Friday, February 12, 2010

TOP STORY >> Candidate dips toes in Cabot’s political water

Leader staff writer

A black woman who is a Republican candidate for Congress in the First District was making rounds this week and stopped off in Cabot to see if the political atmosphere there favored her campaign.

Although she didn’t get an endorsement from Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, and she doesn’t plan to announce her candidacy until Feb. 20, Princella Smith said the polls say a Republican can win this race and she will be the one who does it.

Smith, 26, is a native of Wynne, where her mother works as the vice principal at the high school and her father is a minister. A graduate of Ouachita Baptist University with a degree in political science, Smith has spent most of her time in Washington since graduating.

She has worked for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s think tank, American Solutions for Winning the Future, becoming the voice that repeated his slogan promoting drilling for oil in Alaska, “Drill here, drill now, pay less.”

That job gave her national media attention with regular appearances on major networks including Fox News and CNN, where she debated energy experts and Democratic strategists years her senior.

In 2009, Smith went to work as communications director for freshman Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (pronounced Gow) of Louisiana.

But she resigned after Rep. Marion Berry (D-Gillett) announced last month that he will not seek re-election. She decided to explore the possibility of running for the seat.

Smith said her campaign will focus on jobs, education, healthcare and national security.

“Arkansas’ unemployment rate is 7.6 percent,” she said. “We’ve got to find new ways to bring jobs to the state.”

Smith said there is no excuse for the disparity in the quality of education among school districts in the state. Cabot and Wynne have good school districts, she said, but not all can make the same claim.

“We need an intense examination of our education system,” she said. “There are some schools that are run quite efficiently.

Take Wynne; that’s one of those, but 20 minutes down the road, you have problems.”

Smith said Arkansas schools need better mentoring programs for administrators, more teacher accountability and better technology.

Money is not the problem, she said, because America spends more on education than any other country. What the system needs is forward-looking administrators and authority figures.

Heath care? What is needed is a comprehensive program that will take care of all those who need help, Smith said: the elderly, veterans, single parents and families.

National security? Smith said Arkansas has deployed thousands of troops to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and she wants to ensure that they are given all the resources needed to do their jobs and protect the country.

Smith said Washington has lost touch with average Americans and no longer understands how they live.

Although the First District hasn’t elected a Republican since the late 1800s, Smith said she believes this election will be more about solutions than political parties.

And although her youth could work against her, Smith said it won’t stop her.

“I fully plan on winning if I jump in,” she said.

TOP STORY >> As snow melts, kids returning to school

Leader staff writer

Most students will not have Monday off as school calendars originally told them, thanks to the snow.

Cabot, Beebe, Searcy, Lonoke and Pulaski County Special School District students will be in session on what was originally a holiday for the students.

Besides making up snow days, Searcy is also dealing with the loss of a $1.25 million gym building that collapsed under the weight of the snow that fell on its high school campus.

“We are making the necessary adjustments with our PE class and basketball practices,” said Earl Watson, assistant superintendent. “It’s going very smoothly.”

Searcy students, who missed five days because of the snow, will have to go to class on Monday and the school year has been extended by four days, taking them from a last day of school on May 24 to finishing the year on May 28.

Beebe students, who have lost six days because of the snow, were supposed to be off Friday for parent-teacher conferences, but were called into class and will go Monday as well as on Good Friday, April 30. The school has also been extended from May 27 to June 2.

Beebe assistant superintendent Scott Embrey said attendance was normal on Friday. “The board made the decisions Wednesday night and we have an automated system to contact all the students,” he explained.

PCSSD has lost six days because of the snow and ice. At this point, Monday, which was originally listed as a staff-development day for teachers, with students off, will now be a regular school day.

The remaining snow days will be tacked on to the end of the school year, moving the last day from June 2 to June 8.

Cabot, which has to make up five days, will have students in on Monday. Students were out four days (Monday-Thursday) because of the snow and were scheduled to be out Friday for a staff development day. The district honored that day off, but took back Monday, which had been listed as a scheduled holiday.

Lonoke School District students missed school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, returning to school Thursday and Friday and anticipate going to school Monday, according to Superintendent John Tackett.

He said Lonoke workers cleared the school parking lots of snow and ice with equipment Thursday. The district buildings suffered no damage.

“This is the first time in the 15 years I’ve been here we even had to consider closing school for a real snow,” Tackett said. He said the snow days are tacked on to the end of the school calendar, but that some other options were being considered.

The make-up days are because the worst snowstorm to hit the area in 22 years closed most area schools for most of the past week. Many districts also lost a day or two of instruction in January.

The weather service is also calling for a chance of snow Sunday evening, although warmer temperatures should keep the snow and related problems to a minimum.

So much snow fell that the weight of it collapsed part of the overhang at the Citgo on Warden Road, off Hwy. 67/167 and destroyed the Smokey’s Pub sign and canopy about a mile further south down the road.

In Cabot, police kept watch Monday night at Whit Davis Lumber Plus after part of the roof collapsed from heavy snow build-up.

There were no injuries.

(John Hofheimer contributed to this report.)

TOP STORY >> PCSSD ready for decision

Leader senior staff writer

Buses ran and school was back in session Friday for the first time in almost a week at Pulaski County Special School District, which will also have classes Monday.

As Presidents Day, Monday would have been a day off for students and a workshop or meeting day for teachers, but now the district needs to hold school because students have been out of school because of the bad weather.

Snow and ice have played havoc with schooling and administrating at PCSSD and all area districts this week.

Not only have students missed four days of school—days that must be made up—but the weather forced cancellation of the regularly scheduled school board meeting Tuesday and also further interviews of the four finalists in line to become the next PCSSD superintendent.

Right now, the board is tentatively set to discuss on Monday the four candidates, all of whom visited the district during the first week of February, and the regular board meeting is tentatively set for Wednesday, according to Deborah Roush, district spokesman. Roush said the board is not expected to make a decision by the Monday meeting and that so far, hiring or offering the job is not on the agenda for the rescheduled regular meeting Wednesday.

The board chose to interview and consider four finalists from a short list prepared by the executive search firm McPherson and Jacobson.

Three of the four finalists are also finalists in superintendent searches in other states, according to published reports. Rob McGill, PCSSD’s interim superintendent, who is the fourth finalist, is not a candidate elsewhere.

Tom Jacobson, a search-firm founder, has said PCSSD needs to act quickly, but board members want to consider the evaluations of groups of principals and teachers before making a choice, Roush said. Roush said the board seems intent upon making a good, well-informed choice.

“The board has been trying to meet and trying to meet,” Roush said, but the weather has interfered with efforts to get board members together.

“This is our sixth day,” Roush said. “The last day of school would have been June 1. Now students have to make up five more days. Otherwise the last day of school will be June 8.”

Roush said teachers and members of the support staff unions had agreed to make Monday a school day, and all were considering holding classes on Good Friday and also on another teacher work day.

“We need as many classroom days as possible before the April benchmark tests,” she said.

In addition to McGill, the finalists for the job are Vashti K. Washington, who is associate superintendent of the Charleston County South Carolina School District, Charles L. Hopson and Roy “Cole” Pugh.

Hopson, an Arkansas native who taught at Northwood Middle School, is deputy superintendent for district-wide programs in Portland, Ore.

Pugh is superintendent of Eagle Mountain—Saginaw School District in Texas.

TOP STORY >> Campbell returned to prison

Leader senior staff writer

Former Lonoke Police Chief Ronald Jay Campbell, dressed in warmups and with a Bible in hand, reported to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office at 9:40 Friday morning, and he was transported directly to the state Correction Department’s Diagnostic Unit at Pine Bluff.

From there, he’s likely to finish his sentence in an out-of-state facility. He had been in a Missouri prison.

Campbell pleaded guilty Feb. 6 to four felonies before Lonoke County Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. With credit for time served, Campbell will first be eligible for parole Sept. 4, 2010, according to Correction Department spokesman Dina Tyler.

Campbell was convicted of more than 20 counts in April 2007 and sentenced to 40 years in prison, but on Nov. 5, the state Supreme Court overturned Campbell’s 2007 convictions on 23 charges, including running a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and a bevy of burglary and drug-related charges.

The court remanded the case back to Lonoke County Circuit Court.

Interim Prosecutor Will Feland and Special Prosecutor Jack McQuarry drew up a 17-charge bill of particulars.

But following a plea negotiation, Campbell pled guilty to two counts of burglary, one count of theft of property and one count of obtaining drugs by fraud.

His wife, Kelly Harrison Campbell, is serving 10 years in prison and will be eligible for parole this year also.

He will not be allowed to own a firearm or get a job in law enforcement, Feland said.

The victims wanted closure, Feland said.

Campbell’s attorney, Patrick Benca, characterized former Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain’s efforts to convict Campbell as kingpin of an ongoing criminal enterprise as “overreaching.”

EDITORIAL >> Blizzard of 2010 is now history

The worst of the blizzard of 2010 appears to be over. The kids are back in school and the streets are clear. Some cities did better than others making the roads navigable: While the smaller towns around here, like elsewhere, lacked the equipment to get snow off the roads, or even throw salt on them, we commend those local street department that went the extra mile and made our roads safe.

Jacksonville and Cabot crews threw sand down major thoroughfares, and thanks to modern technology, the sand has chemicals that melt the snow, helping most of us get to work and avoid fender benders. Jacksonville crews also used road graders to remove the snow, making travel that much easier.

Jim Durham, Jacksonville’s city administrator, praised road crews, who worked 12-hour shifts for several days this week, just like crews in big cities, where snow removal often determines the future of mayors. If they’re slow to respond in a blizzard, they lose.

We’ve never seen roads cleared this fast in Jacksonville. Thanks to all the hard-working city employees who braved the elements and made life easier for the rest of us.

EDITORIAL >> Lottery takes from the poor

The Pine Bluff Commercial polled 12 merchants in the town last week about their sales the past few months and reached a startling conclusion. Just like you were taught in elementary arithmetic, if you have a fixed amount of money and you spend part of it on a new commodity, you will have less to spend on other things.

That would not be news had not lottery promoters prescribed a new corollary: Simple mathematical principles do not apply where lotteries are involved. Lotteries are good for everybody.

The newspaper asked the merchants, nine of whom sold lottery tickets, if the lottery had affected their business — their non-lottery business in the cases of those who had a franchise to sell tickets. They all said it had. The sale of non-lottery goods and services went down when the lottery started in September. Business slumped even for laundries and dry cleaners.

It is a feature of lotteries everywhere that while a large cross-section of people play the lottery, those who play with great regularity and in volume are the poor and minorities, two cohorts of people who tend to be the same. They don’t have any discretionary income so if they spend $20 on lottery tickets one week that is $20 they will not be spending on food, clothing, medicine and the non-essentials of the good life. And the state and local governments will not be collecting sales taxes on the transactions.

Last month, Gov. Beebe wondered how much the lottery had affected state tax collections. Owing to declining tax collections, the state had made the second big cut in budgeting for state services and aid to local governments in this fiscal year. Ernie Passailaigue, the lottery director, repeated the mantra from the lottery campaign in 2008. The lottery would not be a drag but an economic boon for the state and local communities. You see, people with a gambling zeal would not be going to nearby states to buy lottery tickets, people would be winning big prizes and paying income taxes on them and the lottery itself would employ lots of people with hefty salaries. The last prediction turned out to be true.

Jefferson County and its merchants tell the true story. While many people, including the rich and well educated, buy lottery tickets from time to time, the poor and the desperate pursue the get-rich dream relentlessly. Jefferson County is the poorest of all the populated counties in Arkansas. It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. More than a fourth of its residents live in poverty, and 55 percent of the residents are African American or Latino. Nine Arkansas counties have greater populations than Jefferson County but only one — Pulaski County, which has five times the population — rakes in more money for the lottery. Lottery sales in Jefferson County totaled nearly $7 million in the last quarter of 2009. The loss of $7 million of wealth from a poor county every three months cannot be a healthy development, but it is if you listen to the lottery officials.

Passailaigue said poor people just ought not to be buying lottery tickets unless they want to do it only for the fun. But he is scrambling to offer even more varieties of lottery games to lure them in. There will be games for the fellow with only pennies in his pocket.

This week, Passailaigue said he would like for the state lottery office to be declared a law-enforcement agency so that it could set up its own round-the-clock police force. They handle millions of dollars, you see. The state Revenue Division handles about $6 billion a year but does not require its own gendarmes.

The legislative lottery-oversight committee quickly ratified the idea and they tried to push the law through the fiscal session of the legislature. Fortunately, the governor and a few leaders said let’s think about this a while and the idea was put off until the regular session next January. The lottery hasn’t flexed its muscles yet.

Government and gambling form a dangerous liaison. The day will soon come when whatever the lottery wants it gets, whether it is its own police force or looser restrictions on promotions when lottery revenues start to lag.

SPORTS >> Searcy gym gives in to weather, collapses

Leader sports editor

The Searcy school district hopes to begin rebuilding its fallen annex gym on Monday at the earliest, superintendent Tony Wood said.

The gym, which houses a basketball court, weight room, dressing rooms and equipment for several sports, collapsed Tuesday under the weight of snow from heavy winter storms in the area.

The structure was estimated at $1.25 million, which doesn’t include equipment and uniforms stored inside. Wood was hoping to have all insurance issues settled by Friday so crews could begin demolition and removal of debris early next week.

“We’re going to go right on and build it back on that footprint,” Wood said. “The slab is not hurt in any way.”

Wood said he hoped the gym could be replaced by the start of school in August.

“That’s a reasonable time frame for the facility,” Wood said. “There’s a lot we can do pretty quick.”

The annex gym was a multi-purpose building used for physical education classes, wrestling, the girls’ basketball weight room and equipment storage for football, soccer, track and wrestling.

“We’ve retrieved very little out of it and the building is a total loss,” athletic director James Frank said.

The school also has policies covering replacement and content, and Frank said he had asked all coaches to submit inventories of equipment and uniforms lost.

Frank said the loss of the annex would not affect the remainder of Searcy’s high school basketball schedule. The Lions and Lady Lions play three of their final four games at home, and will split practice time in the junior high and senior high gyms.

“We’re just so fortunate to have another building,” Wood said.

Frank said the high school has another building, with weights and a dressing room, which the baseball team uses for indoor workouts that the wrestlers can also use.

The collapse of the annex was the latest in a series of facilities and equipment problems affecting the Searcy district, and athletics, this school year.

Frank said district buses had 22 flat tires on the first day of school, then light standards at the football stadium were found to be unsound, forcing Searcy to play some of its home football games at nearby Bald Knob.

“We had floods. We had snow days and a gym cave in so it’s been an interesting year,” Frank said.

SPORTS >> Owls tune up for tourney

Leader sportswriter

Time will tell if the recent winter weather has done anything to cool off the Abundant Life Owls, who have swept the 5-2A North Conference for the second straight season.

The Owls (28-4, 12-0) have also claimed the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye for next week’s district tournament at White County Central for the second year in a row, but Abundant Life coach Tim Ballard wants to take additional measures in the week before postseason play.

Snow forced the Owls to cancel practice Monday and Tuesday, but it’s not the weather that concerns Ballard as much as the basics.

“It’s one of those deals where I always think that everyone else is in the same boat,” Ballard said. “We are trying to have a lot more practice time leading up to the tournaments than we have in years past. We’re not sloppy, but could be a little more focused.”

The Owls had a non-conference make up game with Hector tentatively scheduled for Friday.

“We also want to watch videotapes and see what fundamentals we can work on,” Ballard said. “We have the No. 1 seed pretty much sewn up, so all of the games we have left we will pretty much look at as practices — practice games. We don’t have to play any more really meaningful games until district starts.”

Abundant Life has a balanced lineup featuring the scrappy guard trio of Mike Stramiello, Cameron Slayton and George Herring.

But senior post player Garrett Southerland has anchored the Owls as the leading scorer and rebounder. Southerland is not just an inside scoring threat, he is also one of the Owls’ best outside shooters.

Abundant Life made a perfect run through the 5-2A North last year, but began to struggle once it reached the regional tournaments. The Owls did not make the regional finals, which gave them a lower seed to begin the state tournament and eventually led to a semifinal matchup with tournament hosts Melbourne.

The Bearkatz eliminated the Owls before falling to Conway St. Joseph in the championship game. Abundant Life beat Conway St. Joseph on three separate occasions last year.

While Ballard is the first to admit facing Melbourne at home in the state tournament is a tough draw for anyone, he said his Owls could also have been more prepared.

“It was an oversight on my part,” Ballard said. “Too many times, if you’re winning, like we beat St. Joe three times, it feels good, and you start thinking you’re better than what you actually are. You’re not focusing.”

SPORTS >> Warm up the bandwagon for Winter Olympics

Leader sports editor

I was feeling sort of unpatriotic because I wasn’t excited about the Winter Olympics, which held their opening ceremonies in Vancouver, Canada, on Friday.

Then I saw the Sports Illustrated swimsuit photos of American downhill skier Lindsey Vonn.

Now it’s USA! USA!

But in most cases with the Olympics, winter and summer, I take a wait-and-see attitude, as I’m sure many Americans do.

A couple years ago I raced the length of the press box at Dickey-Stephens Park after an Arkansas Travelers game to catch Michael Phelps’ latest Olympic swimming feat on TV in the video booth.

Of course, by then Phelps was gunning for his eleventy-twelfth medal and had already had to win a ton of hardware for me to sit up and take notice.

From the Winter Games, my favorite moments include, let’s see, The Miracle On Ice, Apollo Ono and Dan Jansen. Yup, all winners. Check.

My detached view, I think, speaks to a deeper truth — when it comes to the Olympics, we’re mostly a nation of bandwagon jumpers.

We’ll support our Cubs and Cowboys, our Hogs and Cardinals, but when the Olympics roll around we need a crash course on who is even on the team, unless of course it’s the all-star basketball Dream Team, which rolled through the 1992 Summer

Games like Patton through France.

In winter of 1988, while defending America’s freedom from my U.S. Air Force desk in England, I could have gotten behind the long shot Jamaican bobsled team, if I’d cared about a great underdog story that is.

But I didn’t, and the hearty Jamaicans, without my support, flipped over and used their helmeted heads as friction brakes on the icy downhill run.

I laughed when one of the Red Cross guys rushing to the rescue slipped and fell on his coccyx — I was much younger then — and I got a kick out of the sheepish “we tried” looks on the Jamaicans’ faces as they trudged, unhurt, away from the scene of their crash.

But no, I missed the boat on the Jamaicans — who at least had a movie made about them — and was trying hard to root for whatever American medal winners we had that year.

A quick Google search reminded me who all six of them were: figure skater Brian Boitano (gold) and speed skater Bonnie Blair (gold in the 500 meters); household name Eric Flaim (silver in speed skating); figure skater DebbieThomas (bronze); pairs figure skaters Peter Oppegard and Jill Wilson (bronze) and Blair again (bronze in the 100 meters).


At least the U.S. had some spiffy suits for the opening ceremonies this year huh? How about out those Ralph Lauren-designed getups featuring down puffer jackets, chunky cable-knit turtleneck sweaters, fleece pants, and rugged, alpine boots?

Let’s face it; in the past the U.S. athletes have worn monstrosities only Napoleon Dynamite would love.

In his book “You Gotta Play Hurt” the great sports humorist Dan Jenkins described the Russians in their fur jackets and Cossack hats, the French in their chic berets and tan uniforms and the British in their sharp blazers and golf caps. “And then here would come the Americans,” Jenkins wrote, “in their white cowboy hats and astronaut suits.”


If I have a favorite Winter Olympics sport it’s probably hockey, which satisfies my preference for violence and team play in which a final score and not some judge decides the issue. Though you have to give Tonya Harding and her gang credit for trying to make skating a contact sport when they roughed up Nancy Kerrigan in 1994.

My little sister was a cheerleader/gymnast who was always doing cartwheels and walkovers unexpectedly around the house — you had to be on your toes with her — and ever since she gave me a surprise kick in the choppers I’ve distrusted the sports with judges, like ice skating.

After all, there’s a reason why getting shafted by the Russian judge has become a sports cliché.

In the Winter Games at Salt Lake in 2002, household name Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov allegedly masterminded a bribe scheme in which the French judge awarded lower marks to the Canadian pairs team, allowing the Russians to win.

There was also alleged bribery that led to a Russian judge awarding high marks to the French ice dancing team, which featured a Russian native and a close friend to Tokhtakhounov.

The whole scandal led to the abandonment of the traditional 6.0 scoring system.

So if I watch the Olympics at all, I guess my interest will be limited to hockey again this year, unless Vonn skis in her swimsuit.


SPORTS >> Jackrabbits check Price, beat Clinton

Lonoke’s T.J. Scott battles for a rebound in Lonoke’s victory over Clinton on Wednesday night. The Jackrabbits fought back from a 30-17 deficit to remain in fourth place in the 2-4A Conference with an outside shot at moving into third.


Leader sportswriter

It took Lonoke most of the second half to catch up and undo the early damage caused by dynamic Clinton sophomore guard John Price in Lonoke’s 65-63 home victory Wednesday.

Price, a speedy 5-10 clutch shooter and ball-handling wizard for the Yellowjackets, scored 13 of his 23 points in the first quarter as Clinton built a 30-17 lead in the first half.

But Lonoke’s improved defense held the standout underclassman to six points in the second half, and the Jackrabbits eventually overtook their guests for the victory.

The Jackrabbits (11-9, 7-6 2-4A Conference) tied the game for the first time with 1:31 left in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by junior Darius Scott, and claimed their first lead when Tarrale Watson scored on a putback with 55 seconds left in the period to make it 44-42.

“I guess with the break, and not being on a true schedule, it kind of got us screwed up,” Lonoke coach Dean Campbell said of bad weather that forced Wednesday’s makeup game. “It’s tough to not get up, get around and have the routine. We showed that the first two quarters.

In the third quarter, we came out with the energy that we talked about at the beginning, but we didn’t bring it in the first two quarters.”

The Jackrabbits will most likely finish fourth in the 2-4A but are still mathematically alive for third depending on the outcome of Friday’s regularly scheduled league finales.

The lead changed hands another six times once the Jackrabbits caught up late in the third quarter.

Lonoke finally began to take control for good thanks to a technical foul and personal foul on Clinton reserve Gerald Norton after a battle for a loose ball with 2:46 remaining. Storm Beeler made three of his four free throws to improve the Jackrabbits’ lead to 60-54.

“We had guys coming off the bench and contributing, which you need that,” Campbell said. “Those guys kind of kept us in it.

We got into the third quarter and got some turnovers, and got some easy baskets and got into a flow.”

Clinton, (7-14, 4-7) got off to a fast start with the help of Price, who made a pair of first-quarter three-pointers. He got the last word of the half for the Yellowjackets with a fading, buzzer-beating jumper from just inside the three-point line to make it 36-26 at halftime

But Price’s two free throws with 7:37 left in the third quarter were his final points until two more free throws with 5:49 left in the game. By that time Lonoke had already taken control of the tempo, and took over the lead for good shortly thereafter.

“It’s not like we didn’t talk about it at the beginning, and talk about him,” Campbell said of Price. “It allowed us to get the ball out of his hands and not allow him to dictate the tempo. We dictated the tempo by switching stuff up.”

Darius Scott led Lonoke with 13 points while T.J. Scott scored 11 and Watson scored 10. Damarcus Dodson had eight points to go with assists, steals and key rebounds.

SPORTS >> Lonoke girls grab conference crown

Leader sportswriter

The Clinton Lady Yellowjackets entered the Lonoke gym on Wednesday with an outside chance of claiming at least a part of the 2-4A Conference championship.

But that’s about as far as they got.

Lonoke quickly established dominance and maintained it for three quarters until taking its foot off Clinton’s throat in the final period in a mercy-ruled 72-43 rout that gave the Lady Jackrabbits the league championship.

Lonoke has earned the No. 1 seed in next week’s 2-4A district tournament in Stuttgart and will have a first-round bye.

The Lady Jackrabbits (21-5, 13-0) held the Lady YellowJackets (20-4, 9-3) scoreless for the final 3:19 of the first quarter, which enabled them to take control with a 19-0 run that gave them a 31-5 lead heading into the second quarter.

Clinton managed a little more offense in the next period, but Lonoke’s momentum never faltered on the way to a 51-17 halftime lead. Lonoke is a three-time state runner-up but had only won one conference title in that span, and the regular-season championship was a goal for the Lady Jackrabbits this year.

“We played very, very well,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “Defensively, we played well. We made shots. We’re a tough out for somebody if we’re hitting outside like that. If we are, they’ve got to come guard us, and we’ll drive by or dump off to the bigs in the middle.

“I think every guard hit a big shot in that first quarter, and the post player certainly got hers when they came out and started defending. We played a complete game, we really did.”

Lonoke junior guard Cara Neighbors had more points, 16, at the end of the first quarter than any Clinton scorer in the entire game. And she backed up her game-high, 28-point total with three steals, four rebounds and two assists in the first eight minutes. She finished with 12 rebounds and six assists.

UALR signee Asiah Scribner added 19 points from her post spot.

“We were able to put her on somebody tonight that she could help real well off of,” Morris said of Neighbors. “Because she was doing that, she was able to get back-side rebounds. When she doesn’t have to worry about guarding a dominant scorer, she’s great at seeking a ball out and finding it.

“That’s also why she is so good at getting to the rack and scoring — she wants the ball.”

Clinton pinned much of it hopes on 6-1 senior post player Whitney Donahue, but she found trouble against the defense of sophomore Anna Himstedt and reserve Emily Howell. Lonoke held Donahue to 11 points while guard Logan Blagg led the Lady Yellowjackets with 14.

Lonoke did a similar job of stifling Donahue in the first meeting at Clinton.

“We alternated people on her,” Morris said. “We had Anna Himstedt at first and then Emily Howell, and they did a phenomenal job, just like they did up at their place. They were able to take chances because we had Asiah and Cara nine times out of 10 sitting back there in a help position off the people they were guarding.

“It allowed them to really get out there and get after her, and not worry so much about getting beat because they knew they had help.”

Neighbors scored on Lonoke’s first three possessions, including a three-pointer to start the game, to give the Lady Jackrabbits a 7-0 lead with 6:23 left in the first quarter.

Senior point guard Michaela Brown then made a three-pointer before Scribner got to work inside for the first of her 19 points.

Ashleigh Himstedt finished with 11 points while Brown scored 10 to give Lonoke four in double digits.

“It’s the right time to be playing like that,” Morris said. “Hopefully we can continue that in the district tournament next week. A veteran team knows the big games, and they knew they were in one tonight to secure a conference championship. Because of that, they came out ready to play.”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TOP STORY >> Emergency crews work to the limit in blizzard

Drivers attempt to drive down Kiehl Avenue in Sherwood Monday.

Leader staff writer

So many cars were sliding into ditches in White County on Monday that emergency officials were looking to call other counties for help.

Tamara Jenkins, director of emergency services for White County, said every available police officer was busy with vehicles that had slid off the road in the snow and the wrecker services were so overworked there was talk of calling Cleburne County as backup.

Sylvia Smith of Smith Wrecker in Cabot said the calls for help started coming in about 2 a.m. Monday.

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, seven drivers working around the clock had towed about 40 vehicles and there were several calls that had not been handled.

The worst was a pickup truck that ran off the freeway between Cabot and Austin and landed tailgate down in a ditch full of water, she said.

The driver climbed to safety on a ladder brought by Cabot Fire Department.

To get all the vehicles back to their owners so they could go to work the next morning, Smith said drivers would likely have to work through the night again.

Billy Hall with Ivy Hall Wrecker said things had been “extremely busy” for the company since snow started to fall early Monday morning.

“We haven’t had many wrecks, but there’s been a lot of people sliding off into the ditch,” Hall said. “We’ve been working with very little sleep.”

Hall was happy to see the sun come out Tuesday afternoon. “That’ll help dry out the roads and lift some spirits,” he said, but still expected to be busy through today with the refreezing.
Dewayne James with Jacksonville Recovery and Wrecker called the last few days “just incredible.”

Besides pulling out cars that have slid off the roadway, James said his service was also pulling a lot of drivers out of their yards and driveways.

“Those mounds of snow have frozen and they are like concrete barriers and the vehicles can’t go over or through them,” James explained.

Kim Adams, owner of Adams Towing in Sherwood, said things got so busy he started to refer callers to other wrecker services.

“We told them it would be three to four hours, but other services were telling them it would be six to eight hours. It has just been awfully busy, nonstop,” Adams said.

One of the cars James pulled out was under a collapsed carport.

Adams said calls were slacking off late Tuesday, but expected to be nonstop again this morning.
Gene’s Inc., which runs three wreckers in the Beebe area, pulled more than 20 cars and trucks out of ditches on Monday and Tuesday.

Most area schools will be closed today.

(Staff writer Rick Kron also contributed to this article.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Standing up for kids

The state education agency and its governing board have not always been tribunes for the children in Arkansas’ public schools. Sometimes the concerns of vested groups — administrators, local politicians and business interests — have come first.

But the Board of Education chose the children Monday.

It did not let three school districts off the hook for not providing educational programs that the state considered absolutely minimal. The three little school districts will have to be annexed to school districts that can meet the students’ needs. The superintendents, their attorneys, a few school board members and local politicians were there to plead for the schools to be let alone to do their thing. Not one state Board member voted to let them have their way. That is encouraging for the future. It was one of the first tests of how the state will enforce the school reforms enacted by the legislature in 2005 and 2007.

Two of the school districts — Weiner and Delight — proposed a solution to the children’s problems that was ridiculous, but that has not always deterred the state agency. Delight in the southwestern corner of the state and Weiner in the northeastern corner, both smaller than the 350 enrollment that the state determined was essential to provide the absolutely minimum curriculum, proposed that they consolidate into one district. Delight and Weiner are 200 miles apart. You see, the law failed to specify that a school district’s service areas had to be contiguous or even nearly contiguous.

Delight is in the piney hills of Pike County, Weiner in the farming expanse of the Mississippi Delta just south of Jonesboro.

They have only two things in common: Their administrators want to keep their jobs, and the schools have demonstrated that they cannot provide the courses students need in the 21st century. On paper, the consolidated district, connected by 200 miles of blacktop, would meet the strictures of the law (it would have had a blended school board) but for the children nothing much would have changed. Now each of the schools will be annexed by solidly performing school districts a few miles away.

This should not affect either community’s singular traditions. Delight was the boyhood home of the country crooner Glen Campbell, Weiner the home of the state’s purest populist candidate for governor, Dave Cox. They can still revel in those distinctions.

The Twin Rivers School District presented the board with a similar predicament: a large rural area so sparsely populated that it seemed unable to efficiently provide a good school program. A large measure of ineptitude, or perhaps lassitude, made it worse. The high schools were not offering the minimum of 38 courses youngsters need for their graduates to be recognized, and at least one teacher was unqualified. The superintendent said a lot of the problem was his fault and he tendered his resignation so that the state would preserve the school district. The district rambles around parts of three counties near the Missouri border, and the superintendent said that made it hard to administer.

The Board of Education apparently thought the problems were deeper than that. The school district has been on probation for two years for failing to meet accreditation standards. The state board voted to take over the school district, abolish the school board (its members seemed to be unaware of the problems) and appoint an administrator to get the schools back in compliance.

It was a good day’s work, and a good sign for children. The state Board of Education is, well, for education. —E.D.

EDITORIAL >> House closes a loophole

Here is some shocking news. The Arkansas House of Representatives voted to do what is right rather than what is expedient. It adjusted its rules so that representatives cannot raise money for their political campaigns while the legislature is in session this month.

It happened to be a particularly selfless act for a few of them. By the time this fiscal session is over the first week of March — let’s hope it finishes much earlier than that — the filing deadline for running in the Democratic or Republican primaries will have passed and the elections will be only two and a half months away. For state legislators who want to run for one of the three congressional seats that have suddenly opened up the past three weeks —and there are a dozen or more of them — that will leave little time to raise a war chest for what are usually expensive campaigns.

House Speaker Robbie Wills of Conway is in that predicament. He is running in the Democratic primary for the Second District congressional seat that Vic Snyder is vacating. He wanted to interpret last fall’s House rule banning campaign solicitations during sessions — his own idea, by the way — as exempting the fiscal session, but he recognized that it was making him look bad so he vowed not to do any fundraising and to support a rule forbidding fundraising at any session.

It was a reform that was a long time coming. It will prevent the fact and appearance of wrongdoing. Legislators who are soaking up political contributions during a session open themselves to the appearance that the gifts, typically from lobbyists and business interests, are payment for taking a stance on issues in which the contributors have a keen interest. Trust us. It happens.

There was some case for exempting the annual fiscal session from the restriction. The legislature will be dealing altogether with state budgets for the 2011 fiscal year and there is not much lobbying from private interests. You do not raise much money from state employees or from the poor, those mainly interested in the precise way that state revenues are distributed next year. But a rule needs to be a rule. Loopholes tend to get wider and wider.

The Senate chose expediency. Its rules will permit senators to raise money during the session, for re-election campaigns or for bigger races. Ten of the 35 senators are exploring races in the May primaries for a seat in the Senate, the U. S. House of Representatives or lieutenant governor after the sudden fruit-basket turnover in January. For champions of ethics reforms like Sen. Joyce Elliott of Little Rock and Sen. Steve Bryles of Blytheville that has to be a bitter pill. Let us hope that they will be especially judicious in their solicitations. They will realize one day soon that it would be better to just go cold turkey.

TOP STORY >> Cabot man in raid on POW camp in 1970

Leader executive editor

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, who shall I send, and who shall go for us? Then said I, here am I, send me.”

—Isaiah 6:8

In an old photograph, Master Sgt. Paul Poole of Cabot stands at attention in the back row as Defense Secretary Melvin Laird presents medals to dozens of Green Berets who had flown deep into North Vietnam in November 1970 in hopes of rescuing captured Americans from a POW camp called Son Tay.

Not many people have heard of Son Tay or know about Paul Poole, who died last week at the age of 67. But he was a hero, who said without hesitation, “Here am I, send me,” when his country needed him. He knew that desperate men counted on him to bring them home.

Even those who were alive more than 39 years ago may not remember the raid on Son Tay. For those who were born after the war, it’s probably ancient history.

But to people who knew Paul Poole, a modest, unassuming man who lived on Kerr Station Road, the Son Tay mission was as real and heroic as the Alamo.

“He was a down-to-earth country guy,” said Larry Odom, a neighbor. “He loved horses and airplanes.”

“He didn’t talk much about Vietnam,” Odom continued. “He just said he was lucky to make it home. He’d been in lots of firefights.”

Some 500 men volunteered in the fall of 1970 to try to rescue perhaps as many as 100 POWs, although just a handful knew the details of the mission as it was planned.

Poole was one of those volunteers.

Only 100 were chosen for the mission, including the Green Berets and airmen who would fly the team into the heart of North Vietnam during a midnight raid.

U.S. intelligence flights had picked up the camp in a wooded area not far from Hanoi. The prisoners had scrawled the letter K in the dirt — code for “come get us.” In another camp, the POWs, using their laundry, had spelled out “SAR,” code for “search and rescue,” and the number eight, which was the distance they walked to the fields where they worked.

The 56 Green Berets picked for the rescue mission headed down to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., where a replica of the camp was built for night training for several weeks. They were briefed about their mission to Son Tay only a few hours before they took off for North Vietnam.

Special Forces Col. Arthur (Bull) Simons, who lead the raid on the camp, told his men, “We are going to rescue 70 American prisoners of war, maybe more, from a camp called Son Tay. This is something American prisoners have a right to expect from their fellow soldiers. The target is 23 miles west of Hanoi.”

They had 30 minutes to capture Son Tay and evacuate the POWs.

On the night of Nov. 20, they flew from Thailand in six helicopters. More than 20 other planes, including a C-130 that threw flares at the camp, accompanied them in support of the operation.

They were headed for a heavily fortified area with several North Vietnamese military camps nearby.

The helicopters arrived just after 2 a.m. One plane crash landed inside the camp. A Green Beret, using a bullhorn, shouted,

“We’re Americans. Keep your heads down. We’re Americans. Get on the floor. We’ll be in your cells in a minute.”

Another helicopter landed a quarter of a mile away and engaged enemy forces at the nearby barracks there.

While those Green Berets were fighting away from their main target, Poole’s group, nicknamed “Redwine,” was to look out for North Vietnamese forces approaching Son Tay.

Instead, these Green Berets now fought their way into the camp, while the other group killed the guards at the lesser target.
Poole’s group broke through a seven-foot wall and attacked the guards in their towers and around the camp. As many as 50 guards were killed.

After the firefights and the hand-to-hand combat, as the Green Berets searched for the prisoners, they realized there were no Americans at Son Tay.

“Negative items,” a Green Beret radioed from inside the camp.

Except for the guards, the camp was empty. The North Vietnamese had evacuated Son Tay, perhaps expecting the raid.

The raiders would return empty-handed.

But no Americans were killed, and only a couple were injured in the fighting. The raiders left 29 minutes after they’d landed.

At a White House ceremony five days after the raid, President Nixon awarded the Distinguished Service Medal to Air Force Brig. Gen. LeRoy J. Manor, who organized the rescue attempt. Col. Simons, the leader of the Son Tay raid, received the

Distinguished Cross, along with two other participants.

Three weeks after the rescue attempt, during a ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., where the Special Forces had their headquarters, Secretary of Defense Laird presented medals to 56 Green Berets and 40 others who took part in the raid.

Poole received a Silver Star, as did most of the Green Berets. Other medals went to Air Force officers and enlisted men who flew the raiders to Son Tay.

Nine years later, Texas businessman Ross Perot hired Col. Simons, who had retired from the military, to go into Iran and free two of Perot’s employees held in a Teheran jail. Simons and his crew organized a mob that stormed the jail, freeing the Americans, along with some 11,000 prisoners.

Funeral services for Paul Poole were held Tuesday. Larry Odom went to the visitation Monday night. “He was one of my heroes,” Odom said.

On the Son Tay Raider Association Web site honoring the men who took part in the raid, Poole’s name was added over the weekend to the list of remembered warriors, flanked by two eternal flames.

TOP STORY >> Eight apply for vacant council seat

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council at its next meeting on Feb. 22 will appoint a replacement for Keith Rankin, who resigned in January, and to serve out the remainder of his term, which is through 2010. There are eight candidates for the post.

By state law, city council vacancies with less than of a year remaining are appointed. The appointee may run in November in the general election for the next full term, which is two years. Filing for the race, which is non-partisan, opens April 28 and closes May 17.

Walter Barnhardt served in the Air Force for 14 years, including three tours of duty in Vietnam. Since retiring from a career in food services, Barnhardt has been active in volunteer work, including building projects at Sherwood Forest, construction of the Veterans Memorial and serving on the sewer and street commissions. For his efforts, the park next to City Hall was named after him, and he was named the Chamber of Commerce 2005 Man of the Year and three times was honored as a volunteer of the year. He has lived in Sherwood for more than 30 years.

Bob Ferguson is a certified public accountant and has been a resident of Sherwood for 27 years. He serves as vice chairman for Pathfinder, Inc., a non-profit provider of services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

He served for seven years on the board of directors for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. He holds a degree in psychology and accounting from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Lucien Gillham has been a resident of Sherwood for more than 30 years. He is a retired civil engineer and has served on the Sherwood Planning Commission since 1996.

He is a former deputy base commander at Little Rock Air Force Base for the sections that were responsible for the base’s city services. He retired in 1996 after a career of more than 30 years with the U.S. Army Reserve.

Timothy McMinn has lived in Sherwood since 1976. He has been a church pastor for more than 30 years and currently is a pastor at Sylvan Hills Community Church in Sherwood.

He is an electrician, an Air Force veteran and the senior chaplain for the Sherwood Police. He has been the recipient of the Paul Harris Award, the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce Award for Volunteerism and has been named Sherwood Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year.

William Montgomery is a 2002 graduate of Sylvan Hills High School and has lived in Sherwood for 10 years.

He is a student in office management and supervision at Pulaski Technical College. He works as a data entry technician for Dassault Falcon Jet Corp. In high school, he was president of the band, an honor student and recipient of the Sherwood Rotary Club Ethics Award.

Lana Dawn Roach is a senior sales manager at Marriott Little Rock West. She graduated from Hazen High School in 1988 and has an associate’s degree in business. She has lived in Sherwood for five years.

She is a member of the Little Rock and North Little Rock chambers of commerce, the Little Rock Air Force Base and Camp Robinson community councils and is the honorary commander of the 19th Maintenance Squadron at the air base.

Larry Roberts is a licensed real estate agent and broker with 30 years experience as an underwriter for Arkansas Farm Bureau.

He is a graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, completed college coursework in business administration and served stateside with an Army medical unit during the Vietnam War.

He has served since 1990 as a supervisor for the Pulaski County Election Commission. He serves as a board member for the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce and Pulaski County Crimestoppers and as a member of the Sherwood Rotary Club and Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council.

Justin Smith is a 2001 graduate of Sylvan Hills High School, a former Eagle Scout, assistant scout master for the Boy Scouts of America and former president of the Sherwood Mayor’s Council, on which he served for three years.

He has lived in Ward 4 of Sherwood for 18 years and ran against Rankin in 2008. He works as a supervisor for Delta Dental in Sherwood. As a Boy Scout, he helped organize curbside recycling in the Oakbrooke subdivision.

TOP STORY >> Principal leads students and soldiers

Leader staff writer

Leading teachers, students and soldiers comes easily for Warren Dupree Elementary School principal Janice Walker. She’s successfully combined what some might consider contradictory careers into a stellar set of accomplishments.

Walker is also a command sergeant major for the Army Reserve’s 489th Engineer Battalion based at Camp Robinson.

A Jacksonville resident, Walker was assigned to the 489th Battalion in June 2008.

She is the first female and the first African-American to hold that position. At one point in the past the unit was designated as an all-male organization because of its combat mission.

“Serving in that position did not come without imminent challenges but they were not insurmountable.

“I found with the dynamics of the military, we are a diverse force and even as a diverse group there are barriers we still must overcome with regard to race and gender,” Walker said.

Walker’s commander, Lt. Col. Charles Jackson, was assigned in August 2009 as battalion commander for the 489th. He, too, is the first African-American to hold that position.

Even though there are different age groups represented in her two careers, Walker is held accountable to maintain high standards both in the military and as an elementary school administrator.

Walker said she has to supervise and make timely decisions both in her military and civilian roles that have an impact on others.

“I have to use sound judgment and fact-finding approaches in addressing and resolving issues that may arise.

“Students are expected to achieve academic success. Soldiers are expected to accomplish the mission,” Walker said.

She continued, “We have 1,400 soldiers in the 489th in three states — Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. I advise and make recommendations to the battalion commander and staff on matters pertaining to enlisted personnel and their families. I also carry out policies and standards related to enlisted personnel performance and training.”

After graduating from Arkadelphia High School in May 1979, Walker and one of her cousins decided to join the Army Reserve at the city’s recruiting station. Walker had relatives who had served in the military.

She went to basic training at Fort Dix, N.J., where she was trained as a truck driver and was assigned to the 444th Maintenance Company in Camden. Soon after, Walker became a personnel administrative specialist.

Walker was transferred to several units, climbing the ranks from supervisor to military instructor, then as first sergeant, to operations sergeant to her current position as command sergeant major.

Walker has had a military career for 30 years and a career in education for 23 years.

Walker was born and raised on a farm in Arkadelphia. The farm had livestock and grew cotton and peanuts. The property also had a sorghum mill.

Walker is the youngest of 12 siblings. Her father, Booker Jones Sr., was a farmer. Her mother, Zenobia Jones, was an educator.

Zenobia owned a daycare in rural Arkadelphia.

Her parents were both from Arkadelphia and are now deceased.

Walker said her mother had a particular compassion for children.

“Both of my parents were role models. My father was a disciplinarian but always administered it with love. You can do both.” Walker said.

She said her mother stressed the importance of education.

“It wasn’t an option, it was understood as a rule. You were to go to college,” Walker said.

Four of Walker’s siblings furthered their education in college. Her other siblings chose vocational school or the military.

“We were all career-oriented individuals,” Walker said.

Walker said she originally started out going to college for a degree in elementary education, but moved to Texarkana to broaden her horizons.

“I realized it’s better to have a diverse skill set. It provides you with more opportunities to be successful,” she said.

Prior to Walker attending nursing school, she gave birth to her daughter, Shamikah.

“I was a single mom at the time. I understand the difficulties being a single mom. Even as a single mother you still meet the needs of your children. You may have to sacrifice by working hard and making good choices. You are making choices not for yourself but for your child,” Walker said.

She continued, “I wanted my daughter to grow up in an environment of love and discipline. I wanted to ensure I could provide financial support.”

Walker attended nursing school in Texarkana, Texas, in 1983. A year later she completed the program and became a license practical nurse.

Even as Warren Dupree’s principal, Walker continues to hold a current nursing certificate.

“You always have children come from the playground with minor injuries. Having a nursing background when a nurse is not present helps determine the next level of medical care,” Walker said.

“I found it very rewarding to be a nurse,” she said.

After nursing school Walker worked part time at a nursing home in Arkadelphia to support the cost of attending Henderson State for an educational degree.

Walker earned her bachelor’s degree in 1987. Later the same year she began working for the Little Rock School District.

For two years Walker taught fourth and sixth grade at Brady Elementary School. In 1989, she married her husband Michael, a graphic artist.

Afterwards, she taught fourth grade for seven years at McDermott Elementary School.

She earned her master’s degree in administrative educational leadership from the University of Central Arkansas in 1995.

In 1996, Walker left teaching and went into administration. She was an assistant principal at Rockefeller Incentive School for two years and then was assigned as an assistant principal to Terry Elementary School for a year.

Walker was hired by the Pulaski County Special School District in 1999 as principal at Landmark Fine Arts School. While there, she completed her educational leadership specialist degree and her doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2003.

TOP STORY >> District is closer to hiring new chief

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District board meeting last night was canceled because of the weather, but the board won’t gather to discuss the candidates for the superintendent’s position until at least Friday, and no action is expected to be taken then, according to Deborah Roush, PCSSD spokesman.

Interim superintendent Rob McGill and Vashti Washington, associate superintendent of the Charleston County School District in South Carolina, met with board members, teacher representatives, principals, the press and the public last week, concluding formal visits by the four finalists in the search for a permanent PCSSD superintendent.


“I’ve set the stage for academic improvements with classroom walkthroughs and audits and collecting data to make decisions based on individual student’s needs,” said McGill, 42.

He has worked his way up from elementary school teacher beginning in 1993 to principal of Pine Forest Elementary from 2005-2009. From there, he was selected as acting superintendent of the district last March, replacing James Sharpe, who was forced out by the board.

“There are a lot of things I’ve tackled head-on, and I want to continue,” he said. “Me being local and familiar with the district for 17 years, I have an idea of issues and challenges and positive things we do in the district.”

“I can continue making decisions based on knowledge we currently have. In the last few months, we’ve started the Star Academy, helping students catch up to their peers,” he said.

“We put a lot of effort into upkeep and maintenance of older facilities, painting, upgrading HVAC systems and bathrooms. We had a summer school program at Jacksonville Elementary School and increased after-school care.”


“We’ve dealt with several big issues like the Jacksonville separation,” McGill continued. “I have an understanding how it affects desegregations plans. We’re trying to move to unitary status.”

The district converted to online purchasing, cleaned up coding and has gone to the state reporting system for finance, he said.

The district has a pilot Web-based program for processing student data.

He said he’d like to bring the district into more long-range planning for facilities, bus purchase, and crises management — looking ahead and making contingency plans.

He said that union or no union, it’s important that the district treat the teachers in a fair and consistent manner.

“My stance is the board directed that we no longer recognize the union and when four board members say to go in one direction, that’s the direction I’m pointed in,” McGill said.

Consistency and fairness are also important for student discipline. the interim superintendent said.

“They have to understand the rules and consequences and abide by them,” McGill said.


Calling her work as an educator “a spiritual calling and a great honor,” Washington came for her interview armed with a three-ring binder full of her research on PCSSD and the Little Rock area.

“Twenty-one years ago, Pulaski County was on of the most productive districts in the state,” she said. “I’d like to help lead the district back to that,” she said.

Washington, 56, said there were a lot of similarities between PCSSD and the Charleston County School District.

“Pulaski County is where we were, regarding academic, discipline and facilities problems,” she said.

Nearly all elementary schools in her district were not meeting annual school improvement goals when she took over. Last year, all but one were.

She said the biggest problem for most districts was the lack of communication. “I’m a collaborative person,” she said, “fair, firm and a good listener.”

“Unions come about because we aren’t listening to each other,” she said.

When I came on (at Charleston) we were suspending at least 50 percent of our students. One of the issues that we needed to face, we needed to get a behavior modification management model. It took a year and a half to train the teachers.”


In her area of responsibility, which is the district’s elementary schools, suspensions fell from about 50 percent to about 1 percent to two percent, Washington said.

“Elementary school students are easier to get on board,” she said. But through student council, the high school students eventually bought into the program by setting their own reward goals, like increasing the amount of time they could use an iPod or being allowed a once-a-month dance.

“It’s unbelievable how we were able to decrease the number of expulsions and suspensions in our schools. Teachers have to buy into it. They have to be consistent and we have to provide the resources,” she said.

Her district eliminated less necessary positions, replacing them with behavior specialists, kept up with the day-to-day data.

“You could figure out who are the teachers who are having the most problem…. and those are the teachers we pull out and do some one-to-one. And then some, we just say, ‘this is not for you,’” Washington said.

“We had a lot of racial tension,” she said but by being fair in discipline, making sure children know what to expect, the district over came much of that. “Set high expectations,” she said.

Washington said she helped lead an ambitious building program.

TOP STORY >> Snow shifts, slams area

Footprints in the snow lead to and from Sherwood City Hall.

Whit Davis Lumber Plus in Cabot nearly collapsed from the weight of snow Monday. The store will be closed temporarily until repairs are made. Phones are being answered at the Jacksonville store.


Leader staff writer

It’s been 22 years since central Arkansas has seen this much snow. Depending upon who’s doing the measuring, totals run from 5 to 8 inches of snow.

The area got 10.4 inches of snow back in early January 1988.

Another storm system moving through the area late Thursday and early Friday could add another inch or two to the monthly snow totals.

The snowfall canceled most area schools Monday and Tuesday, closed city governments and caused many businesses to close early on Monday.

John Lewis, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service, admits the intensity of the storm was a bit unexpected. “We thought the snow line would be more north of us, a line from Fort Smith to Clinton to Batesville, but the line dropped down and basically followed the I-40 corridor,” he said.

The snow also started earlier, was heavier than expected and the warming took longer to occur.

“We predicted snow, then a mix, then rain before turning back into snow. That’s pretty much what happened, but the initial surge of snow was heavier than we thought it would be and the warming trend took longer, meaning it snowed longer,” Lewis explained.

So much snow fell that the weight of it collapsed part of the over hang at the Citgo on Warden Road off Hwy. 67/167 and caused the destruction of the Smokey’s Pub sign and canopy about a mile further south down the road.

In Cabot, police kept watch Monday night at Whit Davis Lumber Plus after part of the roof collapsed from heavy snow build-up.

There were no injuries.

Jim Oakley, public works director for Jacksonville, said Tuesday that most of the city’s major roadways were clear and the crews were working on the smaller streets.

“We’ve got 14 people in the street department and split them into two crews. One crew has been working from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the other from 2 p.m. until midnight. Both crews have been plowing and dropping sand and salt.”

Oakley estimates that the department has gone through about 50 tons of sand and five tons of salt. “We run a mixture of one-quarter salt and three-quarters sand and also drop just straight sand,” Oakley said.

He added that the storm work would cost the city about an extra $5,000. “Because the storm happened during the week, it limited the amount of overtime we needed,” he said.

Oakley added that city crews would be back out Tuesday night and into this morning.

Sherwood police Lt. Cheryl Williams said the city has only had about a dozen storm-related accidents and that they were all minor. She attributed the low number to people heeding warnings to stay at home and to the good job the street department did.

In Ward, a couple of vehicles slid off the road, but no major accidents were reported there. The city spread a combination of sand and salt at intersections and scraped ice off roads with a backhoe.

In Beebe, no accidents with injuries were reported, only vehicles in ditches. The city has no equipment for spreading sand, which has made traveling city streets rough going.

Cabot reported no major accidents through Tuesday afternoon. Its street department spent Monday and Tuesday spreading sand on railroad crossings and overpasses using a truck bought last year.

“We’ve had a hard time because we’d sand and it would snow on top of it,” said Public Works Director Jerrel Maxwell. “I told the mayor if this global warming keeps up, we’re going to have to buy another truck.”

By 3 p.m. Monday, police in Beebe had measured snowfall totals at 7.5 to 8 inches. By mid-afternoon, downtown Little Rock had five inches; Austin reported 5.5 inches and Sherwood had five inches.

The Little Rock Air Force Base weather squadron recorded four inches of snowfall and the National Weather Service puts the total area snowfall at 7.2 inches.

This snow follows at the heals of a winter storm the end of January that also closed schools and businesses and snarled up traffic. That storm brought in almost two inches of snow and made January the snowiest since 2000.

January was also the coldest in seven years, even though no low-temperature records were broken. The air base recorded the lowest January temperature in the area on Jan. 10, a temperature of nine degrees, the first single digit low temperature in the area since 2001.

Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson estimated that state and local lawmen worked about 60 weather-related accidents in the county this week, most of them on state highways.

“We’re running pretty strong,” he said of his deputies. “We didn’t get a little bit of a break. All the wreckers were pretty busy.”

Roberson said the weather stopped most county residents in their tracks.

“I haven’t been out in the weather,” said County Judge Charlie Troutman, who is by definition the head of the county road department.

“No one with the county worked yesterday or today,” Troutman said Tuesday. That included both the county courthouse and the road department.

“We had so much damage from flooding (in January). This won’t help us any,” Troutman said. “It’ll be a while putting it all back together and fixing everything.”

“Most people just pulled a blanket over their head and stayed in. I don’t know if schools will operate tomorrow or not, what with the buses and the back roads.”

“At least we have money to fix them with,” Troutman said.

The snow means a break for county farmers, according to Jeff Welch, head of the Lonoke County Extension Service.

“They can’t do anything with the snow on the ground. Back when boll weevils were a problem, this would help us. Now they are waiting to fertilize what wheat we have in the ground.”

Welch said the snow was not a problem, but a similar snow in three weeks would be a bad time.

“We really need to get after this wheat,” he said.

(Leader writers Joan McCoy and John Hofheimer also contributed to this article.)

SPORTS >> Bears turn to seniors, beat Billies

Leader sportswriter

Senior night came a little early for the Sylvan Hills Bears on Friday.

All the talk of talented underclassmen on Kevin Davis’ team took a backseat to senior leadership against the Monticello Billies, and it paid off with a 61-49 victory at Sylvan Hills on Friday night.

The sophomore “triplets” of Trey Smith, Archie Goodwin and post player Devin Pearson eventually made their way onto the court in the first quarter, but the Bears started the game with an all-senior look that featured Bruce Mack, Kolby Davis, Matt Cable, two-sport star Ahmad Scott and Demetric Gross.

“I thought some seniors made senior plays down the stretch,” Kevin Davis said. “They were communicating with me and playing the game like seniors should be playing the ballgame, and my seniors did that tonight. And I thought that was what made the difference for us down the stretch tonight.”

The all-senior starting lineup wasn’t based on any particular strategy for Davis; it was just coincidental.

“Two of those seniors led using rebounding at McClellan, and I like to reward people for hard work,” Davis said. “And that was Cable and Davis. And so they were automatically in the starting lineup, that’s something we just do. We reward guys that work hard.”

Goodwin ended up in his normal role as leading scorer for the Bears, but it was Pearson’s nine points inside that the Billies found hardest to answer. Gross also had a solid outing with 13 points, while Ziegler managed seven points in his limited role and point guard Mack scored six points for the Bears.

Sylvan Hills (11-8, 2-6 5A Southeast) led the entire way, but never by more than 12 points. The Bears enjoyed their largest margin when Mack drove inside for a jumper to make it 38-26 with 1:08 left in the first quarter.

That followed an eight-point flurry by Goodwin, who made up for failing to convert an old-fashioned three-point play with 7:06 left in the period with back-to-back three-pointers to increase the Bears’ lead from 24-20 to 32-22 with 4:05 to go.

Gross scored on a putback and Goodwin hit a pair of free throws leading up to Mack’s driving shot, but the Billies began to fight back after that.

Monticello closed the gap with a three-point basket and an inside shot by post player Reshaud Jones to cut the lead to 38-31.

Smith made a free throw just before the end of the third quarter to give the Bears a 39-31 lead starting the fourth.

The Billies tried to get themselves back in the game by pressing in the final three minutes, but Pearson broke through the press for a basket with 2:21 remaining to give the Bears a 50-43 lead, and Monticello resorted to clock-stopping fouls.

“They have a smaller lineup, so that should happen,” Davis said. “He’s a big 6-5 kid in there, and Devin has come on. He’s gotten better and better. He’s always minding the game, trying to get better.”

Scott finished with only four points, but his efforts on defense held Monticello sharp shooter Jones to a 10-point night. Jones scored 23 against the Bears in their first meeting, but Scott’s efforts limited him to one of his lowest nights of point production all season.

“It’s a good, balanced conference,” Davis said. “These guys had to stay positive, and kind of persevere. I told them they had some home games coming, that they needed to keep their heads up and keep at them.”

SPORTS >> Self-proclaimed media taking ‘scouting’ too far

Leader sportswriter

If this is the future of football, then you can count me out.

Newly named USC head coach Lane Kiffin recently offered a full-ride scholarship from one of the nation’s most prestigious schools and storied college football programs to David Sills, who happens to be 13 years old.

I’m not kidding.

It could simply be another headline-grabbing ploy by the attention-hungry Kiffin, who himself seems to struggle with becoming any kind of proven commodity. This is not the first time Mr. Kiffin has ventured onto the middle school playground to find his next (insert top-notch player Kiffin has coached here.)

By the way, is it too soon to christen him “The Kif”? I ran a search for his current nicknames, and the closest thing I could find was “Lane Kiffin the Weasel.” Again, I can’t make this stuff up; it’s just out there.

But my fear is that the current fad of beating the whole scouting process into the ground with endless ranting, speculating and boasting of insider knowledge will become bigger than the game itself.

It already has in some circles.

My partner Todd Traub has already documented the ridiculousness involved with national signing day — the gurus (nerds) with nothing better to do than wait in the driveway of 16-year-old potential gridiron greats and try to plant bugs in their houses, the endless Internet speculation over who is going where and who wants what player, leading to my personal favorite: fans who start their own Web sites and declare themselves “a member of the sports media.”

You can find these uneducated and unrealistic goofballs quite easily, just Google your local high-school team or player, and up will pop a barrage of sites (usually pay sites) with names like or or

What a flipping joke.

Granted, I take it a bit personal because I went through the proper ranks and channels for a chance at reporting sports for a living, but these guys have more loose screws than a Toyota driver’s side floorboard.

There’s even one guy in the area who gets on various message boards and brags about his knowledge and insider information of college football.

To most of us “mere mortals,” his info is better known as ESPN’s College Football. I suspect that is where he gets much of his “top secret” stuff. At least it has been all the times I have caught him in lies.

He touts himself as “the sports media” as he bragged in one post, only to reveal in another post that he considered basketball to be a non-sport.

You know, basketball, only the second most popular and most-played athletic activity in the entire world.

First of all, there is a big difference between a professional sportswriter and a football geek who has figured out how to operate a Web site. Now that we’ve established that, there’s also the matter of having an actual talent for writing.

This bozo’s Web site has so many sentence fragments, misspellings and terms taken out of context and used in his little blurbs, I first thought I was reading transcripts of speeches by George W. Bush.

His latest post was a boast on his coverage of signing day at Arkansas State, complete with photos depicting him wearing — What else? — an Arkansas State Red Wolves T-shirt.

I guess the whole objective and unbiased reporting thing is reserved for us poor little reporters who work for actual news agencies.

Sports are seasonal for a reason — so we won’t grow tired of them. I love football, but I also love basketball and auto racing. I don’t want to pore over details of how Johnny shaved half a tenth off his 40 time when district and regional basketball tournaments are about to begin, nor do I want to get an injury status update on a football player in the middle of April when the late models are in town.

Who cares? The guy has several months to get healthy, and we all have our own lives to live.

Basketball gets very interesting this time of year, and with racing — and baseball for you stick-and-ball types — right around the corner, let the football guys do what they have done since the game’s inception: enjoy some peace and quiet in the off-season.

SPORTS >> Falcons go small to beat Comets big

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski entered Friday’s game against with Mills with questions.

The Flacons left with answers.

Playing without injured inside man Daquan Bryant, North Pulaski used a smaller, faster lineup to run away from Mills in a 73-43, 5A-Southeast Conference victory at North Pulaski.

With Bryant, nursing a knee injury, on the bench in street clothes and a bowtie in a nod to basketball homecoming festivities, the Falcons started sophomore Courvoica Allen and turned in a group rebounding effort.

“I was really pleased,” North Pulaski coach Raymond Cooper said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was kind of a little nervous at the start of the game. We started a sophomore who hadn’t played very much all season long. I figured now would be the time rather than sit him on the bench and let him wait.

“Go ahead and start him, and he really responded for us.”

Allen delivered four points while the Falcons banded together to pick up the rebounding slack for the absent Bryant.

“We were worried about rebounding and our depth inside so what we tried to do was try to do it by committee,” Cooper said.

“We had to really commit to little things like boxing out because Daquan is such a unique athlete you can’t replace whim with one guy.

“So we talked about all of us, between his 12 rebounds a game, everybody’s got to get one more and that’s what we kept preaching was one more.”

North Pulaski responded so effectively that it took a 65-35 lead into the fourth quarter, which was played with a fast-moving clock under the high school sportsmanship/timing rule.

“We shot the ball well, which really covers up a lot of stuff,” Cooper said. “We defended them well and we rebounded.”

In fact, Cooper said, the Falcons (17-4, 8-0) didn’t just get by without Bryant, they may have found another effective facet of their game.

“We knew we were going to be outsized, and to get those rebounds and what those rebounds did, they started our break,” Cooper said. “And one thing I found out, was when we got smaller, we got faster and so that was a plus. Now I may have found a lineup that I normally would never use.”

For Mills coach Leo Olberts, the Falcons, ranked No. 1 in 5A, were already deadly enough without a new look.

“You don’t get to be No. 1 in the state unless you’ve got a pretty good bunch and they certainly do,” Olberts said. “They’ve got so many guys who can shoot the basketball, that’s the thing. Defensively, it seems like no matter what you do, they’ve got an answer for it. It’s not just against us, it’s against everybody they play.”

Aaron Cooper made four three-pointers and led North Pulaski with 24 points and Bryan Colson scored 13. Kyle Jackson and Chris Neal scored eight points apiece for Mills, with Jackson getting six on free throws.

Mills fell to 9-12, 4-5.

“We’ve won our last four coming into to tonight and we’ve just go to forget about this one and take care of business the rest of the way,” Olberts said.

Mills rallied from an early, 11-2 deficit to go ahead 14-13 on Neal’s midcourt steal and dunk with 2:36 left in the first quarter.

But that may have been the highlight for Mills as Colson got a rebound and putback to start a 21-0 run that ended with Joe Agee’s steal and breakaway layup for the 34-14 lead with 6:01 left in the second quarter.

Shyheim Barron drove a basket that made it 65-35 at the end of the third quarter, and the 30-point lead triggered the mercy rule at the start of the fourth.

SPORTS >> Taking his shot

Leader sports editor

Adam Sterrenberg has a uniform, a role and, lately, some meaningful minutes at Arkansas State.

If any further evidence was needed to prove the freshman from Cabot had arrived in college basketball to stay, it came Thursday at UALR when Sterrenberg got the ultimate compliment — a nickname from hostile fans.

Sterrenberg entered with 12:36 left in the first half and just over a minute later got a rebound and putback for his first points to pull Arkansas State within 18-16 against its Sun Belt Conference rival.

With his mop of brown hair at full flop, Sterrenberg hit a three-pointer from the left corner to give the Red Wolves a 21-20 lead and start a 12-3 run. He got a defensive rebound leading to another Arkansas State basket and was fouled shooting a three-pointer and made 2 of 3 free throws to put the Red Wolves up 29-21 with 7:32 to go.

If the Trojans hadn’t noticed Sterrenberg yet, their fans had.

“Watch Shaggy,” a Trojans rooter hollered from the Stephens Center seats as Sterrenberg, open on the left wing, signaled for a pass that eventually came his way.

Sterrenberg missed that shot, and was pulled in the second half after missing a three-pointer and a short jumper as UALR went on to win 79-77 on Alex Mendoza-Garica’s last-second, 42-foot three-pointer.

But Sterrenberg scored seven points in seven, first-half minutes and had taken another step in his growth as a college player.

“I knew it was going to be a whole lot more up-pace and a lot more physical,” Sterrenberg said, comparing the college game to his previous experience with Cabot in the 7A-Central Conference. “The speed I’m all right with but I need to get stronger to get my game better, but it’s pretty much everything I imagined it to be really.”

Injuries to perimeter players Mike Lance and Donald Boone have moved Sterrenberg up the bench to where he is now one of coach John Brady’s first options when he needs to bring in an outside man.

“The team told me I needed to pick it up and they needed me,” Sterrenberg said. “They had confidence in me and that helps a tremendous amount and I didn’t want to let them down.”

Sterrenberg averaged 22.9 points and five assists a game for Jerry Bridges’ Panthers last year, helping the team to a 23-6 finish and, in a program first, a share of the 7A-Central championship which spring-boarded Cabot to the state semifinals.

Heading into his second year at Arkansas State, Brady, the former Final Four coach at LSU, had no idea of Cabot’s reputation as a high school football powerhouse that rarely produced college-level men’s basketball talent.

Brady only knew Sterrenberg was the kind of player he could use, and made him part of last year’s Red Wolves recruiting class.

“He was a good signing for us and he’s going to be a good player for us too,” Brady said.

Brady said he and his staff scouted Sterrenberg with the high-profile Arkansas Wings AAU program. While Sterrenberg’s introduction to basketball came in driveway games of horse with his four, athletic older sisters, it was in AAU where he began to show signs he might be able to play college ball somewhere.

“We didn’t know if it was going to be D-I or not,” Sterrenberg’s father Dan said. “But we knew at that time, we started playing a lot of AAU ball and we started hearing how these kids, how they started playing against some of the tougher kids in the country. And this D-I guy in Kansas was looking at him and we kind of knew at that time we had a shot because he was playing fairly well.”

Adam cemented his prospect status in his senior year of high school, and attracted recruiters not only from Arkansas State, but also from Sun Belt members UALR and North Texas and Southland Conference member Central Arkansas.

“He can shoot it, he can pass it,” Brady said. “He handles it well, he sees the floor extremely well. I think he’s a very underrated passer. He got labeled in high school as a shooter.”

For Adam, who knew of Brady’s SEC credentials that included six postseason berths, two SEC championships and three West Division titles it was love at first sight with Arkansas State.

“I knew he was a winner,” Sterrenberg said.

“We were real excited about coach Brady just because of his tradition,” Dan Sterrenberg said. “We always thought that he was a winner. Adam had some other schools he was looking at, but he was very interested in it and when we went down to Arkansas State Adam was ready to commit that day.”

The father made sure the son honored his other planned college visits, but Adam’s path was clearly set.

Not that it has always been an easy path.

Adam admitted he struggled on defense early and knows he needs to put more muscle on his 6-3, 175-pound frame. And averaging just over 12 minutes after being the centerpiece at Cabot can be hard to swallow, he said.

“It’s a little frustrating, but I’ve got to keep in mind I’m a freshman,” Sterrenberg said. “My time will come.”

Brady said Sterrenberg, if not ahead of schedule, is certainly not behind.

“I’ve been really pleased with him and how he’s progressing,” Brady said. “He didn’t play as much early as he would have liked.

I think the more he’s learned and the more he’s gotten used to playing at this level, particularly from a defensive standpoint, he’s progressed quite well.”

Sterrenberg was disappointed — with family, former teammates and Bridges in the stands — that the Red Wolves couldn’t pull out a victory Thursday.

But after going 5-13 last year, Arkansas State entered today 14-9 and in first place in the Sun Belt West at 9-3. With the conference tournament set for Hot Springs in March, Sterrenberg will likely get another shot to perform in a meaningful game before a partisan crowd.

“The coaches and payers all have confidence in me and that’s all I need,” Sterrenberg said.