Friday, June 18, 2010

SPORTS>>Barron developing game, leadership for upcoming year

Leader sportswriter

The adjustment process at North Pulaski is ongoing.

The Falcons had to adjust to a new head coach in former Jacksonville High School defensive coordinator Rick Russell before the 2009 season, and now, in Russell’s second year, they will be adjusting to a new offense.

North Pulaski is moving from the run-based Wing-T to a full-blown passing offense in the Spread.

That puts quarterback Shyheim Barron in the eye of the storm, but the 6-0, 175-pound junior says he is up to the task, and his coach agrees.

“Last year we had a running philosophy,” Russell said. “This season, we’re going to go to the spread offense and throwing. And he can run it and he can throw it. I’m pleased with where he’s at right now.”

Barron earned the starting job last year and quickly established himself as a dual threat.

“I like to pass and run, and we have some good receivers, so I’ll try to get them the ball,” Barron said. “We do a lot of running.

Our passing, if I don’t have it, I’ll run.”

Barron and the Falcons began the switch to a more pass-based style in the spring, and are now part of an informal, four-team, 7-on-7 summer league played on selected Wednesdays at Cabot’s Panther Stadium.

The league, which concludes play in July, gives North Pulaski four weeks to face different defenses. The Falcons are also keeping fit in the weight room as August two-a-days draw near.

“It’s been going good,” Barron said. “We’ve been getting a lot of practice in and getting in shape, getting stronger. Coach has us on the weights every day.

“We’ve got some new linemen in, so we might have a chance to get some wins and get to the playoffs.”

Barron reeled off a number of accurate passes in the Falcons’ opening 7-on-7 game against Hazen at Panther Stadium on Wednesday. But most of those well-placed spirals were dropped, and the productivity of North Pulaski’s offense deteriorated as the night went on.

“Shyheim threw some good balls early,” Russell said. “He got a little frustrated when they didn’t catch them, and then he started forcing some things. We’re going to the spread, and this summer was for him to learn coverages. He’s developing each and every week.”

Barron performed well in his sophomore season, but his youth was a disadvantage when it came to providing leadership on the field. Now that he has spent a year as a starter and has improved confidence, Barron’s leadership should be significantly improved, Russell said.

Wednesday was a test of Barron’s resolve and composure after a number of early passes for potentially good yardage were bobbled.

“His performance tonight was based on the missed balls early,” Russell said. “A lot of them should have been caught. If they had been caught, it would probably have been a totally different attitude after the night was done.”

Although 7-on-7 is regarded as mostly a practice-type situation, Russell said lessons could be learned just as easily as when the high school season starts.

“If that happens on a Friday night, you’ve got to be able to go to the next play,” Russell said. “You’ve got to have a short memory. And that’s what he got out of tonight. There’s going to be games where those receivers make him look like a superstar. Then there’s going to be those games where early, it’s not going to be there. Tonight was a real good thing for him.”

The Falcons will play at Cabot two more times in early July before daily fall practices begin in August. But the process of adjustment and improvement for Barron will be non-stop.

“I’m going to work out and get my arm stronger,” Barron said. “I work out every day, and I play basketball during the summer too.”

SPORTS>>Veteran pro played Hogan, still active

Leader sports editor

When his all-expenses-paid government vacation ended, Tom Hanson had just about had his fill of the great outdoors.
Just about.

Hanson, 81, is still helping out at the revamped Greens of North Hills Golf Course in Sherwood, where he was head pro from 1962-1985. Hanson is as happy on a golf course as the day he left the U.S. Army and 21 miserable months in the field in the early 1950s.

“After that, the only outdoors I liked were on a golf course,” Hanson said. “They talk about camping and fishing and hunting and I was like ‘No thanks, I’ve been through that.’ ”

Hanson assists his one-time apprentice Dawn Darter, who hasreturned to the now-public North Hills as head pro. It’s a way for Hanson to stay connected to the game he has loved since his amateur success in pre-WWII Kansas.

Hanson was born in Emporia, Kan., and began caddying in Wichita in 1940.

He said a golfer’s education came primarily through caddy training programs, which allowed the young men to play on Mondays but also taught them the rules and etiquette they would need when working for their 75-cent fees the rest of the week.

“If you knocked yourself out and didn’t lose a ball you might get a dime tip,” said Hanson who worked his way up through a pool of 60 or so “boys,” many of them grown family men and veteran, first-list caddies.

The war soon siphoned off the military-aged men and gave Hanson a chance to earn money.

He also recalled a 1944 exhibition by the legendary Byron Nelson, who paid a princely $50 for a dozen pre-war Spalding Dot balls, whose production had been suspended for the war effort.

For perspective, the suggested retail price of a dozen of today’s Titleist Pro V1 balls is approximately $50.

Hanson won the Kansas high school championship in 1945, played in the men’s state amateur in Salinas in 1946 and won the state caddy tournament that year. He played a year at Wichita State and then embraced the life of a club pro when he began assisting head pro Gene O’Brien at Wichita’s Rolling Hills Country Club in the spring of 1948.

Hanson remembers O’Brien for his teaching ability and people skills.

“One of the best club professionals there ever was,” Hanson said.

Hanson’s stay at Rolling Hills ended in November 1950 thanks to the U.S. government.

“I worked with Gene for about two years and then Uncle Sam invited me to spend two years with them and I graciously consented,” Hanson said.

The Korean War had been under way since June, but Hanson took his chances in the draft in November and two years in the Army rather than volunteering for three years in the Air Force.

The Army assigned him to a topographic engineer battalion and Hanson spent 21 of his 24 months outdoors dealing with map-plotting problems and, for one summer, Alaska’s Jeep-swallowing mud and clouds of mosquitoes.

Yet Hanson knew he was lucky not to be in Korea. A bout with the measles put him in an Army hospital in San Francisco in 1951, and Hanson saw hundreds of war casualties, many of them frostbite victims.

“These boys had all lost either one or both feet to frostbite,” Hanson said. “It was a very sobering experience there and again I was extremely lucky to get by like I did.”

Hanson returned to Rolling Hills after the service and on July 13, 1954, he teamed with O’Brien in an exhibition to play PGA legend Ben Hogan and Roland Harper, one of Hanson’s former high school opponents and an assistant pro.

The four teed off in 114-degree heat before a crowd of 1,500, and 18 holes later Hanson and O’Brien finished 8 under, two strokes better than Hogan and Harper.

“We tried for a month to get a bet and they just laughed at us,” Hanson said.

However, Hogan — coming off his Masters, U.S. and British Open victories of 1953 — didn’t disappoint as he shot an individual 5-under 67 to flirt with the course record.

Hanson thought about becoming a touring pro but didn’t think he could find the financial backing. After working at or operating courses in Oklahoma, he arrived in Arkansas in 1962 as head pro at North Hills Country Club.

He started a popular pro-am, then became head pro at Pleasant Valley in Little Rock from 1985-92. Hanson has since bounced around teaching and giving lessons, and he was happy to return to North Hills to do whatever he can to help out Darter.

“I’m in awe of that girl. I just stay out of her way,” Hanson said.

Hanson gives lessons, supervises the volunteer starters and still tries to provide the quality care he learned from O’Brien.

“You give them a little service, you take care of them and give them a smile,” Hanson said.

SPORTS>>Darter back at North Hills

Leader sports editor

Dawn Darter isn’t just at home on the golf course. The course is her childhood home.

Darter, 50, has returned to the course where she grew up, Sherwood’s newly renovated The Greens at North Hills, to serve as the course pro.

Darter’s childhood home, where her parents Dawn and Gene Barlow still live, is on hole No. 6, and the former country club, which officially reopened as a public course May 29, is where Darter developed her game and apprenticed as a club pro under veteran Tom Hanson in the early 1980s.

“I just played every day,” said Darter, a 1977 graduate of Mount St. Mary, in Little Rock, and a three-time Arkansas high school state champion.

Darter’s warm feelings toward The Greens at North Hills stem not only from her upbringing on the course but from the warm reception she got from the mostly male golfers around her.

“They all embraced me as one of their own,” Darter said. “It was very nice. To this day they’re all my good friends.”

Darter was a medalist in the state women’s amateur at age 15-16 and earned a golf scholarship to the University of Oklahoma
as the school’s first out-of-state athlete to participate under Title IX.

As part of the Educational Amendments of 1972, Title IX banned sex discrimination in athletics and academics at schools receiving federal funds.

“I saw opportunities as a golfer,” Darter said. “If I wanted to play sports for a living, I had an avenue.”
Darter worked at being a touring pro after college, until she was 21.

“There wasn’t enough money out there to chase and I didn’t want to wake up later and see that I wasted 20 years of my life,” Darter said.

So Darter married her love of golf with the life of the club pro and apprenticed under Hanson, a one-time standout junior golfer in Kansas and a veteran of North Hills himself.

“Tommy was a great role model,” Darter said.

Darter learned aspects of course management that included operation of the pro shop, merchandising, assigning carts, giving lessons and the oh-so-important scheduling of tee times that keeps play from bogging down.

Darter left North Hills to become head pro at Jacksonville’s Foxwood Country Club from 1982-85, then she moved on to Blytheville before taking the pro job at Black Mountain Golf and Country Club in Henderson, Nev.

From 2004 until February, Darter was the director of golf at Wild Horse Golf Club, which she opened as Henderson’s first municipal course on which players averaged between 60and 65,000 rounds a year.

But Darter had always been interested in her old home course in Sherwood, even when the facility was closed for three years.

Darter said she tried to let people in Sherwood know she was interested in North Hills and didn’t want to see the place fall into decay and disrepair.

So when plans were set in motion to renovate and reopen the 106-acre North Hills Country Club at a cost of $7 million, which included overcoming several legal hurdles, Darter left the dry heat of Nevada for the humidity of her native Arkansas.

“This property holds a lot of sentimental value to me,” Darter said. “This is the only property I would have left Nevada for.”

Darter isn’t the only person enjoying a homecoming at The Greens at North Hills.

Hanson, who at 81 assists Darter any way he can, is the former club pro and Mandel Brockington, who worked there as a teenager, is the golf superintendent.

“We’re not just looking for money,” Darter said. “We’re not just looking for paid greens fees. We’re looking for people to play golf.”

With the course opening in late spring during peak golfing weather, The Greens at North Hills had some catching up to do.

Darter initially spent 15-hour days on her duties and staff training.

Darter said the course is averaging 100 golfers a day and she would be happy if, with the late start, it could finish the year with 28,000 rounds played.

“This is where we set our trends,” Darter said.

The Greens at North Hills is a public course, like the one Darter left in Nevada, and while it offers rental space for receptions and meetings, there is no longer a pool or tennis courts. However. the objective is to enhance the public-course, golf experience with certain country club-style amenities.

Golfers are met in the parking lot and have their bags carried to the cart area, a full-service bar and restaurant sit next to the pro shop and the course requires tee times seven days a week and allows no individual play.

Darter said the tee times are especially important in maintaining the PGA-rated course’s pace of play at four hours and 15 minutes for 18 holes. Also, Darter’s staff pairs lone golfers with twosomes or threesomes to avoid slow play.

“You’ve got to look at a golf course as a highway,” Darter said.

“Traffic backs up. The car- pool lane moves because there are more people in the car,” she added.

There is another benefit to pairing off stray golfers, Darter said.

It’s one of the reasons she has loved the game since she took it up at age 5.

“It’s a social game,” she said. “It’s a game for all ages. You can pair the youngest guy with the oldest guy and they’ll have a great time.”

SPORTS>>Panthers partition coverage program

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s run-based Dead-T offense is not very 7-on-7 friendly.

But there’s plenty of practical experience for the Panthers to gain on the defensive side.

That was the plan for the Panthers as they hosted the second week of summer football at Panther Stadium on Wednesday. Bald Knob, Hazen and nearby North Pulaski make up the other teams in the small league, which will meet two more times in July.

While Wednesday was another opportunity for Cabot to size up competing quarterbacks Zach Craig and Bryson Morris, most of the focus centered on the two defensive units.

“That’s the one reason why we do it,” Cabot defensive coordinator Randy Black said. “We do it for defensive purposes. As a matter of fact, we’re just now working on throwing the ball. In the spring, we didn’t throw a pass. That’s the reason we started.”

The Panthers began the evening with a 30-minute scrimmage against Bald Knob before facing Hazen and then North Pulaski.

All of the teams then convened at the south end zone, and each defense made a nine-play stand as opponents rotated out after every play.

The Bulldogs were the most productive team offensively, scoring three times against the Panthers. But Cabot was able to limit
Hazen in the second scrimmage, and held North Pulaski scoreless in the final head-to-head battle.

“We did a great job of communicating, and it seemed like we were a little bit smarter,” Black said. “At this point, I was pleased with our calls and our rotations. We need to do a better job of breaking on the ball.”

Bald Knob threw two more touchdowns against Cabot in the goal-line finale, but the Panthers shut out Hazen and North Pulaski.

“The goal-line period — I thought that was our highlight,” Black said. “We had a pretty good goal-line period. Out of nine plays, we only had two busts. Seven out of nine is not bad for this early.”

Offensively, it wasn’t completions that meant as much to Cabot as the center-quarterback exchange.

Morris and Craig both bobbled snaps, with Black roaring, “He’s down, he’s down,” each time. The two also had to make an undignified bear crawl to the sidelines as punishment after each mishap.

“We’re looking at a lot of people,” Black said. “We went two complete groups, and that first group, we rotated in three more kids. So basically, we looked at 11 kids in that first group.

“In the second group, we rotated in the whole time. Offense wise, we went with two huddles. So we looked at two different quarterbacks, and we had five different receivers in each group.”

The matchup between Cabot and North Pulaski began with both teams throwing interceptions early in a drive. The Falcons had several incompletions but came up big with a 25-yard pass play on fourth and 10 that put them on the 5-yard line.

But the Panther defense was strong deep in the red zone and forced the Falcons to squander their first down on a no-throw time limit, then Cabot batted away the second-down pass before North Pulaski receivers dropped the next two attempts.

Black, head coach Mike Malham and the rest of the staff have a pretty good idea of who is capable of what at this point, but Black said there are still roles on the team to be filled with improvement over the summer.

“We did that in spring ball,” Black said. “So basically, we’re looking for the next three or four, somebody to really step up. And that could change, even in August. Spring ball helps us size up, but with 7-on-7, we’re looking for people to get the job done.”

SPORTS>>Panthers partition coverage program

EDITORIAL>>How Snyder won

Far from winning only Pulaski County, Rep. Vic Snyder won an average of seven of the eight counties during his career in the House of Representatives.

There is an urban legend that Snyder, elected seven times to represent Arkansas’ Second Congressional District, won by carrying the heavily populated Pulaski County, but lost all the other counties in his district.
In reality, that has never happened.

Not once.

Since his first race in 1996 for the seat vacated by Cong. Ray Thornton, Snyder’s never won fewer than half the eight counties in his district, he said this week, and a check of election records at the secretary of state’s website proved him correct.

“It’s such a common error, it’s got its own mythology,” Snyder said earlier this week when he called to correct just such a story in an article I wrote.

Snyder has been elected to the office seven times, never winning less than 52 percent of the vote, never winning fewer than four of the eight counties in the district—and three times winning all eight counties.

In addition to Pulaski County, the district includes Conway, Faulkner, Perry, Saline, Van Buren, White and Yell counties.

In the primary runoff earlier this month, Joyce Elliott defeated Robbie Wills to run as the Democrat for the Second Congressional District seat in November again Tim Griffin, the Republican nominee.

Elliott defeated Wills by winning big in Pulaski County, while losing big in the other seven, and I repeated without attribution the widely accepted myth—that Snyder usually won big in Pulaski County and lost the others.

Here’s what I found when I checked:

In the five years that Snyder had Republican opposition in the general election, he won an average of six of the eight counties.

His closest race was the first year, when he defeated Republican Bud Cummins with 52 percent of the vote and won four counties.

Add in 2008, when he was opposed only by a Green Party candidate, and in 2002, when he was opposed only by a write-in candidate, Snyder won an average of seven counties in seven November general elections—a far cry from winning only Pulaski County.

Here’s a recap, starting with the most recent general election and working back:

In 2008, Snyder won with 77 percent of the vote against Deb McFarland of the Green Party. The Republicans did not field a candidate.

Snyder won all eight counties.

In 2006, Snyder beat Republican Andy Mayberry 60.5 percent to 39 percent, with Mayberry winning only his home county—Saline—and that by less than 500 votes.

In 2004, Snyder won 58 percent of the vote, beating Republican Marvin Parks in five counties: Conway, Perry, Pulaski, Van Buren and Yell.

In 2002, Snyder ran without Republican opposition in November, winning all eight counties with 93 percent of the vote against write-in candidate Ed Garner.

In 2000, Snyder won seven of eight counties against Republican Bob Thomas, who won White County by 20 votes out of 17,718. Snyder won the congressional seat with 58 percent of the vote.

In 1998, Snyder garnered 58 percent of the vote, defeating Republican candidate Phil Wyrick in all eight counties.

In 1996, running for his first term, Snyder beat Republican Bud Cummins with 52 percent of the vote, winning four of the eight counties.

Just so you know.

—John Hofheimer

EDITORIAL>>The eagle has landed

The conference center at Little Rock Air Force Base was filled with community leaders on Tuesday, when Gov. Mike Beebe presented the prestigious Abilene Trophy to Jacksonville and its neighbors for being Air Mobility Command’s most supportive community.

Representatives from the Abilene, Texas, Chamber of Commerce brought the sculpted eagle to the conference center after selecting our area for the award and receiving final approval from AMC, which is an honor indeed.

Members of the Little Rock Air Force Base Community Council gave a standing ovation when the governor handed the trophy to Col. Gregory S. Otey, the wing commander, and to area mayors, who beamed with pride, and rightly so: There’s not another military community in the world that supports its base with more fervor than this area.

Just ask the folks at Air Mobility Command or Air Education and Training Command, which make up the main components at the base. The Air Force has watched the base grow going back 55 years, when the community raised $1.2 million and donated 6,600 acres that made the base possible, and right up to today, with Jacksonville paying $5 million toward a new joint-education center in front of the air base.

There’s so much more: Airpower Arkansas, a subset of the community council, raised funds for the base’s 2010 air show, collecting more than $50,000 from local businesses and individuals.

Community members also donated more than $22,000 in support of the LRAFB rodeo teams and accompanied the teams to the air competition.

In return, the base generates about $500 million a year in goods and services in local communities. It’s a pretty decent trade-off.

The Abilene Trophy is well deserved and much appreciated. The only question is: What took so long for the eagle to finally land here?

EDITORIAL>>Don’t let BP off the hook

While governments and industry wrestle with the insoluble problems created by the cataclysmic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the politics of the worst man-made environmental disaster in history is proving equally insoluble. Thursday, when BP’s chief executive made his dramatic appearance before a congressional committee, was the worst day since the company’s deep-water well exploded, at least for the Republican Party, which has struggled to find a way to make hay with the catastrophe.
Wednesday, President Obama had jawboned BP executives into setting aside $20 billion to pay for the cleanup and for the ruin to the hundreds of thousands of businesses and people whose lives and careers lie in the path of the spreading destruction.
While the president has been castigated in many quarters for being too nice to the multinational giant and its drilling partners, Republican leaders have criticized him for placing so much blame on the company that its profits and viability may be jeopardized.

Before Tony Hayward, the BP CEO, could make his opening excuses, Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, apologized to him for the conduct of the president of the United States. Barton, who has benefited handsomely from political gifts from BP and its subsidiaries and from the oil and gas industry generally ($1.4 million), described President Obama’s negotiations with the company as a “shakedown” and he said he did not want to live in a country where the president would do such a terrible thing to a good business.

Other Republican leaders had been making essentially the same point though less colorfully. Barton’s comments, watched on national TV and instantly blogged around the world, seemed to be a terrible political miscalculation. The House’s Republican leaders, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, summoned Barton and told him that he had to rescind his apology or else they would have to give in to demands that he be removed from his leadership of the energy committee. Barton went back to the hearing room and said that in case anyone misconstrued his remarks, he did not mean that BP shouldn’t pay for the cleanup and for reparations.

But Barton’s problem was that he was too clear and too colorful. The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative Republicans that includes our own Rep. John Boozman — the Republican nominee for the U. S. Senate in Arkansas — had issued a statement the day that Obama met with the oil executives bashing the president for demanding that the corporation create the escrow fund. Barton had even copied the group’s language. Boozman’s committee said the president had exerted “Chicago-style shakedown politics” and that BP shouldn’t give in. Rush Limbaugh, the broadcaster who is the acknowledged avatar of the Republican Party, said BP shouldn’t create the fund or else it should pass out the money itself rather than let an independent arbiter pay the claims. Limbaugh predicted that Acorn would get the $20 billion. Then Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the hottest Republican on the circuit next to Sarah Palin, said she didn’t like the idea of making BP pay for all the damage because it needed all its cash to drill more wells.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who was in Little Rock early this week plumping for Jim Keet, the former Floridian who moved here last year to run for governor, objected to making BP set aside $20 billion in escrow to pay claims because the company needs the money to drill more offshore wells so that it can reap big profits, which in turn will allow it to pay claims later.

Barbour, the leader of the Republican governors, had compared the oil gushing from the ruptured well to the sheen that appears in the wake of speedboats that tow skiers around the Gulf’s resort beaches. It’s just no big deal. The real harm, Barbour said, is not from the oil leak but from all the publicity about it. It is scaring vacationers away from Mississippi’s beaches at Gulfport and Biloxi. Barbour noted that there have always been tarballs from leaky wells washing up on the shores.

The Republicans seek to make the president’s hardheaded negotiations with the British-based giant a Jeffersonian test of the proper role of a national executive. After all, Congress some years ago fixed a ceiling, $75 million, on an oil company’s liability for all the harm that it might cause. Republicans so far have blocked efforts to raise that ceiling. Did the founders anticipate a president using his office as a bully pulpit to force a corporation to change its behavior, even if it is in the national interest?
We know that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would never do it. (It was Cheney’s company, Halliburton, that cemented the well just before it blew.)

Obama is acting like Harry Truman, both Roosevelts and John F. Kennedy, who used the prestige of the their office to force industries to act in the national interest. He is in rather better company.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.

TOP STORY>>Thief gets just 18 months

Leader staff writer

A former Pulaski County Special School District employee was sentenced Friday to 18 months in prison for stealing about $500,000 from the district to support his drug habit.

U.S. District Judge Bill Wilson also placed James Diemer, 49, the district’s ex-maintenance supervisor, on three-years
supervised probation after his prison term.

Saline County sheriff’s deputies arrested Diemer on May 15, 2009. He pleaded guilty in January to theft of property from a government entity that received federal funds.

Diemer, a PCSSD employee since 1999, admitted to investigators of defrauding the district “from day one” of becoming supervisor of mechanical systems “because he knew no one was looking.”

Diemer understood how the district system worked and he made it work for himself. The district allows blanket purchase orders for purchases under $2,500. He knew that excesses were allowed and that as his invoices passed up the chain of command to the superintendent, they were rubber-stamped without review.

A part of his scheme was to use one vendor to order items from another vendor so that excesses over monthly limits per vendor would go undetected.

Over five years, Diemer made purchases for equipment totaling $439,745. The items included 266 cordless toolkits, seven truck toolboxes, 28 radios, eight generators and 19 icemakers. Most he had sold; a few were found at Diemer’s residence.

Much of the money was supposedly used to support Diemer’s addiction to Hydrocodone or Oxycontin.

TOP STORY>>Air base school is on schedule for ’11 opening

Leader staff writer

The joint-education center is ready for a 50 percent construction completion “walk-through” next week and is on schedule for occupancy in January 2011.

The 46,239-square-foot facility is being built adjacent to Little Rock Air Force Base with $9.9 million in federal funds. Another $5 million, raised through a sales tax approved by Jacksonville voters, will pay for other essentials to complete the center.

They include classroom desks, chairs and overheadprojectors; upgrades to parking lot security with lights, cameras and telephones; landscaping; construction of a frontage road off Vandenberg Drive, where the center is located, and lengthening of the turn lane coming from the base to ease traffic flow.

With the new facility’s capacity to simultaneously serve 800 students, “it is going to be a major traffic jam” at the entrance to the center off Vandenberg, said Nancy Shefflette, director of Arkansas State University-Beebe (ASU) at Little Rock Air Force Base.

The new facility will replace the existing joint-education center located on base, which became difficult to access after base security tightened following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The old center had other problems that made it less than ideal as a teaching facility. Housed in an old dormitory, its classrooms were long and narrow, and hallways were cramped. And because it has not been brought up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, whenever a student enrolled who couldn’t walk the stairs, the class was moved to the ground floor.

Yet, the center has been serving 1,000 to 1,500 students at any one time, Shefflette said. Established to provide off-duty educational opportunities to active-duty airmen, the center’s priority is to them, but classes are also open to airmen’s spouses and dependents, retired military, civil servants who work on base and members of the community.

With 9/11, class enrollment dropped off considerably; ASU-Beebe lost two-thirds of its students, she said. With fewer students, course offerings have declined because of difficulties in meeting minimum-enrollment requirements.

Even though the new facility is going to be much smaller than the two dorms that comprise the existing center, Shefflette foresees enrollment increasing once it opens, because of ease of access as well as its better design. After all, she notes, it has been designed “from the ground up to be a higher -education facility, rather than re-purposed dorm rooms.”

The new center will have larger classrooms with proportions more fitting teaching than sleeping space so class sizes can almost double. There will be computer labs, as well as physical-science and life-science labs.

And, classes, now offered only on late afternoons, evenings and weekends, will expand to an all-day schedule if an adjunct faculty is available to teach during those hours, Shefflette said. “There will be more intensive use of the new facility.”

Because of the problems with the existing center, it was just a matter of time before there would have been a push to build a new one, but restricted base access after 9/11 “absolutely” is what jumpstarted the effort that led to Jacksonville voters deciding to tax themselves to raise money for construction of a new center off base, Shefflette said. It was the leadership of Gen. Paul Fletcher, former commander of the 314th Airlift Wing, and Tommy Swaim, former mayor of Jacksonville, that made that happen, she said.

“They put their heads together to build a facility to serve both types of students. Without their leadership, we would not be looking at this opportunity in 2010.”

The $5 million gift from the people of Jacksonville to the air base was unprecedented in the history of the Air Force. Because of the unique gift and other ways that the Jacksonville community supports Little Rock Air Force Base, the city was honored last week as a recipient to the prestigious Abilene Trophy from the Abilene (Texas) Chamber of Commerce. The award is made to recognize a community nationally that is most supportive of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command.

“It was a new paradigm,” Shefflette said. “No community has made such a substantial donation to this type endeavor. It is because of the high value the people of Jacksonville place on education. This center is a really big deal for Jacksonville. People will be really happy with their investment.”

ASU-Beebe, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Park University, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and Webster University will offer classes at the center.

TOP STORY>>Charter school’s principal resigns

Leader staff writer

It is more than a week since the public schools let out for the summer, but school is still in full swing at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School.

Tuesday will mark the end of the first year for the school, which has drawn students not only from the immediate area but also Sherwood, Cabot, Ward and Beebe.

The school will have a new principal before the start of the next academic year.

On Thursday, it was evident the school year is drawing to a close. Promotion from kindergarten to first grade was being celebrated, and front-office workers were sorting through a pile of backpacks, coats and other items that had accumulated in the lost-and-found closet.

As names on identification labels were announced over the intercom, children neatly clad in blue uniforms came into the office to claim their things.

A poster of an architect’s drawing of the school with the inscription, “NothingLess Than Excellence,” hangs on the office wall.

Eight months after opening late due to weather-related construction setbacks, the building still faintly smells of new paint and varnish.

Jacksonville Lighthouse Char-ter School is one of 10 schools in five states founded and managed with the assistance of Lighthouse Academies, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prepare students for college through a rigorous, arts-infused curriculum. Lighthouse charter schools serve historically under-served areas; 88 percent of its students nationally qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch. Regardless, all children are expected to excel in the program that emphasizes not only academics but good character and social skills.

The school has 344 students, kindergarten through sixth grade. Every year, a new grade is to be added through 12th grade.

Nigena Livingston, who has a track record with Lighthouse Academies and was brought in as principal to open the new school, will soon be saying her good-byes to its teachers and 344 students. Livingston, who has plans to marry, is moving back to her hometown, where her fiancé resides, Cleveland, Ohio.


Keri Urquhart, president of the school’s board of directors and whose daughter attended second grade at Lighthouse this year, says Livingston will be greatly missed.

“It truly has been a great year at the school, and Ms. Livingston obviously has been a huge part of that; she is top of the line,” Urquhart said. “As a mother I could not be more pleased. My daughter learned so much and had so much fun.”

The school year had not begun easily. With the building not ready for occupancy until late October, thankfully Second Baptist Church opened its doors to the school, and classes comprised mainly of students and staff, who were strangers to one another, crowded in.

“We’ve had some bumps in the road, having to transfer over from the church, but we got the school built in a year, and got 344 students from 20 schools all under one roof – that’s a huge undertaking,” Urquhart said.

Looking back over the first year at the school – and reflecting on state achievement test scores that were not as high as had been hoped, Livingston said that a lot of effort went into “learning logistics, putting processes in place, building relationships with families and learning to work together as a team.”

Next year, Livingston predicts, the focus will be “more on the mission of the school, differentiating instruction to meet the needs of the individual students and focusing on data to get every child to grow.”

As for the Benchmark exams, Livingston said the strong performance by the third-graders is proof of what can be accomplished. Eighty-percent scored proficient or above on the math and literacy tests, with only a “narrow gap” between white and black students. The school is about evenly divided between the two racial groups.

“They made huge growth,” Livingston said of the student body as a whole. “Obviously, we are not where we need to be, but we are pleased with the amount of success we’ve seen. The next step will be diving into the data with teachers and going forward.”


When a child misbehaves at Jacksonville Charter School, he or she may soon be in the office of Brad Burl, the director of school culture for a discussion about what went wrong and the conduct that is expected. A behavior plan is drawn up for the student, with teacher – and ideally the parents – providing direction in the follow-through.

A “student support team” of school administrators and teachers regularly meets to discuss individual students, hone in on problems and identify causes and solutions.

“They do fact-finding, make suggestions, draw up an action plan for the child and engage the parent and teacher,” Livingston said. “We keep parents involved, tell them ‘this behavior is unacceptable, your child can do better, we can help,’” Livingston said.

The kids at the beginning of the year who were chronically getting into trouble – dubbed “frequent flyers” – in time learned the error of their ways and “are not frequent flyers anymore,” Livingston said.
Indicators of the program’s effectiveness are the school’s 96 percent average daily attendance, a 5 percent suspension rate and zero expulsions are good indicators of the program.

“We don’t believe suspension fixes problems, but is only a punitive consequence,” Livingston said. “We are proactive, rather than reactive and are very deliberate and explicit about the behaviors we want to see. We don’t assume a child knows how to be polite or shoe respect.”

One such proactive move in the interest of civility was initiated by the fourth-grade teachers who saw a need for an upgrade in lunchroom etiquette among their charges. An etiquette coach was brought in, “we built it up and made a big deal out of it – and the kids loved it,” Livingston said.


A high percentage of the school’s students will be returning in the fall. In February, 96 percent of the parents signed letters of intent saying to re-enroll their child. Yet, a “handful” of students, Livingston said, did leave during the school year for various reasons. Some moved away, for some the commute was too far, for some the school day – which ends at 5 p.m. – was too long.

For others, “the school was not a good fit,” Livingston said. “We ask a lot of our families and it was not what some expected.

We definitely want a partnership – if there are challenges, we expect them to problem-solve with us.”

Three of the 18-member teaching staff also departed during the school year.

“This is a very challenging environment,” Livingston said. “We put a lot on our teachers to come up with ways to help every child be successful.”

Several more teachers are not being invited back. Livingston declined to say how many, only that the majority of teachers will be returning.

The teachers not being re-hired were ones without state teaching credentials who failed to follow through on their promise to pursue them – or whose students did not make “significant” gains in learning this year.

“I am dedicated to finding the best teachers for our students,” Livingston said. “That is what our students deserve in the classroom.”

Educated in the public schools of Rochester, N.Y., Livingston said she had “phenomenal teachers.” But she still thinks about the ones who she feels let he down. “I still feel upset – I feel like they could have better prepared me. I think it is important to advocate for children having the best instructors. I am looking for teachers who are highly qualified and effective.”

For teacher Nerinda Elliott, the school was a perfect fit. Fresh out of training at University of Arkansas at Ft. Smith, she was alerted to the prospect of teaching at the new charter school by her husband, Adam Elliott, also a teacher.

“The school is an example of everything we were taught in college,” she said. “This school actually does those things.”

Nerinda was hired to teach third grade, and Adam, kindergarten. Both will be back in the fall.

The arts-infused curriculum, one of the things that drew her to Lighthouse, really works, Elliott said. “The kids get a double dose of art and music compared to the public schools, and we have highly qualified specialists who come to the classroom.”

Multiplication tables were made easier put to song, and a geography lesson more meaningful with pictures drawn by the students.

“Students who usually sit back and don’t engage would step up and do their part,” Elliott said.

The school’s approach to discipline problems and building social skills is one of its strength, Elliott said. “It really builds a strong culture of positive relations – respect for one another, telling the truth.”

At the beginning of the school year, most of her students were strangers to one another. Now, Elliott watches with pride each morning, as students come into the classroom, “greet their neighbor, shake hands, look them in the eye and ask how they are and really mean it.”

Students are taught how to politely speak up for themselves or make a request when offended by a classmate. And when the tables are turned, and an apology is in order, students learn the difference between hollow and sincere words. A written apology that articulates how an action was hurtful is a common practice.

“This is to teach them how to carry through with a genuine apology,” Elliott said. “An apology letter is a very good way for the scholars to realize what they’ve done, when they put it in writing. We encourage stepping back and thinking, ‘how could you have acted,’ more than ‘don’t do that, stop that.’”

All teachers and students at Lighthouse will be together for another year. The practice, called “looping” provides continuity over two years. Elliott is excited about the prospect.

“I already know their names, what they are like, what they need to learn. The students are comfortable with me,” Elliott said.

“We won’t waste a month at the first of the school year. I love that.”

TOP STORY>>New school boosts Sherwood’s permits

Leader staff writer

A new $31 million middle school has jumped Sherwood’s permit values 900 percent over last year’s values.

Through May, Sherwood has issued 413 permits for a total value of $46.1 million compared to 235 permits for the first five months of 2009 worth just $5.6 million.

Ward and Austin are also seeing a good year so far. Jacksonville is treading water, falling slightly from last year’s figures and Cabot is down.

Asked this week about the state of the building industry in Cabot, public works Director Jerrel Maxwell had just one word to describe it – bad.

“We’ve got a lot of stuff on the drawing board, but nothing ready for permits,” Maxwell said.

Single-home permits are ahead of last year’s figures at this time, but commercial permits are down.

The assisted-living facility and nursing home that is supposed to be built across from Northside Elementary shouldbe ready for construction now that the plans for the storm-water retention pond are completed, Maxwell said.

The school district is getting ready to start a building for the ninth grade. And his office has the paperwork for a duplex and triplex on Cardinal Lane.

A dentist office and a dermatologist office are under construction, he said.

“But the housing industry is just about gone like everywhere else,” Maxwell said.

Karen Knebel, who keeps up with building permits at Cabot Public Works, said May wasn’t too bad with nine permits for new homes valued at $1,196,480 and three permits for finishing the inside of commercial buildings to the tenants’ specifications valued at $95,100.

But only three residential permits valued at $241,525, one of them a remodel, have been issued for June and the month is more than half-way through. For the year, 37 residential permits have been sold in Cabot.

Through May, Cabot has issued 37 single-family home permits with a total of $4.3 million. Through May of 2009, the city had also issued 37 permits worth $3.5 million. On the commercial side, the city has issued 13 permits for a total value of $4.7 million, compared to seven permits worth $6.6 million for the same time period in 2009.

Besides the single building permit issued in May valued at $31 million, Sherwood also issued five single-family home permits valued at a total of $1.13 million. The total value of the May permits was $32.9 million, compared to $2.13 million for May 2009.

In comparison to Cabot, Ward and Austin, which are both in the Cabot School District, are booming.

Records kept at Austin City Hall show no commercial permits this year, but 50 permits so far for residences. For May, five permits for houses valued at $800,000 were sold. So far in June, eight residential permits have been sold in Austin.

Records from Ward City Hall show 11 permits for houses valued at $793,500 were sold in May. No commercial permits were sold.

Jacksonville issued 23 building permits in May, valued at $946,000, down from the $1.18 million in May 2009. For the year, Jacksonville has issued $6.55 million in permits compared to $6.81 million issued for the same time period last year.

In Beebe, a total of five permits were sold in May. The largest was for Calvary Pentecostal Church, which is going up on the first big curve on Highway 64 at the very edge of the area annexed about three years ago. The church is valued at $300,000. The value of the four houses is $215,000.

TOP STORY>>Only half of PCSSD juniors read proficiently

Leader staff writer

Only 50 percent of high school juniors in the Pulaski County Special School District can read and write proficiently based on the just released Grade 11 Literacy Exam.

It’s even worse at Jacksonville High School, where just 37 percent of the juniors scored proficient or better on the literacy test, meaning that almost two-thirds of juniors did not have the grade- level skills to pass the test.

The school’s principal, Ken Clark, will be reassigned to assistant director of facilities management.

The 37 percent proficient rate at Jacksonville High School is the worst in the district. The 61 percent proficient rate by North Pulaski juniors was the best in the district, but that still means four out of 10 students didn’t make the grade.

Cabot High School was not only the top school in the area but was in the top 20 in the state. The school had 73 percent of its juniors score proficient or ad-vanced. But that still left one-fourth of the students underperforming.

Statewide, the best high school was the Arkansas School for Math, Science and the Arts in Hot Springs where 99 percent of the juniors scored proficient or advanced. Next was Haas Hall Academy where 98 percent of the juniors made the grade.

The state 2010 average was 62 percent scoring proficient or better and is almost a threefold improvement from the first year the test was given in 2001 when just 22 percent of juniors showed they could read and write at the appropriate level.

Beebe, Cabot, Lonoke and Searcy all beat the state average.


In Beebe, 195 juniors took the literacy test and had an average- scaled score of 208. That calculates to 68 percent of the juniors scoring proficient or advanced.


The school district had 644 juniors take the mandated test of reading and writing skills and had an average-scaled score of 211. Overall, 72 percent of the juniors scored proficient or advanced.

At the high school, 619 juniors took the test, had an average- scaled score of 212 and 73 percent were proficient or advanced.

At the district’s Academic Center for Excellence, 25 students took the literacy test, had an average-scaled score of 201 and 56 percent scored proficient or better.


At England High School, 61 juniors took the literacy test and had an average-scaled score of 190. Just 34 percent of the students passed the test and about two-thirds failed to make the grade.


In Lonoke, 111 juniors took the literacy test and had an average-scaled score of 205. Of the 111 students, 64 percent scored proficient or advanced on the exam.


Overall, 989 students took the literacy exam. The county students had an average-scaled score of 197 and just 50 percent were proficient or advanced.

At Jacksonville High School, 228 students took the exam, averaged a scaled score of 191 and just 37 percent were proficient or advanced.

Sylvan Hills had 215 juniors take the test and they averaged a scaled score of 196. Among the Sylvan Hills juniors, 49 percent passed the test, meaning more than half failed to score proficient or better in reading and writing at grade level.

North Pulaski had 192 juniors take the test, averaged a scaled score of 203 and had 61 percent pass the test. This tied the school for best in the district with Oak Grove High School, which also had 61 percent.


At Searcy High School, 244 juniors took the test and averaged a scaled score of 209, meaning 69 percent of the students scored proficient or better on the exam.

SPORTS STORY >> One-time Falcon Pflasterer to sign

IN SHORT: North Pulaski product set to wrestle for Central Baptist College.

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

Former North Pulaski Falcons wrestler Jared Pflasterer will sign a letter of intent to compete for the Central Baptist College Mustangs in Conway.

Pflasterer will sign at the college at 11 a.m. today.

This is the first year for collegiate wrestling in Arkansas and Pflasterer is the first from the area to sign to wrestle at the next level.

Pflasterer is a product of the Tony Mongno-coached North Pulaski program that was state runner-up in the 1A-5A classification in 2009 with Pflasterer’s help. Pflasterer reached the final of the 285-pound division and lost in a fall to Gentry’s Connor Willett.

Central Arkansas Christian edged out North Pulaski by 26 points for the 2009 team championship but the Falcons were only able to fill eight of the 14 weight divisions.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Bill deserves senators’ vote

Arkansas’ senators are in the enviable position of voting on a hugely important bill in which their little state has less at stake than most other states. That means that they can vote on the “jobs and tax extenders bill,” as it is known, with little but the purest national interest at heart.

The national interest pleads for a vote for the bill, and we hope that’s what Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln do.

The bill continues several short-term tax breaks for businesses, extends some economic-stimulus aid to state and local governments and raises a little revenue to offset the business tax breaks by closing the unfairest tax loopholes for rich investment-fund managers and corporations that shift their profits offshore.

The intensely controversial part continues some fiscal relief to the states, which Republicans are opposing as a run on the federal treasury. It will, indeed, continue the enlarged federal deficit a while longer. But the major reason that the deficit has ballooned the past two years is the recession. The collapsed global demand for goods and services and accompanying unemployment shrank the nation’s revenues dramatically while increasing the demand for government assistance, which is the very definition of a recession.

Last year’s stimulus package and similar programs by developing nations kept the country from plunging into another depression. We know that it made a huge difference in Arkansas, which avoided the economic depths of most states. When the stimulus runs out, it will mean layoffs in education and other public services and reductions in medical and unemployment assistance because most states have not yet regained the ground lost since the recession began in 2007 and may not until well into the next fiscal year.

Arkansas, fortunately, is not in such bad shape. Its Medicaid budget, helped immensely by the 2009 stimulus act and some unexpected revenue relief, can survive without extended aid. But the extra relief would extend Medicaid’s health well into the future, until 2014, when the new national health-care reform law will bring even more relief.

That means only that Lincoln and Pryor can vote for the bill without the self-propelled urgency confronting their colleagues from, say, Alabama, Arizona and California, where the human wreckage will be real and immediate if the relief isn’t extended. We notice that Congressmen Vic Snyder, Mike Ross and Marion Berry did the right thing two weeks ago. Rep. John Boozman, of course, voted against it, as required by his party.

There are other good reasons to support the bill. It will make the tax system fairer, and that is good for Arkansas, too. It closes the carried-interest loophole, which allows many investment-fund managers to disguise part of their compensation as capital gains and enjoy a lower tax rate than everyone else pays on their income. It also would stop some corporations that have offshore income from using foreign tax credits to cleverly avoid taxes on their U. S. income.

Finally, it would close the “John Edwards loophole,” named for the philandering former senator and presidential candidate, which allows S corporations (those that subject earnings to personal income taxes instead of corporate income taxes) to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes like other businesses and individuals. Edwards made the loophole famous by forming an S corporation for his law firm and claiming that the asset of his name rather than labor generated the law firm’s income, and thus he didn’t have to pay payroll taxes.

Our senators owe no obligations to John Edwards and we doubt that Walmart, Tyson Foods, Dillard’s, Murphy Corp. or the other titans that swing so much weight with Arkansas delegates have much at stake in the bill except their abiding interest in good government and the common good. Pryor and Lincoln can do the right thing.

SPORTS EVENTS >>11-20-10

Coaches Call Us

The Leader would like to hear from all coaches in all sports in our coverage area. Please e-mail results, statistics or information to or fax to 
501-985-0026 or call 982-9421.


The Arkansas Sabers are the newest team to join the semi-pro Alliance Football League, which has been in existence since 1999.

Owner/manager David Smith was previously with the disbanded Arkansas Rhinos and Central Arkansas Bonecrushers and many former players, with former members of the Arkansas Pirates, are joining the Sabers, who will open play next year.

Head coach Charles Reynolds has been with the semi-pro Abilene, Texas, Gladiators; Arena Football’s Abilene Ruff Riders and the Pirates. The Sabers are now interviewing for assistant coaches and volunteers for game-day operation, cheer coordinators and a public address, “voice of the Sabers” for all home games.
The Sabers are also seeking sponsors and donations to help with operational costs of the season. The team will hold an NFL-style tryout/combine in February for players 18 years and older.  For information contact Smith at (501) 743-6326 or e-mail

Volleyball,basketball signups at jacksonville  

Players can register for the men’s  basketball and women’s volleyball leagues at the Jacksonville Community Center through Dec. 30.

The women’s volleyball league fees are $25 for members and $30 for non-members. The league is limited to the first 12 teams that sign up. Games will be played on Tuesday nights at 6:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. Play begins Jan. 11.

Men’s basketball fees are $300 per team and the league is limited to the first 10 teams that sign up. Games will be played on Sundays from 2-6 p.m. Play begins Jan. 16.
The Jacksonville Community Center is located at #5 Municipal Drive, Jacksonville, AR, 72076. For information call (501) 982-4171.


SPORTS >> Life in baseball threw Valentine a few curveballs

IN SHORT: Former American League umpire is noted for being fired over efforts to unionize and has witnessed some of baseball’s most tragically memorable moments.

By Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

Notoriety comes the hard way sometimes.

No one knows that better than Bill Valentine.

The former Arkansas Travelers general manager and chief operating officer, who spent close to six years as an American League umpire in the 1960s, has seen firsthand the ways sports figures become household names.

It’s not always a pleasant process.

On June 2, American League umpire Jim Joyce made a safe call at first with one out to go to ruin a perfect game by Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Armando Galarraga. Replay showed Joyce blew the call and the remorseful umpire apologized to Galarraga.

“It was a terrible call,” Valentine said.

But Valentine said Galarraga, who forgave Joyce after the game, probably would be more famous for the classy way he handled his mishap.

If he had completed the perfect game, Galarraga would have been the 19th major leaguer to do so and the third this year, following Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay.

Instead of joining an admittedly select crowd, Galarraga, 28, has been on the Today show and cheered by fans and praised by managers and players for his professionalism, though he has said he wants to be remembered for more than a failed bid for perfection.
Valentine is no stranger to unwelcome fame himself.

Former Boston Red Sox manager and then-American League president Joe Cronin fired Valentine and fellow umpire Al Salerno in 1968 for their efforts to unionize the American League umpires.

Valentine is one of two umpires to have ejected Mickey Mantle, he was the youngest in his profession and he worked in Major League baseball’s last great heyday, yet he is still recognized for his being fired, Valentine said.

“I could have stayed in the big leagues 20 years and retired and no one would have ever known in a year or two who I was,” Valentine said. “So later on I started the union and got fired. Just a month or two ago I was in Tampa for a meeting and I was in the restaurant having a drink and someone introduces me and the guy said ‘You’re not the guy that started the umpires union are you?’

“I mean, 50 years later.”

Sometimes people simply find themselves in a marriage with fate that can’t be torn asunder.

If Valentine wasn’t known for being fired for forming a union, he might have been known as the umpire who witnessed one of baseball’s great tragedies.

Two actually.

Valentine was behind the plate in Boston on Aug. 18, 1967, when Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton shattered Tony Conigliaro’s cheekbone with an inside fastball.
The cheekbone healed, but Conigliaro missed all of the next season with a hole in his left retina.

He appeared to be making a miraculous comeback, with solid seasons in 1969 and 1970, before his deteriorating vision eventually forced him from the game in 1975.

Conigliaro died of a heart attack at age 45 in 1982.

“I was behind the plate when Conigliario got hit and two or three years ago ESPN came back on the anniversary or something because I was the guy behind the plate,” Valentine said.

Valentine was in the broadcast booth at North Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park on July 22, 2007, when a foul ball struck and killed Tulsa first-base coach Mike Coolbaugh, leading to the rule that requires all professional base coaches to wear helmets.

The tragedy resurrected memories of Conigliario and in the course of questioning Valentine about Coolbaugh, writers and reporters brought up the Conigliario connection.
But when called on, Valentine doesn’t flinch from answering questions about some of the darker moments in baseball history.

He knows it comes with the territory.

And he is still unflinching in airing his opinions.

When Joyce drew praise for apologizing to Galarraga, Valentine said an umpire in his day would not have done so. And besides, Valentine said, the apology didn’t change anything.

“What good is an apology?” he said. “You shot my wife. ‘I’m sorry Bill, I didn’t know the gun was loaded.’ Okay, thank you but I’m still a widower.”

SPORTS >> Brown, defense carry Chevy Boys

IN SHORT: Gwatney gets error-free defense plus pitching in victory.

By Jason King
Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville Gwatney Chevrolet’s performance against North Little Rock didn’t need to be flashy.

The Chevy Boys played solid fundamental baseball on their way to a 5-1, junior American Legion victory over the Optimist Colts at Hickingbotham Field in Dupree Park on Tuesday.

Xavier Brown was the winning pitcher for Gwatney with five innings of work. Brown allowed six hits and one run before giving way to starting third baseman Zach Traylor in the top of the sixth.

Gwatney’s defense went error free and gave up only one run in the top of the second inning, while the offense placed some timely hits, especially in the bottom of the second.

The Colts took the lead in the top of the second when Brian Chastain singled and advanced on a walk to Paul Morris before Landon Gray drove him in with a single to left.

Jacksonville answered in the bottom of the inning. Brown led off with a bunt single, Alex Tucker walked and Traylor singled down the third-base line to load the bases.
Brown scored when Troy Allen’s liner to shortstop was mishandled for an error.

With two outs, Kenny Cummings bunted and the Colts committed another error that scored Tucker to make it 2-1.

Center fielder D’Vone McClure singled to right to bring in Traylor to give Gwatney a 3-1 lead.

Jacksonville’s Brandon Russell singled to lead off the fourth and scored when North Little Rock botched a double play on McClure’s infield hopper.

Brown retired the Colts in order in the third inning and gave up only one hit in the fourth before retiring the next three, but began to show some fatigue in the top of the fifth.

Gray led off with a single to left and took third on an infield single by Tyler Jaleel. But Brown struck out Blake Manning for the second out and Drew Denny grounded out to Traylor at third base to end the at-bat.

Brown walked to lead off the fifth but was forced out at second when Tucker hit into a fielder’s choice. Tucker tagged up and took second on a fly to right by Traylor and scored Gwatney’s final run when Allen doubled to left.

Traylor gave up three walks in the sixth and seventh innings combined, but allowed only one hit to Matthew Hinistedt, the first batter he faced in the top of the sixth.
The Colts tried to rally in the top of the seventh when Wesley Moore and Jaleel walked, but Traylor struck out Manning and got Denny to pop out to second, and then Hinistedt grounded to short for a game-ending fielder’s choice.

Brown also led Gwatney at the plate, going 2 for 2 with a double and a run. Tucker scored two runs and Allen finished with a double and two RBI.

For North Little Rock, Gray was 2 for 2 with an RBI and Hinistedt was 2 for 3.

SPORTS >> Gwatney runs out of gas in loss

IN SHORT: Visiting North Little Rock overcomes 5-1 deficit to claim a victory at Dupree Park.

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville got all it could in the first inning, but couldn’t make it last.
Gwatney Chevrolet’s senior American Legion team watched a four-run lead evaporate, as North Little Rock rallied for a 7-5 victory at Dupree Park Tuesday.

Gwatney starting pitcher Jesse Harbin took a 5-1 lead into the third then got into trouble as the Optimist Colts reeled off four straight hits to pull within 5-4.

Reliever Michael Lamb gave up a walk and an RBI single that tied the game.

North Little Rock pulled ahead in the top of the fourth on an infield error by Gwatney that led to a run, and Tyson Tackett hit a home run to right to complete the scoring.

Gwatney had its way with North Little Rock starter Will Harris in the bottom of the first inning. The entire lineup batted, and it scored all five of its runs.
D’Vone McClure started things off with a line-drive single to left and advanced when Harris hit A.J. Allen.

Williams Baptist signee Caleb Mitchell grounded out before cleanup hitter Patrick Castleberry scored McClure and Allen with a double to left to put Jacksonville up 2-1.
Jared Toney singled to score Castleberry, and Kenny Cummings gave Gwatney the 5-1 lead when he hit a home run over the right-field fence.

The Colts scored their first run when leadoff man Cain Cormier led off the game with a walk and scored on a single by cleanup hitter Cody Ward.

Harbin and the Jacksonville defense made up for an error to start the second inning with a 5-4-3 double play to retire the side. But Gwatney Chevrolet was not as fortunate in the top of the third.

Things looked promising for Jacksonville as Cormier grounded out to third and Zach Ketchum popped up to right for two quick outs.

But a single to left by No. 3 hitter Brooks Howard started the rally that proved to be the difference.

Howard scored when Ward doubled to left, and Alex Gosser doubled to right to drive in Ward and make it 5-3 Jacksonville. Tackett then singled to right to drive in Gosser and cut Gwatney’s lead to one and force a change at the mound.

North Little Rock tied it when Derek Houser singled to score Tackett.

Comier reached to start the Colts’ fourth when Mitchell misplayed his grounder at third for an error. Ketchum followed with a triple to deep center field to give North Little Rock its first lead.

Lamb recovered to strike out the next two batters and gave up only one more hit through the final two innings, but the hit he surrendered was a big one.
Tackett stepped into Lamb’s first pitch of the fifth and sent it over the right-field fence to make it 7-5.

Gwatney had a chance to at least tie in the bottom of the sixth when Gosser hit Cummings with a pitch and Cummings advanced when Tucker singled to left. Brown’s squeeze-bunt attempt backfired as Colts first baseman David Stracner quickly fielded it and made the play at third.

That still left two on for Jacksonville, but McClure grounded to short to start a double play.

Toney was 2 for 3 with a RBI for Gwatney and Tucker was also 2 for 3.
McClure was 2 for 4 with a run scored.

For North Little Rock, Ward was 2 for 3 with two RBI and a double, while Tackett was 2 for 4 with a home run, 2 RBI and two runs scored.

SPORTS >> Middle school gets turf

IN SHORT: Construction is nearly complete on Jacksonville Middle School field house booster project.

Leader sports editor

The grass is fake but the benefits should be real at Jacksonville Middle School’s new fieldhouse.

A community-wide effort came a step closer to completion last week with the installation of FieldTurf inside the fieldhouse.

The artificial turf came from Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium, undergoing a renovation of its own, and Jacksonville booster club president and state representative Mark Perry said its installation makes Jacksonville one of the few middle schools in the state to have such an indoor surface.

“It looks awesome,” said Perry, who has joined local coaches to help push the middle school project.

Perry said the cost of the turf and its installation was $15,000, an improvement over the $50,000 a brand new surface would have cost. Now, Perry said, Jacksonville will have a facility available for multiple uses, from football practice to youth sports like Sertoma football.

“The high school has their own,” Perry said. “The middle school, we can use it for football, baseball, track if you really have to, the Sertoma organization.”

Perry, coach of the Jacksonville High School shooting team, said he even got to take his shooters indoors to practice with laser guns. “That was phenomenal,” he said.

The fieldhouse will have a weight room and an upstairs study area with computers. Final stages of construction include finishing the painting and installing sprinklers for fire prevention.

“We have determined to get this thing finished before football season starts,” Perry said.

Donations of labor and materials played a large part in the fieldhouse construction, Perry said. Pinnacle Structures in Cabot donated the building itself.

“It was built by the community for the community,” Perry said. “The city has helped us, the water department. Any person I’ve asked to contribute has answered the call.”
Perry said any facility in which young people can have supervised athletic activities and a place to study is bound to be good for the city overall.

“Anything that you can do to give them a place,” Perry said. “It’s win-win.”
FieldTurf first appeared in the late 1990s as a competitor to AstroTurf, which was frequently blamed for abrasions and knee injuries because the surface was too unyielding.

The FieldTurf surface is a blend of synthetic fibers that more resembles and feels like natural grass while the infill has layers of rubber and sand that provide a cushion for athletes as they plant their feet and pivot.

A spray of rubber bits during a football tackle even resembles flying dirt, Perry said.

A five-year study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found injury rates were similar between natural grass and artificial surfaces like FieldTurf, though there were more skin injuries and muscle strains on the artificial surfaces and more concussions and ligament tears on natural grass.

Football players have praised FieldTurf and surfaces like it because they provide more cushion, are easier on the knees and joints and reduce turf burns. Stadium operators like it because of its durability and relatively low maintenance.

Most of the criticism of FieldTurf and its artificial-surface cousins has come from the professional soccer world.

High profile players like David Beckham have said natural grass should be used for all major soccer matches because the artificial surfaces take too much of a toll on players’ bodies and don’t play enough like real grass.

OBITUARIES >> 09-15-10


Ruby Christine “Granny” Gosha, 84, of Jacksonville died Sept. 11.

She was born Aug. 22, 1926, in Walnut Ridge to the late Jess Mitchell and Josie Maude Speck Fox.

Mrs. Gosha dedicated her life to her family and worked for Franklin Electric. She was also a member of North Jack-sonville Baptist Church.

In addition to her parents, Mrs. Gosha was preceded in death by her husband, George Gosha; a daughter, Charlotte Pennock; a grandson, Brent Ferguson Jr., and her brothers and sister, Kenneth Fox, Mitchell Fox, Ralph Fox, Russell Fox and Ruth Mayberry.

Mrs. Gosha is survived by her daughters, Barbara Sutton and her husband Don of Mayflower, Carol Besancon of Russellville, Nona Ferguson and her husband Brent of Jacksonville and and Sally Gosha of Jacksonville; a son-in-law, Robert Pennock Sr. of Lonoke; 14 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandchild as well as sisters-in-law, Nell Fox and Kate Fox, both of Pontiac, Mich., and a brother-in-law Homer Mayberry of Helman, Mich.

The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15 in the chapel of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home with Rev. Lindon Whitledge officiating. Burial will follow at Arkansas Memorial Gardens under the direction of Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

Memorials may be made to Alzheimer’s Association National Office, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 17, Chicago, Ill. 60601.


LaRose Miles Lackey, 71, of Lonoke, known for her volunteerism and philanthropy, entered heaven’s gates on Sept. 12.

As a beloved teacher, mother, wife and community leader, LaRose will be deeply missed.

Born on Feb. 17, 1939, LaRose was a proud 1957 graduate of Lonoke High School. She was to be honored this year with the Lonoke High School Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus award.

LaRose has always been the “go to” person in Lonoke where she served as the first director of the Relay for Life committee, which raised more than $52,000 for cancer research.

In 1995, LaRose was recognized as Lonoke’s Educator of the Year. She loved teaching and dedicated 45 years of service in public schools and the Lonoke County Adult Education Center.

As a member of Lonoke First United Methodist Church, LaRose took her talents to Juarez, Mexico, on mission trips helping to build houses. She was always ready to deliver her homemade chicken and dumplings to anyone in need.

You may remember her from Lonoke’s “Uptown Saturday Night” singing Sister Act, riding on a homecoming parade with the Class of ‘57, asking for donations for a local charity, working on a Lonoke beautification project, or volunteering at the Clinton
Library. LaRose loved her community like she loved her family.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Lottie Mae and Leland L. “Sport” Miles and her sister, Freida Miles.

She is survived by her husband, Ralph Lackey; and two children, Mike Burgess and his wife Karen of Lonoke, and Michelle Young and her husband Greg of Cabot.

LaRose adored her three grandchildren, Ashley Simpson, Whitney Burgess and Charl Young, and her great-grandchildren, Brooklyn and Barrett Simpson.

She lived life to the fullest and found pleasure in the simplest of things. It is quite likely that she is organizing an “event” in heaven and has already signed up for several committees.

A memorial service to celebrate a life well lived will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15 at Lonoke First United Methodist Church.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Wade Knox Children’s Center, 1524 North Center, Lonoke, Ark. 72086, the Lonoke Scholarship Foundation, 221 Holly Lonoke, Ark. 72086 or the Lonoke County Museum, P.O. Box 873 Lonoke, Ark. 72086.

Arrangements are by Boyd Funeral Home in Lonoke.


Lorie Gayle Dulany, 33, of Cabot passed away Sept. 13.

She was born Oct. 24, 1976, in Little Rock.

She was preceded in death by her father, Wayne Colbert.

She is survived by her loving husband Joe Dulany of the home; four children, Jeffery Feltner of Moberly, Mo., Sean Lackie of Cabot, Samantha Anthony of Ward and Joseph Feltner of El Paso, Texas; her mother and step-father, Tressia and Frank Wilhite of Lonoke; her father and step-mother, Floyd “Buddy” and Karen Walker of Jacksonville; three sisters, Zettie Eltrich of Jacksonville, Patricia Trejo-Trejo and Lindsey Colbert, both of Ward; her stepsister, Brenda McDonald of Ward; two step-brothers, William Young and Lewis Young, both of Jacksonville and a host of nieces and nephews, friends and loved ones.

Visitation will be held 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15 with family receiving friends from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16 at First Freedom Baptist Church in Butlerville. Interment will be in Monk Cemetery.

Arrangements are by Thomas Funeral Service in Cabot.


George D. McBride, 82, of Ward passed away Sept. 13.

He was born Jan. 1, 1928, in Lawtell, La.

George was a veteran who served his country in the Army and the Air Force.

He was a Catholic and a member of St. Judes Catholic Church.

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen; one daughter, Diane and her husband Gary Hollingshead; one son, Michael McBride; one brother, Thomas McBride of Florida; two grandchildren, Shawn and his wife Heather Hollingshead, and Brad and his wife Beth Hollingshead, and one great-granddaughter, Shelby Potter.

A Memorial Mass will be Saturday, Sept. 18 at St. Judes Catholic Church in Jacksonville.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The Old Austin Baptist Church, 50 Old 38N, Austin, Ark. 72007.

Arrangements are by Wood Bean Family Memorial Center in Jacksonville.


Jeffrey Scott Wuelling, 45, of Bono, formerly of Jacksonville, died Sept. 14.

He was born Aug. 8, 1965 in Omaha, Neb. to Herbert and Phyllis Myers Wuelling.

He graduated from Jacksonville High School and worked at Quality Precast as a computer draftsman. He was a diehard Nebraska Cornhuskers fan and a musician.

He is survived by his wife, Nicole Hernandez Wuelling; his daughter, Ashley Cook and her husband William; son, Randall and his wife Kellie Wuelling; grandchild, Arleigh Wuelling, all of Jonesboro; his parents, Herbert and Phyllis Wuelling; siblings, Herbie Wuelling, Jr., Diana Edwards, Vicki Keck and her husband Chuck and Kim Dickens and Jerry Kamer, all from Jacksonville; nieces and nephews, Rachel Gibson, Sarah Wuelling, Candice Stephens and her husband Mike, Catherine Dickens, Chris Wuelling and Danielle McCollough and her husband Matt, all from Jacksonville; great nieces and nephews, Madison and Dakota Stephens, Zane Wuelling and Chance Christianson.

Visitation will be from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18 at Roller-Farmers Union Funeral Home in Jonesboro.

EVENTS >> 06-19-10


The seventh annual POW/MIA Awareness Poker Run is from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. today. The motorcycle run will begin at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History and end at VFW Post 4548. The cost is $20 per rider or $30 per couple.

A motorcycle show will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. at the VFW Post. The entry fee for the competition is $10.

For more information, call 501-413-772 or 501-590-6980.


First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church in Ward will hold its vacation Bible school 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Bible stories, crafts, music and refreshments are planned. All age groups are welcome. For more information, call 501-941-5994. The church is located at Markham and Church streets.

First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, 401 North First St., will host its vacation Bible school from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The program offers Bible study, memory verses, game time and missions study. Call 501-982-1519 to register or for more information.


Grandpa’s Bar-B-Que will host a fundraiser for American Cancer Society from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 26 at Cabot High School Champs Hall’s parking lot.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

Admission includes barbeque, drinks and live music of PLU and Fenix.

Kids 10 and under get in free and will get a free hot dog.

There will also be a raffle drawing for a 40” flat screen Samsung TV.

There will be bouncy houses and games for the kids.

The event will also include an amateur cookoff for a cash prize, trophy, and bragging rights for the best recipe in Lonoke County.

Call 501-413-7055 for more information.


The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce will hold a free small-business roundtable luncheon at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday at Foxwood Golf Club.

Sean Cresswell of Centennial Bank will speak.

The event is open to small business owners or managers. You do not have to be a chamber member to attend.

The deadline to register is today; call 501-982-1511.


Emmanuel Bible Fellowship Church will provide free meals to Jacksonville children weekdays until Aug. 2 at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club, 1 Boys Club Drive from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Max Howell Place from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and Willow Bend Apartments, 300 Marshall Road, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. No lunch will be provided on Monday, July 5. The program is funded by the USDA.


The Jacksonville and Cabot chambers of commerce will hold a joint-general membership lunch at 11:30 a.m Tuesday, June 29 at the Jacksonville Community Center. The guest speakers will be Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams and Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher.

The cost of the lunch is $12 per member and $15 for nonmembers. If reservations are not made before June 22, the cost is $15.


The Jacksonville Patriotic Spectacular is set for Friday, July 2.

Talented adults and children are needed for the patriotic adult and children’s choirs.

Adult and children’s choirs will perform “Because They Gave” with a spectacular firework finale. Anyone interested in joining the choirs should attend a rehearsal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church, 220 W. Main St.

Call 501-680-3094 for more information.


The Cabot Police and Fire departments will conduct a “Boots and Badges” fundraiser to benefit the Special Olympics from 1 to 8 p.m. today at the Cabot Walmart.

The state’s Arkansas law-enforcement community still needs to raise about $20,000 to meet its goal of $500,000.


Gold Star Mothers, an organization of mothers who have lost a child in combat, does not have an Arkansas chapter.

For more information about how to create one, e-mail Kei Torres at Torres’ son, Corporal Jason K. LaFleur, was killed in action in Hawr Rajab, Iraq.


The Alzheimer’s Association offers an Alzheimer’s Support Group at 10 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month at Evangelistic Ministries Church, 101 N. Elm St. in Jacksonville. Call 501-265-0027 or 501-940-5271 for details.


North Little Rock’s River Flicks continues at 7 p.m. Thursday with “Coraline” at the River Walk Park. Admission is free. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. “The Lovely Bones” will be shown on Thursday, July 1.

TOP STORY >> Lawyer pins hope on a new district

IN SHORT: Group will have a petition drive on Friday at Walmart.

Leader staff writer

A petition being circulated around Jacksonville is the latest strategy of proponents for a school district in Jacksonville and north Pulaski County, independent of Pulaski County Special School District.

Retired lawyer Ben Rice, who initiated the petition drive about a month ago, hopes a stack of signed petitions would win the backing of another lawyer, John Walker.
Walker is the attorney for Joshua Interveners, a group that for many years has advocated for educational equity for minority students in PCSSD as well as the two other school districts in Pulaski County.

Specifically, the petition supports the establishment of a separate district without the new district having to shoulder any of the debt for new school construction in Maumelle, Sherwood or Chenal, effective upon PCSSD achieving unitary status. The petition states that schools in PCSSD zone 6 (Jacksonville) and zone 5 (north Pulaski County) have been neglected by the district, alluding to research done this spring by Jacksonville High School seniors that showed that those two zones have been recipients of 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively, of all district capital improvement funding during the last 10 years. Those two zones contribute about a third of total property tax revenues collected for PCSSD, Rice told a gathering Thursday of members of the local chapter of the National Association of Retired and Active Federal Employees (NARAFE).

“That is not right. If you are sympathetic to our plight, please sign it,” Rice told the group as petition sheets were passed around. “We want to get a stack of them as thick as we can. If we can convince John Walker, that should pave the way for this thing to happen. But we will deliver this petition not only to Mr. Walker, but to the state Board of Education. I hope that they can read between the lines and give us a new school district.”

Rice said when he recently sat at a table in front of the Jacksonville Walmart asking for passersby to sign the petition, “African Americans were more ready to sign than Caucasians.”

The Jacksonville chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is one of several groups in town working on the separate school district issue, said Rizelle Aaron, who attended the NARAFE meeting.

Aaron said that he was optimistic that Walker could be won over, but in order to do so, there must be community unity on the issue and an authorized spokesman who can say that a separate district is truly the will of the community.

“Mr. Walker wants to meet with people out here, but if we are not organized, he is likely to walk out and leave us sitting at the table,” Aaron said. “Unless we can come together and have one voice it will be difficult.”

More support from city government as well as civic organizations and churches would help the cause, Aaron said. “Otherwise, it doesn’t appear to be a cohesive group.”

Ivory Tillman, president of the local chapters of the NARAFE and as well as the NAACP, said, “This is not a political meeting, we want that understood. But our concern is to do all we possibly can to get a separate school district.”

Rice told the group that 14 of the 36 PCSSD school facilities are in Jacksonville and north Pulaski County. According to an assessment of conditions of Arkansas’ 1,129 school facilities, 12 of those 14 schools are among the 300 worst in the state. Eight are among the 200 worst, and four are among the 100 worst. The poor condition of Jacksonville schools is hurting the local economy, because people with school-age children are not choosing Jacksonville as their home, Rice said.

In the last 10 years, enrollment in schools in neighboring Cabot has increased 40 percent, while enrollment in Jacksonville schools has declined 23 percent, said Rice, citing statistics in the study by Jacksonville seniors on the impacts of conditions at their school on learning.

As he gathered petition signatures recently, Rice said, one couple from Cabot told him that they moved away from Jacksonville because they did not like the schools.

“They told me if Jacksonville gets its own district, they’d move back,” Rice said.

“Property values are being affected by the schools – that is a very important fact,” Rice said. “This can’t be allowed to limp along. This needs to be brought to a head.”
Rice said that the poor conditions of local schools would be a challenge that a newly formed school district would have to tackle. However, he pointed to two studies on the financial impacts of decoupling from PCSSD. Both concluded that there would be no added financial burden for PCSSD or the new district and in fact found that “it would be better for both to separate.”

Rice, along with Jacksonville Alderman Reedie Ray and state Rep. Mark Perry, D-Jacksonville, earlier this year filed a brief in federal court asking Judge Brian Miller to rule that Jacksonville and north Pulaski County are entitled to a separate school district. Miller has not yet ruled on that, nor has he issued his findings in the PCSSD desegregation case. In that case, the district is seeking a declaration from Miller that it has attained unity status and should be released from federal court oversight of its desegregation plan, which was instituted in 1989.

If Miller finds that PCSSD has indeed complied with its desegregation plan, that would improve the chances for a separate Jacksonville-north Pulaski County school district.
“There is still potential to have an independent district, even without Miller declaring the district is unitary,” asserted Aaron. “It is easy to get discouraged, but we are on the right track.”

Supporters of an independent school district will hold a petition drive at the Jacksonville Walmart from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.