroups of students—African American, Hispanics, Caucasians, economically disadvantaged, those with limited proficiency of English and students with disabilities.

“No one wants to hear that his or her school has been placed on the school improvement list,” said Dr. James. “But, at its best, the process is meant to be corrective, not punitive.”

Once on the list, a school must show two years of adequate growth in test scores before being released.

Cabot’s two middle schools are on the list because the literacy scores of the students with disabilities are not good enough. Cabot Junior High South did not make the grade in math or literacy with students with disabilities.

Lonoke’s elementary and middle schools also had insufficient progress in literacy in the students with disabilities subgroup. African American scores in math and economically disadvantaged scores in literacy put the high school on the improvement list.

In Jacksonville, the high school had eight areas that need improvement, including the combined population in math and literacy, African Americans in math and literacy, Caucasians in math, the economically disadvantaged in math and literacy and students with disabilities in math.

North Pulaski High School failed to make appropriate progress in six areas, including combined population in math and literacy, African Americans in math, economically disadvantaged in math and literacy and students with disabilities in math.

Jacksonville Middle Girls School failed to have adequate progress in the math scores of the economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities. Students with disabilities also did not score high enough in literacy. Northwood Junior High is on the list because of its math and literacy scores among students with disabilities.

Murrell Taylor Elementary made sufficient progress on its test scores, but will need to do it again this year to get off the list. Jacksonville Elementary was also on the list, but the state Education Department did not list any categories.

In Sherwood, Sylvan Hills High School had five deficient areas, including African Americans in math and literacy, the combined population in literacy and the economically disadvantaged in math and literacy. It was math and literacy scores among students with disabilities, which placed Sylvan Hills Middle School on the state list.

Beebe Middle School and Ahlf Junior High also didn’t make the grade with its math and literacy scores among students with disabilities. Southwest Middle School had one area of weakness, which was literacy among students with disabilities.

According to the state Education Department, of the 325 schools on the current improvement list, 108 are in year one, 65 are in year two, 73 are in year three and 58 are in year four, 18 are in year five.

Two schools have been on the list for six years, while one is in its seventh year.
The state could take over schools after four years on the watch list.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SPORTS >>Playoffs realized, Lonoke after title

Leader sportswriter

A 43-14 win over struggling Mountain View last Friday may not have made anyone’s game of the week lists, but it did officially place the Lonoke Jackrabbits into the state playoffs for the first time in over five years. Lonoke, now an impressive 4-0 in the 4A-2 Conference, has enjoyed easy wins to down or upstart programs for the past two weeks, but that all ends this Friday.

The Jackrabbits will travel to Lee County to take on the Trojans this week. This matchup has made for some thrilling showdowns in recent years, including last year’s 42-40 win for Marianna after stopping a Jackrabbit two-point attempt late in the fourth quarter.

That game had major playoff implications, as will this year’s matchup. Marianna, now 4-2 overall and 3-1 in the 4A-2 Conference, is coming off its third-straight league win over Southside Batesville. The Trojans lost their opening division game against Newport, but are still alive for the conference championship, just like the ’Rabbits.

Lonoke coach Jeff Jones remembers last year’s shootout well, and is expecting more of the same this year. He says the chance for another thrilling shootout is a good one, but hopes that the Jackrabbit D can prevent it.

“It could very well turn into one,” Jones said. “If we can’t slow down their running game, they could score a lot of points. We have to be hard nosed when we go in there; we can’t let them go outside or inside on us. There’s no doubt that this is an important game for us. It’s going to be a hard-fought 48 minutes of football for whoever wins this.”

Now 4-0 in conference with three games remaining, the Jackrabbits are officially locked into the 4A state playoffs. Heber, Bald Knob, Mountain View and Southside Batesville are all too far down in the standings to catch up. Not only that, but Lonoke has already beaten each of those programs this season, holding any potential tie break that could arise if any of the teams were able to win out these last three weeks.

Jones says making it into the playoffs is a realization of a big goal for his team at the start of the season, but that they do not intend to rest on their laurels. While the fact that the ’Rabbits are clinched is 100 percent, their seed at this point could still be a No. 1 if they win out, or a No. 4 if they lose all three of their remaining games.

“That was one of our goals at the start of the year, and now that’s taken care of,” Jones said. “We’re working to improve our seed these next few weeks. We need to focus on each week. All of our focus is on Marianna this week, next week; we’ll focus on Stuttgart all week. That’s just the way we’re taking it.”

Jones says that team speed is a big concern heading into Friday. The Jackrabbits have enjoyed a speed advantage with nearly every opponent this season, but the Billy Saia-coached Trojans bring a number of their own speedy backs into the game. The head ’Rabbit also says that smaller opponents the past two weeks could give his squad a false sense of where they are.

“I’ve seen our team’s confidence growing each week,” Jones said. “Now you just worry about whether or not our defense has been tested enough the past couple of weeks. There are some question marks that we have there, so we will definitely have to step it up. One thing’s for sure, we’ll find out where we’re at after this Friday.”

SPORTS >>Panther QB’s getting better

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers can play themselves into a first-place tie with a victory over undefeated Bryant this week in Saline County. The Panthers (6-1, 3-1) are a game behind the Hornets (6-0-1, 4-0) and in a three-way tie for second place with Russellville and Catholic, both of which suffered conference losses to Bryant.

Cabot will enter this week’s matchup against the state’s top-ranked team with a backup quarterback. Cabot’s quarterback troubles started just before two-a-days when Nathan Byrnes, the junior projected starter, suffered a broken nose. He came back two weeks ago, but was lost for the season with a knee injury at North Little Rock. Sophomore Seth Bloomberg stepped in and ran the offense very well, but he suffered a broken collarbone in the second quarter against Little Rock Central last week.

The Panther offense bogged down at that point and failed to score again, but Cabot coach Mike Malham believes things will be better this week.

“When Seth went down it limited us on what we could do,” Malham said. “We got out of sync. We put another sophomore, Powell Bryant, back there. We started working him there a few weeks ago and it’s a good thing too. He didn’t even play quarterback last year, but we were getting pretty thing, and when Seth went down, we had to throw the fourth of fifth guy out there, it threw us off.”

Bryant hasn’t put up the gaudy offensive statistics like some of its teams in the past, but the defense has been outstanding all season. Catholic’s 14 points is the most give up to a conference team this season. That could mean trouble for an inexperienced Panther quarterback, but Malham feels confident in the two players he has working under center this week.

“We’re going to start either Powell Bryant or Jeremy Wilson,” Malham said. “Whichever one doesn’t stay at defensive back, will play quarterback. We’re getting pretty thin over at defensive back too. Wilson has made some plays over there for us this year, but we’ll have to see how things work out at quarterback.”

Bryant will likely get the start, but Wilson will have to be ready to step in on the spur of the moment. Senior Jordan Sperry will also take snaps this week.

With Wilson and Bryant taking most of the snaps, Malham hopes it will help the team’s fluidity.

“I think that will be better,” Malham said. “Again when Seth went out, we started wasting plays and getting procedure penalties. We didn’t get off five or six plays in a row without a miscue, and a lot of that had to do with having a guy under center that hadn’t been there before. When we waste a play and give ourselves two downs to go 10 yards, that’s not good for our offense. Giving these quarterbacks a whole week should help that. It should be better than it was when we just had to put a guy out there that hadn’t had a whole lot of work.”

Bryant’s offense hasn’t been staggering, but it has been solid. The Hornets more run-oriented this season and play smart football. They have an effective passing attack, that is generall used to set up the strong running of #33. They did hit a couple of big pass plays against Central, so Cabot’s defensive backfield, another area hit by injuries, will be tested.

“They look like an undefeated football team,” Malham said of the Hornets. “Their quarterback can throw the ball well, the running back is solid and runs hard. Nobody has scored on them really. They just don’t do anything to beat themselves.”

With Cabot’s injuries mounting and more and more sophomores forced into action, not doing things to beat yourself will be a focal point this week, but the head Panther is confident in his team.

“I feel good. If we can get somebody who can just run the option a little bit, and just not make the mistakes, we’ll be alright.”

SPORTS >>Devils, Mustangs refocus

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils now find themselves with an uphill battle to get into the playoffs with only three games remaining in the regular season. An upset loss last Friday to previously winless Searcy leaves Jacksonville needing to win at least two of its last three games, and the easy part of the schedule is over.

Jacksonville’s uphill battle begins this Friday when Forrest City enters Jan Crow Stadium as homecoming guests.

Forrest City also suffered its worst outing of the season last week when it was handled rather easily by the Sylvan Hills Bears.
The Mustangs entered that game unbeaten in conference play and riding a wave of three straight easy wins in league play. They believe they simply suffered an off week, came out flat and were beaten by a more focused team.

“I did not have a good feeling about that game all last week,” Forrest City coach Rick Trail said. “We didn’t have a a good week of practice. That’s my fault as a coach for not having our guys mentally and physically ready to play. We have three conference games left and we are still in good shape. We just need to refocus and get back on track.”

Jacksonville’s loss to Searcy came on the heels of its own drubbing at the hands of the Bears, so the Red Devils are trying to find a way to regain some of the momentum they had going with their two blowout wins over Mountain Home and Jonesboro.
One good way of getting and maintaining momentum, according to Jacksonville head coach Mark Whatley, would be to cut out penalties at crucial moments.

Jacksonville nearly tripled Searcy’s yardage total last week, but were continuously penalized after reaching the red zone.

And while the defense was outstanding overall, it was a personal foul penalty against the Red Devils that helped lead to Searcy’s only touchdown.

“We’re not talented enough to overcome those kinds of things,” Whatley said. “So what you have to do is not do those things. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. I think if you take away the penalties, the miscued snaps and other mistakes, we win it.”
Playing mistake-free football will be of even more importance this week. Forrest City is better than Searcy, as evidenced by its 41-0 defeat of the Lions earlier this season.

One of the most urgent tasks facing Jacksonville this week is finding a way to stop the Mustangs’ stable of running backs. They have about five that can go, and three that are capable of scoring on any play.

“They look like an SEC track team in football pads,” Whatley said Monday. “They’ve got a stable of backs that can run the ball extremely well. They run well on defense, pressure you up front. They’re pretty big up the middle. We’re not sure how we’re going to attack them yet.”

Small things continue to hurt Jacksonville’s performances. Perimeter blocking suffered last week, as did carrying plays out by players that weren’t directly involved with on-the-ball action.

Those things had gotten better at mid-season, but have waned recently. It’s a habit that the Red Devils can’t afford to continue, but one Whatley believes his players can correct. They’ve done it before.

“We haven’t played well the last couple of weeks, but we do control our own destiny,” Whatley said. “I think the kids understand that. Last week should be a good eye opener for us. We’ve got to hustle at all 11 positions. Until we do that, we’ll be mediocre. When we understand that all 11 our there have a role to play on every snap, when we decide to do that, we’ll be a pretty good football team.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

OBITUARIES >> 10-17-07

Clarence Alderman

Clarence James “Jim” Alderman, 77, died Oct. 16.

He was born Dec. 15, 1929 in Henderson, Texas.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Judy Alderman.

Survivors include his daughters, Carolyn Hill and husband Roger, Christy Roark and husband Jeremy; six grandchildren, Ashley Hill, Gavin Colin, Katie, Grace and Lily Roark; five sisters-in-laws; three brothers-in-law and numerous nieces and nephews.

He served in the Armed Forces during the Korean War and was a member of the American Legion in Lonoke. He served his country with honor and pride. We will truly miss his love for life and stories of the past. He was truly one of a kind.

Graveside services will be at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 at Sunset Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.

Lyric Parker

Lyric Gail Parker, 13, of Jacksonville, formerly of Hope, left this world Oct. 10 in Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Texas to be with her Lord.

She was born on April 26, 1994 in Texarkana, Texas to Tracy Parker of Jacksonville and Kimberly Parker of Little Rock.

She attended Clinton Primary School in Hope, and Northwood Middle School in Jacksonville.

She was a member of Zion Hill Baptist Church.

She was preceded in death by her maternal grandmother, Brenda Gail Harvey of Prescott.

Survivors include her loving brother, Tristan Parker and paternal grandparents, Wilson and Pat Parker, all of Jacksonville; maternal grandparents, Glenn and wife Jessica Calhoun; two aunts, Angie Easterling and Cari Calhoun; uncle, Brock Searcy; four cousins, Whitney and Seth Easterling, Shyanne Calhoun and Trenton Searcy; two great cousins, Caydon and Harley Helmick, all of Hope.

The family wishes to express a special thanks to Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

Parker touched the hearts of many during her short stay on this earth.

Memorials may be made to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Cancer Department, P.O. Box 2222, Little Rock, Ark. 72203 or online at

A graveside service was held Oct. 16 at Sumner Cemetery. Services were by North Little Rock Funeral Home.

Juli Oller

Juli Ann Cook Oller, 70, of Little Rock died Oct. 9 in Little Rock.

She was born in Youngstown, Ohio on Sept. 19, 1937 and was preceded in death by her parents, Effie and Cedric Cook.
She is survived by her son, Troy and wife Kristi Oller of Tucson, Ariz. and one grandchild, Natalie Oller.

She was a registered dietician with the Veterans Administration.

She held a variety of positions in Miami, Fla., Little Rock, Fort Wayne, Ind., and Leavenworth, Kan., where she ended up retiring as Chief, Nutrition and Food Service worker.

She was a member of St. James United Methodist Church. She was also a member of the Arkansas Dietetic Association and a Fellow of the American Dietetic Association.

She enjoyed her retirement by spending time as a master gardener, traveling and exploring new interests.

A memorial celebration of life service was Oct. 15 at St. James United Methodist Church, Little Rock. Funeral arrangements were under direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Ruby Wilson

Ruby L.  “Reaves” Wilson, 69, of North Little Rock passed away Oct. 12.  She was born Jan. 2, 1938 to the late Robert and Lillie Mae Reaves.  

She was also preceded in death by nine brothers and sisters and a son-in-law, Ray Haney.

Ruby was an avid gardener and a member of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

Survivors include her loving spouse of 54 years, Carl; four daughters, Margaret Smith and husband Alan, Linda Haney, Glenda Costello and husband Greg, all from Cabot and Peggy Portell and husband Simon of Jacksonville; three sisters, Dorothy Milam, Rachel Procter and Jewel Kyzer; three brothers, Buddy Reaves, Alvin Reaves and Charlie Reaves, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were Oct. 15 in the chapel of Moore’s Funeral Home in Jacksonville with interment in Arkansas Memorial Gardens in North Little Rock.

Bobby Spears

Bobby Ray Spears, 67, of Beebe died Oct. 12.

He was born March 29, 1940, at Beebe to Rob and Katie Spears.

He was a retired supervisor for Franklin Electric and ICU. He was a Baptist.

He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Jack, Russell, Leon and Alvie Spears; and a sister, Thelma Spears Williams.
He is survived by four brothers, Jessie Spears, Fred Spears, Richard Odell Spears, all of Beebe; and Marvin Spears of Cabot; and two sisters, Mabel Bennett Ashcraft of Beebe and Sue Gifford of El Paso.

Funeral services were Oct. 14 at Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. Burial followed the funeral in Beebe Cemetery.

TOP STORY >>Cabot grad dies in Iraq after attack

Leader staff writer

A 1998 graduate of Cabot High School was killed Saturday while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Department of Defense announced.

Army First Lt. Thomas Martin, 27, a West Point graduate of San Antonio, died Sunday in Al Busayifi, Iraq, from wounds he suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small-arms fire during combat operations.

Martin was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division in Ft. Richardson, Alaska.

Pvt. Nathan Z. Thacker, an 18-year-old Army private from Greenbrier, also died over the weekend in a roadside bombing near Kirkuk, Iraq.

Thacker was the 54th Arkansan to die in Iraq, and Martin was the the 55th to die there.

Martin had lived in Cabot since elementary school. His mother, Candi, was a teacher for Cabot schools and his father, Ed, was often at the schools as a substitute teacher.

Cabot School District’s Robert Martin (no relation), director of career and technical education, was principal at Cabot High in 1998 and remembers him as having been active in school.

“Tom was involved in Key Club, German Club and band, making All-Region Band his sophomore year,” Martin said. “He was a wonderful young man. Those that knew him knew he was funny and outgoing.”

An Eagle Scout, he took on cleaning up the old red train caboose, which now sits by the railroad tracks behind city hall, as a service project.

“He remodeled it to make it where people could go inside. If you saw it before and looked in it after he was through – it was daylight and dark,” Martin said.

Not one to seek the spotlight, his actions always drew attention in a positive way, he said.

“If he had a strong conviction to do something, he did it and gave it his all,” he said.

“He was a great man and it’s a shame we don’t have him anymore,” Martin said, adding, “The good Lord has another angel up there with him.”

The family was also involved at Cabot United Methodist Church.

“Tom and his family were active members of the Cabot United Methodist Church since he was in elementary school. He was very involved in the youth group and in youth mission activities,” said Pat Hagge, a family friend and father of Jana Hagge, also a 1998 CHS graduate.

“He was very polite and respectful. I can’t think of him ever overreacting; he had a wonderful, good-natured personality,” Hagge said.

“It’s a terrible tragedy; he was a great young man,” Hagge said.

After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to Korea, Ray Vining, associate pastor at Cabot UMC, said. After returning from Korea he enrolled at West Point, graduating in 2005.

“He was a fine, Christian young man,” Vining said.

“He was always wearing a smile and was a good friend to everyone in the community.”

Martin’s family moved to Nebraska and later to Texas while he was at West Point.

His family now lives in San Antonio.

Thacker died Friday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle. Three other soldiers were also injured; one was seriously injured.

Thacker enlisted in the Army in April and arrived at Fort Drum, NY, where he served as an infantryman in the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, in August.

TOP STORY >>Water projects would help area

Leader staff writer

This area will get plenty of water from three lakes in the near future: Lake Maumelle, Greers Ferry Lake and Lake Winona in Saline County.

The cities and water associations in central Arkansas that share a 15 million-gallon-a-day water allocation from Greers Ferry Lake are considering banding together to build the long talked- about Lonoke White Water Project.

To build the project would require all the separate utilities coming together as a consolidated waterworks system.

In addition to the current members of the Lonoke-White Public Water Authority, which includes Cabot, Lonoke, Ward, Grand Prairie Water Association and Bayou Two Water Association, the membership would likely include Jacksonville, Conway Corporation, Conway County Regional Water Distribution District, Central Arkansas Water and Community Water System, which once controlled the project.

The Lonoke-White Project got its start about 15 years ago, when Community Water System, which operated around Greers Ferry Lake, decided to increase its customer base by supplying water to cities like Cabot and Beebe, which pulled out early but has since rejoined. Back then, grants were supposed to pay for part of the project while loans would pay for the balance. Community Water was to own the system, but the debt was to be repaid by revenue from the new customers who were to have been under exclusive contracts with Community Water.

When the grant money dried up and Cabot pulled out in favor of buying surface water from Central Arkansas Water, the project faltered.

Those who were left said the rates Community Water would have to charge to pay the debt were higher than they had contracted to pay.

Eventually Grand Prairie and Bayou Two sued Community Water for control of the project which they maintained belonged to its members, not Community Water. The case was settled this year with Lonoke-White members owning the right-of-way for a water line and a share of the intake site at Cove Creek.

Now, the project members must find investors and build the project within 11 years or ownership of the intake site reverts to Community Water. The cost of the project has been estimated at $60 million to $100 million depending upon the number of participants.

Grand Prairie Water Association, which sells Ward some of the water for its customers, is also working against another deadline.

That utility was granted an increase until 2027 in the amount of water pulled from its wells from 1.4 million gallons a day to 2.4 million gallons a day.

Terry House, Grand Prairie general manager, said Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, which has regulatory authority over ground water, is serious about preserving that resource. Cities and water associations have no choice about finding surface water, he said, and the more participants in the Lonoke—White Project, the less it will cost water customers.

“All of us are going to have to ante up some money,” House said. “And it’s cheaper now than it will be later.

“Right now no one is being excluded because we all need the water,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cabot, Jacksonville and North Pulaski Waterworks are working with Central Arkansas Water on a project that will cost $43 million to bring water from Lake Maumelle and Lake Winona to Gravel Ridge where it will be disbursed to their systems.

From Gravel Ridge, Cabot will then run lines capable of carrying 9 million gallons of that water a day to its system at a cost of $11.3 million more.

Although the connection to Central Arkansas Water is expected to suffice until 2050, a line from Greers Ferry Lake would be a backup for the line from Central Arkansas Water.

Cabot and Jacksonville have allocations of 1.5 million gallons a day each at Greers Ferry Lake compared to the .9 million gallons a day set aside for Lonoke, Ward, North Pulaski, Grand Prarie and Bayou Two. Conway Corp. and Conway County Regional Water Distribution District each received half of the remaining 7.5 million gallons-a-day allocation.

When the Lonoke—White Project will be built is not known. The members try to meet once a month to discuss the project and House said he is optimistic that some progress will be made within two years.

Ward Mayor Art Brooke, president of the group and host of the monthly meetings in Ward, said this week that he is more hopeful about the project than he has been in the past because of the cooperation he sees among various entities that need the water.

“The greater numbers we have the better off we are,” Brooke said. “We want everything to be affordable. If we did the project with just Lonoke—White members, we know the cost would be too high.”

TOP STORY >>Jacksonville wants firm to push city

Leader staff writer

Even though the money from the new prepared-food tax hasn’t made it into the city coffers yet, the Jacksonville Advertising and Promotion Commission still wants to make plans to bring in a public- relations firm.

The first check form the tax, which local businesses started collecting Oct. 1, should be in by the end of November. In the meantime, collection of the 2-cent motel tax, which funds the commission’s activities, is down. Through the first eight months of the year, hotel gross revenue has dropped close to $500,000.

“The sooner we promote the city the better off we’ll be,” said Alderman Marshall Smith, the commission’s chairman.
Smith said he would seek bids the first quarter of 2008.

Mayor Tommy Swaim, also a member of the commission, said the proposal to a marketing firm needed to be broad.

“We want them to tell us what they can do for us. They are the professionals and ought to be able to tell us what we need,” the mayor said.

He added that a firm could probably be hired before all the funds are in. “I doubt if they’ll need all the money at once,” he said. The 2-cent prepared-food tax, also known as the hamburger tax, is expected to bring in about $550,000 a year.

But the ordinance creating the tax requires 50 percent of the funds to go to the Parks and Recreation department. The commission also plans to help support the military museum.

“We are committed to helping them acquire a C-130 for display,” Smith said. Funding is also projected for the Patriotic Spectacular and the Wing Ding Festival.

The commission paid about $3,600 to rent an entertainment stage at the recent Wing Ding Festival.

“I was real surprised when I saw the stage that it had First Arkansas Bank and Trust plastered on it,” said commissioner John Hurley. “We paid for that stage with taxpayers’ money, not the bank. People want to see what they’re are getting for their tax money.”

He suggested the commission invest in banners that can be displayed at activities like the Wing Ding, the Patriotic Spectacular and other activities the commission helps and supports.

The commission expected to collect about $88,000 from the motel tax this year. Through August it has collected $50,278. In 2006, the commission collected $82,893 in taxes and about the same in 2005.

The commission turned down a request by Tommy Dupree to spend $5,000 for 100 copies of a coffee-table style book on the history of Little Rock Air Force Base. The city has several copies on hand which are give to visitors.

TOP STORY >>Cabot fears it might lack funds to pay ambulances

Leader staff writer

The recent announcement that Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services needs a $50,000 annual subsidy to keep providing ambulance service to Cabot residents has city leaders wondering how they will pay.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said Monday night during the regular city council meeting that MEMS has a membership fee that could pay the bill if enough residents would participate. If 1,000 families paid the annual $50 membership fee, the subsidy wouldn’t be necessary, he said.

He said Tuesday that as far as he’s concerned, the city must investigate every option, including starting a city-operated ambulance service using firefighters who already run backup for MEMS. Williams said such a venture would require more firefighters with additional training and more equipment, but it is an option that should not be immediately dismissed. In fact, when the city council voted early in 2005 to give MEMS a franchise to operate in Cabot, the plan was to have a city-operated ambulance service in place in three years. The MEMS board voted Sept. 25 to charge subsidies, beginning in January, in the areas where the service operates at a loss. In addition to Cabot, the MEMS board voted to charge Grant County $179,000, Sherwood $28,000, Lonoke $87,000 and Maumelle $63,000.

Jon Swanson, MEMS executive director, warned the Cabot City Council earlier this year that Medicare cutbacks were making it difficult to cover operation costs.

He told the council that to compensate, emergency medical technicians, not the more highly trained paramedics, would be used for non-emergency transports. Cabot Fire Chief Phil Robinson, a non-voting member of the MEMS board, said Monday night in answer to questions from Alderman Ed Long that he’s known about the decision of the board for almost a month.

But he declined to answer Long’s query about why council members had to learn about it from a newspaper article.

Williams said Tuesday that he had heard rumors about the subsidies but knew nothing official until Swanson came to see him last week. MEMS is not asking for a subsidy from Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, Pulaski County or Faulkner County, the areas where the service is not losing money.

MEMS is not the only ambulance service in central Arkansas. The city of Jacksonville operates its own service.

Allied Ambulance Service, owned and operated by former Cabot Fire Chief Gary Meadows and his wife and Linda, provides emergency service to the cities of Ward and Austin and four rural fire districts.

“Medicare cutbacks are real, but at this time we’re not looking at any cuts in service our changing our pay scale,” Gary Meadows said. Meadows compared the cuts to the increasing price of diesel to run his three ambulances. “It’s the cost of doing business,” he said.

Service in Beebe and Searcy is provided by North Star EMS, which serves all of White County and part of Cleburne County. Donald Schull, who owns that company, said his rates went up Saturday but he has never asked for subsidies. Schull said despite diesel prices that have doubled and ambulances prices that have gone up 30 to 40 percent, the increase is the first since he opened business seven years ago.

TOP STORY >>Dad fights predators who prey on teens

Leader staff writer

For many teenagers, MySpace pages are necessary for fitting in with their tech-savvy friends, but anything posted on social networking sites like Xanga and Facebook can be viewed by sexual predators, said Rick Woody, a Greenbrier police officer, who told an audience of parents and students at North Pulaski High School Monday night about how his 13-year-old daughter was psychologically entrapped and then murdered five years ago by a 47-year-old sexual predator she met on the Internet.

Woody asked the audience of nearly 50 people if they had MySpace, Xanga or Facebook Web pages. Almost all of the young people in the audience raised their hands. He asked one teenage girl what she posted on her MySpace page. She said her picture was posted along with where she goes to school. Woody asked her who she thought looked at her page.

“My friends and family mostly,” the girl said.

“Do your friends and family know what you look like?”

She nodded in agreement.

“Then why do you need your picture there?” he asked her. “These sites make it Christmastime for predators.”

“The Internet is a wonderful, powerful tool, but the way we use it to communicate now, we should use it to talk to people we personally know. You never know who’s on the other end of that computer,” Woody said.

Woody’s daughter Kacie was a seventh-grader at Greenbrier Middle School when she met a person in a Christian chat room from California who posed as a 17-year-old boy.

Kacie’s best friend, Jessica Tanner, now a student at Greenbrier High School, also spent hours a day chatting with him online.

The predator manipulated Kacie, whose mother died in a car accident six years before, by telling her his aunt had also died. They spoke online and over the phone for nearly a year, time that he used to gather information on where Kacie lived.

One December night in 2002, David Fuller sneaked into Kacie’s house while her father was working, put a chloroform-soaked towel over her mouth and abducted her. He raped her, shot her in the head and then killed himself. He had been to Greenbrier twice before to survey Kacie’s home in what Woody said was a “well thought- out” plan.

“Never blame your children,” Woody said. “The offender is always at fault.”

Woody recommends parents use a keystroke logger to record what their children do while online. He also suggests openly talking about sexual victimization with them.

Parents should never let their children have a computer in their bedrooms, he said. A predator will not speak to a child who is known to be in a common room of the house, he said. Children should never reveal their names, addresses, schools or Social Security numbers and should never send pictures of themselves to people they do not know personally.

Woody also recommended that parents check their children’s email accounts and know their passwords at all times. In one Connecticut sex crime case, police were unable to get an email password from America Online for eight hours. The 13-year-old victim was found floating face-up in a stream after being murdered by a 24-year-old man.

“All predators will abduct if they get information,” Woody said.

Girls ages 12 to 15 are most at risk since they cannot drive, are less independent and spend a lot of time at home, he said.

“Everything seemed normal at school. We had a great relationship,” Woody said of his daughter, describing their relationship before she was murdered. “I couldn’t ask for a better child.”

He said Kacie was fooled into thinking she had a friendship with a teenage boy.

“They got on the phone and cried together,” Woody said.

When the police questioned Tanner after Kacie’s murder, she said the boy in California could never have been involved.

Tracey Winters, president of the Parent Teacher Student Association at NPHS, said she won’t let her teenage daughter have a MySpace or other social networking site page as her daughter rolled her eyes and shot her mother a disgruntled look. Winters said she checks her daughter’s email, too.

“I want parents and kids to be educated. A lot of people don’t know what’s out there,” Winters said about why she asked Woody to speak at the school.

NPHS has a Kacie Woody Internet Predator Awareness Team, which helped bring Kacie’s father to the school.

Sex predators prowling the Internet may be more common than assumed. Tanner said 25 percent of tenth-graders said they are willing to meet someone in person who they met online and 15 percent of eighth-graders said they had met an online friend in person.

School board member Danny Gilliland’s now 20-year-old daughter was 12 when a man emailed her asking for photographs of herself. Gilliland, who was at the meeting, said he knew about it only because he checked his daughter’s email account.
“Predators look for kids with more technology smarts than their parents,” Woody said.

Signs your child might be at risk of becoming an online predator’s victim include the child spending large amounts of time online; finding pornography on the child’s computer; if unknown adults call the child at home and the child turns off the computer or clicks a window off when a parent comes into the room. Parents and children can report predatorial behavior at, run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“Kacie was a little angel, and she loved to help other people,” Woody said. Her father now helps other people in his beloved daughter’s memory.

EDITORIALS>>Giving away natural gas

Editorial writer Ernie Dumas.

Sand and gravel miners pay three times the taxes that producers are charged.

Here is a stunning measure of the power of the gas industry in Arkansas over much of the last century: The men who mine sand and gravel pay three times the taxes to the state that the energy exploration and production companies pay for the gas they sever from the earth. And Arkansas is one of the leading gas states.

The state collected $1.8 million in severance taxes last year from sand and gravel haulers but a paltry $619,000 from the gas companies. The sand and gravel people never carried much clout but the gas industry did, primarily in the personage of Witt and Jack Stephens, the late financiers. “Mr. Witt,” as he was affectionately known, made it a point of personal privilege that the state would not levy a real tax on one of his activities.

He agreed in 1957 to let Gov. Orval E. Faubus and the legislature raise the tax from two-tenths of a penny per thousand cubic feet of gas to three-tenths of a penny. Faubus was raising the sales tax, which is levied on the little people, and he wanted to say that he was also raising a tax on the privileged. The little tax did not produce enough revenue to make as difference, but it was the principle of the thing.

Gov. Bill Clinton proposed to do the same thing in 1983 when he was raising the sales tax for education, but Mr. Witt drew the line. Three-tenths of a penny was all he was willing to pay for the gas that Stephens Production Co. and the other family gas interests were exporting from the Arkoma Basin. The severance tax bill died in the Senate.

Now Gov. Beebe, who voted for the bill back then as a state senator, wants to try again — sometime, maybe in 2009 or 2010. He would use the taxes for highways and bridges since motor-fuel taxes are approaching diminishing returns. Sen. Mary Anne Salmon, D-North Little Rock, is trying to develop a consensus bill for the governor, but there will not be one. Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow, the servant of every monied interest in the state, says there will be no severance tax increase — he runs the controlling bloc in the Senate — because it would discourage the big energy companies from exploring for gas in the Fayetteville shale.

It is a laughable argument. The exploration companies will drill where the gas is, and it is in Arkansas. Any tax that the legislature might levy would not affect the market enough to deter one company a single day.

The Department of Finance and Administration supplied legislators the figures on what Arkansas might reap from a severance tax equal to that of any of the gas-producing states of the region, all of which levy a tax that is based on the wellhead value of the gas.

If Arkansas levied a tax like Texas’, it would collect $99.3 million a year instead of $619,000. At Oklahoma’s rate it would be $92 million, at Mississippi’s $79 million, at Tennessee’s $39 million, at Louisiana’s $11.3 million. A revenue official emphasized that the figures were very conservative.

Those sums would climb rapidly with the development of the Fayetteville formation. Most of the gas is exported to other states, so to the extent the exploration companies pass the tax on to consumers it would be paid by industries in other states to help build our roads. We in Arkansas are paying heavily now to support schools and other services in Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana through their severance taxes on the gas and coal that fuel our electricity generators.

But the comparison is not fair, a few northwest Arkansas lawmakers complained, because Texas does not levy income taxes on the gas companies there. Oh, but it does. It’s called a corporate franchise tax and it is based on a company’s federally reported net income and capital.

It produces $2 billion a year in state revenues (nine out of 10 Texas companies have developed loopholes to escape filing) and it will produce far more than that in the future because the legislature and the state’s conservative governor overhauled the tax effective next year to produce several times the revenue to support school reform and offset a reduction in property taxes. It is being called the biggest tax increase in Texas history.

Texas politicians, as you know, are famous for catering to corporate interests, particularly energy companies. They can’t hold a candle to Arkansas.

TOP STORY >>PCSSD looks to court release

Leader senior staff writer

Intervention by the U.S. Justice Department could impede Pulaski County Special School District’s gaining unitary school status and release from court oversight in time to qualify for its share of the $250,000 carrot dangled by state legislators last session.

That’s what Andree Roaf, recently appointed director of the Office of Desegregation Monitoring, told Jacksonville Rotarians Monday.

The money would be used to help offset legal fees for PCSSD and North Little Rock in satisfying the court that they had essentially desegregated and should be released from court oversight.

Roaf, a retired state Supreme Court and state appeals court judge, said U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson found the Little Rock School District unitary—in compliance—in February and released it from further oversight, although the Joshua Interveners are challenging that status in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis.

North Little Rock filed for unitary status in September.

State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, author of the legislation, said Tuesday he believed that North Little Rock District was unitary and would be ruled so and that PCSSD was unitary in several areas.

Wilson has ruled that PCSSD’s release from court oversight is a prerequisite to a stand-alone Jacksonville school district.
The goal of the desegregation agreements was to create school districts with racially balanced enrollment at each school and with equal opportunity as evidenced by diverse representation among teachers, employees, sports teams, discipline and academic achievement.

A provision in the desegregation contract between PCSSD and the Joshua Interveners—parents of the original black students who sued the school districts in 1982—allows the interveners to raise compliance issues and if they deem the district’s response unsatisfactory, they can ask the Justice Department to intervene to reach an agreement. Thus, the Justice Department became involved in 2005, and Roaf said there was no telling when the department would rule.

For that reason, PCSSD attorney Sam Jones has applied for unitary status only in student assignments and other limited areas, Roaf said. She said she suspected that the Justice Department decision, even if favorable to the district, would not be made before the June 14, 2008 deadline set by the state General Assembly last session.

“The June timetable is not a realistic goal for the case to be over,” she said.

Bond said he didn’t believe a decision from the Justice Department was necessary for the districts to apply for unitary status by Oct. 31 and for Judge Wilson to rule before June 14. Over the years, the North Little Rock District has been released from oversight in several areas, she said, and in September it ruled for full unitary status.

It would seem nearly impossible for the state’s first black female judge at the highest level to be upstaged by a family member, but Roaf’s son, Wille Roaf, is an 11-time all-pro offensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Roaf said that what is generally considered a single-desegregation agreement is really a series of contracts dating back to 1992 between the three school districts and also with the state Education Department. The PCSSD agreement is known as Plan 2000.

Roaf said she believes the $44 million a year of state money split annually among the three school districts had served as a disincentive for achieving unitary status. Roaf said much of the money was used for transporting students—busing—but that the districts had come over the years to expect that money in their budgets.

Bond’s legislation would allow the districts to continue getting the state money for as long as seven years even if all districts are ruled unitary. The districts also are concerned that without the money, they will backslide into more segregated circumstances, Roaf said.

“We all have to work out what it will be like for the district (without the additional funding) and more importantly, for the children.”

Bond said he agreed. “The real issue is resegregation, which is clearly what’s happening,” he said, noting both Little Rock and North Little Rock schools are predominantly black and that PCSSD is trending that way.

Jacksonville’s population is 64 percent white, but the enrollment at Jacksonville Boys Middle School is 64 percent black, he said, noting that it wasn’t difficult for those moving to the Jacksonville area, such as Little Rock Air Force Base personnel, to move an additional seven miles to Cabot, where the schools are predominantly white.

Currently, Little Rock has about 26,000 students, North Little Rock about 9,000 and PCSSD about 18,000. “Pulaski County is the only one to go down,” she said.

It has 18,000 students but capacity for 28,000. Roaf said no one speaks for Wilson, but that she suspects that her appointment as desegregation monitor was an implicit statement that he would like to put the ongoing saga to rest. “The Office of Desegregation Monitoring is committed to do everything we can to assist both (remaining) districts,” she said.

Eighty percent of black students at some schools have been disciplined or expelled, said Roaf.

Jacksonville High School Principal Kenneth Clark said his school has poor test results because its best students have moved to Mills University School.

“Jacksonville is like a special education magnet,” he said. “We’ve got about 250 special ed students.” With student scores counted under the No Child Left Behind law, that hurts the school’s scores. “PCSSD has some of the best special education in the state,” said Margie Powell, a desegregation monitor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

EDITORIALS>>Huckabee still standing

Mike Huckabee would not have been our first nominee to be engineer of the Straight Talk Express, but among the Republican presidential candidates that is what he unmistakably is.

Except for the dour libertarian, Ron Paul, Huckabee alone among the nine gray eminences dares to challenge party orthodoxy.

Whether it is conviction or a calculated attempt to bring some attention to his laggard campaign we cannot say, but at the moment we are sort of proud of the second boy from Hope.

Back in 2000 it was Sen. John McCain who separated himself from the field by insisting on a cold dose of reality when the rest of the field never strayed from the party hymnal.

His Straight Talk Express was derailed in South Carolina when the Bush campaign spread rumors about him, including a tale that he had fathered a child by a black woman. McCain never recovered.

Now McCain is a caricature of the party automaton, the most unstinting supporter of war in Iraq or any other country that President Bush and Dick Cheney care to invade. Except for some mistakes in conducting the war — not nearly enough troops, in his mind — the Bush administration has been flawless at home and abroad.

Mike Huckabee has been a reliable cheerleader for the administration, too, and like each of the others he claims to be the only unswerving champion of conservatism in the field.

As we have had occasion to observe, that is not exactly his record as governor of Arkansas. He shepherded greater tax hikes into law than any governor in Arkansas history — all for worthy causes, we think — and expanded government services for the poor. If it is a proud record, it is not one that is commonly associated with Republicans, at least not since the Rockefeller wing of the party went to its grave.

From time to time, most often in New Hampshire, Huckabee has betrayed some of the progressive compassion that marked the old liberal camp of the Republican Party, a faint touch of Eisenhower, Javits and Chafee. At the end of September there he was in Washington making a speech condemning the Bush administration’s “bunker mentality” at home and abroad.

He said Bush and Cheney had enraged allies and turned world sentiment against the United States. He was particularly critical of the administration’s relations with Iran, which had assisted the United States in Afghanistan after Sept. 11 and wanted better relations.

Instead, the former governor said, Bush then made Iran a part of his Axis of Evil “and everything went downhill from there.” He questioned whether Bush was actually in charge of his own foreign policy, noting that the defense secretary, not Bush, made the decision to call off an attack on al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan two years ago.

There the governor was Tuesday night straying from the script in the latest Republican debate, chastising the party for a shortage of compassion for the poor and American workers who have not imbibed the heady elixir that the party’s billionaire backers have enjoyed the past three or four years.

All the others were boasting about the fantastic economy — the best story untold as Fred Thompson described it.

Huckabee has been climbing glacially in the polls and doing quite well in Iowa, but it is impossible to tell whether the governor’s better measure of candor or his humor and affability account for it. Anyway, he pays some price for it, too.

The Club for Growth, a rich man’s Republican club, has been attacking him as a liberal Democrat. Then this week Ann Coulter, the conservative Harpie, lambasted him for his compassion for immigrants and workers and his occasional dalliance with Bill Clinton.

“I just realized why Mike Huckabee can’t run for president as a Democrat — they’ve already got Mike Gravel,” she jeered. Gravel is the iconoclastic lefty from Nebraska who brings up the rear in the Democratic field.

In a saner world, a candidate for president from either party would celebrate an attack from the Club for Growth and Ann Coulter as a measure that he was on the right course. Our man may know his party better than we do. We hope so.