Saturday, September 11, 2010

SPORTS>>Red Devils, Perry pass to victory

Special to The Leader

The Benton Panthers showed signs of improvement, but so did the Jacksonville Red Devils 1-1, as they took their first victory, 34-10, at C.W. Lewis Stadium on Friday.

“Our kids didn’t quit,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “They kept playing, we got behind at the beginning but we just kept plugging.”

Jacksonville out-ran and out-threw the Panthers and seemed to get the breaks when it counted.

“I thought Jacksonville played a good game and when they needed a big play, they got it,” Benton coach Scott Neathery said.

“And boy that really helped them and that seems to be our back-breaker right now.”

The Red Devils got three touchdown passes from quarterback Logan Perry with D’Vone McClure coming down with two of the touchdown receptions.

Benton’s first possession ended in an interception and Jacksonville had to punt after six plays. Benton then drove from its 20 to the Red Devils 48 before Grant Jones had an excellent punt that rolled to their opponents’ 7.

The Panthers’ defense held and on the next two plays Zach Stuckey and Carson Holloway combined to sack Perry for a 12-yard loss.

After an incomplete pass, Jacksonville attempted to punt but Taylor Schmidt recovered a bad snap on the Red Devils 15 that led to the Panthers’ only score.

Four plays later quarterback Grant Jones passed two yards to Brooks Balisterri with 2:19 left in the first period. The kick for the extra point by Sean Carrigan was good to make it 7-0.

“We got beat in all phases of the game,” Neathery said. “We need to get back and evaluate everybody and every position and just see where we are.”

Benton had numerous Jacksonville passes go through its hands for near interceptions all evening.

Despite miscues, Jacksonville came back on its next possession and drove 80 yards in twelve plays and capped the drive with a 31-yard pass from Logan Perry to Jamison Williams with 11:22 left in the half. The kick for the extra point by Aaron Shore tied it 7-7.

Ryne Keene intercepted a pass at his shoe tops on the Red Devils 42 that led to a Panthers field goal. The Panthers drove to the Jacksonville 7, but the Red Devils held for no gain.

On fourth down, Carrigan kicked a 25-yard field goal with 4:30 left in the half for a 10-7 Panther lead. The drive was kept alive by a pass from Jones to Balisterri that covered 14 yards and Tamario Beaugard had a 15-yard rushing gain.

Jacksonville went ahead for good when it scored twice in the last two minutes of the half to take a 20-10 lead going into the locker room.

The Red Devils marched from their 20 to the Panther 32 in less than three minutes before Shaquille Davis raced to the end zone with 2:03 left in the half. The drive was aided by a roughing the kicker penalty. Shore missed the extra point kick to leave it 13-0 Jacksonville.

Dylan Harris and Connor Tate had a sack for four yards but an 11-yard completion to McClure was short of the first down, but the roughing penalty gave new life to the Red Devils.

After holding the Panthers to three and out, another Jones punt put the ball on the Jacksonville 27. Four plays later, Perry passed to McClure for a touchdown with: 34 left in the first half. Shore’s extra point was good for the 20-10 lead at halftime.

SPORTS>>Rebels’ pain not actually Razorbacks’ gain

Leader sports editor

Well, the Arkansas Razorbacks did everything they were supposed to do against Tennessee Tech last week.

That’s right, the Hogs didn’t stink.

And that’s really all we know so far about the 2010 Razorbacks. Right now, they don’t stink.

They certainly didn’t suffer the ignominious fate of former coach Houston Nutt, whose Ole Miss Rebels fell 49-48 in overtime to lowly Jacksonville State, led by another former Hogs coach Jack Crowe.

But more on that in a minute.

Razorbacks fans might have been concerned their heroes opened the season against the lowly Golden Eagles by getting outscored 3-0 in the first quarter. Even against the worst programs, a team can be expected to make a goof or two in its first game of the year.

And Tennessee Tech isn’t one of the worst teams, just an average member of the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision once known as Division I-AA.

After spotting the Golden Eagles’ Matthew Barker a 27-yard field goal and being stopped on fourth down in the first quarter, the Razorbacks rose up like the top 25 team they are.

Not only did Heisman Trophy candidate Ryan Mallett go 21 of 24 for 301 yards and three touchdowns, he had the longest scoring completion of his career on an 85-yard connection with Joe Adams.

So all is well in Hog land for at least another week. No embarrassing losses or close calls, no program-breaking injuries.

For all we know the defense is as improved as coach Bobby Petrino wants it to be. For all we know, Mallett is on his way to Times Square to pick up his Heisman.

Let’s face it, we won’t really know if this is the national championship-caliber team fans are praying for until No. 14 Arkansas plays No. 22 Georgia in one week and top-ranked, defending national champ Alabama in two.

Unless, of course, Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Monroe trips up Arkansas in Little Rock today. If that happens you can just about write off Georgia and Alabama and start planning your Liberty Bowl trip.

But for now, Arkansas is sitting pretty, and it certainly isn’t Ole Miss. Which brings me back to Nutt.

After falling out of favor at Arkansas for a slew of reasons both personal and professional, Nutt jumped to fellow SEC member Ole Miss and went 18-8 his first two seasons, beating Arkansas twice and winning two Cotton Bowls.

So the Razorbacks fans were thrilled to see Nutt drop his opener to Championship Subdivision member Jacksonville State, a defeat reminiscent of the embarrassing way Crowe’s Razorbacks lost to the Citadel and hastened Crowe’s departure in 1992.

I get why Hogs fans would have it in for Nutt — now — because, after all, he is coaching for a rival conference school.

However, I would remind fans that Nutt was nothing if not an enthusiastic Hogs coach, an Arkansas native who posted a 75-48 record at the university and was usually good for a winning season and a decent bowl game, a guy who beat Texas and had those thrilling victories over LSU.

And no one has to remind me how Nutt screwed up through his flirtations with Nebraska and a certain female television reporter while he was unable to work up any sort of romance with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and quarterback Mitch Mustain.

We’ve been over that.

What gets me about the Hogs fans cheering Ole Miss’ season-opening flop is that these are the same fans, come bowl season, who will root for the SEC because it somehow makes the Hogs look better.

Certainly, if you want to say you come from the toughest conference — and the SEC, if not THE toughest is right up there — wouldn’t you root for Ole Miss in a non-conference game? Especially if it’s a team from a lower classification?

How does such a loss help your national image?

Say Arkansas, which faces Ole Miss on Oct. 23 in Fayetteville, is on the bubble for a really good bowl and someone on a selection committee considers strength of schedule. What happens when they take into account Ole Miss’ loss to Jacksonville State, especially if the Hogs have already played patsies like Tennessee Tech and Louisiana-Monroe?

North Carolina’s near upset of SEC member LSU last week doesn’t help either.

Look, the Hogs will have their chance to get back at Nutt in October.

Until then, if it’s SEC supremacy the fans want, they may need to find some charity in their hearts and hope Nutt gets the Rebels up to speed tonight against Tulane.

SPORTS>>Gritty effort not enough; Hornets outduel Falcons

Special to The Leader

Oak Grove’s Head Coach Mike Buchan said “We got lucky” after his hornets beat the North Pulaski Falcons 36-12 at North Pulaski on Friday.

The Hornets led 16-6 late in the third quarter and used a trick play, sending the quarterback out as a receiver and have running back Eric Parks take the snap.

Parks dropped back and completed a 63-yard touchdown pass, pushing the lead to 22-6.

Three plays later the Hornets defense forced a fumble and Joseph Harris picked it up and ran 38 yards for the touchdown. The Falcons answered in the fourth with Marvin Davis’ 21-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 36-12 with just over a minute to play.

In the second quarter the Hornets drove the length of the field setting up a fourth and goal from the 20-yard line.

“We thought we could just run it down them, we have been running over people for the last two weeks,” Buchan said.

The Hornets ran a quarterback keeper and the Falcons were waiting for him. Darius Cage made the tackle at the 5- yard line.

“Cage is the emotional leader of our defense,” North Pulaski coach Greg Hatcher said. “He played like a leader he was always around the ball.”

Buchan said the Falcons gave the Hornets more then they wanted or expected.

“We watched the tape on them and we thought it would be an easy game,” Buchan said.

“But this team has fight. They gave us more fight than any Falcons team has before and that’s a credit to that coach. They played us out of our socks.”

Hatcher said he felt good about this team and he knows it can win.

“We’re a work in progress, but we definitely played better tonight,” Hatcher said. “The defense played well.”

The difference between the first and second half was Parks. He ran for 136 yards and threw a 63-yard touchdown pass.

In the second half it seemed the Falcons could not stop him. He ran between the tackles all night didn’t avoid contact.

Parks rushed for 41 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Hornets defense accounted for two touchdowns, one on the opening drive of the game.

The Falcons were moving the ball and gaining confidence until senior Donald Bone intercepted a pass from Shyheim Barron.

Bone went 45 yards for the score.

The Falcons rallied in the second quarter on 15-play drive capped with a three-yard run up the middle by Cage.

The Touchdown cut the Hornets’ lead to 8-6 but the extra point was then blocked.

The Hornets (2-0) never trailed but North Pulaski (0-2) had a shot at the upset until Parks took over.

“Our offense looked better tonight,” said Hatcher, the former offensive coordinator. “Still not where we need to be, but we looked better.”

SPORTS>>Lonoke gets by injuries, Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The battle between local rivals Lonoke and Beebe turned into a battle of adjustments.

Key players from both sides went out early with injuries, but the Jackrabbits overcame their difficulties and came from behind to defeat the Badgers 26-21 on Friday at Bro Erwin Stadium.

Beebe controlled the line of scrimmage early and took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, and appeared to be in the driver’s seat when Lonoke quarterback Logan DeWhitt came out of the game with a shoulder injury midway through the second.

But backup Darius Scott came through for the ’Rabbits with a stellar performance late, engineering a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives.

The Lonoke defense then did its job when Beebe went to the air, getting a pair of sacks on Badger quarterback Scot Gowen that ended one drive. Senior defensive back Justin Smith intercepted a pass in the final minute to cut off the fireworks for good.

“We just challenged the kids,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “It’s just a team that comes straight at you, we knew that. They broke off big runs, but we never gave up. We just kept fighting, and were able to get some stops.

“Against a team like that, if you can get them to try and pass the ball, which they really don’t want to do, we were able to do that on them.”

Lonoke set the stage for a dramatic ending with a 92-yard scoring drive in 15 plays, highlighted by a 33-yard run by Darius Scott that took the ball to the Jackrabbit 47, and a 19-yard pass from Scott to senior Blake Dill that for a first down at the Beebe 11.

T.J. Scott then took it to the 1-yard line before he finished the drive by bulling his way into the end zone with 4:46 left in the third. T.J. Scott also added the extra point to tie it at 14.

Beebe began the fourth quarter with a short drive that ended with a five-yard run by junior running back Jay Holdway, but Lonoke came back with a quick drive that appeared to catch the Badgers off guard when Scott completed a pair of passes to Scott Smith and Dill.

Smith’s catch set Lonoke up with a first down at the Beebe 25, and Scott’s 22-yard pass to Dill in the end zone two plays later cut the Badgers’ lead to 21-20 after Matthew Pursell blocked T.J. Scott’s point-after attempt.

“They saw the film from last week when we had to play Darius in the fourth quarter,” Bost said. “They pretty much figured we weren’t going to pass, but I’ve seen him in practice, I know he can throw, he just had to settle down and step into his throw. He made some big throws for us.”

Beebe’s next drive stalled at its 42, but a Gowen punted to pin Lonoke at its 19. Darius Scott moved the ball close to midfield with runs of 18 and 11 yards, but it was Keli Bryant’s 44-yard run down the left side that set the ’Rabbits up with first and goal at the eight.

Again, it was T.J. Scott closing the drive with a power run up the middle that set the final margin with 5:51 left to play.

“We got some kids banged up, and we were scrambling for running backs,” Beebe coach John Shannon said. “We just got out of sync and allowed them to get back in the ballgame. They’ve got a real good ball team, and that’s the things you can’t do when you’ve got someone down, you can’t let them get back in the ballgame.”

Beebe was forced to go to the air with time running out, but Wes Plummer and T.J. Scott sniffed out Gowen for sacks of minus-four yards each time and forced the Badgers to punt it away.

“We were doing something we typically don’t like to do,” Shannon said. “That’s something we’re going to have to get better at, because we’re going to be in some close ballgames. We didn’t do a very good job of it tonight.”

Beebe took the first lead with a 33-yard run by Michael Kirby with 4:50 left in the first quarter and added to the lead with 35 seconds left in the first with a 10-yard run by Colby Taylor. Taylor sat out much of the second and third quarter, and Holdway was absent for the entire second half except for the final drive.

Beebe finished with 197 yards of total offense, 140 of which came in the first half.

Lonoke had 334 yards, with 206 in the second half and 140 in the third quarter. Darius Scott led the charge with 14 carries for 117 yards, 3-of-6 passes for 60 yards and a score, and had an early reception from DeWhitt of 13 yards for 190 yards of all-purpose offense.

SPORTS>>Panthers hold on, beat Bruins

Leader sports editor

It wasn’t until Zach Craig took a knee that fans could leave their seats.

The Cabot Panthers took a nail-biting, 35-34 victory at Pulaski Academy on Friday, surviving a late Bruins rally that hinged on a fumble and for all purposes ended with one.

“Any victory is a good victory, I want to tell you that,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “We worked so hard and they don’t come easy when you play good people like this.”

The game was a matchup of Cabot’s ground-control, Dead T offense against Pulaski Academy’s high-flying Spread with its empty backfield and multiple receivers.

Cabot appeared to have the upper hand with a 35-26 lead after leading rusher Spencer Smith, who scored every Cabot touchdown, ran in from six yards out for his last score with 11:09 left in the game.

Pulaski Academy turned it over on downs after it fumbled and recovered on fourth and 10 and Cabot appeared set to work the clock with 9:02 to go.

But the Panthers couldn’t convert on fourth and four and the Bruins drove for Lawson Vassar’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Zac Reyna and his conversion throw to Garrett Lamb to pull within 35-34 with 4:06 remaining.

Chase Boyles recovered the onside kick for Cabot with 4:06 left and the Panthers now needed a few first downs to run out the clock, but Craig fumbled on the first play, Aum’Arie Wallace recovered for the Bruins, and they appeared ready to steal the victory.

But Pulaski Academy, which used three quarterbacks, called for Jack Snider to pass to quarterback Fredi Knighton, who threw back across the field to Snider.

Snider couldn’t handle the lateral and Cabot linebacker Riley Hawkins recovered the fumble with 3:45 to go, allowing the Panthers to drive inside the 5 and let Craig take a knee twice to finally end it.

“Both systems worked,” Malham said of the two wildly different offenses.

“We thought we could come out and move the ball and stop them early because they were a little nervous and young,” Bruins coach Kevin Kelly said. “Obviously the further we got in the game the more difficult we knew it was going to be for our defense because they’re a solid offense.”

Smith rushed for 186 yards and his six touchdowns and his longest gain was 14 yards.

Pulaski Academy, which made national news by refusing to punt last year, continued its unconventional ways with the three-quarterback rotation, as well as going for on fourth down and attempting onside kicks after each score.

Hawkins recovered one such kick and it led to the possession that ended with Smith’s two-yard run and Logan Spry’s extra-point kick that made it 28-26 Cabot with 4:42 left in the third quarter.

Kelly said the onside kicks came out of respect for Cabot’s ability to sustain drives its Dead T.

“Our thinking was if they’re going to move the ball and drive it down we’re going to give them the short field so they’re not going to take all the clock,” Kelly said.

Then Cabot surprised Pulaski Academy with an onside kick of its own, and Boyles recovered the ball to set up the Panthers’ 50-yard scoring drive that made it 35-26.

“We said ‘Let’s see if we can get us a break,’ and it worked out,” Malham said. “And then of course we tried to give it back with another turnover there at the end.”

Friday, September 10, 2010

EDITORIAL >>Health care report card

With health-care reform, the good news is nearly always in the bad news. Each independent analysis of the new law that will eventually extend insurance to nearly everyone is treated as a doomsday report of rising costs to individuals, businesses and the government. But at bottom they tend to show just the opposite.

That is the case with the big report this week of the Medicare actuarial office, which studied the impact of the law through 2019, when it fully phases in, and compared that to what would likely happen if the law had not been enacted and the country continued along its present course.

The bottom line is that the average amount spent by Americans on health care in 2019 will be $13,652, compared with $13,387 that would be spent per person if there were no health-care reform. The difference is $265 per person.

But that is unvarnished good news. The reason that total health spending and the average health spending per person will go up is that tens of millions of people in 2019 will have health insurance who would not otherwise have it. If they are insured through Medicaid or a private health plan acquired through the new state health insurance exchanges, they will go to the doctor and to the hospital more often than if they were not insured. If they did not, there would be no point in extending health coverage to everyone.

Remember that during the big health care debate in 2009 one premise for opposing the legislation, especially in Arkansas, was that if all the poor people and the other uninsured could afford to go to the doctor or the hospital when they got sick it would mean that doctors and hospitals would no longer have the time and space to treat you because there are already not enough primary-care doctors. And Arkansas has a greater proportion of poor people and adult uninsured than just about any state.

No one — not the Medicare economists, the Congressional Budget Office or independent nonprofit foundations like Kaiser that study these things — can project reliably what will happen over the next nine years. Too much depends upon human behavior.

It is only a learned guess how many of the millions of uninsured who are above 400 percent of the family poverty line will buy insurance in the years after the mandate tolls in 2014 and how many will simply pay the tax penalty and wait until they get sick to get insurance.

The Medicare actuary predicted that 6 million more people will buy insurance than the Congressional Budget Office predicted back in the winter when Congress was passing the legislation. That largely accounts for the slightly higher per-person spending on health care in 2019.

If you are already insured, either through employer group plans or the very expensive individual policies, you can look at the actuarial projections in a different way. It means that you, or you and your employer combined, will almost certainly be paying less for your insurance in 2019 and beyond than you would if the law had not passed or if it is repealed. The steadily increasing medical costs of the uninsured who do get treated at hospitals would continue to be shifted to you without the new law. That is why Arkansas’s hospitals were the biggest supporters of the law. If the law succeeds in insuring just about everyone it will nearly end the hospitals’ vast unreimbursed care, and that means those costs will cease to be passed along to the insured.

One conclusion from all the studies is that the health law in this decade will not drive down total health-care spending or the individual cost of treatment and drugs. It will begin to do that but very modestly in its second decade unless Congress comes back and weakens the law.
But we all know why there are no draconian cost savings in the law. The only way that the government can force cost savings is through government insurance. That could not pass, so Obamacare, as it is called, simply builds upon the employment-based private insurance system. The government can wring economies from the government insurance programs, principally Medicare and Medicaid, which are the programs that insure the sickest people, but the steps that would regulate private insurance spending are hard to pass. The new health law will cap the overhead and profits of insurance companies, but if there is a Republican Congress and president in two years that is the one feature of the law that is sure to go. The insurance industry hates it.

The law will make some significant savings the next 10 years in government costs, mainly by reducing the huge taxpayer subsidy to insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans to the elderly and disabled. But those savings will not reverse the ceaseless rise in medical costs.

The Medicare actuary’s analysis ought to be particularly good news for Arkansas if it broke costs down by states. It almost certainly would show an increase in total health-care spending greater than the nation as a whole because a larger part of Arkansas’s adult population is not insured and will become insured with large federal support in 2014 and beyond. Greater health-care spending in one of the unhealthiest populations in the country is unalloyed good news — particularly if we’re not going to pay for it, or at least very few of us.

TOP STORY > >New schedule needs more drivers

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District is hiring up to 50 new bus drivers to comply with a court agreement on readjusting bus pickup and bell schedules for elementary schools.

The new bell schedules will start Monday.

Most PCSSD elementary schools will start school around 8:25 a.m. and end about 3:15 p.m., but the buses wouldn’t be picking up elementary students until around 4 or 4:15 p.m.

At most schools, the students will have choices to pass the time while waiting for the buses.

“Students will either be involved in tutoring, have homework help or be on the playground,” said Deb Roush, a spokeswoman for the district. Adults will supervise all three of the activities.

Roush said that as buses and drivers become available, the disrict will move the pickup times down to match the actual dismissal times.

“We hope to have all the bus times in line with the dismissal bell by the end of October,” Roush said.

The district, about a week before school, changed the bell schedule from what it had been the last few years to an earlier start time for elementary students (7:30 a.m.) and a later start time for secondary schools (8:30 a.m.). After parents complained loudly, the district reversed itself, making secondary schools start early and elementary school start later.

Then came the court agreement between the district and the teacher’s union to change the schedule one more time.

Superintendent Dr. Charles Hopson said, “Our limitation with our current transportation system is that the same bus and driver transport both the secondary and elementary students, and the window for our bell schedule is determined by the roughly 700 square miles the drivers must cover to get all students to school on time.”

Drivers will be paid $40 a day and be driving routes that are an hour to an hour and a half long.

Applicants must have a clean record, be at least 21 years old, have a commercial driver’s license and pass a Department of Transportation physical and a drug screening.

Those interested in driving a bus should call the district’s training office at 490-5715.

Parents, with questions about the new bell schedule or bus pickups, are encouraged to call the principal at their child’s school.

In a recent letter to parents, the superintendent said, “While I know I can never please everyone with decisions I make as an instructional leader and superintendent.

“I hope all of you realize it is never my intention to make your lives difficult as I seek to position this district to provide a world-class experience for every student.”

TOP STORY > >Veteran cop to turn in badge

Special to The Leader

After spending 26 of his 32 years in law enforcement with the Jacksonville Police Department, Capt. Charles Jenkins will turn in his gun and badge next week to sell insurance and spend more time ministering to young people.

“I will be selling insurance – property, casualty and commercial, but at the end of this month, I will be going to school for life and health insurance so I can sell all kinds of it,” Jenkins said. “And my wife (Pearl) and I are going to pursue children’s evangelism.

“In fact, we just completed our first evangelistic crusade at Changepoint Church in Cabot. It went wonderfully, and I just love ministering to children.”

At the end of September, Jenkins will also be attending the Arkansas School of Ministry affiliated with the Assembly of God.

Jenkins is also known for his volunteer work at McArthur Assembly of God in Jacksonville.

These two careers, at first, do not seem to mesh well until hearing Jenkins recall his days as a school-resource officer, his time with the D.A.R.E. program at Pinewood and Dupree elementary schools and how he helped to implement a summer program called Police and Kids Together.

His favorite time in law enforcement was from 1994-1998 when he worked in the school-resource unit.

“Prior to getting into school resource, I was the stereotypical police officer – thick-skinned and cynical,” Jenkins said. “I credit school resource with really opening up my eyes and increasing my effectiveness as a police officer.

“Understand when an officer deals day in and day out with the bad, you get to see 90 percent of the time people at their worst.

Now, that doesn’t mean they’re all bad, but that we just get to see them at their worst. You can fall into the trap of thinking that the whole world is like that,” he said.

While teaching students at Pinewood and Dupree elementary schools, and Jacksonville High School, he also learned some important lessons, which he says gave him a new perspective on life.

“They changed my attitude not only on the world but my job,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins recalled one incident that left a lasting impression on him. “At the end of the first year of PAKT, we had the kids write an essay of what the program had meant to them,” he said.

“A little 12-year-old girl wrote in her essay that she had been thinking of killing herself because she didn’t believe anybody cared about her, but that the three SROs (school resource officers) had shown her that at least three people did care about her, so she decided not to do it,” he said.

“We didn’t know anything about her plans. We were just doing our jobs,” Jenkins added.

Former students stay in touch with Jenkins. “I still talk and see a lot of those high school students and DARE kids as well as their parents on a regular basis,” Jenkins said.

In fact, April Kiser, who now serves as the JPD’s patrol secretary and public-information officer, was among one of Jenkins’ students.

“April was actually one of my high school kids,” Jenkins said with a smile.

Despite his 26 years with the local police department, Jenkins initially became an officer elsewhere.

“I started out in June of 1978 in the little town of Gil-lett and worked there a couple of months before leaving to go back to my hometown, Stuttgart,” Jenkins said. “I was a police officer in Stuttgart for about a year.”

Jenkins left law enforcement briefly in 1979. He re-turned to become a patrol officer in England until August 1983. Between
October 1983 and January 1984, he was a prison guard for the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

“It didn’t take me very long to decide that wasn’t my cup of tea,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins then joined the Jacksonville police force on Feb. 5, 1984. He was hired as a patrol officer and served seven years in that capacity.

In 1991, he was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division and served as a detective until February 1994.

After his time with the school resource, Jenkins went back to patrolling Jacksonville streets. Jenkins was soon promoted to lieutenant and moved to the patrol division.

In 2002, Jenkins became a captain. His initial assignment as captain was in support services. In 2006, Jenkins requested a transfer to the patrol division and served as its commander for about a year. And once again, he was reassigned to support services.

“As you see, the bulk of my time as captain was spent in support services,” Jenkins said. “Support services is a lot of things, and we have 15 separate missions.”

Those missions include officer training, warrants, records and courtroom security. Other goals focus on community-service programs and building maintenance.

He even served as police chaplain for a while, but he says, “Had it not been for the D.A.R.E. program, it would be very unlikely that I would have gotten into ministry.”

At the police station, several of Jenkins’ fellow police officers expressed sadness about him leaving and joked with him about the good times.

“The biggest thing I think I’ll miss is the camaraderie of the other officers here and the interactions with the local citizens,” Jenkins said. “You can’t do something for about 32 years and not miss it.”

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes said he was sorry to see Jenkins retire.

“I hate to lose Capt. Jenkins’ knowledge and his abilities he has in PR (public relations) and with the kids in school,” Sipes said.

“He’s going to be hard to replace.”

A retirement luncheon will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 17 at the police station on 1412 Main St. The public is welcome.

Meanwhile, Jenkins is boxing up his personal belongings that have accumulated in his office over nearly three decades.

“I’ll take several suitcases of memories with me, and I know the future is going to be different,” he said as he was cleaning out his office.

TOP STORY > >Audit panel tells PCSSD to shape up

Leader executive editor

The state Legislative Audit Committee had another showdown with the Pulaski County Special School District Board on Friday and warned the board to straighten out its finances.

More checks and balances are being put in place under new Superintendent Charles Hopson to eliminate improper reimbursements to board members and others.

School board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville said the audit committee was exaggerating problems in the district, which prompted Sen. Bobby Glover (D-Carlisle), the committee chairman, to say, “I don’t appreciate your criticizing the Legislative
Audit Committee for doing its job. We’ll continue to call you in and stay on top of it.”

The committee told the board to return for the next audit meeting in December and threatened to subpoena board members who were not there on Friday.

Most of the school board attended the session, although Gwen Williams, who still owes the district for improper expenses, was not there. Board member Sandra Sawyer was also absent.

The meeting was called to review what steps had been taken to improve the district’s financial practices after an audit in June revealed several abuses.

“I don’t think they have theiract together,” said Sen. John Paul Capps (D-Searcy).

But Hopson, who became superintendent earlier this year, said after the meeting, “This is a wakeup call for the district to be more accountable and govern itself more efficiently.”

“We’re working aggressively to put controls in place and tracking expenditures,” he continued. “If there had been structures in place, many of these things wouldn’t have happened because of the checks and balances we now have.”

Board member Mildred Tatum has repaid the district $2,788 for improper charges, including a ticket to a Broadway play and $321 for two nights and valet parking at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock, when she attended a local conference.

Tatum lives a few miles outside Little Rock. Williams has repaid $369 in improper expenses and only owes about $150. In a separate case, she’s accused of taking a $100 bribe to help a contractor build a sidewalk at Harris Elementary School in an area she represents.

According to the audit, former Superintendent James Sharpe owes the district more than $25,000 for overpayments, including travel reimbursements and unearned sick leave.

Board expenses from July 1, 2006 to March 3, 2006 included $37,855 for travel reimbursements and $8,544 for food and catering for workshops and meetings. Board policy does not impose a limit on food purchases.

The audit found about $7,000 of that improper. When it met in May, the Legislative Audit Committee discussed having the state take over the district for financial malfeasance and incompetence, and in June, it decided to audit the PCSSD annually.

In May, the auditors said more than half a million dollars had been stolen or misappropriated over the past six years.

Some employees, including former maintenance supervisor James Deimer, have gone to jail. Deimer stole about $440,000 worth of school property for resale.

He has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Williams has received other improper cash advances or reimbursements. Several years ago, she received an advance of about $2,000 for a workshop that she didn’t attend, and she did not repay the money for more than a year, until it was discovered and made public.

The school board has stopped paying expenses in advance.

The audit committee expressed concern over mileage reimbursements of $2,030 for 100 trips, 58 miles each, from board president Tim Clark’s home to the central office and back between February and December 2009.

Tatum was paid $1,447 in mileage between July 2007 and September 2009. Williams billed the district and was paid $339.

Board members Vasquez, Sawyer, Charlie Wood and Danny Gilliland apparently asked for no reimbursement.

Leader senior reporter John Hofheimer contributed to this article.

TOP STORY >> Arnold Drive one of best in Arkansas

IN SHORT: Elementary school on base is tied for third place for achievement.
By Rick Kron
Leader staff writer

For the second year in a row, Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base has been named one of the top schools in the state by the University of Arkansas.
It was the only school in the Pulaski County Special School District to make the list. Only one Little Rock school was on the high-performing list and none from North Little Rock.

“We’re ecstatic. We have such a professional team of educatiors. We have strong parental support and also from Air Force personnel. All that goes to make an outstanding learning community,” principal Julie Davenport said after learning of her school’s high ranking.

Cabot had two schools on the top 20 list of elementary schools and Searcy had two on the middle school list.

Arnold Drive actually finished in a six-way tie for third place with 95 percent of its students scoring proficient or advanced in both the 2009-2010 math and literacy benchmark scores.

The U.S. Education Department this week named Arnold Drive a Blue Ribbon school for academic excellence, one of only four schools Arkansas to get the award.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan will present the award in November in Washington.

Arnold Drive Elementary has about 250 students and about half are on free or reduced lunch. The average percentage of students on free or reduced lunch on the top 20 list is 32 percent.

So Arnold Drive is scoring well with a higher number of students on free or reduced lunch being instructed in a school that was built more than 40 years ago as a temporary facility.

The website gives Arnold Drive a five-star rating, placing it 16th among the state’s 457 elementary schools, but the same website give PCSSD just one star and ranks it 172nd out of 236 state school districts.

Cabot had two elementary schools in the top 20, Magness Creek Elementary, which was also on the list the year before, and Stagecoach Elementary.

Magness Creek was listed as 17th on the list, but was actually in a three-way tie for fifth best as 93 percent of its students were proficient or advanced on both math and literacy exams.

Stagecoach, with 92 percent of its student scoring proficient or advanced, made the list for the first time at number 20, but was actually in a two-way tie for sixth.
The ranking is done by the university’s office for education policy, which annually reviews all the scoring data from the state’s schools.

Looking at just the math benchmark scores, Arnold Drive Elementary was third in the state with 97 percent of its students scoring above the cut-off.

Stagecoach was listed 16th on the list, looking at only the math scores. With 96 percent of its students scoring proficient or advanced, it was actually in an 11-way tie for fourth.

In ranking elementary schools strictly by their performance on the literacy benchmark exams, the university listed Arnold Drive as 18th on the list of top-20 schools. But with 92 percent of its students reading at or above grade level, the school was actually in a six-way tie for sixth.

Cabot Middle School placed 20th on the list of high-performing schools based on math scores only. With 86 percent of its students making the cut, the school was actually in 10th place.

Searcy had two schools make the top-20 list of high performing middle schools.
Southwest Middle School was listed as 10th best in the state, but was actually in a two-way tie for fifth place as 89 percent of its students were proficient or advanced on both the math and literacy benchmark tests. The school was also on the top-performing list last year.

Ahlf Junior High broke into the list at number 20, in a four-way tie for eighth place with 86 percent of its students proficient or advanced.

Searcy’s Southwest Middle School was listed at number 15 and with 88 percent of its students proficient or advanced, was in a four-way tie for eighth place.

Southwest, along with Ahlf Junior High, finished fourth and fifth on the list of top schools based only on literacy scores. At both schools, 90 percent of the students scored proficient or better, putting the schools in a four-way tie for second.

The university’s research showed that most of the top elementary schools came from central Arkansas, while most of the top middle schools came from northwest Arkansas, five of them from the Bentonville School District.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

SPORTS>>Sylvan Hills puts focus on miscues

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills and Little Rock Christian Academy are two teams ready to forget about opening week.

The Bears opened their season with a 42-14 loss to Vilonia in a game that saw Jim Withrow’s team make multiple mistakes, some of them while trying to accomplish the most basic fundamentals.

The Warriors fared even worse, taking a 48-6 beating at the hands of Pulaski Oak Grove.

But one team will feel at least a little better when the Bears and Warriors face each other at Warrior Field in Little Rock on Friday.

“We both ran into really good football teams,” Withrow said. “They’ve got a bunch of guys that didn’t play a lot last year. I think we’re two very similar teams.”

The adage that one player can make a difference is especially true for Little Rock Christian after the Warriors lost running back Michael Dyer to graduation.

Dyer, now at Auburn, broke the state career rushing record with 8,907 yards and was one of the most heavily recruited players in Arkansas. He also helped the Warriors reach the second round of the 5A state playoffs.

The Warriors appear to be searching for an identity with Dyer gone.

“I think there’s some truth to it,” Withrow said. “When you lose a player of his caliber, there’s going to be some growing pains.

They knew that day was coming, and they have a good coaching staff, so whatever niche they may have, I’m sure they will to find it.”

Dyer had the highest profile in a class of high-profile Warriors players last year. The group included tight end Dakota Mosely, who also went to Auburn, and quarterback Jesse Stone, who is at Arkansas Tech.

In all, second-year coach Justin Kramer had to replace nine offensive starters and eight on defense.

The Bears and Warriors are similar from an experience standpoint, but both teams differ in their philosophies.

“I think they’re going to want to get in there and pass it a lot; we’re going to run it quite a bit,” Withrow said. “We like our offensive line, but they have solid route runners, and that can pose some problems for us, especially with some of their formations. I think it’s going to come down to turnovers.”

Vilonia scored on every first-half drive last week as they opened the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic. But the Bears showed improvement in the second half with a goal-line stand and two forced turnovers.

But it was penalties that hurt Sylvan Hills as much as anything. The Bears were flagged 10 times for 74 yards, which included three penalties on a single punt attempt.

“A lot of that was correctable stuff, so that’s encouraging,” Withrow said. “I think we talked about it, went over it, and the kids understood.

“A lot of it was nerves. Hopefully we get that stuff corrected and move on. Watching a lot of tape has helped us see it.”

Withrow said the running game will be a staple of the Bears’ offense, but he was also pleased with the passing game in last week’s opener and the potential for receivers Nate Clark and Anthony Featherstone to become difference makers. Withrow also hopes that difference-making ability will transfer to the other side of the ball for the two-way players.

“We’ve got athletes back there,” Withrow said. “Whether they make plays or not, I don’t know. The thing is, a lot of those offensive playmakers back there, they need to make plays on the defensive side also. We’re getting better at defending the pass; we just need to get a lot better.

“It could go either way. If we keep them in front of us and make them go on long drives, that will be to our benefit. If we start giving up big plays, we could be in trouble.”

SPORTS>>Jacksonville digs in to ground Benton

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville doesn’t have a quarterback controversy.

The Red Devils may play two quarterbacks at Benton on Friday, but there is nothing controversial about it.

Logan Perry started in the 28-14 loss to Cabot in the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31, but Tirrell Brown finished.

While coach Rick Russell said both could play at Benton, he isn’t necessarily leaning toward a two-quarterback rotation.

“Logan is still our starter; we were real proud of what he did,” Russell said.

Perry was 12 of 19 passing for 127 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Brown replaced him late in the game and went 2 for 6 for 109 yards, a touchdown and one interception.

Most of Brown’s passing yardage came on Jamison Williams’ 91-yard catch and run for the last touchdown of the game with 6:03 left.

“He did a good job when Logan was hurt in the summer,” Russell said of Brown. “He managed the game well for us and he got in and did a good job for us.”

The decision as to which quarterback plays when, or at all, will come from offensive coordinator Barry Hickingbotham, Russell said. But the head coach is secure no matter which player gets into the game on Friday night.

What is of greater concern is Benton’s passing game. After trying to handle Cabot’s run-oriented Dead T, with its multiple fakes and options, Jacksonville’s defense must now adjust to the Spread.

Russell said that means his secondary has to switch gears away from run-support mode into pass coverage.

“We get every one of their passing plays at least five or six times in the course of two and a half practices,” Russell said of the Red Devils’ pass skeleton. “We go over coverages and let them see it over and over and over.”

Benton won just one game last year, was shut out twice and never scored more than 14 points. Bryant beat Benton 45-9 in the “Salt Bowl” on Friday.

Nonetheless, Russell said, preparing to defend Benton after facing Cabot was something like a 180-degree shift. And just because Benton uses the Spread, it doesn’t mean it won’t run out of the formation, it will just be running with a different look than Cabot.

“That’s a tough game to play,” Russell said. “Play after play after play. You’ve got to get back into those multiple set offenses and you’ve got to be able to stop the run when they’re in the running formation and stop the pass when they get ready to throw it.”

Russell, the Red Devils’ long-time defensive coordinator who returned to the program after a year as North Pulaski’s head coach, was pleased that his defense forced four fumbles in the first game and recovered two.

Both fumble recoveries led to scores.

“I was reading in the paper that all teams, pee wee all the up to the professionals, they talk about that turnover ratio,” Russell said. “It’s amazing how the wins coincided with who has the most turnovers.”

Unfortunately, Jacksonville finished the Cabot game at minus one in turnovers thanks to the three interceptions. This week he is hoping the Red Devils pick off a few passes instead of throwing the ball to the other side.

“The speed of the game is going to be different,” Russell said. “They’re going to put some good receivers out there.”

SPORTS>>Regrouping Falcons get set to face Hornets

Leader sports editor

It might not have been an altogether enjoyable experience for North Pulaski, but it was experience nonetheless.

Searcy beat North Pulaski 56-0 in coach Terrod Hatcher’s debut, and while it was a disappointing start, Hatcher at least had something to build on entering this week’s preparation for Pulaski Oak Grove.

“You get to see your personnel and see what changes you need to make,” Hatcher said. “It’s getting these guys experience.

Friday we started six sophomores, that says a lot about the talent on the team.”

Searcy quarterback Dezmond Stegall passed for 214 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for close to 100 yards while Lions receiver B.J. Slaughter caught two touchdown passes, grabbed two interceptions and returned a punt for a score.

Jacob Mowrer added two, second-half touchdown catches for Searcy.

Hatcher said the Lions’ big plays might have taught his youthful team something about playing assignment football.

“We’ve got to follow assignments, that’s what it boils down to,” Hatcher said. “Everybody has to understand they’ve got a specific job and if everybody had followed their job, that score would have been totally different.”

North Pulaski suffered four interceptions and two other turnovers. With the offense struggling, the defense was frequently forced to defend a short field and gave up a touchdown early in the second half on fourth and 11.

North Pulaski is a member of the 5A-Southeast Conference and was playing 7A/6A-East member Searcy, but Hatcher wasn’t looking for any excuses after playing a team from a higher classification.

“Don’t get me wrong. We played an excellent team in Searcy,” Hatcher said. “They’re a good team. I didn’t get to pick that schedule. You get the hand you’re dealt.”

Besides, Hatcher said, just getting on the field and playing a game was good for the Falcons, regardless of Friday’s outcome.

“Of course, after experience you start to play better and you start trusting yourself,” Hatcher said and admitted he had anticipated a few mistakes in the opener. “It’s expected but it’s not acceptable.”

Hatcher said the Falcons got back to work Monday, and he felt the team’s attitude and outlook were good despite the loss.

“They’re disappointed in themselves and they’re excited about getting back out there,” Hatcher said.

And there were bright spots for the Falcons. Hatcher singled out rover Nick Dunn, who forced one fumble and recovered another.

“He did exactly what as he was told,” Hatcher said. “He did his position and it showed.”

Hatcher said Dunn stands as an example to the rest of his team of what it means to stick to an assignment, and he said Dunn brought his practice performance to game night.

“He performed in practice excellent,” said Hatcher, North Pulaski’s offensive coordinator last season. “He didn’t perform last year as he did in practice. I made a personal challenge to him.”

Oak Grove is coming off a resounding, 48-6 victory over Little Rock Christian, which is also on North Pulaski’s schedule on Sept. 17.

Little Rock Christian may be down a bit after graduating Arkansas’ all-time high school career rushing leader Michael Dyer, now at Auburn. However that didn’t stop Hatcher from being impressed by Oak Grove, led by dual-threat quarterback Trooper Tolbert.

“Truthfully, I think they’re better than Searcy,” Hatcher said. “They have some extremely good athletes. They’re athletic; they’re huge.

“It’s just a point of slowing them down. I don’t think you can stop that offense. They have some great backs. If they get outside you might as well call it a day, they’re gone. They have an excellent quarterback. He can run; he can throw.”

Hatcher admitted he inherited a tough non-conference schedule when he was named head coach at the start of preseason. But he feels the stretch should make the Falcons better in time for the conference opener at West Helena on Sept. 24.

“We’re going to survive and get through it,” Hatcher said.

SPORTS>>Lonoke is busing for battle at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The battle for Highway 31 supremacy between Lonoke and Beebe is an annual fight to the finish.

And finishing is what concerns both coaches as they head into Friday’s game. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Bro Erwin Field in Beebe.

Lonoke coach Doug Bost is concerned with how the Jackrabbits’ defense will respond to a grinding rushing attack late in the game while Badgers coach John Shannon wants to see his offense close out promising drives more consistently.

Greenbrier beat Beebe 39-13 last week, getting two scores after Beebe drives stalled for a 28-point swing that made the game appear less competitive.

“You convert just half of those opportunities we had, and it’s a different ballgame,” Shannon said. “The first game of the season, you expect a lot of mistakes, and some of those mistakes cost us.”

Lonoke upset Star City in Pine Bluff on Aug. 30, but not before a fourth-quarter Bulldogs rally almost overcame the Jackrabbits’ 19-point lead. Star City scored 18 straight points on the ’Rabbits’ winded defense before Lonoke clinched it with a long running play.

“They started out early passing, and then in the second half, they run it right at us,” Bost said as he critiqued his defensive front.

“Of those front seven on defense, there’s only two guys with a lot of experience. Some of those guys are going to have to step up.”

Bost hopes his defensive linemen step up sooner rather than later with the short road trip to Beebe coming up Friday. Last year the Jackrabbits ended a four-year losing streak to a young Beebe team that was smaller on the offensive line.

“It seems like it always comes down to the fourth quarter with us, and it wasn’t any different last year,” Bost said. “Shannon does a good job, you know, smash-mouth style football — you know what’s coming at you. It’s going to be close. Our defense will get tested this week.”

Beebe’s loss to Lonoke last year was part of a trying 3-7 season that came after the Badgers reached the playoffs the previous two seasons thanks in part to victories over their nearby rivals.

Shannon said he was not as worried about Lonoke’s defensive line as he was his offense’s ability to finish drives.

“Our defense gave up points last week, but a lot of that was our offense putting us in a bind by not finishing,” Shannon said.

“We told the kids on Saturday morning that it was time to go back to work. Hopefully, it will be a different turnout.”

The Badgers moved the ball consistently against Greenbrier but struggled to get into the end zone. Scot Gowen overthrew a sure touchdown pass and another drive went 15 plays but stalled at the Greenbrier 1-yard line.

“I feel like we can move the ball against anyone we play,” Shannon said. “My concern is finishing the drive. We had one drive last week where we came up a yard short.

“Yeah, we want to take time off the clock and keep them off the field, but it doesn’t do any good if you don’t score.”

Beebe senior fullback Colby Taylor, 6-0, 160, caught Bost’s attention on film, but it was Gowen’s abilities on the ground and through the air that has him most concerned.

“It’s the same stuff they’ve been doing since he got there,” Bost said. “That No. 4, Colby Taylor, of course he’s their best runner and the fastest. He can go if he breaks a long one on you, but that number 12 at quarterback, if he gets out of the pocket, he can run it on you or pass it on the run. He’s definitely a dual threat.”

Bost blamed some of last week’s fourth-quarter defensive woes on the 5:30 p.m. kickoff in the late-afternoon heat, but he is rotating his defensive linemen more frequently. Bost was pleased with the work of senior Antwane Wilkerson and juniors Brendon Ellington and Darin Lovelace.

“Statistically, no, there’s not going to be big numbers there,” Bost said. “But I was real pleased with how they freed things up for the linebackers to make plays. They’re going to have to step up again this week against a team that’s coming right at you.”

SPORTS>>Cabot not passing on PA preparation

Leader sports editor

Why does a running team like Cabot even bother competing in summer 7-on-7 football?

The answer is this week’s opponent, Pulaski Academy.

While Cabot doesn’t pass much out of its Dead-T formation, the Panthers play the summer game to get their defensive backs ready for teams that do. That includes Pulaski Academy, which beat Central Arkansas Christian 59-33 at War Memorial Stadium last week.

“That’s why we do it,” Cabot coach Mike Malham said. “To get the D-backs against somebody throwing the ball and trying to get some good coverage. Maybe they can complete a few to us too.”

Cabot is coming off its 28-14 victory over neighbor and rival Jacksonville in the Arkansas High School Kickoff Classic at War Memorial. Pulaski Academy and Central Arkansas Christian were part of that four-game lineup, but Malham already knew without having to watch that the Bruins can be a handful with their multiple receiver sets.

“They’ve been high profile for the last decade,” Malham said. “They’ve done well. I can’t ever remember them not doing well in the playoffs. They’ve won a couple state championships and they’ve got a chance this year.”

Pulaski Academy, the 2008 state champion, made national news last year because coach Kevin Kelley refused to punt regardless of the down or distance.

But the Bruins didn’t face that many situations where they would even be expected to kick it away as they tied for second in the 7-4A Conference and won two playoff games before falling to Monticello.

“It’s a little tougher non-conference game than we’ve been playing in the past,” Malham said. “Hopefully it will get us ready for what we’re going to see in the conference.”

Cabot is one of the large-school teams playing in the 7A/6A-Central, but while a classification may say something about a team’s depth, it doesn’t determine talent.

“As far as athletes go, I’d say they’ve got just as many or more than we’ve got,” Malham said.

Malham pointed out Pulaski Academy’s points against CAC and noted that Springdale Har-Ber and Conway, the Panthers’ next two opponents, scored 63 and 53 points in their openers. Har-Ber eliminated Cabot from last year’s 7A state semifinals with a late touchdown pass.

“There’s no nights off, it just gets tougher as we go,” Malham said.

With that in mind, Malham is hoping the 7-on-7 experience, and whatever the Panthers’ scout team can do to simulate Pulaski Academy’s offense, will pay dividends at Pulaski Academy on Friday.

“It’s always hard to simulate the other team’s offense,” Malham said. “Because nobody is going to do it like they do because they practice it every day and you’ve got a scout team doing this and that.

“I think people have trouble trying to simulate what we’re going to do.”

At least Cabot has had a couple extra days to prepare after its Tuesday night victory over Jacksonville on Aug. 31.

“Hopefully we’ll be rested and ready to go,” Malham said. “And know what we’re doing.”

Malham was happy overall with the Panthers’ season- opening performance, with the exception of four fumbles and a 91-yard pass play late. Jacksonville recovered two of the fumbles with both leading to scores.

“The main thing I didn’t like is we gave up the big play over the top and we gave up the turnovers,” Malham said.

Malham had no issues with the way any of his 14 new starters performed, and other than the fumbles, he was happy with his offense and the play of new quarterback Zach Craig.

“I thought the 14 new starters got some game experience, which is invaluable,” Malham said. “And maybe they’ll feel a little more comfortable on Friday night.”

EDITORIAL >>How to tax natural gas

Five years have lapsed since the beginning of the great rush to develop the vast reserves of shale gas in the hills north of us and two years since the state levied a little tax to reserve some of the vast profits from the gas for the people of Arkansas and repair the environmental and infrastructure damage the drilling rampage was causing and was sure to cause in magnifying volumes in the future.

It is time, long past time in fact, to assess the effects of state policies on the exploration of the Fayetteville shale play or, more accurately, the lack of policies. In the best of worlds, Gov. Beebe would have ordered a thorough analysis by the state environmental agency, the oil and gas regulatory agency, the state Highway Commission and the state fiscal department, Finance and Administration. Legislative interim committees, in preparation for the biennial session in January, would be devouring the data and holding hearings on the impact of the exploration and production on the region north of the Arkansas
River Valley and on the state as a whole.

None of that is happening, at least on a scale that is worth noting. The state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oil and Gas Commission want a few more employees to check on things up there, but there is no initiative to demand more accountability of the 15 or so exploration companies drilling in the shale. The state Highway and Transportation Department and county governments want the state to find some revenues somewhere to help them with the crumbling roads.

New horizontal-drilling technology opened up millions of acres where gas is trapped in deep rocks. From New York to Wyoming, the finished wells are hugely productive but the environmental cost is equally huge. It takes millions of gallons of water and chemicals to liberate the gas and they can destroy the land and sometimes the water table. “Gasland,” a documentary by a young Pennsylvania filmmaker, caused a little stir around the country and finally in Arkansas last month. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, answering the call from a couple of the big drilling companies, urged people to boycott the film and to write letters to the editor condemning it.

That is why Gov. Beebe and the legislature haven’t done anything and aren’t likely to do anything. The shale development is supposed to bring great wealth to the state and create thousands of jobs, and no one wants to be seen as doing anything to impinge on economic development. Lord knows we need every job we can get.

But the cry from industry always is that regulation and taxes are “job killers.” It usually doesn’t translate that way, and it won’t with shale regulation and taxation either. Until recently, we never had to choose between good environmental policies and economic development. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act did not kill economic growth as many claimed it would but spurred it.

The Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas predicted that shale production would have a spectacular impact on the state from 2005 to 2008: $5.5 billion fed into the economy, 9,700 new jobs and $358 million of state and local tax revenues. The impact was significant but, as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette pointed out in a good survey Sunday, it fell far short of the forecasts.

A big reason was that shale development spread all across the country, production boomed, prices fell and the demand for gas slumped when the economy collapsed in 2008. But the environmental impact did not abate and production continues to rise.

The state and local governments received only a sliver of the tax revenues forecast for them. It was better than if the state had done nothing. The state had an invisible tax of three-tenths of a penny on each thousand cubic feet of gas until a former gas company executive threatened in 2008 to put an initiated act on the ballot to tax the gas at Texas’ rate, 7 percent of the wellhead price. The industry asked Governor Beebe to protect it. He called a special legislative session, where a tax largely written by industry lawyers was enacted. It taxed gas at 5 percent of value but created so many loopholes that the tax hasn’t produced much money for highways, roads and environmental regulation and cleanup.

An invigorated state pollution agency needs to devise strong and realistic standards for shale drilling, but that won’t happen without a strong governor at its back.

The revenue problem is easier, and as luck would have it, we have a modest solution.

That is to restore the severance tax rate to the level of 1947, which was 2.6 percent of value. That was when a governor with extensive family oil and gas holdings and a powerful new entrepreneur in the gas business got the legislature to virtually eliminate the tax on gas production.

A flat 2.6 percent tax would produce far more than the riddled 5 percent tax and it still would be about the lowest tax rate in America. It could be passed with a simple majority in the legislature, too. Beebe moved heaven and earth two years ago to get three-fourths of the legislature to pass a phantom tax rate that the industry wanted. A real solution for the people, restoring the post-World War II rate, would have been a cakewalk. What is he waiting for?

TOP STORY > >Cabot on upswing, PCSSD drops again

Leader senior staff writer

Once again, Pulaski County Special School District’s eighth-day enrollment count has declined, although not as dramatically as in some previous years. And once again, Cabot school enrollment has increased, topping 10,300.

This year’s total in PCSSD is 16,792 students, down from last year’s 16,915. That’s a loss of 123 students.

In the Sherwood zone, Sylvan Hills Elementary de-clined from 382 students last year to 356 this year. Oakbrooke increased four students to 537. Clinton Elementary declined 11 students to 760; Sherwood Elementary had 346 students, a decline of 34;
Sylvan Hills Middle School picked up 33 students for an enrollment of 678 and Sylvan Hills High School increased 62 students for an enrollment of 833.

In Zone 5, which includes north Pulaski County and parts of Jacksonville, Cato lost 23 students, for an enrollment of 324; Arnold Drive had 245 students, an increase of 28; Bayou Meto had 363, a loss of 15 students; Dupree enrollment was 309, an increase of 15; Northwood Middle School had 571 students, down 36; Tolleson 326, a decrease of seven students, and North Pulaski High School remained the same at 805 students.

In Zone 6, the other Jackson-ville schools, enrollment edged up at Jacksonville High School, Pinewood Elementary and Taylor Elementary.

Jacksonville High School increased seven students to 941; Pinewood increased 18 to 422 and Taylor increased six to 394.

Jacksonville Middle School declined 29 students to 666 and Jacksonville Elementary School had the largest loss in the zone, 103 students to a total of 320.

Overall, zones 6, 5 and 1 lost students this year, the others gained.

Cabot’s enrollment has been on the rise since school started. It was 9,904 on the first day and 10,069 on Tuesday. Neither number included the district’s 260 pre-K students.

At this time last year, Cabot’s enrollment was 9,901, an increase of 168, which is much less than increases of previous years of 300 to 400.

Thurman said the smaller increase is what was expected considering the economy, but he added, “It’s still a good thing that people are still moving to Cabot.”

Beebe’s enrollment of 3,310 is essentially the same as last year, said Scott Embry, assistant superintendent. That number includes 95 pre-K students.

Beebe was closed for teacher training on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day when many schools see a change in enrollment, and Embry said that number might increase when students come back from the holiday.

TOP STORY > >Hopson defining goals to improve

Leader article by John Hofheimer

Charles Hopson must be in hog heaven. The new Pulaski County Special School District superintendent says he loves a good challenge, and does he have one now.

As a principal, Hopson’s been successful in turning around the fortunes of the Portland, Ore., highs schools and confronting problems caused by issues of race and poverty.

But now he leads a district that’s lost enrollment every year for at least a decade—a district famous for a bitterly divided school board, hired-and-fired superintendents, perpetual conflict and frequent court battles between the teachers’ union and school board, and a district seeking unitary status in federal district court. Should it succeed, it will face new budgetary challenges as millions of dollars in state “deseg money” are phased out.

Many PCSSD schools are in academic trouble. With few exceptions, its 34 schools are half-a-century old and need restoring or replacing and Jacksonville is committed to seceding and forming its own school district at the first opportunity.

There are demonstrated disparities in academic performance and discipline based upon race and/or poverty.

His first district-wide move—changing the bell schedule—stirred controversy and ended in reversal.

But other changes, already implemented at Jacksonville High School, show promise.

Hopson says he welcomes the challenges and that he’s cautiously optimistic.

He put a central office administrator, Karl Brown, director on special assignment, in the office and in the halls at Jacksonville High School.

Two weeks into the school year, “I had five people come to me and tell me that Jacksonville High School is a completely different place than last year,” Hopson said in an exclusive interview last week. “That was a structure I put in place there based on quick analysis.”

One person who has praised the change is a member of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers. “It’s a whole different thing,” another person told him.

Hopson says that student behavior there shows significant improvement.

“We know the building has been cleaned. Teachers are focused. There’s less hanging out in the hallway, students are expressing that the environment there is more conducive to learning,” Hopson said.

“What I’m hearing is that Jacksonville High School is more controlled. The students are less disruptive and more orderly.

“I sense a turnaround. You take those small kinds of successes. That right there is enough to say there is hope.

“I have very high expectations,” Hopson said. “I doubt the district in five years will be where I want it to be, but …
it will not be where it is now.”


Hopson’s got a whole satchel full of new ideas—one employee said the new mantra among district employees might be: “We’ve never done it like that before.”

Some are sure to be controversial and who knows how many will even be implemented:

Year-round school, changing the bell schedule, mainstreaming virtually all students and making advanced-placement classes open to all. Making teachers accountable for educating students and helping or dismissing those who don’t make the grade.

Not the least of his new ideas is transparency—open communication and making decisions publicly and with public input.

In his 100-day listening tour, he’s visiting his third school in the district, meeting with patrons and teachers so far in two ofthem. Originally slated for one-hour events, one lasted more than two hours, the other four hours.

He’s stood up to the board and met with the teachers’ union officials.


But along with this apparent early success at Jacksonville, Hopson has had to retreat from his first across-the-board edict—changing the elementary school bell schedule.

He wanted to start the school day earlier, give students more instruction time and move the teacher prep time to within the school day. Parents objected to putting kids out at the bus stop so early and teachers said the change violated their contract.

The bell schedule is part of the teacher’s negotiated contract, and despite efforts by four school board members to dump the union and its contract, the board has been unable to successfully follow the law in those efforts.

Thus the union remains the teachers’ negotiating agent, the existing professionally negotiated agreement remains in effect and Hopson agreed to leave the elementary school schedule the same.

Hopson said he backed away from the so-called “bell-schedule” controversy because it was “an existing point of contention in the district with associations and strong feelings already in place.”

So for the time being, all schools will start at 7:30 a.m., even though that will require aftercare for some students at various elementary schools until parents can get by to pick them up and make different arrangements for next semester.

He said the bell schedule would be examined again in the future.

“Instruction needs to drive the beginning and end of school, not transportation limitations.

“I’m pushing my transportation people to be more creative,” he said.

For all of the district’s storied problems, “I expected a bit more turbulence than I’ve experienced,” Hopson said. “I’m pleased that what I expected is not what I experienced. This district has enormous promise.”


Hopson said that not only is his administration based on the corporate model, he is a corporate-trained superintendent.

When he lived and worked in Portland, Nike, the shoe and athletic apparel giant, awarded a grant to his district and paid a professional corporate manager to work with administrators as mentors.

“I went to the Nike headquarters, went off campus and worked with top-level executives. My high school had a business manager, funded by Nike.

“The difference is, we are not producing widgets, we are producing students. But the focus is still on excellence and we’ll use corporate constructs to get there,” Hopson said.

Toward that end, Hopson has combined some cabinet-level positions and brought in experienced people to oversee certain areas. He’s brought in a man who managed facilities for the Air Force for decades to oversee construction, repair and maintenance of PCSSD buildings.

His chief technology officer already has saved the district tens of thousands of dollars in the purchase of new software and hardware, he said.

“We have a blend of people who are experts in their fields. We’ll have the resources and the paradigm shift,” Hopson said.

“We have two deputy superintendents focused on academic accountability,” he pointed out.


Another thing that is changed from last year is that school board president Tim Clark is no longer micromanaging the district.

Clark billed the district mileage for more than 100 trips to the district office after firing Supt. James Sharp and installing his personal choice, Rob McGill, as the interim superintendent.

“That’s not happening this year,” Hopson said.

“As instructional leader, I need to have the autonomy to move forward without their interference as policy makers.”

Hopson said the board has “showed respect for me as the instructional leader.”

With his willingness to talk and emphasis on transparency, Hopson seems to be earning grudging respect from PACT as well.

He has met with their leaders at least twice to discuss his agenda and hear their concerns, and while they are not necessarily in accord, the lines of communications are opening up, essential to building trust and a working relationship.


Hopson has ideas that are currently out of the mainstream, such as someday going to a year-round school year and mainstreaming virtually all students and making advanced-placement classes available to them.

“We need to look at models that are not agrarian,” Hopson said. The current school year is based on the outdated time when all family members were needed to help gather the crops.

Increasingly, districts are going to the year-round school model, with perhaps one-month breaks between trimesters. Studies have shown that during summers, students lose a lot of what they’ve been taught.

This is not going to be an immediately popular notion with students, parents or teachers, all of whom have grown accustomed to about 10 weeks of summer break. If it happens, “It’s going to be uncomfortable to push past the status quo,” Hopson said.

“But we have to prepare students to be world class.”

“In my prior years working with unions in Oregon, I have been able to work collaboratively with the unions to get ineffective teachers…out of the classroom and we’ve started that same conversation here. In recent talks that I’ve had with PACT, I believe principals should be instructional leaders in the classroom, should be visible walking into those classrooms assessing effective (teaching) practices, those are some of the same expectations that they share.

“The one thing I will not compromise on is poor instruction in the classroom,” the superintendent sai.

“If I am able to gain a degree of consensus around accountability in the classroom, and also support my accountability for principals being strong instructional leaders in their schools, those two issues collectively will mean greater outcomes for our students,” Hopson said.


He said he wants his principals to have “culturally relevant” teaching that takes into consideration the issues of race and poverty and not seeing those issues as excuses for why students cannot achieve at high levels but recognizing them …so that they are able to empower students as opposed to having the issues become barriers.

“Those two issues can easily become barriers for students who have tremendous promise academically, but are struggling with many of those dilemmas in the schools,” he said.

More simply put, Hopson would mainstream all students, have high expectations of them and then give them—along with their teachers—the tools they need to succeed.

“When we engage students who are underrepresented in advance placements and overrepresented in suspension and expulsions in a relevant, meaningful way by removing race and poverty as barriers and pushing them into those classes, we affirm them and gave them the confidence to succeed,” Hopson said.

He says he’s seen it work in Portland and it will work here.

“We moved students in mainstream classes, and when we did that with the inclusionary approach, scores went up. We did that with special-needs students—I’m a very strong proponent of inclusion.”

As a result of that, in Portland, at Hopson’s once-troubled school, “We met benchmarks.”

Hopson says this approach not only encourages achievement, but also is successful in finding fairness in discipline.

These are issues not only important to the students and the future success of the district, but which have been at the very heart of the desegregation case currently before District Judge Brian Miller.

TOP STORY > >Air show set for takeoff Oct. 9-10

Little Rock Air Force Base is expecting up to 250,000 people at its “Thunder Over the Rock” air show Oct. 9-10.

Gates will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. Admission is free.

Main headliners are the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team and the Army Golden Knight parachute team.

Other attractions will include several C-130s, the Super Hornet, Canadian Skyhawks, Otto the Helicopter, Mike Rinker and “Pink Floyd,” Shockwave Jet Truck, Alabama Boys and “Tora, Tora, Tora” World War II fighter planes and others.

“’Thunder Over the Rock’ gives us the opportunity to showcase Team Little Rock and our C-130 combat airlift mission to our central Arkansas neighbors,” said Bob Oldham, 19th Airlift Wing chief of public affairs. “It’s a great deal, especially for families, because you can’t beat the price – admission and parking are free,” he said.

Local businesses are contributing $50,000 to make the air show possible.

The Thunderbirds began flying in 1953, making them almost as old as the Air Force, which was organized in 1947. The team includes 12 officers and 120 enlisted members.

They perform in 73 air shows a year in 11 F-16s. The Thunder-birds are assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights have been parachuting together for 50 years. They have two 12-member teams that fly in a C-31A Troopship and perform 240 days a year.

The “Tora Tora Tora” re-creation involves several Japanese fighters and bombers simulating the Pearl Harbor attack.

In addition, “Tora” provides smoke, fire and explosions from the pyrotechnics team.

The Alabama Boys are a flying comedy team. Using a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub, this act begins as “farmer” Clem Cleaver climbs up on the announcer’s stand, demanding a flight lesson.

Later in the show, he “steals” the plane and takes off solo, with his whole crew chasing. “Grandpa” shoots off a tire to get him down.

Planes on display will include the A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog, B-52 Stratofortress, F-16 Fighting Falcon and others.