Friday, August 12, 2011

EDITORIAL >>Black eye for lottery

Everyone, including the people who run the Arkansas lottery, is entitled to a measure of forbearance in dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, but it is hard to countenance ignorance or sheer ineptness by people who are paid for their expertise.

Ernie Passailaigue, the director of the lottery, notified his commissioners this week that the lottery owed the IRS $100,000 in penalties for twice not remitting taxes by the deadline. The lottery must withhold federal income taxes on lottery winnings and remit them to the IRS, just as employers do with employee withholding and just as individual taxpayers and businesses do with quarterly estimates. Everyone knows there is a penalty for late payment, by even a day, unless you have applied to pay late. Passailaigue said his staff disbursed the money to the IRS late by one day both times.

The lottery’s chief fiscal officer is responsible for remitting the taxes and, according to his account, he and the IRS simply had a misunderstanding about when the tax remittances were due. He was pretty confident that when he or Passailaigue or someone else got the right person on the phone at the IRS, the agency would waive the penalty. After all, the IRS had agreed to waive the penalties when the lottery missed the deadlines four times during the 2010 fiscal year.

Last year? That robs Passailaigue and his minions of much sympathy. We are impressed that they persuaded someone at the IRS, which is not known for its softheartedness, to forget about penalties even one time, but it should not have been forgotten.

Even at that, we could say that it was much ado about very little except for two things.

If the lottery pays the IRS $100,000, or more when the issue is finally settled, that is 22 scholarships that will not be awarded—or 44 scholarships for students at two-year colleges and technical schools.

Second, this is only the latest in a long string of financial miscues by the lottery staff, who we were told were the best in the world at what they did. When the voters amended the Constitution to permit a lottery and the legislature created it, the lottery commissioners leaped at the chance to hire the director of the South Carolina lottery and his top assistants. They learned that they could hire Passailaigue for $324,000, only $97,000 more than the impoverished state of South Carolina was paying him. He brought in his top assistants, all at huge salary increases. The Constitution and the legislature gave the lottery commission virtual carte blanche to pay people under whatever terms they considered provident. Arkansas would begin with a highly experienced and competent staff.

The lottery sold its first tickets slightly ahead of when other states got under way, but after that there has been little about the operation to impress. Scholarship revenues came in at well under projections, legislative auditors discovered numerous irregularities in compensation, expense accounts and simple accounting procedures. The lottery’s auditor and chief fiscal officer was unable to produce a simple accounting report using standard accounting procedures and it had to contract with someone outside the agency to do it.

Gov. Beebe, as he has on previous occasions, expressed dismay at this failure. Two new lottery commissioners were mortified at the development.

The problem goes back to the founding. The lottery should have been treated like any other government agency, subject to the same strict accounting, personnel and auditing rules that govern public offices. It should not be a separate and independent branch of government. The legislature is hamstrung by an improvidently written Constitution, but it should do the best it can to bring the agency under control.

TOP STORY > >Chiropractor appointed to school board

Leader staff writer

Cabot School Board member Ken Kincade resigned at a special board meeting Tuesday evening so his wife could take a job as school nurse.

Kincade said in a letter to the board that his wife, Amanda, has for many years wanted to work for the school district, but state law wouldn’t allow it because he was on the board.

When a school-nurse position came open at Central Elementary, she applied and was offered the position.

The district requested a waiver from the state that would allow her to accept the job while he remained on the school board. But with only one week left before school starts and no response from the state about the waiver request, time was running out.

Kincade said in his letter that it had been a family decision for him to run for school board.

“Serving on a local school board is the ultimate role of public service. I’ve loved every moment of my role as director for the past four years of my life,” Kincade said.

But with time running out for his wife to accept the job at Central Elementary, he said, “I need to take a step back and do what is best for my immediate family. In this situation, resigning as a member of the Cabot School Board and allowing Amanda to work with the children of our district is most important.”

Since the deadline for filing for the school board has closed for the upcoming election, the board appointed Dr. Brenda Thielemier to serve in Kincade’s position until September 2012 when that position can be filled by an election.

Thielemier was elected to the board in 2002 and served one term until 2007. This will be her second time to fill a vacated position. She also completed a three-month term for Brooks Nash who died in 2009.

Thielemier, a chiropractor, has lived in Cabot since 1994. She has one child in the district.

In other business, the board increased the minimum wage paid to hourly workers from $7.59 to $7.74.

The board also increased the amount paid to bus drivers for trips from $8 an hour to $8.50.

TOP STORY > >New JHS principal sets priorities

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville High School’s new principal kicked off his first year on the job with a school and community meeting Monday morning to brainstorm about how to turn around failing test scores and plummeting enrollment.

Principal Henry Anderson introduced himself to the crowd as the seventh principal in five years at Crossett High School. He said test scores went up 20 to 40 percent in different subject areas.

Anderson explained how such a feat was accomplished.

“If you (the teacher) were not doing what you were supposed to do, I would camp out in your room… We (the school) are going to be where we need to be. I hope you guys will join us as we shift in the right direction…We will return to being the center of excellence,” Anderson said.

The first game of day was “That’s me.” The icebreaker requires that if a statement — such as “I am a teacher” — applies to you, you have to stand up and say, “That’s me.”

Nearly everyone in the room stood up when Anderson voiced the statement, “I am committed to making Jacksonville the best it can be.”

He shared that one catalyst to change at Crossett was a “principal’s cabinet,” a group of students who helped formulate ideas to improve their school. Engaging students to increase the success of the school was one of the main goals discussed at the event.

Accountability was the key word for the day, Anderson said. “We all have a hand in that accountability piece. For the last nine years our product has been defective…If your students succeed, they’re yours. If they fail they’re yours, too. They can’t fail if you keep trying to reach them.”

Another game instructed members of the audience to go to one of four corners. In each corner, there was a poster board with an answer to “What is the purpose of education?” The four choices were “employment,” “social justice,” “social interaction,” and “academics.” Members went to the answer they agreed with the most and each group explained why their answer was the best.

After that, groups of two people each had to come up with two educational priorities and then join with another group of two to pick a first and second choice out of their four priorities.

Then, the priorities that were written down on neon pink and green paper were taped to one wall and organized into sections. The priorities listed included school safety and security, discipline, restoring confidence and pride in the school, community involvement, improving academic performance and improving communication between teachers, parents, administration, students and the community.

In another activity, four articles were passes out. Each person was asked to read one of the four. Topics ranged from the importance of student engagement in school policy to how a supportive community with a positive attitude toward the school can help the school get funding.

The last game was “Headliners.” Groups of five to seven individuals wrote on one side of a poster board the current reality at Jacksonville High School and wrote on the other side what they wanted to see 12 months from now.

Most of the groups said the school suffered from a bad reputation, low test scores, little student discipline and less than desirable communication between everyone involved with the school’s success.

All the groups wanted to see the school improve in those areas, although art teacher Marvin Lindley expressed the most concern. He said he wanted the district to not only say things but to actually follow through on them with action, explaining that PCSSD had made promises before that hadn’t been kept.

PCSSD’s new superintendent, Jerry Guess, had walked into the meeting earlier and introduced himself. He said he agrees with Lindley that the follow-through has to be there for the school to improve.

Anderson repeatedly said teachers and administrators would have the resources they needed from the district and Guess confirmed that.

Guess and Anderson joined city officials, PCSSD administration and community members at the New Teacher Welcome on Tuesday at the Jacksonville Community Center. The 60 new teachers who joined schools in the district received “goodie bags” of donated items from the chamber.

Also attending were state Rep. Jane English, Mayor Gary Fletcher, Alderman Aaron Robinson, Little Rock Air Force Base school liaison Terry Shaw; Jody Urquhart, vice chairman of the chamber board; Larry Biernacki, treasurer of the chamber board; Brenda Bowles, PCSSD superintendent for equity and public services; PCSSD executive director of communications Deborah Roush, Homer Adkins principal Lisa Peeples, Arnold Drive Elementary principal Julie Davenport, Murrell Taylor Elementary principal Jackie Smith, Tolleson Elementary Sonja Whitfield, Star Academy principal Chris Jones, Lighthouse Charter School Principal Norman Whitfield, Lighthouse Flightline Charter School Principal Evan McGrew and many others attended the new teacher welcome.

TOP STORY > >Beebe ready for new year

Leader staff writer

Desks are straightened, posters are hung and teachers in the Beebe School District are ready for the start of a new school year Wednesday.

A few changes are in store for students at Beebe High School. The new $7.8 million two-story Career and Technical Center for business, vocational and agriculture classes will open.

An open house was held Thursday. The Career and Technical Center will offer students four new classes: broadcasting, fundamentals of radio, marketing and culinary arts.

Art students will have more room to be creative as the art classes more into the old home economics building.

The grassy football field at A.S. “Bro” Erwin Stadium is being replaced with a $680,000 artificial turf surface. The field will be used by the city’s pee-wee football games on Saturdays and school soccer games. The district is spending $220,000 for the synthetic field with $423,000 coming from donations. Earlier in the year the Beebe School District was awarded an $11,000 joint use agreement grant from the Department of Education for the city and school district to have the city’s pee-wee football teams use the high school football field.

The school will have a new 11-12th grade principal. Scott Jennings replaces Travis Barrentine who will be principal at Conway High School East.

Jennings was an assistant principal at Cabot Junior High South last year and ninth-10th grade assistant principal at Beebe High School a few years prior.

The school district hired Le Chang of China to teach Chinese. Previously, Chinese language classes were taught through distance learning by video conferencing with teachers at the Northwest Arkansas Educational Services cooperative in Farmington.

In other administrative moves, Cecily Tallie is heading the Beebe Pre-K program.

Traffic will be different this year near some school buildings.

California Street in front of the 11-12 high school building and the road in front of the 9-10 building will be closed to through traffic.

Badger Drive will be closed in the afternoons for about 10 minutes when the shuttle buses arrive from Beebe Middle School in McRae and leave for the Early Childhood Building. The drive behind the auditorium and Badger Arena will be closed in the afternoon while students are loading on to the buses.

Gates built by the transportation department to close the roads will be installed this week. The gated roads will be re-opened for events such as football games.

Some teachers were at their classrooms a week before classes start.

“We’re excited about our new students and meeting new parents. We have been working on classroom curriculum, getting ready for Common Core (teaching standard),” Beebe Elementary fourth- grade teacher Allison Shuttleworth said.

Common Core standard are being implemented in kindergarten through second grade. Next year, Common Core standards will used in third- through eighth- grades and ninth- through 12th-grades the following year.

“We’re looking forward to implement the things we learned over the summer,” she said.

“We learned new teaching strategies with new technology,” Beebe Elementary fourth grade teacher Byron Difani said.

Students will be learning with the addition of interactive whiteboards in the classrooms. They will use a hand-held device to answer questions from the whiteboards. Teachers will be able to see responses without delay and give instant feedback.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook said she is looking forward to the new school year.

“I’m excited we have a new building and think enrollment might be up,” Shook said.

She said she is excited about the new people the district hired and new courses the district has to offer.

TOP STORY > >In state’s hands, PCSSD starts over

Leader staff writer

The Pulaski County School District will get back to the business of learning on Monday for its first school year under the control of the state Education Department.

The state took control of the fiscally distressed district in June, removing the superintendent and dissolving the school board. Dr. Jerry Guess was hired to serve as PCSSD superintendent two weeks after the takeover.

“The most im-portant thing we have been working on in the past six weeks is getting ready for our first day of school. We have to have a great first day, and then do that again 177 times, which is the length of our school year,” Guess said. “We have some fantastic new teachers in Jacksonville, some talented new administrators and buildings that are ready to open their doors for the 2011-2012 school year.”

District schools have five new principals at the reins. None of the principals are new to working in PCSSD.

Henry Anderson was hired as the new Jacksonville High School principal after former principal Bobby Pruitt announced his retirement at the school’s graduation ceremony in May.

“We are going to be where we need to be…we will return to being the center of excellence,” Anderson told the crowd at a school and community meeting Monday. “I hope you guys will join us as we shift in the right direction. Consistency and proximity are important in dealing with our kids. We all have a hand in that accountability. If your students succeed, they’re yours, but if they fail, they’re yours, too. You can’t fail if you keep trying to reach them.”

Anderson was hired in 2009 to lead the Crossett High School through a scholastic audit and standards visit. Anderson noted that test scores at Crossett rose substantially when he was there.

He was an assistant principal at Mills High School in Little Rock for two years, assistant principal at Robinson High School for one year, a PCSSD technology specialist for one year and an advanced placement English language and composition teacher at Mills for three years.

He earned his bachelor’s from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, his master’s from University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated from the educational specialist program for educational administration at UALR. He won the Good Apple Award from PCSSD in 2007 and the Who’s Who Among America’s Teacher Award in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Denise Rankin is the new principal of Pinewood Elementary School in Jacksonville. She served as instructional curriculum coordinator for PCSSD last year, as a principal for PCSSD and Cabot schools, as an assistant principal for PCSSD and as a PCSSD math specialist. She also taught in Lonoke, Lincoln and Forrest City School Districts.

Rankin received her bachelor’s and master’s degree from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

Don Booth is the new principal of Jacksonville Middle School. He brings 32 years of experience to the position.

Booth served as principal at Harris Elementary School last year and as principal of Fuller Middle School for six years. He was an assistant principal in PCSSD from 1989 to 2004. He worked as a public school program adviser for the Arkansas Department of Education for two years before coming to PCSSD. He taught for Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts from 1979 to 1986.

Booth earned his bachelor’s from Philander Smith College in Little Rock and received his master’s from University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Tracy Allen, the new principal for Sylvan Hills High School, graduated from there in 1990.

He was the principal of North Little Rock High School for two years. He was principal of North Pulaski High School for one year. He was an assistant principal at Jacksonville High School and at Mills, spending a year in that position at each school. He also coached the Mills Comets basketball team and taught physical education. Before that, Allen was a basketball coach and history teacher at Northwood Middle School.

Allen earned his master’s from ASU and his bachelor’s from UCA.

Sonja Whitfield, Jacksonville Elementary School’s former principal, is now leading Tolleson Elementary School in Jacksonville. Jacksonville Elementary School is now closed and its students will attend several area elementary schools.

In addition to new principals, approximately 60 teachers joined Jacksonville schools this year. A few administrators and staff were hired throughout the district. Sherwood schools also saw the addition of new faculty members.

Homer Adkins Pre-K School in Jacksonville welcomes assistant principal Melissa Morris, teacher Belinda Jarkas and paraprofessionals Ki Bowie and Kara Castle.

Bayou Meto Elementary School in Jacksonville added Sally Martin, who transferred from the closed Jacksonville Elementary School and replaced retiree Marty Hamrick as a speech teacher.

Warren Dupree Elementary School in Jacksonville added five to its ranks. They were third grade teacher Amy Souther, second-grade teacher Stephanie Breedlove, fourth-grade teacher Angela Sprow, special-education teacher Pamela Anderson, all who transferred from the closed Jacksonville Elementary School. Jodye Ferrell also joined the school from Pine Bluff School District to teach Alpha/gifted and talented students.

Oakbrooke Elementary School in Sherwood added community based learning teacher Laura DePriest.

Pinewood Elementary School in Jacksonville got four teachers from the closed Jacksonville Elementary School. They are second-grade teacher Cheryl Cleare, second-grade teacher Crystal Kinsey, fifth-grade reading teacher Terra Pilkinton and kindergarten teacher Rhonda Smith. Tasha Middaugh, fourth- grade reading teacher, and Lisa Brown, once-a-week art teacher, were also hired.

Murrell Taylor Elementary School in Jacksonville added instructional facilitator Becca May, fourth-grade teacher Valencia Rochelle, community- based instruction teacher Julie Barber, third-grade teacher Sonja Heard, fifth-grade teacher Marcia Martin and art teacher Melissa Lashbrook.

Tolleson Elementary School in Jacksonville will have a new assistant principal, counselor and 12 new teachers. They are kindergarten teacher Mary Fischer, first-grade teacher Kimberly Goldsberry, second-grade teacher Georgette Sierra, third-grade teacher Roxanne Tapia, fourth- grade teacher Robin Dorey, fourth-grade teacher Patricia King, fifth-grade teacher John Birmingham, multi-age teacher Karen McDonald, multi-age paraprofessional Tami Mason, special education teacher Anita Williams, music teacher David Carter, art teacher Melanie Rodriguez, home school counselor Gregory Woods and assistant principal Claudia Curtis.

Jacksonville Middle School added assistant principal Vicki Gill, dean of students Ken Moore, health and physical education teacher Josh Nation, English teacher Jessica Hall, science teacher Katrina White and special education teacher Danielle Pelletier.

New to North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville are several coaches and teachers. They are Teodis Ingram, head varsity football coach and special education teacher; art teacher Sonya Ingram; Jeremy Brown, head baseball coach, ninth-grade basketball coach and science teacher; Jack Russell, assistant varsity football coach, basketball coach, ninth-grade football coach and math teacher; Roy Jackson, head varsity basketball coach and special education teacher; James Paul, EAST facilitator; English and photography teacher Natalie Larrison; chemistry teacher Brandon Ranaurd; math teacher Kathleen Smith, and counselor Virginia Abrams.

Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood will have history teacher Charlene Bales, girls basketball coach Shelly Davis, special education Amanda Erickson, history teacher Gregory Frantal, science teacher John Hannon, literacy- instructional facilitator Phyllis Ray and math teacher Ricardo Souza.

SPORTS>>Bison still charging this week

Leader sports writer

The Carlisle Bison were still full speed ahead as the second week of August practice came to a close on Friday.

And with strong on-field leadership that consists of 14 seniors from a total roster of 38, head coach Scott Waymire does not foresee any slow downs. The Bison changed from morning practices to the late afternoons this week due to teacher workshops, but the change in times did not have an effect on the intensity shown in week one.

“They’ve been real physical, and that’s been good to see,” Waymire said. “Everyone’s healthy conditioning wise, so we’re pleased about that. Basically, we’ve had two good weeks of football practice.”

Waymire also said he was pleased with the progress made getting the offense and defenseup to speed with their master plan.

“The good thing about having 14 seniors is that they know the basics on both sides of the ball,” Waymire said. “We’re not changing anything from what it has been, we’re just adding some stuff here and there.”

One of those changes will be shared duties at quarterback between senior Zac King and junior Chris Hart. King, a two-year returning starter, has been a vital part of Carlisle’s power-run style and will continue to lead the Bison on the ground. But Hart is a prolific passer. Waymire is hoping he will add another element to the offense.

“The past five years, we’ve been linemen heavy,” Waymire said. “Keeping the ball, clock management, trying to limit their possessions, and this year, we’re installing some option. We’re adapting and changing a little bit for the personnel we have. We’ll still keep our same system, we’re just able to add to it.”

The Bison will need the strong overall numbers to replace the nine starting seniors who departed after the 2010 season. That left all but three spots open on offense and seven positions left to fill on defense, mostly up front. With 38 players, an impressive number for a 2A program considering that many 5A schools are working with numbers in the low 30s, those spots filled up fast through the spring and early summer.

“We lost a lot of linemen,” Waymire said. “But these guys have been around, and they understand our expectations.”

The Bison won their first outright conference championship last season and reached the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs before losing to eventual state champions Magazine. In fact, they have reached the postseason for all five years of Waymire’s tenure, averaging 10 victories per season.

The campaign to earn their sixth-straight playoff berth will start at Fred Hardke Field in a home game against Riverview on Sept. 2, but Waymire said he is anxious to get the entire process started.

“We’re just ready to start school and get into a regular routine,” Waymire said. “We’re close to where we need to be, and we’re on pace to get the rest figured out.”

SPORTS>>Panthers’ young roster shaping up

Leader sports writer

The good thing about rebuilding a football program at Cabot is the number of tools to choose from.

The numbers have been steady between 80 and 90 players, with only 14 seniors. And with seven open spots on each side of the ball, head coach Mike Malham has been keeping a watchful eye on the underclassmen talent through the first two weeks of August camp.

“I think we’re making progress,” Malham said. “About seven or eight on each side of the ball, there’s a lot of inexperience there, a lot of learning to do. Not only are we replacing a bunch of starters from last year, there’s a lot of sophomores involved in that process.”

Malham projects three sophomores to start on the offensive line – Heath Pledger, his twin brother Keith Pledger and Alec Ramirez. Other sophomores could also factor in up front.

Defensively, safeties Jordan Burke and Chris Henry are a couple of 10th-graders who have seen frequent reps in the secondary.

“I guess we’re kind of thin,” Malham said. “I don’t know if they’re there yet mentally, but physically, they’re better than what we’ve got above them. So there’s a lot of experience to gain. I don’t know if we’ll takeour lumps early and grow – hopefully, we’ll grow up before we get to that first game.”

The Panthers have not joined the team-camp bandwagon like most of the programs in central Arkansas, but they did work at some 7 on 7 during the summer.

“We do a lot of stuff here on our own,” Malham said. “Two workouts a week they’ve got to come in and get. Weights and running and 7 on 7, they’ve got to do a lot, so we don’t even mess with the team camps. We try to give them a little time off anyway.”

Another advantage for Malham and the coaching staff when it comes to breaking in new blood is the simplicity of Cabot’s Dead-T offense. It is a system learned by both North and South junior-high football teams, and utilizes simple running strategies of straight-ahead and off-tackle handoffs.

“We’re not real complex,” Malham said. “We keep things as simple as possible. I would rather them know a few things well than a lot of things average. I think we’re in good shape as far as getting everything in. We’ve got two more weeks before we get to game week.”

SPORTS>>Change good for Lady Bears

Leader sports writer

Changing with the times is good for anybody.

Sylvan Hills coach Harold Treadway hopes the changes he’s made within the Lady Bears volleyball program will also lead to improved success on the court.

The Lady Bears went from dominators of a weak conference to trying to keep their heads above water whenever the 5A-Southeast Conference received a facelift with the AAA realignment that preceded the 2010 season.

Private schools Little Rock Christian and Central Arkansas Christian upped the competition level with players seasoned by summers of Junior Olympic volleyball, but Treadway has countered this year with a J.O. team of his own that primarily featured underclassmen from this year’s Sylvan Hills High School team.

Four sophomore players and three more from this year’s freshman squad played for Treadway over the summer, part of a strong 23-girl roster that also features returning senior starters Mallory Rushin and Val Jarrett.

Rushin and Jarrett, both outside hitters, are joined by classmates Caitlyn Dillon and Darrin Flippo, as well as Zaneb Rehman, who played junior varsity and limited varsity last year.

The group also had access to additional court time at the high-school gymnasium over the summer.

“We did a few things a little different this year,” Treadway said.

“We left the practice gym open. We started going two nights a week in July, and went to a team camp at Greenbrier.” The Lady Bears ended up playing five junior-varsity games at the camp, lending further experience to the sophomores.

“We’ve got a real good group of sophomores,” Treadway said. “We’re further along than we ever have been, and they’re picking up on everything fast.”

The tenth-graders are so far along that Treadway said some could pop up in the starting six when the Lady Bears take to the court for the first time two weeks from now.

Setter Rachel Franco has had a strong August, along with Ashton Williams. K.K. Fulton is another sophomore on Treadway’s like list, unsurprisingly for a three-sport standout who also excels at basketball and soccer.

“She’s just really athletic,” Treadway said of Fulton. “She’s quick as lightning – just her all-around athletic ability.”

With as much young talent and proven ability Treadway has to work with, he said the group has still been susceptible to the triple-digit temperatures.

“I think the heat has had a lot to do with it,” Treadway said. “But it seems like we’ve made progress in one practice, and then we take a step back. But opening the gym quicker this summer has helped. There’s a lot of stuff they’ve picked up quicker.”

With a total of eight players who participated in one form of organized volleyball or another over the summer, Treadway has spent the early days of August blending the young potential and proven success together in one squad.

“I think the potential to be competitive is there,” Treadway said. “The sophomores went all the way to the conference finals as freshmen before they got beat, and these are kids who all play soccer, softball and basketball – real athletic kids.

“Once we start getting the chemistry together, we should be pretty good.”

The Lady Bears will hold their blue-white scrimmage next Thursday and will open the season by hosting Greenbrier the following week.

SPORTS>>Falcons execute Ingram’s wing-T

Leader sports editor

All the early reports from North Pulaski’s new football coach regarding the attitude and effort of his players have been very positive. There comes a time though when execution must become good enough to compete. With less than two weeks remaining until the Falcons’ first take the field against another team, that time is rapidly nearing.

The reports coming out this week about North Pulaski’s progression towards successfully running Teodis Ingram’s wing-T offense are also pretty good.

“We’re getting there,” Ingram said Thursday morning. “We’ve definitely gotten a lot better. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with where we are, but it’s hard for me to gauge because I don’t really know where these guys were at this time last year. But we’re improving. This week is really the first time I’ve felt good about execution.”

One of the things that’s helped execution is the return of prospective starting guard Brian Davis, who missed some recent practice for personal reasons. His return, Ingram says, adds quickness and that crucial spot, and has aided the offensive execution.

“Execution really improved since that young man came back,” Ingram said. “The guy we had playing there is really someone we see helping us out a lot on the defensive side. Brian brings that quickness you need at the guard spot.”

Ingram and the coaching staff are just installing the basics of the offense right now. “We’re trying to keep things real technical right now and not get into too much else,” Ingram said. “One of things I see from watching old film is the mistakes we were making. Losing the football, stepping on the quarterback or just missing assignments. We’re working really hard on just executing the basics and not doing those things that cause you to beat yourself.”

Ingram’s approach to teaching those things has been repetition.

“I’ve been asked how many times we’re going to run the fullback trap,” Ingram said. “I always say, ‘until I feel like we got it.’”

One group Ingram feels good about is the offensive backs. Tailback Derek Hart has become the go-to guy, but the head Falcons believes he has a committee of capable ball carriers.

“I really feel like any of our four backs could break it if we execute,” Ingram said. “Nick Dunn at wingback is doing a good job. “Frazier (Willie), can definitely run, and Shane Berrings is also doing really well. All the backs are working really hard and that’s something good to see.”

The team depth chart isn’t set yet, but that will change in the near future. The coaching staff has an assessment process that Ingram calls “snapshots”, that will help determine the two-deep.

“I take the offensive and defensive guys and I measure them on a scale of one to five on a variety of categories,” Ingram said.

Among those categories are ability, attitude, understanding of the system, conditioning and practice preparation. After the coaches have done their own evaluations, the staff meets to compare notes.

“I want the coaches involved because I want to make sure that what I’m seeing is what they’re seeing,” Ingram said. “I work with everyone on the team, but I primarily coach the offensive backs, so I want the input from the coaches to help us determine who is going to help us the most.”

The Falcons’ benefit game is scheduled for Aug. 25 at Hot Springs Lakeside.

SPORTS>>Rain dampens Devils’ first action

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils scrimmaged live for the first time in practice on Thursday. Seasonably rare, but long overdue rain, put a damper on the plans for the first scrimmage of the year, but the squad still had a productive practice, according to head coach Rick Russell.

“We started out a little slow on both sides, and then execution got better on both sides as we kept going,” Russell said. “They were slipping a lot when we first started and it just took a little while to get going.”

The plan was to take the team to the playing field at Jan Crow Stadium, set up the camera and film practice.

The rain stopped both of those things.

The team couldn’t go to the main field in the rain because of the damage it would do to the turf, and without a press box or any other high structure near the practice field, there was nowhere to set up the cameras where they would stay dry.

“I think that played a big part in the sluggish start,” Russell said. “But after a few series I think they picked it up and started playing a lot better. We saw some extremely good things we hoped to see. I think it was a very positive practice and I’m very pleased.”

Edge blocking was the first thing that popped out to Russell. The Red Devils have some playmakers that will be handling the ball this year, and making room for those playmakers is a big priority.

“That was a key thing that we were hoping to see,” Russell said. “I thought we did a good job of getting our blocks and creating holes in the right places. And the backs did a good job of finding their spots and making the right cuts.”

James Reddick and Erin Davis were the lineman primarily on the edge helping create the holes.

“Reddick did a good job,” Russell said. “He’s been through the battles, been practicing well for us and made some good blocks today.”

Jacksonville started practice shallow at linebacker, but Russell says there hasbeen steady progress at that spot, and even saw progress in the 90-minute scrimmage.

“We’ve got to get better at linebacker, but they got better as the day went on,” Russell said. “Just getting some live plays they were able to learn, and they did a good job improving their technique and executing.”

The coaching staff mixed and mingled starters on both sides, and didn’t go with a straight first-team versus second-team format. Still it was clear that the offense moved the ball with Tirrell Brown taking the snaps.

“He made some good decisions,” Russell said. “He’s playing real well. When we started opening it up more at the end, he made some good throws.”

There were several dropped passes early in the practice that could be attributed to the weather, but Russell believes the defensive secondary may have been hindering the receivers and gave them credit for some of the offensive woes.

“I thought the secondary guys played somewhat above their practice level,” Russell said. “I was really pleasantly surprised by their effort today.”

As practiced progressed, the weather regressed. When lightning and thunder started, practice was cut short. The squad went back out to pick up where it left off on Friday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

EVENTS >> 8-10-11


The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce will host the 13th Annual Wing Ding Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Dupree Park. The event includes lots of fun, arts and crafts, food, kids events, inflatables and plenty of chicken wings.

Approximately 35,000 attended the festival last year.

As always, children and families play a big role at the festival with a children’s area and dozens of vendors for mom and dad. Gates open at 9 a.m. For more information, contact the chamber at 501-982-1511.


Cabot Praise in the Park will be held at Cabot City Park from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. There will be free admission, free food from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., live music and guest speakers. There will also be a Kidz Zone and a candle-light service to conclude. Once all expenses of the event are met, the remainder of the proceeds from donations will go to the Lonoke County Christian Clinic, a nonprofit clinic which serves the medically uninsured by providing affordable medical care, preventative care and health education.


Nutrition World, 1102 S. Pine St., Suite 10 in Cabot is celebrating its 20th anniversary at month’s end with a party from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26-27. There will be discounts, drawings, give-aways and refreshments.

Owner Cathy Uhl is a certified natural-health professional.


Jacksonville Parks and Recreation is offering evening swim lessons at Splash Zone through the end of September for ages 3 and older. Classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 45 minutes — from 4 to 4:45 p.m., 5 to 5:45 p.m. and 6 to 6:45 p.m.

The cost is $40 per child for each session. Session I is Aug. 16, 18, 23, 25, 30 and Sept. 1. Session II is Sept. 6, 8, 13, 15, 20 and 22. For more information about signing up, call 982-4171.


The Central Arkansas Development Council will distribute USDA Commodities beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17 in Lonoke County at these locations: Austin City Hall, Cabot Church of Christ at 500 North 2nd Street, Carlisle’s Old City Gym, Lonoke County Fairgrounds, Ward Chamber of Commerce, Woodlawn Community Center, Allport City Hall, Humnoke City Hall and the England Community Center.

Identification is required to receive commodities.

The food items to be distributed may include whole corn, cream-styled corn, apple juice, peaches, beef stew, peanut butter, rotini and apple sauce.

To be eligible to receive USDA commodities, income guidelines must be met. The income guidelines for this program are based on 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Based on these guidelines, a one-person household must make less than $14,157 per year to qualify. For each additional family member, add $4,966.

CADC is a private nonprofit community-action agency formed in 1965 to fight and win the War on Poverty. The mission of CADC is to improve the quality of life and build strong communities in Arkansas. For more information, contact Evelyn Reed at 501-778-1133.


The Cabot Chamber of Commerce is requesting old picture frames to be used to decorate the walls of the foyer of the chamber office located in the old bank building beside city hall.

Nancy Cohea is coordinating the hunt for frames. All the frames will be painted black and historic photos that go into the frames will be sized to fit.

To donate frames, call Cohea at 501-529-8875. Any size, color or style will be accepted.


First Baptist Church of Jacksonville will hold a Music and Missions registration kick-off for children ages 2 through sixth grade from 5:45 to 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17. Attendees will have the opportunity to register for children’s choirs and mission organizations.

There will be games, food and drinks available, with alternate activities for 2- and 3-year-olds. First Baptist Church of Jacksonville is located at 401 N. First St.


Jacksonville AARP will begin its next drivier-safety class next Wednesday. Classes are held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays at St. Jude Catholic Church, 2403 Mac Arthur Drive. The cost is $12 for members and $14 for non-members. To register, call 501-982-4891.


The Sherwood Rotary Club will hold its annual Back to School fundraiser from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 20 at the Walmart Supercenter at Hwy. 107 in Sherwood. Rotarians will collect money, school supplies and new and used school uniforms. These items are given to less fortunate students in the Sherwood area.

For more information, call Annette Delgado at 501-603-3925 or Alderman Marina Brooks at 501-835-8572.


Cabot Community Theater, 201 N. First St., will present “Annie” Thursday through Saturday.

The musical features Eden Young as Annie, and Greg Addison, pastor of Cabot’s First Baptist Church, as Daddy Warbucks.

Based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, the musical is about a spunky Depression-era orphan determined to find her parents, who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City orphanage run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan.

In adventure after fun-filled adventure, Annie foils Miss Hannigan’s evil machinations, befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and finds a new family and home in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell and a lovable mutt named Sandy.

Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Reservations are required for dinner. Tickets are $10-$25. Call 501-941-2266 or go to


The Battle of Reed’s Bridge Civil War re-enactment will be held Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27-28 in Jacksonville. In addition to the re-enactment of the skirmish, there will be musical entertainment, a Saturday night dance, three sutlers (a person who maintained a store on an army post) and a blacksmith. There is also a second-hand re-enactor store for those wanting to buy or sell equipment.

Crafters and food vendors will be on site.

The Reed’s Bridge homestead and battle site is located on Hwy. 161 South in Jacksonville. Call 501-240-8950 for more information.


The Cabot Panther Education Foundation is accepting nominations for individuals to be honored at its Cabot Schools Hall of Fame banquet on Oct. 27. The deadline to submit nominations is Sept. 1.

Tickets are $25. Tables of eight are $200.

Tickets can be purchased at the Central Administrative Office, 602 N. Lincoln. The banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 27 in the Cabot Junior High North Cafeteria.

Nominations should be given to Amanda Elizandro by e-mailing, calling 501-843-3363 ext. 1059 or faxing 501-843-0576.


Jacksonville Parks and Recreation will host its annual back-to-school bash at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive, from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26.

Power 92 Jams DJ Tre’ Day will be in charge of music for the event. Admission is $2 at the door. The event is for ages 13 to 18, ID is required for those ages 16 and up. Parents must sign in teens under age 16.

No alcohol, tobacco or attitude will be allowed and security will be enforced.

For more information, call 982-0818.


Church Alive in Cabot will hold a fellowship dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. today. Proceeds will help fund the church’s community outreach and youth programs. The cost is $7, $5 for kids ages 3 to 6 and kids under 2 are free. To RSVP, call 501-606-1421.

The church is located at 899 W. Myrtle St.


Cabot’s third annual Arkansas Highway Commission dinner will held Tuesday, Sept. 6 at First Baptist Church, 204 N. Third St.

A reception will begin at 6:15 p.m. and dinner starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and tables of seven with company name displayed are $200. RSVP by Aug. 30 by calling 501-843-2136. Business attire is required.

The event is hosted by the Cabot Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Committee.


House of Refuge Ministries will host a marriage conference beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. next Saturday at 901 N. First St. in Jacksonville. Guest speakers will be Elder Howard and Ada Hughes, Pastor Larry and Tasha Gregory and ministers Tommy and Carolyn Keener. Admission is free. To register, call 501-398-2464 or visit


A prayer walk will be held at Jacksonville High School at 3 p.m. Sunday. Prayer teams will be formed and travel to each of the city’s schools to pray for the needs of the schools to be fulfilled.

For more information, call Stephanie Burrows at 501-772-4562.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Spotlighting Broadway

How exercised should we all be that Governor Beebe has chosen a colleague from his lawmaking days to run the state Department of Higher Education? Shane Broadway is plenty knowledgeable about higher education and its financing, but it is a stretch to say that he is “an experienced educator in the field of higher education,” as the statute suggests that he ought to be.

If you follow the political blogs, letters to the editor and editorials in the Arkansas Democrat- Gazette, Broadway’s appointment approaches the crime of the century. Every Republican official has denounced the choice and called for the governor to take it back. Republican legislators have asked Attorney General Dustin McDaniel for an official opinion on whether Broadway fulfills the qualification of the law, and they offer their own opinion that he does not.

McDaniel is on the spot. We don’t know his relationship with Broadway, with whom he served a while in the legislature, but he is on good terms with the governor, with whom he also served. He knows Broadway’s abilities and his history as the leading author of the educational reforms of the past decade, both in public education and higher learning, but he also can read the statutes. It will take some circuitous reasoning to say that Broadway is “an experienced educator in the field of higher education.”

The other stuff in the law—demonstrated competence in institutional management and finance—Broadway plainly possesses, but “experienced educator” implies teaching or management at a college or university. He hasn’t done that.

Broadway served six years in the state House of Representatives and eight in the Senate. It was he, more than any other person, who crafted the maze of school-finance reforms after the Supreme Court’s Lake View decisions when Gov. Mike Huckabee could not produce anything but a draconian school-consolidation bill to address the court’s orders. Huckabee would embrace and praise those reforms. Broadway worked on legislation to increase the accountability of state-supported universities and community colleges. He is a master of government finances.

That is what the actual job, if not the statute, requires. The Department of Higher Education and its director do not control anything about an institution of higher learning. The Constitution requires that their own boards and no one else govern the universities, and the higher education director and his agency cannot interfere in the slightest way. The Department of Higher Education conducts studies and reviews of how and how effectively the universities spend their money, and it makes recommendations to the governor and the legislature. The department’s biggest nexus with the campuses is its administration of state scholarships created by the legislature, including the lottery scholarships. The law says the director is to be an advocate for higher education in the governor’s cabinet. Broadway is superbly suited for those roles.

But Broadway ran for lieutenant governor last year—as a Democrat—and he lost, narrowly. That makes him a politician first, and there are inevitable consequences to that. He is easy bait for political attacks.

Soon after the election, the Department of Higher Education hired him as its assistant director. When the director, Dr. Jim Purcell, announced in February that he was leaving to take a similar job in Louisiana, Broadway was made the interim director while the Higher Education Coordinating Board and the governor searched for a successor. Beebe has said that Broadway would make a suitable permanent director.

How much cleaner would it be if the governor and the coordinating board found someone with Broadway’s knowledge and skills who also met that particular qualification, a few months teaching or in an administrative role on a campus. But remember that all those Republican protests are political posturing, not principled objections. You may remember that only a few weeks ago the Republican candidate for president of the University of Arkansas system was a farmer and politician from Marianna, not a man with a week of teaching or administrative experience on a college campus. The late Stanley Reed was a political friend and appointee of Mike Huckabee and he was Sen. John Boozman’s campaign director last year, after bowing out as a candidate himself after one week.

If the chairman of the university’s board of trustees had permitted a secret ballot, Reed would have been named the president, the overlord of every aspect of learning at half the campuses in Arkansas. (Half the board members are still Huckabee patrons.) It might have saved his life. He was killed the next day when his car wandered off the road and hit a tree. Anyway, had he been chosen president there would have been a hue and cry.

From the people now protesting Shane Broadway would not have come a peep.

TOP STORY >> Co-op’s home improvement

Leader staff writer

Imagine a presentation by Publishers Clearing House, only without the bouquet of flowers.

That’s what it was like Monday morning at the home of First Electric Co-operative customers William and Nancy Ferrell of the Hopewell community between Rose Bud and Heber Springs, when a caravan of cars and trucks filled with representatives from Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, First Electric of Jacksonville and several businesses arrived with an over-sized check for $50,000 representing the value of the work that will be done making their home energy-efficient.

The surprise was the same and so were the gasped expressions of disbelief.

“Oh, my God,” Nancy Ferrell said as she realized she was the big winner, not just one of the 16 runner-ups who will receive a 40-gallon high energy-efficient Marathon water heater.

“Thank you, man. You just don’t know what this means to us,” William Ferrell told First Electric’s Bret Curry who informed them about what was included in the grand prize for the fourth annual Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas $50,000 Energy Efficiency Makeover Contest: new windows and doors, energy-efficient appliances, foam insulation in their walls and attic, caulking all around the house and a geo-thermal heat and air system that Curry called “the best on planet earth.”

The contest, which was open to customers of all 17 electric cooperatives, started in May and ended in mid-July.

Asked the purpose of the contest aside from making the lives of a few customers easier, Curry said, “It’s all about education.”

The electric cooperatives strive to educate customers about saving energy and the makeovers provide proof that it can be done.

The Ferrell’s bought their 1,400-square-foot, 31-year-old rock-and-wood home 12 years ago when they moved to Hopewell from Bartlett, Tenn., outside Memphis.

Leaky windows and doors, leaky air ducts, and a pieced together heating and cooling unit were just some of the problems with the Ferrell’s home, Curry said. Heating and cooling the home was expensive and so they turned the thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter. In the summer they also run ceiling fans and box fans. In the winter they burn wood in a heater in the living room.

Their electric bill averaged $200 a month and they were uncomfortable.

“They were doing without,” Curry said. “That’s the American way. People will sacrifice comfort to keep that bill down.

The Ferrells split their firewood with a hydraulic log splitter that two weeks ago caught two of Nancy’s fingers and would have done real damage if she hadn’t been wearing gloves, William said.

They told Curry they would gladly give up that stove after the new geo-thermal system is installed.

William, 66, is a retired truck driver. Nancy, 60, is out of work since the glove factory closed in Heber Springs.

The work on their home that will start this week should last for the rest of his life, William said.

“I would have been happy with the water heater,” Nancy said. “I’ll never be able to say enough thank yous to the people who decided we should be the winners.”

The Ferrell’s application was one of more than 2,000.

These applicants will receive a 40-gallon Marathon water heater:

 Jackie Ray, Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative of Ozark;

 Sam Taunton, Ashley-Chicot Electric Cooperative of Hamburg;

 Ernesto Muniz, C and L Electric Cooperative of Star City;

 Dawn Harris, Carroll Electric Cooperative of Berryville;

 Ronnie Davis, Clay County Electric Cooperative of Corning;

 Kimberly Markum, Craighead Electric Cooperative of Jonesboro;

 Albert Cathey, Farmers Electric Cooperative of Newport;

Paul G. Borden, Mississippi County Electric Cooperative of Blytheville;

James F. Bonewits, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Salem;

Doyle Vann Jr., Ouachita Electric Cooperative of Camden;

Matt and Carrie Brandenburg, Ozarks Electric Cooperative of Fayetteville;

Leonard Coe, Petit Jean Electric Cooperative of Clinton;

Steve Holton, Rich Mountain Electric Cooperative of Mena;

Doris Dunlap, South Central Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Arkadelphia;

Edward L. Caldwell, Southwest Arkansas Electric Cooperative of Texarkana; and

Jerry Green, Woodruff Electric Cooperative of Forrest City.

In addition to the electric cooperatives, the contest’s primary sponsors include: The Doug Rye; WeatherBarr Windows of Fort Smith; Marathon Water Heaters; Rood Heating and Air of Russellville; and Water Furnace Geothermal.

TOP STORY >> Nation took shape near Brinkley

Special to the Leader

Melba Brackin of Beebe wants Leader readers to know some of the history behind the Louisiana Purchase, the site of which is now an attractive state park between Brinkley and Marvell. A heavily wooded area bordered by shade trees and marked with informational placards depicting the area’s history is set back off Hwy. 49 and is a perfect setting for a picturesque daytrip. Having once lived at Marvell, Brackin is drawn to the place because she once knew Miss Lily Peter, who donated the land and who was at one time the state poet laureate. Brackin, who is working on a history of Beebe, traveled recently to the Louisiana Purchase with her sister-in-law, Millie Petrie.
—Editor’s note

Two blazed “witness trees” mark the site of an event that symbolize the shaping of a nation…

The Louisiana Purchase State Park is located at the junction of Lee, Phillips and Monroe counties and is designated a national landmark, a designation reserved for historic properties with special importance in United States history.

The main feature of the historic state park is a 950-foot broadwalk through a rare headwater swamp. A marker is positioned at the spot where surveyors of a later generation found the original pair of witness trees and a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a monument in 1926.

The Louisiana Purchase Initial Survey Point site marks the origin of every township for all or parts of 15 states, including Arkansas.

Baseline Road in Little Rock is so named because it follows the original Baseline Road as surveyed by Joseph C. Brown, who made several important surveys in the Louisiana Territory. He died in 1849.

In August 1815, the U.S. Land Office commissioned Prospect K. Robbins and Brown, who set out in a covered wagon, to survey the vast wilderness obtained from France 12 years before in the transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase.

Robbins was the surveyor of the fifth principal meridian in the Missouri-Arkansas territory. The wilderness was thick with sugarcane, sweetgum and cottonwood trees and men with axes cut their way through the dense forest populated by snakes and wild animals.

Marking the land when America’s eastern frontier was still vastly uncharted was a task few envied or could undertake. Surveyors endured a hostile environment in the swamplands that covered most of what would become the Delta counties of Arkansas.

A “witness tree” was a tree used by the early surveyors as a starting point in a survey and was usually the tree closest to the corner of the survey.

A small portion of the bark was cut or skinned from the tree and a scribe awl, a sharp-pointed tool, was used to cut small trenches into the tree. The wound would grow over in time but the surveyor could chip off the covering. The mark would still be ingrained, confirming it as the witness tree.

The site lay forgotten for 126 years, lost in a headwater swamp, until two surveyors Tom Jacks and Eldredge P. Douglas of Helena, in 1921, rediscovered the two witness trees slashed by Robbins and Brown in 1815, nearly 100 years earlier. Tom Jacks words on making the discovery reportedly were: “By all the odds of probability this has to be the original point for the Louisiana Purchase.”

TOP STORY >> Junior high schools hit the mark

Leader staff writer

Junior High students in Cabot know geometry as all 180 students who took the end-of-course-exams at the end of last year scored proficient or advanced, for a 100 percent rating.

In Lonoke, all 35 middle school students who took the algebra end-of-course exam also scored proficient or advanced.

The state Education Department recently released the end-of-course exams in algebra, geometry and biology.

Most area schools did well in the math exams, but no one did very well on the biology test.

Of the three end-of-course exams, algebra is the most important as the state has made that a high-stakes test, meaning that students who do not score well on the test do not get credit for the course regardless of their report card grade in the subject.

Lonoke Middle School students have nothing to worry about there, but a number of Jacksonville High School students do. Out of the 173 students taking the test, just 30 percent scored proficient or better.

Jacksonville was better in geometry with 44 percent of the 198 students taking the test making the cut. However, in biology, the high school had the worst percentage in the Pulaski County School District. Out of 226 students, only 11 percent — about one out of 21 — scored proficient or advanced.

A student can receive one of four scores on the end-of-course exams: advanced, proficient, basic or below basic.

An advanced score is the rough equivalent of an A and means the student has a very solid grasp of the material.

A proficient score equates to a B and means the student has a good knowledge of the subject.

A basic score equates to a D or a C and means the student struggles with the concept.

Below basic, roughly a D or an F, means the student has very little understanding of the subject.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, all students are expected to score proficient or advanced on these exams by the end of the 2013-2014 school year

Statewide, 78 percent of all the students taking Algebra I scored proficient or better, up two percentage points from the 2009-2010 school year.

Beebe Junior Hugh School, Cabot Junior High North, Cabot Junior High South, Jacksonville Middle School, Sylvan Hills Middle School, Ahlf Junior High in Searcy and Searcy High School beat the state average.

State geometry scores went up four points, moving from 69 percent of the students making the grade to 73 percent.

Beebe High School, Cabot Junior High North, Cabot Junior High South, Cabot High School, Cabot’s Academic Center of Excellence, Lisa Academy in Sherwood, Northwood Middle School and Searcy High School beat the state average.

In biology, just 40 percent of the students across the state scored proficient or advanced.

Beebe High School, Cabot High School, Carlisle High School and Searcy High School beat the state average.

Algebra I

In Beebe, 91 percent of the 131 junior high students taking the end-of-course exam scored proficient or better. That fell to 72 percent of the 77 students at the high school taking the exam.

In Cabot, Cabot Junior High South had the best percentage, closely followed by its northern counterpart. Of the 324 students at CJHS taking the exam, 91 percent made the cut. At CJHN, 340 students took the end-of-course test and 89 percent scored proficient or better.

Fifteen high schoolers took the test and just 47 percent of them scored proficient or advanced, while out of 33 ACE students, 57 percent made the cut.

In Carlisle, 53 percent of the 65 high school students taking the test scored well. In England, 50 students took the test and 70 percent of them scored proficient or better.

At the Lisa Academy in Sherwood, 36 students took the algebra exam and 77 percent scored proficient or advanced.

In Lonoke, it was 100 percent, or all 35 students, at Lonoke Middle School making the grade. That fell to 62 percent of the 98 high school students scoring proficient or better.

In PCSSD, Sylvan Hills Middle School did the best and Jacksonville High School the worse.

Of the 63 SHMS students, 93 percent made the cut. At Jacksonville Middle, it was 93 percent out of 60 students tests and at Northwood Middle, 80 percent of the 79 students tested made the cut.

At the high school level, 69 percent of the 122 Sylvan Hills scored proficient or better, 49 percent of the 123 North Pulaski students did well and only 30 percent of Jacksonville’s 173 students scored proficient or better.

In Searcy, 99 percent of the 84 junior high student and 85 percent of the 228 high school students who took the test did well.

In Beebe, 74 percent of the 221 high school students taking the test scored proficient or better.

In Cabot, both junior highs were perfect. All 89 students at CJHS and all 91 students at CJHN scored proficient or better on the end-of-course exam. Of the high school’s 487 students taking the test, 79 percent did well and 94 percent of ACE’s 27 students did likewise.

In Carlisle, 70 percent of the 67 students taking the test did well, while 68 percent of England’s 53 high school students scored proficient or better.

At Lisa Academy, 90 percent of its 30 students made the cut and 68 percent of Lonoke’s 138 students did well.

In PCSSD, Northwood led the charge with 11 of 12 students scoring proficient or better. At Sylvan Hills High School, 73 percent of 172 students did well and 69 percent of North Pulaski’s 189 students scored proficient or better. But only 44 percent of the 198 Jacksonville high-schoolers who took the test did well.

In Searcy, 93 percent of its 252 eligible students scored proficient or advanced.


Among the 224 Beebe High School students who took the science end-of-course exam, 56 percent scored proficient or better.

In Cabot, slightly more than half (56 percent) of its 667 students made the cut and 65 percent of Carlisle’s 54 high school students scored proficient or better.

In England and Lonoke 75 percent or more did not do well. Among England’s 44 students taking the test, just 25 percent made the cut, while just 22 percent of Lonoke’s 140 students made the grade.

Twenty-eight Lisa Academy students took the biology test and 39 percent of them scored proficient or better.

In PCSSD, North Pulaski was tops in the district, yet nine points below the state average and Jacksonville High School was the lowest in the district, 30 points below the state numbers.

Of the 174 NPHS students taking the test, 32 percent scored proficient or better. At Sylvan Hills, 161 students took the test and just 19 percent made the cut. And then at Jacksonville, 226 students took the exam and just 11 percent scored proficient or better.

In Searcy, 273 high school students took the test and 62 percent made the cut.

TOP STORY >> Rainfall showers savings on fields

Special to The Leader

Rain on Monday and Tuesday may have saved Lonoke County farmers about $2.4 million in irrigation costs alone, according to Jeff Welch, the county’s chief agricultural extension agent.

“The rain will save on irrigation” in soybean and cotton fields, he said, and estimated that county farmers had about 124,000 acres of beans, 27,000 acres of corn and about 6,500 acres of cotton.

Irrigation costs about $15 an acre in fuel, Welch pointed out.


“We have a lot of late-planted beans and the rain and lower temperature helped them survive,” Welch said.

“It’s going to help on a lot of different levels,” he added.

He said hot nights slowed plant growth and also inhibited growth of the cotton boll.

“We’re having a worm run in the soybeans,” he said. “We’ve sprayed quite a few acres on boll worms and have pretty good control.”

In cotton, there is some worm pressure, he said.

“That’s the way its going to be until mid- or late August. We have a delayed crop because of the heat,” he explained.

“When it cools down, (the plants) will respond. High night-time temperatures delay the head,” Welch added.

Farmers don’t make as much rice in a hot year.

They also are having problems with panicle blight again this year in several varieties.

“We’ve started to harvest the earliest corn, but we’ll have a 10 percent to 15 percent decrease,” Welch said. “Even with irrigation, the heat will impact the yield.”

He said corn yields would probably be about 170 to 180 bushels per acre, off from 190 to 200 bushels in a good year.

The weather “clipped us a bit, but we’re still profitable with good prices,” he said, even though farmers are having to spend a lot of money on the crop.


Larry Odom, owner of Holland Bottoms Farm near Cabot, said he got about three inches of rain Monday, only the third rain since May.

Odom is a niche farmer who grows fruits and vegetables, selling most of them from his roadside stand.

He said Tuesday that the new rain means he won’t have to irrigate for a week or 10 days.

“We irrigate everything we grow,” he said. “The heat doesn’t bother us as much as some.”

He has a 60-acre pond left from his rice farming days and uses it to irrigate.

Odom, who just celebrated his 65th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary, says it hasn’t been all roses this season though.

“We lost most of our peaches to a late freeze in March,” he said, and the strawberry plants from California weren’t mature enough to set fruit this year.

But with his irrigation set up, he’s made good crops of purple hull peas, cucumbers, zucchini, melons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, grape tomatoes, sweet onions, okra and eggplant.

He sells nearly everything from his roadside stand, which is open 79 hours a week, cutting out the middle man.

“We try to control our market destiny,” he said. “We’re a niche farm.

SPORTS >> Comp Cams finale at Beebe

Leader sportswriter

The Comp Cams Super Dirt Series will make its third and final trip to Beebe Speedway in 2011 this Friday night for a $2,000-to-win, $300-to-start race that should prove pivotal in the championship fight for the series that is also based out of Beebe.

Jon “Catman” Mitchell out of Texarkana, Tex., took over the points lead from Trumann’s Kyle Beard after last weekend’s race at I-30 Speedway in Benton.

Beard had a 39-point jump on Mitchell earlier this year, but a string of bad finishes now pits “The Silent Assassin” five points behind Mitchell. It is far from the first time the two young GRT shoes have found themselves in a battle for a super late model championship. Beard and Mitchell fought for the AMP series titles in 2007 and 2008, with Mitchell prevailing both times.

But Floral driver Brandon Smith is the biggest mover in the mid season. Smith won the CCSDS rookie title last season, and has rolled off four straight finishes in the top four, including his first-career victory at Northeast Arkansas Speedway in Harrisburg on July 16, and another win at 67 Speedway in Sterlington, La., two weeks later.

Smith now sits at 1,767 points, just eight back of Mitchell.

Smith has also shown consistency at Beebe during the tour’s two previous stops at the quarter-mile clay oval. He finished seventh at the first event in April.

Mitchell paid a high price at the end when he took the checkered flag only to find a melee in turn one. Mitchell went high to avoid Murray’s spun car and ended up on the catch fencing, causing heavy damage to his No. 5 GRT machine.

Smith took home a solid fourth-place finish in the July race, while Beard finished mid-pack in 10th place and Mitchell struggled to a 13th-place finish.

And for the locals, it will be another chance to see Vilonia’s Curtis Cook in what has turned out to be a splendid rookie campaign for the driver known as “Hollywood”. Cook cut his teeth at Beebe in the modified division and became a weekly standout before moving into the late-model division in the middle of 2010.

Cook won his first career race at Drew County Speedway in Monticello in May, and was close to another victory at 67 Speedway on July 29. He earned the pole and led the entire way until Morgan Bagley passed him on the final lap.

Cook has a firm grip on the 2011 rookie battle with 96 points, 13 ahead of Sheridan’s Shane Harris and 19 points ahead of Trumann’s Ian Samuel. Cook’s car owner, Keith Lawson of Houston, rounds out the rookie standings with 64 points. Cook is also sixth in the season standings, 198 points out of the leader. Russellville veterans Johnny Virden and Jon Kirby are ahead of Cook in fourth and fifth.

Only four nights remain on the Comp Cams schedule after Beebe. The series will co-sanction a race with the MARSdirtcar series at West Plains, Mo., the following night before taking next weekend off for the annual Topless 100 race at Batesville.

They will return to NEA Speedway on Sept. 9-10 for the first-annual Rockabilly 50, and will end the season at Riverside International Speedway in West Memphis on Oct. 8 with the Mid-South Dirt Track Championship.

SPORTS >> Cabot ladies stellar at Hendrix

Leader sports editor

The Lady Panthers’ young volleyball team is coming together nicely under first-year Cabot coach Deanna Campbell. The team just completed a week of camp games at Hendrix College in Conway against eight other schools from around the state.

In all, Cabot played 13 matches with varsity players playing the first game of each match. The varsity squad won 10 of those 13 first games, and pleased its new head coach.

“They came out fearless, ready to play anybody,” Campbell said. “This group really is made up of a bunch of competitors. I was very pleased with the way they played.”

Despite a team being loaded with sophomores, a few juniors and even fewer seniors, the team handled their first competition with more maturity than might have been expected.

“We only had one kid out there this week that had any varsity experience at all,” Campbell said. “There were seven new kids with no varsity experience at all, even three upperclassmen had only played junior varsity. They all stepped up and played well.”

With Cabot having two ninth-grade programs, many of the sophomores had never played with each other, but even that didn’t seem to be an obstacle for cohesiveness on the court.

“They looked like they had played together for a while,” Campbell said.

While it was a great first-step performance for a young, inexperienced team, it wasn’t a complete performance. There were areas that Campbell identified that need plenty of work, but the head Lady Panther doesn’t see any of those things as major team weaknesses.

“Really the only areas where we didn’t perform well in, are the ones that we haven’t worked on yet,” Campbell said. “It was just game-experience stuff like transitions, defensive coverage on outside and middle hitting. On offense we’re doing really well right now.”

How the team performed in the areas it has worked on was positive for multiple reasons.

“Everything we worked on and talked about in practice, they went out and executed,” Campbell said. “I’m very excited the younger players just got out there and did what we work on every day. It really shows you the kids really care about getting better because they’re taking it in and learning what you’re teaching them.”

Conditioning is an ongoing process. Campbell says the team is not where it needs to be, but that is also something the players are working towards, and will need early in the season because depth is not great as of yet.

“One thing we have to work on is stamina, physical and mental,” Campbell said. “We’ll be deep as far as talent. It’s a very talented young group. We’ve got at least 10 kids that can play at that high level. I just don’t know if we have that for a five-game match. We’ve got to develop some more depth and increase our mental and physical stamina.”

Cabot’s first official game of the season will be Aug. 23 at home against Lonoke.

SPORTS >> Defense ahead of ’Rabbits offense

Leader sportswriter

Defense edges offense as the Lonoke Jackrabbits work through the second week of August football practice.

The Jackrabbits are working to install their systems on both sides of the ball, but with defensive drills coming early in morning practices, the attention and energy levels are more suitable to the heat exhaustion that occurs later when it’s time for the offense portion.

“We do offense second,” Lonoke coach Doug Bost said. “We just felt like they really got tired and wore down, and didn’t get the look we were looking for. Defense is coming around. That’s just a lot of running to the ball. But offense, you’ve got to use a lot of technique, stay on your blocks and all.”

Forty total players reported for the first week, but most had already spent the summer attending team camps or 7 on 7 tournaments. The Jackrabbits went to five team camps through June and July, making the first day of pads last Thursday less transitional than in summers’ past.

“Back in the day, when you didn’t do any team-camp stuff, yeah, people were excited to get pads on,” Bost said. “But we’ve had them on all summer, so it wasn’t just a big deal for us. You’ve got to come to work every day, and the kids are doing that.”

Practices have started at 7 a.m. this week for the dual benefits of beating the afternoon heat and teacher conferences going on in nearby Searcy. Lonoke has gone from 7 until around 10 a.m. this week, with some players reporting at 6 a.m. to prepare.

The temperature was already in the upper 90s when Monday practice concluded just before 10:30 a.m.

“It’s good to see the energy level that we have right now,” Bost said. “I like our effort. The heat was just ridiculous. They were here, did everything we asked them to do and gave 100 percent effort.”

The ’Rabbits will be experienced in some areas and green in others, but Bost pointed to his interior as the backbone of this year’s group. Justin Carpenter, Tyler Grady, Dallas Martin and Brendan Ellington are all returning senior starters up front on offense.

“My senior group is mostly made up of linemen,” Bost said. “The other seven are underclassmen. We like what we’ve got mix wise with the three different groups that we have.”

Martin and T.J. Scott will return on defense as starting linebackers while Ellington will stay at the line on both sides.

There will be inexperience behind the seasoned linemen with receiver-turned-quarterback D.J. Burton. Burton, a junior, saw playing time last year at a different position, and will be another to go both ways as a defensive safety.

“He’s a runner,” Bost said. “And what we’re doing on offense, there’s a lot more running – quarterback runs and what have you. Play action, he’s good at. He’s stayed every day since January and he’s thrown the ball, and he continues to get better at that.”

With football events going on practically year-round now, especially in the spring and summer, Bost said the main difference in August these days is getting back into their in-season platoons.

“A lot more group and individual work,” Bost said. “In the summer, you go to a lot of team camps and 7 on 7, but you don’t get them in their individual groups. So, those three days without pads, that a good time to get them in their groups and go over a lot of drill work.”

SPORTS >> Solution is simple for class dilemma

Leader sports editor

It’s been almost 10 years since the Arkansas Activities Association and its members first began to try and sort out the numbers disparity in the state’s top classification.

Last week, three proposals were put before those members to try to help solve the seemingly impossible riddle of fairness, and none passed.

Two made some sense, but weren’t ideal. Another proposal, put forth by Springdale Har-Ber, was to basically put things back exactly like they were when this mess all started a decade ago. Inexplicably, that was the one the AAA board gave a do-pass recommendation. It came close too. It got more yes votes than no, 85-84, but didn’t get a two-thirds majority, thanks to some reasonable minds in the meeting.

In the early part of last decade it became apparent that the 32-team system at the top was no longer fair. Back then, the largest school, which was Springdale, had about 2,200 students while the smallest, which was Jacksonville, had about 850. The disparity is much larger today. Back then, former Jacksonville football coach Johnny Watson submitted the most sensible proposal that’s ever come across the AAA board for consideration. It failed, and it wasn’t even close.

This week, a very similar proposal went before the board again. This time it was proposed by Siloam Springs, which will be a 6A school when the next classification cycle begins in 2012. It received a 12-5 do-not-pass recommendation by the AAA board. And it failed again, and again by a huge margin.

As dumb as it may sound to go back to the same thing that got all this started, it would be an improvement over the debacle that the AAA and its members have turned the higher classifications into with each new change over the years.

This current system has teams playing conference games in classifications other than the one it will compete in if it makes the playoffs.

This is the one that so brilliantly ended up putting the third and fourth place teams from the 6A East against each other in last year’s class 7A state basketball championship game. The one that will have Siloam Springs, currently a 5A school, playing all of its conference games against the 7A West next season, and needing to have a better record than say, Mountain Home, who plays all 6A-East conference games, to make the playoffs. It’s very likely that Siloam Springs could go 0-7 in conference play, and yet be good enough to finish second or third in the 6A-East, but won’t be in the playoffs.

Their proposal would have made the top 16 schools its own classification. The number of teams in the next six classes (five of which will be football schools) would breakdown like this in order of enrollment numbers, 32, 32, 48, 48, 48 and then everyone else would be 1A.

It failed by a huge margin.

The other respectable proposal was put forth by Pine Bluff. It would arrange conferences geographically with consideration given to enrollment and travel, and would have split the top 32 teams in football only.

That part seems to make some sense, since it was an all 6A final in the class 7A state championship basketball game, proving that depth isn’t quite as important in other sports as it may be in the grueling and physical 7A level of football. But ultimately this proposal could end up being too confusing.

You still have to go back to 2002 when Watson presented what is still the most reasonable proposal to date.

It would eliminate one of the many classifications we have now, and it would have corrected the problem of disparity in numbers at the top and overcrowding at the bottom. His proposal was simple, maybe too simple, and that was the AAA’s problem, since the current format shows how creative it likes to be.

It simply would have made the top 16 schools its own classification, in this case it would be 6A. Everything after that goes back to exactly the way it’s always been. The next 32 are 5A, the next 32 are 4A. The next 64 after that make up 3A, and the next 64 after that are 2A thus ends the football classifications. Everyone left would make up 1A and play in whatever sports their schools have to offer.

It would still leave a few too many teams in 2A to make up the nice and neat eight-conference, eight-teams per conference system, but it would eliminate 16 teams from that classification, and it would certainly fix the problem at the top.

One argument against splitting the top classification is that it lowers the value of the top classification’s state champion. That’s simply not true.

No one, at this point, questions the fact that 7A is by far the strongest football classification. It’s not even close in fact. Sure, a 7A team gets knocked off here and there against lower classification teams, but those teams would not fare nearly as well playing seven games in a row against that level.

And as far as basketball goes, the facts are just as obvious in the opposite direction. The power is not in 7A as evidenced by the fact of last year’s previously mentioned playoffs.

The lamest excuse for keeping the top 32 together is the argument from toughness. It’s a favored cry, mostly from 7A people, that the bottom teams need to just get better and face the competition, and “quit crying.”

This obviously has no merit. This idea means there should be only one classification, with such scenarios as Marvell traveling to Bentonville in the first round of the playoffs. There has to be a boundary, and the people trumpeting this call know it, too. Otherwise, they would go ahead and argue for one classification.

And since the 6A detractors offer such disparaging claims about those schools’ competitiveness, consider another possibility. Perhaps it’s just as cynical towards 7A as the aforementioned attitude towards 6A, but it’s out there.

Remember it was Har-Ber that proposed putting things back to how they were. Perhaps those schools at the top simply like the idea of an easy first-round playoff game. They know they’ll have all the advantages, even if it’s their own four seed against a one. The fourth-place team with 2,800 students and 200 players is probably going to be better than the first place team with 800 students and 60 players.

Ten years ago, one minor change to that system would have solved everything. Instead, the AAA and its members came up with a bad alternative, and have only made worse with every attempt to fix it.

Go back to the simple brilliance of Watson’s plan, and get on with competitive high school athletics.

SPORTS >> Red Devils have basics

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville spent the first week of football practice finishing up installing the basics of the new offense it will be running this season. In the early practices of week two, it has begun to fine tune and implement the complimentary aspects of the system.

Head coach Rick Russell believes the team has the basics down.

“We’re still fine tuning it,” Russell said. “We still expect perfection so we’ve got a lot we still want to get accomplished. The terminology, the basics of it, they’ve got it down.”

A few more players joined the team once two-a-days began, that weren’t part of the summer workouts. Most late comers are sophomores, a few others are move-ins.

The team didn’t go in full pads until Tuesday of this week.

“We put in our offensive and defensive packages, the basics of it, last week,” Russell said Tuesday morning. “We reviewed yesterday and we’ll put on the pads today.”

The team won’t go all out until a planned scrimmage on Thursday, but the coaching staff will spend the week seeing who will step up and add themselves to the number of players already counted upon.

“We’re looking forward to putting those pads on and figuring out who the hitters are,” Russell said. “There’s not really been any surprises yet, as far as players we weren’t expecting to really step up, but a couple more days in pads will answer a few more questions.”

Tuesday and Wednesday practices will focus partly on blocking and tackling technique.

“We want to give them a couple of days to get used to the pads before we do anything live,” Russell said.

The execution of the new system has gone well most of the summer, including the stellar outing at the Arkansas State University 7-on-7 competition last month. Those types of drills are not the same as live, full-contact scrimmaging.

“There’s no defensive end contain, no rushing in those types of things, which makes the throws easier,” Russell said. “We’ve had some shield drills to sort of work on that, but we’ll find out where we are Thursday. We’ve just got to execute what we’ve learned now.”

Defensively little has changed. A couple of new wrinkles have been added, but the basics will stay the same as recent years when Russell served as defensive coordinator.

Depth is still a concern. Russell said some of the late- comers may have a chance to step in and play, but as of now, there could be several players on both sides of the ball.

“Some of the younger kids, or move ins, we hope will be able to help to where we can just about two-platoon,” Russell said. “But we’ve got some backs and secondary guys that are going to have to play both sides. Hopefully no linemen will have to, but we still may have some guys alternating over there a little bit.”

Jacksonville’s first real action is less than two weeks away. It is scheduled to play Mills in the Arkansas Activities Association benefit game on Aug. 23 at Jacksonville.