Friday, December 30, 2011

EDITORIAL >> School case drags on

It came as no surprise that the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals this week overturned U.S. District Judge Brian Miller’s order earlier this year ending state desegregation funding for Pulaski County schools.

The appeals court ruled that Judge Miller should have held a hearing before deciding to cut off funds to the three school districts. The court did declare North Little Rock desegregated, along with Little Rock, while upholding Miller’s ruling that the Pulaski County Special School District is far from desegregated.

Although as much as $70 million a year in state funding could end as soon as there’s a proper hearing, PCSSD is far from being declared “unitary,” or fully integrated, unlike the other county schools. So court supervision, like the state takeover of PCSSD, could continue for years.

The Office of Desegregation Monitoring, which has been overseeing the districts for several years, recently criticized obvious the lack of progress in PCSSD. The appeals court excoriated the district for its failures to educate students, for its delaying tactics and for its refusal to build new schools where they are most needed.

As The Leader’s staff writer Rick Kron reported here two weeks ago, the picture is especially grim in Jacksonville, where more schools are out of compliance with the Office of Desegregation Monitoring and remain underused than any other set of schools in the Pulaski County Special School District.

The office found five Jacksonville area schools have too many African-American students, while one doesn’t have enough.

Also the student population at five area school is half or less than what the buildings can hold. Two schools are approaching capacity, while one is slightly over its capacity level.

Under the guidelines of the district’s Plan 2000, elementary schools are supposed to have an African-American enrollment of between 20 and 48 percent of the student population. The actual numbers are well over that.

At the secondary level, the acceptable range is from 20 to 60 percent African-American. Again, minority enrollment is well above those numbers.

The dozen charter schools in Pulaski County, which run on school tax funds, will get a chance to defend their operations in the school desegregation case. That is a good thing because it will help illuminate the most troubling aspect of this long-running litigation: whether the charter schools help or hinder equality of educational opportunity in the county.

Supporters of charter schools, here and nationally, have always maintained that educational equality is their purpose, but the evidence of their success has been spotty.

U. S. District Judge Price Marshall seems intent on getting to the bottom of that issue. Thus he gave attorneys for the open-enrollment charter schools approved by the state Board of Education a chance to make their case when he takes up the Little Rock schools’ motion to have the charter schools and the state board held accountable for hindering the elimination of racial and social disparities in school outcomes in the county.

The charter school attorneys mainly wanted to enter the case to challenge the very foundation of the 20-year-old desegregation settlement, but Judge Marshall prudently said they could not enter the case at this late date and reorient the litigation. They should focus instead on the real issues in the case.

The Little Rock school attorney asked the court 20 months ago to rule that the state Board of Education, which is supposed to be aiding the equalization of education in Pulaski County, was hindering it by carelessly approving charter schools, which rob the public schools of motivated students and parents and of money with which to educate the remainder of students, who tend to be the most educationally needy.

The public schools’ attorney argues that rather than taking students who have not performed well and trying new approaches to advance them, the charter schools have taken better students and shed the poorer ones back to the public schools. It has upset two of the desegregation remedies in the settlement of the school case, magnet schools and majority-to-minority transfers between districts.

The record of charter schools, here and elsewhere, has been uneven. There is growing evidence that they tend not to raise the outcomes of children, at least not uniformly.

Perhaps the hearings in the spring, with the charter schools’ participation, will shed some light on that question. It is a vital one, not merely for the charter schools and the youngsters who attend them but for all the children in the public schools, who are affected at least as much and perhaps much more.

TOP STORY >> From world champions to test results

Compiled by RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

This is the second of a two-part series looking back at 2011 through selected headlines from The Leader. This is what appeared in the world of print from July through December.


“Ward looks for new police chief” — Mayor Art Brooke takes over police department until a successor is found and praises departing chief.

“Newest judge holds his first PCSSD hearing” — Marshall tells parties in lawsuit he’ll step down if they want him to quit.

“Sherwood assured North Belt still viable” — Project is not doomed, even though state has no money and a developer is fighting for his land.

“Keeping drunks out of jail” — District court offers intensive instruction for those charged with DWI.

“Mayor wants to hear about his proposals” — Cabot Mayor Cypert invites residents to speak up on his $75-million bond program.

“First day is productive” — State commissioner is looking toform an advisory board with Bobby Lester and others to help school district.

“Base asks Jacksonville utility for help” — Commission is ready to maintain, repair and upgrade aging infrastructure at LRAFB.

“Sherwood ward lines locked in” — City council makes sure Gravel Ridge stayed together for voting.

“Will North Belt be given a year?” — Commissioners will tackle subdivision plans and controversial apartment idea.

“Prosecutor isn’t sure new pot law will help” — Lesser penalties for larger quantities could ease crowding, but Larry Jegley isn’t sure.

“City attorney may challenge anti-burn rule” — An old law requiring cremation for the disposal of dead animals is questioned.

“Reprieve for road in Sherwood” — Subdivision is turned down, but developer says he wants to work with city.

“Country club in Cabot to be auctioned off this summer” — Greystone continues to struggle as revenues fall far short of what’s required to stay afloat, but city doesn’t want to take it over.

“Hot enough to sting your eyes” — It’s dangerous to be outside in this heat wave, but some workers have no choice.

“Appeal possible in ruling on firing” — Jacksonville loses a wrongful-dismissed case, but city insists it was right to fire clerk.

“Women file suit over their arrest” — Laotians claim they’re victims of bias, want money back.

“Sentence extended 8.5 years for Cabot resident” — Judge adds another prison term on top of 10 years behind bars for George Thompson.

“Cabot mayor gets earful” — Mayor Cypert hosts a town meeting on priorities at the community center.

“Benchmark results here show improvement” — Test scores show Cabot, Searcy, Beebe tops; others move up, but not PCSSD.

“Lonoke County Jail now state-of-the-art” — County is getting a lot for its money, from seven cellblocks to improved security.

“Muhammad murder trial jury selected” — Alleged shooter killed Conway soldier and injured another from Jacksonville two years ago.

“FEMA is asked for aid” — Jacksonville officials meet with federal agency to seek compensation or losses this year.

“Elementary on air base bright spot on testing” — Arnold Drive outscores others while Jacksonville Middle School ranks lowest on Benchmark.

“Two teens charged in stabbings” — One suspect is asking to be tried as a juvenile instead of an adult.

“Islam is blamed for shooting” — Defense concedes accused did the shooting, but blames actions on conversions.

“Liquor stores grandfathered in” — Move gives city more control, but lets existing liquor stores stay in business.

“Coach gets 60 days, five-year probation” — Former Abundant Life principal pleads no contest to sexual-abuse charges.

“Jegley: Killer will never get out” — As Abdulhakim Muhammad is taken away to maximum-security prison for life, his parents and victims’ kin share tearful hugs.

“Team loud and proud as security forces win” — LRAFB airmen score well in rescue, fitness, finance and arrival times at the competition.

“Gunfire ordinance loaded with blanks” — Ban would have affected people who live in unincorporated areas.

Paper wins top honors again from state group” — Leader grabs record 27 awards, named best large weekly by the Arkansas Press Association.

“Cabot bests state on testing” — Schools in the district continue to do well on annual math and literacy tests.

“Redistricting shifts lines in many areas” — Eddie Jo Williams gets Cabot area and north Pulaski County, and Jonathan Dismang gets rest of Lonoke County.

“Wing is crowned world champion” — 314th Airlift Wing wins top C-130 honors at military competition in Washington.

“Searcy, Beebe schools score near perfection” — Lonoke and Carlisle show bright spots in annual tests, but areas of improvement needed.


“Rodeo winners show true grit” — Little Rock Air Force Base team back as world champions after competition in Washington, get feted by community leaders.

“Legislators learning new districts” — Cabot House District shrinks because of rapid growth in the city in the last decade.

“Criticism is voiced on lines in Senate” — Cities in area are going to new districts, and not everyone is happy.

“Base transitions to more training and new C-130Js” — As the Air National Guard and a new Reserve unit assume greater responsibilities, a general sees a strong future for the 314th Airlift Wing and more upgrades.

“Temps: Hot, hotter, hottest” — Triple-digit heat has health officials and others issuing warnings to stay inside if possible.

“Allegiance asks lease to expand” — Jacksonville City Council approves plans to bring unit I to provide long-term care.

“Local banks take hit in big Ponzi scheme” — Lawyer said he had improvement-district bonds, which were fake.

“Armory in Cabot trains for overseas” — Guard unit is in new $10 million facility and will go overseas in June 2012.

“Junior high schools hit the mark” — Cabot and Lonoke pupils do well on algebra and geometry end-of-course exams.

“Rainfall showers savings on fields” — Farmers can stop irrigating for a while as sudden storm ends dry spell.

“Cutting budget, helping people” — Congressman tells constituents the path to prosperity is less spending.

“In state’s hands, PCSSD starts over” — Superintendent says he is focused on the first day of school and having a productive year.

“New JHS principal sets priorities” — Henry Anderson explains to students, parents and staff how he intends to fix failing school.

“Air Base home to charter school” — Commander hails opening of new middle school at LRAFB.

“Cabot district sees gain of 200 students” — Despite a slowdown in growth of new housing, attendance reaches record high, and schools see smooth opening as starting times are adjusted.

“Lonoke jail welcomes visitors to new facility” — County detention center can hold 136 prisoners and can add 120 more beds.

“Group to meet with state on new district” — Parents push for construction of elementary and middle schools in Jacksonville.

“Jacksonville balances it 2010 budget” — City has to dip into reserves, but its total worth jumps to $1.3 billion.

“Enrollment in PCSSD is continuing to decline” — Troubled district loses 200 students from two years ago, but Sherwood is up.

“City to get new police station for $5.5 million” — Old Vertac site transforming into state-of-art emergency-response facility.

“Neighbors gripe about Sherwood apartments” — Homeowners complain about residents, but manager defends them.

“A big salute to rodeo winners” — Best C-130 team, modernization program and new Reserve unit win applause.

“Cabot plans to build new fire station” — Committee to get a look at fourth station that will have a training facility.

“Beebe council endorses sales tax vote for roads” — One-cent levy for White Count would pay for Searcy bypass and other improvements.

“Cabot, Beebe score over state average” — Two districts best state average, while PCSSD scored below as more students take exam for college.

“Cabot to build two fire stations” — Mayor says growing town needs more firefighters soon.

“Lonoke-White water project back on again” — Greers Ferry would be the source for the long-planned pipeline to serve area communities.

“Jacksonville awaiting trucks” — Contractor has until Sept. 8 to deliver trash rigs or agreement is void.

“New Lonoke High School opens” — Modern facility gets good marks from both students and facility.

“Pair accused in murder no strangers to legal system” — Drugs, theft and prostitution among previous charges.

“Wings celebrate trophies” — The 314th and 19th wings combine to win a record eight awards at the air rodeo competition at McChord AFB.

“Residents fire off on fireworks” — Most at the public hearing are opposed to the idea of easing the ban on pyrotechnics in Jacksonville during holidays.

“FEMA aid running dry” — Federal agency broke, and state and cities have no money to compensate flooded homeowners.

“Future unclear after Greystone closes its doors” — Although closure of golf course was expected, nearby residents are hoping it can be brought back to life and more new homes built.

“Serial-killer suspect ruled sane for trial” — Cabot man is charged with murders in Vilonia and Jacksonville.

“Middle school awes parents” — New $31.5 M facility opens to excellent reviews in Sherwood.

“Victory salute for airmen” — General gives trophy to 314th Airlift Wing after winning at McChord.


“BBC crew filming blackbirds’ deaths” — British look at the New Year’s Eve demise of 5,000 birds.

“Cigarettes cost jailer job” — A newly hired guard is accused of bringing smokes to new facility and possibly selling them.

“Jacksonville enrollment is still dropping” — The city continues to lose students even as the rest of the district sees increases in Sherwood and Maumelle, where new schools have been built.

“Residents in Lonoke split over principal” — Longtime educator fights suspension from top high school post.

“Gas pollution poses danger, report claims” — Group accuses state of poor oversight in area, but lawmakers disagree.

“Cabot welcomes new armory” — The new $10 million facility is hailed as an important addition to a growing community.

“Officials to study source of floods” — Corps will pay most of the cost to find out how to control flooding.

“$25 million loan used for water to Jacksonville” — Department will borrow funds to bring water from Maumelle and Winona lakes, as well as pay for pipes and new tank.

“Kids say, ‘Dad shot my mom’” — Pulaski County sheriff is investigating the deaths of two residents.

“Sergeant brings pieces of trade center to base” — Steel beam and metal part shaped like Arkansas displayed in processing center.

“Highway priorities presented” — Cabot mayor brings wish list, including two new interchanges, road widening.

“Towns pick up revenues” — Cabot, Ward and Austin grow in population and get bigger share of sales tax as Lonoke County drops.

“Plea made for better city streets” — Lonoke officials consider cutting spending to make road improvements.

“Helping troubled districts not easy” — After grants, some schools do better, but others struggle.

“Cabot schools pass a record $76M budget” — District can’t spend it all yet but must wait for state approval.

“Jacksonville cuts budget by $803,000” — As city’s population declines, its county tax also drops.

“Principal’s job in jeopardy” — Northside Elementary’s Suzanne Proctor suspended with pay.

“Prosecutor asking for more security” — Graham tells justices armed guards are needed to prevent violence.

“PCSSD looks for a new finance director” — Embattled district loses another top official after state takeover.

“Lonoke murder threatened on Facebook” — Dead man’s sister points to threats online against brother after nightclub fight.

“Air Force faces spending cuts” — Gen. Schwartz sees a period of austerity, but predicts eventual rebound.

“FBI releases crime rates” — Beebe, Lonoke and Jacksonville above state average, while Cabot, Carlisle, Sherwood, Ward and Searcy below average.

“Automated trash service has kinks” — Jacksonville educates residents about new system and common mistakes.

“Four caught in Texas for murder here” — Authorities arrest suspects in Longview for a shooting death Sept. 18.

“Accused refuses to make deal in slaying” — Wife pleads guilty, while husband has trial set for Oct. 27 in Lonoke County.

“Three senate districts in Jacksonville’s future” — New legislative boundaries mean three senators, one representative for the city in the Legislature next year.

“Water project can start” — Construction will get under way with $50 million provided by state and federal agencies.

“Family grieves over murder” — Parolee dies in a car wreck after leaving a note at scene of his girlfriend’s murder.

“Sherwood decides it wants out of PCSSD” — City wants to follow Jacksonville in a growing exodus from troubled school district.

“Cabot has cash to buy old bank” — City has plenty of reserves to purchase property.

“Lonoke tightens control of police” — Alderman’s relative who was murdered raises alarm bells for council.


“$20M project considered” — Cabot plans largest water park in state on 200 acres; also ball fields, pools.

“Grant pays for police to issue more tickets” — Federal funding puts more cops on the street to make Jacksonville safer.

“Census shows diversity in several communities” — Jacksonville has most varied population and vacant homes; Sherwood has most homeowners.

“Separation talk does not worry superintendent” — School district focuses on education, ignores Sherwood’s call for going alone.

“Murder suspects arrive in Lonoke” — Four people are in the county jail after they return from Longview, Texas.

“Public safety priority for city” — The $6 million Jacksonville project will have a sprawling law-enforcement complex.

“$25M water projects set” — Jacksonville City Council approves plan to finance five major upgrades to system.

“Sherwood recycling will start on March 1” — Biweekly pickup will be funded with a $2.76 monthly garbage-rate increase.

“City services in one place” — Jacksonville complex serves street, fire and police departments.

“Principal is back on job” — Phynaus Wilson sorry he tried to keep consultants out of Lonoke High School.

“Hopson: Betrayed by state in ouster” — Ex-superintendent’s claim he was told there would be no takeover of PCSSD is denied by commissioner.

“Ward raises meter fees to pay for water project” — Monthly charge of $5 will help cover the cost of bringing more water to town.

“Group pushes school choice to raise scores” — Foundation director says Arkansas needs more options, such as charter schools and vouchers, to help kids.

“Gay-Straight Club forming at CHS” — New student group presents its by-laws as it becomes Cabot school’s 40th club.

“Principal loss job at a long hearing” — Overflow crowd supports Suzanne Proctor, but many couldn’t get in meeting room.

“Jacksonville plant hires more workers” — National Swage is making parts for important construction projects around the world and adds new machines.

“C-130s takeoff in virtual flight” — Nearly $200 million worth of simulators train crews from all over the world for real flight conditions.

“DNA evidence leads police to murder suspect” — The man who is accused of killing an elderly Sherwood woman has a long record of drugs and violence and a reputation as “couch hopper.”

“Deal signed to hold U.S. prisoners” — Federal inmates will help pay for Lonoke’s new $6 million 138-bed county detention facility.

“Air base rated ‘satisfactory’” — Commander praises airmen as exceptional group “with can-do attitude.”

“Mayor: City set for big growth” — Times are tough, but Fletcher certain Jacksonville growth will “snowball.”

JPs agree to center lease deal” — Lonoke County will buy building that houses Wade Knox Child Advocacy Center.

“How much of a rate hike?” — Public hearing will determine size of Jacksonville sewer increase and who will pay.

“Cabot budget tells spending details” — Council members get first look at proposed expenses for 2012, a total of $10.4 million.

“PCSSD still struggling, Guess says” — Interim superintendent wants to reshape failed district, but chamber group is told he may not have enough funds to work with.

“Neighbors feud over fence” — Both sides air issues, concerns, differences over fencing safety and bias at Sherwood City Council meeting.

“Cabot offers small businesses help” — Technology center official will offer expertise a city hall to local enterprises in need.

“Arts center planned for school site” — In a town hall meeting, Mayor Fletcher and PCSSD superintendent discuss opportunities for closed site.

“Vietnamese on goodwill tour” — Top journalists visit Washington, Little Rock, Jacksonville and San Francisco on fact-finding trip.

“Son is certain murder victim was harassed” — Sherwood woman refused to give ex-convict money, which may be why she was killed by drifter, son says.

“Fund will aid military students” — Pentagon offers reading program to schools near Little Rock Air Force Base.


“Fireworks fun fizzles in city” — Jacksonville committee decides against holiday use of popular pyrotechnics and raise fines instead.

“Ward woman honored” — Billie Jean Dougherty inducted into Senior Arkansans Hall of Fame for fighting payday lenders.

“Cabot group plans free Thanksgiving meal” — The event this year will be held at Grace Fellowship.

“Cops busy rushing to apartment complexes” — Park Crest has about 300 calls a year, not all crime-related, and other units also report problems.

“Limiting building in Cabot is sought” — City is told that Kerr Road infrastructure can’t support putting in apartments.

“Griffin: Don’t jeopardize defense” — Congressman fears reductions would be harmful as more Republicans oppose cuts.

“For PCSSD, infusion of more funds” — The fiscally distressed school district will get extra money because of quicker tax collections, which will help it avoid a deficit and more layoffs.

“Cabot dealing with cyberbullying” — School district, along with local and state police, are working together to investigate crude attacks.

“A water line is dedicated to J.M. Park” — Late banker helped improve quality and increase availability in Cabot.

“Jacksonville serious contender for state fair” — After voters reject sales tax hike in North Little Rock, Jacksonville offer more appealing.

“State lists 22 schools as faltering” — Poor test scores put them on the improvement list, while eight more failed to reach federal requirements and are on alert.

“Benefit for young transplant patient” — Fitness center plans equipment marathon for 11-year-old Jacksonville girl.

“Pryor: Without deal, most cuts target defense” — Senator warns budget agreement is needed or half the cuts come from military.

“Mayor is adamant about no pay raise” — Aldermen won’t get raise but insist Cypert get one, though he says no again.

“Lonoke: We’re doing better” — Superintendent Tackett tells school board test results don’t tell whole story.

“‘Double-dip’ ends at last for treasurer” — Lonoke County official doesn’t want comment about losing her second paycheck after the state retirement system determines she was ineligible.

“Not guilty pleas in murder case” — Four defendants appear in court Nov. 18 and face up to 40 years in prison but seek mental tests.

“Council approves limited fireworks” — Permits will be needed if people want to pop off on July 4th.

“Campus in Cabot finished” — High school complex gets approval from city; first game Dec. 5.

“Jacksonville dedicates burn tower” — Fire department will train crews by setting the center ablaze during exercises.

“Reserves taking off” — Even in a time of budget cuts, a huge new unit is taking shape at the base under a charismatic commander.

“For Air Guard, doing more on a small budget” — Although it gets only 6 percent of Air Force funding, the commander says the ANG does more than five times what it’s given.

“Cabot approves $10.4M budget” — Mayor plans to ask voters to extend one-cent sales tax for new fire station.

“Sherwood must lower spending” — Committee looks to slash $1.3 million in expenses as the city struggles to balance its budget by February.

“Black Friday helps more than stores” — All-night fast food, diner see benefits from the holiday shopping kickoff.

“First look at $19.7M budget” — Sherwood still expects to purchase five police cars and an automated garbage truck.

“Business is healthy for clinic” — Doctors offer sliding-scale payments based on patients’ income.

“State Rep. Perry asks commission to support skeet range” — Jacksonville A&P may help with $2.2 million, 160-acre shooting facility off Graham Road.

“Two ex-commanders here named general” — Otey follows Hyde as they both earn their first stars and key posts in the Air Force.

“Cabot will hire more officers as necessary” — Police chief says city is doing fine, but someday he might need to expand staff.

“District courts seen draining county budget” — Lonoke County officials complain they don’t know how the money is spent.


“Jacksonville balks at high rate increase” — Council wants smaller incremental hike and will look at two plans.

“Districts change absence rules to state standards” — Schools here allow eight to 12 absences before repercussions set in.

“Dispatcher exonerated in shooting” — State Police probe concludes Lonoke Sheriff’s deputy was justified.

“Cabot court faces $100,000 loss” — Lonoke County Quorum Court wants to cut support for municipal courts.

“City will dip into reserves” — Jacksonville will need $860,000 from its rainy-day fund to pay bills.

“Alternative plan for state fair” — Jacksonville could use a 445-acre site for a large exhibition complex, mayor says.

“Arts council paints a rosy future” — An enthusiastic group of artists and their patrons are pushing for a local arts center.

“Group seeks help to spread cheer” — Charitable giving has been hit by the economy, and Christmas Alliance can tell.

“More students qualify for free school meals” — Local districts gave away free or reduced meals, but most were under the state average.

“Alternate ‘state fair’ is possible” — Jacksonville officials say the 450-acre site has many possibilities.

“Jacksonville considers sewer-rate plans” — Utility needs an extra $1 million to cover costs and capital improvements.

“Mayor: Need two court districts” — As Lonoke County considers cutting support, Cypert says it’s time to consolidate six courts.

“Ward must fluoridate water soon” — Not everyone is happy about seeking a $120,000 grant to make fluoridation in town possible.

“City gives state fair deadline” — Board isn’t sure it can make the financial commitment, so Jacksonville might do its own fair.

“Observer back from Russia” — — Commissioner sees firsthand as Russians struggle to build democracy.

“Smokers get big break in 2012 budget” — Tobacco surcharge not included as Lonoke Quorum Court approves $6.9 million budget.”

“Jacksonville schools faulted on race” — As enrollment continues to drop, federal oversight office says schools are racially imbalanced and underutilized.

“Shift of residents brings new wards” — Air base population change, lower census numbers force realignment of Jacksonville boundaries.

“Not everyone happy with fees” — One Jacksonville alderman complains that new rates penalize the small users and give big users a break.

TOP STORY >> Resolution didn’t violate FOIA, city council insists

Leader staff writer

Sherwood City Council members deny violating the Freedom of Information Act regarding a controversial resolution condemning the mayor for not telling aldermen the city had received results of a $32,875 feasibility study concerning impact fees for builders.

According to the FOIA handbook, “A quorum of the governing body need not be present for the meeting to be subject to the FOIA. If two members meet informally to discuss past or pending business, that meeting may be subject to the FOIA.”

Alderman Kevin Lilly said, “There were no meetings to discuss it. We can’t meet outside of the public or the press. That is highly illegal.”

The council wants to move forward with a proposal to levy the fees. Alderwoman Mary Jo Heye, a main supporter of the fees, said there would be a public workshop at 7 p.m. Jan. 17 to discuss the plan.

The president of Duncan and Associates, the company that produced the study, will make a presentation at the meeting.

The fees could be as high as $3,830 for a single-family detached dwelling. The fees, if approved, would be charged to new developers to cover road and park improvements.

Heye said the fees are “about growth, paying for growth. Sherwood is underfunded when it comes to infrastructure.”

Conway is one example of a city where impact fees work, and Sherwood needs revenue for roads and parks, Heye continued.

Hillman said she opposed impact fees because “I feel like it will have a negative impact on attracting new residents to our city. We don’t want to give anyone a reason not to move to Sherwood.”

She said that, to her knowledge, neighboring cities do not have the fees. “It would give neighboring communities a competitive edge,” Hillman said.

Seven council members voted Tuesday night to pass a resolution “expressing the disappointment and displeasure” of the council toward Hillman for saying at a Nov. 28 meeting that she hadn’t seen the study, although the city received it in September, and two department heads told the street committee on Dec. 8 they had met with her twice to discuss it.

Tuesday night’s resolution that chastised the mayor was not on the agenda. Alderman Kevin Lilly, who wrote it, said it had been composed within the past week.

City attorney Steve Cobb said the deadline to place an item on the agenda is at noon on the Tuesday before a meeting. He did not read the resolution at the meeting because he had not seen it and did not want to give the impression that he had reviewed or written it.

When asked about whether anyone had violated FOIA, he said, “I don’t want to get into the politics of it.”

Cobb added that he didn’t know anything about the resolution before the meeting and, although he usually writes or is consulted about such documents, it wasn’t legally required that council members go through him.

Aldermen Ken Keplinger, Toni Butler and Charles Harmon said they did not see the resolution until the day of the meeting. Keplinger also said no meetings were held about it.

City Clerk Angela Nicholson said she learned about the resolution from Tom Brooks, a former alderman and the spouse of city council member Marina Brooks.

Tom Brooks said, “It really had nothing to do with the impact fee study, except that some on the council cared a lot, and the mayor didn’t care about it. At this point, there is no question that she has lost the support of the council. Can she build it back up? She could, and I hope that she does.”

Five of the city’s eight alderman gave the impression what was underlying Tuesday’s heated affair was a lack of communication and trust. The mayor echoed their sentiments in that regard.

“They (city council members) could have talked to me about it and they didn’t. Charles (Harmon) did. There are some trust issues with the orchestration of that (the resolution),” she said in an interview on Wednesday.

Butler said, “I thought, whether it was innocently handled or not, it was wrongly handled. People who shouldn’t have been involved were. Everybody wants to be chief. No one wants to be the Indians.”

“We don’t have to love each other,” Butler continued. “We don’t have to like each other. We have to work together to build the city of Sherwood. I feel like there is no communication in the city council. Everyone there has their own agenda.”

The alderman were not out to humiliate anyone in public, she continued. She thought the resolution was a tactful way to address the situation and it should have ended with that.

Butler provided details about the breakdown of communication by describing how she missed a parks and recreation meeting because she wasn’t receiving the e-mails about them and was unable to get in touch with other attendees. She finally got the situation resolved by talking with a staffer who sent out the e-mails.

“I’m not blaming anyone. It was a chain of mistakes all the way down,” Butler explained.

Alderman Charles Harmon abstained from the vote on the resolution. He told The Leader Thursday, “I was between a rock and a hard place. I was torn. I shouldn’t have abstained. I should have voted yes or no.”

He talked to the mayor a week after the November meeting about her claim of not seeing the study.

Harmon continued, “I couldn’t vote yes because she had responded. She had apologized for the misunderstanding to me. But I couldn’t vote no because she didn’t repeat what she said to me to the rest of the council. Her statement (at the meeting) caused more anger. It is unfortunate when a city airs its dirty laundry in public. It’s a black eye on the city. I hope this is a turning point for us, the city council. I hope we can all learn to have better lines of communication in 2012.”

Marina Brooks brought up another point. “Everybody makes mistakes. All she had to say was, ‘I’m sorry,’ and she didn’t.”

Keplinger and Lilly agreed the resolution would not have been brought up if the mayor had owned up to her error.

Keplinger said, “If she would have apologized, the issue would have been dropped. She started blaming other people. You’re the leader of the city. When something happens, you should take responsibility.”

Lilly said, “If the mayor would have shown remorse or gave an apology, an acknowledgement, we probably would not have moved (the resolution) forward.”

Hillman said, “There was no apology I could have made that would have satisfied them.”

TOP STORY >> Beebe: Blackbird capital

Leader staff writer

Beebe, with a population less than 8,000, is known across the nation and, to a lesser extent, around the world, for the dead blackbirds that rained from the sky on New Year’s Eve 2011.

The official cause of the death of 5,000 blackbirds, according to tests conducted by three laboratories, was blunt-force trauma. The birds, which can’t see in the dark, were flushed from their roost by fireworks and flew into each other, trees and buildings and died.

Those who didn’t see the birds falling learned about the problem when they either woke up on Jan. 1 to dead birds in yards and streets or saw workers in white hazmat suits picking them up.

It’s New Year’s Eve again, and Mayor Mike Robertson, who asked the city council a year ago to approve a $12,000 expenditure for dead bird removal, said he hopes the incident is not repeated.

But he knows it’s possible.

Shooting fireworks is not against the law in Beebe. But Robertson said he hopes people use caution, especially in the Windwood area, where an estimated 1.5 million blackbirds roost every winter, about one tenth of the nation’s estimated 15 million blackbirds.

To promote the use of common sense, Robertson said he has asked for heavier police patrol in the area.

If you haven’t seen the birds yet, they are a sight worth seeing, whether they are going to their roost or leaving, the mayor says.

“It’s more amazing to watch them leaving in the morning at about six,” he said. “It’s like a big tornado, and it goes on and on.

“There are so many of them bumping into each other as they’re trying to leave. It just takes a little bit of watching them to see how this happened.”

The mayor believes that re-moving the trees where the birds roost to develop the area will force them out eventually.

Walmart has workers conducting dirt studies on 20 acres of the 70 acres owned by the Hayes family for the purpose of building a store there. The mayor said the intention is to develop the entire 70 acres over time.

In the meantime, he asks residents in the area to stop shooting fireworks after the birds go to roost.

Fortunately, tests conducted on the dead birds showed that they were not a danger to anyone. And if it happens again, cleanup will not require an expensive hazmat team, he said.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD gets lifeline from appeals court

Leader staff writer

A ruling last week by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means the state will continue to pay more than $70 million to the three Pulaski County school districts.

The Pulaski County Special School District’s share works out to $17 to $20 million

The appellate judges agreed with U.S. District Judge Brian Miller’s thinking that it was futile to continue to pay the districts for continued failure to promote improved education and educational opportunities for African-American students. (See editorial, p. 6A.)

The appeals court said “the district court’s frustration is understandable, and its conclusion regarding the perverse incentives created by the state’s funding may have some merit.”

But the appeals court decision, written by Circuit Judge Raymond Gruender, said Miller’s ruling ordering payments to stop without proper hearings and documentation proving the districts’ failures was not legal. So the annual payments will continue to the districts until the state asks the court for hearings to stop it and those hearings produce enough evidence to show that the payments should end.

The districts greeted the continued desegregation payments as good news, but the news was not all good from the appeals court.

Although the judges ruled in favor of the districts on the money, they ruled against the Pulaski County Special School District in its efforts to become unitary, meaning release from federal monitoring of its desegregation efforts, calling the district a perennial “constitutional violator.”

The court agreed with Miller “affirming the partial denial of PCSSD’s petition for unitary status” because complying with its own desegregation plan “seems to be an afterthought.”

Both Miller and the appeals court denied PCSSD’s petition for unitary status in nine areas— areas that the district failed to show improvements or in some cases, showed no attempt at making positive changes.

The district didn’t show that it followed its Plan 2000 to make improvements for African-Americans in the areas of student assignment; advanced placement, gifted and talented, and honors programs; discipline; school facilities; scholarships; special education; staff; student achievement and monitoring.

Both courts said the district showed “lack of good faith, finding at the outset that it seems PCSSD has given very little thought, and even less effort, to complying with its desegregation plan.”

The area that probably demonstrates this more than any other is facilities.

PCSSD’s own desegregation plan called for the district to prepare a plan “so that existing school facilities are clean, safe, attractive and equal,” build two new schools in specific areas and not close schools in predominantly black areas.

A 1999 district study recommended building 10 new schools at a cost of $230 million. Voters rejected a $110 million millage increase for new schools, but the districts still built three schools, two required ones—Bates Elementary and Maumelle Middle School, and a third one, Chenal Elementary, an interdistrict school.

On the surface that looks good, but the courts found that the district spent $8,150 per students to build Bates, which is located in a mostly black area, and $22,000 per student for the Maumelle School and $25,000 per student for Chenal, both built in predominantly white areas.

Plus the new school that recently replaced Oak Grove High School, which cost about $60 million to build, is also in a predominantly white area and was built even though the district study said “Oak Grove High School could be made adequate with renovations.”

Meanwhile, according to the appeal court’s decision, “several schools in predominantly black areas that were identified as in need of replacement by the 1999 study continue to languish in relatively poor condition with broken commodes, falling ceiling tiles, holes in ceilings and exposed wiring.”

Some of those “poor” schools referred to in the decision are in Jacksonville.

In the category of students assignments, both the circuit court and appeals court agreed that “PCSSD’s dismissive approach to one-race reporting requirement has done nothing to demonstrate to the public and to the parents and students of the once disfavored race, its good faith commitment to the whole of the court’s decree.”

Under the advanced placement section, the courts said that PCSSD did not even try to implement its desegregation plan, giving the courts no basis to verify improvement had been made.

“More importantly,” the court noted, “PCSSD, an adjudged constitutional violator, has done nothing to assure the public of any permanent good faith commitment to promoting racial diversity in its advanced placement.”

So the district continues to be in violation in this area.

In the area of discipline, the court wrote, “PCSSD has not even attempted to implement its plan, we have no basis on which to decide if the vestiges of past discrimination have been eliminated.”

The good-faith issue was cited again when it came to providing more scholarship opportunities for African-Americans. The court said evidence showed the district did form a committee to work on scholarships, “but to date, no scholarships have been awarded. Merely establishing a committee is insufficient unless the committee made a genuine good faith effort.”

No evidence exists, according to the court’s decision.

In the area of special education, the district failed in its obligations to develop specific plans for individual schools that have an excess of African-Americans in its special-education program.

When it comes to staffing, the district’s own desegregation plan had four components. The judges said, “PCSSD failed to comply in good faith with any of the four requirements.”

When it came to student achievement, the district had promised under its Plan 2000 to follow specific suggestions of Dr. Stephen Ross, referred to as the Ross Plan, “to improve educational achievement by all students, with special attention to African-Americans.”

“The district failed to demonstrate any proof that it provide special attention to black students and failed to systemically design, select and implement effective intervention programs,” the court said.

Under the monitoring requirements it seemed the district decides what portions of its plan it would follow and what parts it wouldn’t. The judges said, “PCSSD cannot pick and choose and expect to achieve unitary status.”

SPORTS >> Raiders take Carlisle, title

Leader sports editor

If free throws had fallen, there likely would have been a new champion in the Bison Holiday Hoops Tournament. Since host Carlisle hit just 10 of 26 attempts, Riverview won the championship game 60-50 to repeat as tournament champions.

“You can’t miss free throws like that and beat good people,” Carlisle coach Williams Rountree said. “Riverview played hard, but we can’t complain that we didn’t have chances.”

Carlisle started well, quickly grabbing an 8-2 lead, but Riverview close the first quarter strongly. The Bison led 13-11 at the end of one, but the Raiders’ run continued early in the second. Riverview grabbed a 15-13 lead then forced a 10-second timeline infraction, forcing Rountree to call the first of two timeouts in a 32-second span.

Riverview got a defensive stop, but Raider Des Pettis got a steal, a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw to make it 18-13 and force another timeout.

Riverview took a 24-17 lead into the break and had the momentum, but the Bison wouldn’t go away.

Several times in the second half Riverview’s lead reached nine points, but Carlise fought back, cutting the margin to as little as three on four occasions.

With 4:08 left in the game, senior guard Zac King sparked a mini run that trimmed what had been an eight-point Raider lead to 40-37.

“Zac King is a competitor,” Rountree said. “He’s going to give you everything he’s got. There’s not a team out there in any sport that wouldn’t want Zac King.”

Riverview pushed it back to eight with Isaac Howard getting a layup and free throw to make it 47-39 with 1:39 left, but Carlisle made one last push.

Chris Hart scored five consecutive points. He hit a three pointer with 1:25 left. After Riverview missed the front end of a one-and-one, Hart was fouled and hit two free throws with 1:18 remaining to make it 47-44.

Following the free throws, Pettis went the length of the court and hit a layup. Riverview then forced a turnover in the backcourt and Pettis again got to the rim for a bucket and drew a foul. The free throw made it 52-44 with 55 seconds left, and Carlisle couldn’t get within five the rest of the way.

Dathan Hill hit a three pointer with 23 seconds left to make it 55-50, but the Bison’s scoring ended there.

Pettis led all scorers with 23 points while Howard added 16 points and 14 rebounds for Riverview. Austin Reed led Carlisle with 10 points.

Earlier in the week the Bison pummeled White County Central 68-27 in the opening game, then beat Bradford in the semifinals on Wednesday.

Riverview beat Benton-Harmony Grove and Bauxite to advance to Thursday’s title game.

Dewitt won the consolation bracket by beating Hazen after losing to Bradford and beating White County Central.

Hazen opened with a loss to Bauxite and a win over BHG.

Carlisle (2-4, 0-3), which started the season late because so many players were competing with the football team through the championship game, gets a rest before getting back to action on Friday at Marvell in a 6-2A conference match. Rountree believes this week’s tournament gives his squad some momentum as it prepares to resume league competition.

“I think it has to,” Rountree said. “We won two games and we kind of started to grow and put it together. We’re still putting it together and every time out it’s a learning experience. I thought the kids competed well.”

SPORTS >> Twins lead England comeback over Beebe

Leader sportswriter 

England coach David Mackey doesn’t try to get overly complicated when assessing his basketball team.

“When you’ve got the twins, you can win a lot of ballgames.”

That was his assessment following the Lady Lions’ thrilling 72-68 victory over host Beebe in the semifinal round of the Holiday Classic tournament at Badger Sports Arena on Thursday.

Janeka and Jameka Watkins have been through their fair share of big games in front of hostile crowds, and the twin senior guards proved it in front of a packed house with 25 points each.

Miller led the way for the Lady Badgers with 25 points to match the Watkins pair while Jackson added 23 despite an off night from the floor for the standout junior guard.

England tried matching Beebe inside early and quickly found itself down 17-6 in the first quarter before lighting it up behind the arc late in the half to come back and lead 33-32 at the break.

The outside touch stayed with the Lady Lions (14-3) through the third quarter with nine more points from outside as they pulled out to a 46-36 lead midway through.

The Lady Badgers (8-3) got most of their points closer to the rim. Miller and Jackson created opportunities in transition.

Lady Badger sophomore post player Angelina Williams, managed 19 points despite constant swarming from England’s defense. Williams also led in rebounds for the game with eight and had two blocks for the 6-3 sophomore. Beebe’s inside advantage was no match for England’s three-point assault that also included the shooting talents of Ana Dunbar and Tori Lantz.

“Size is a major factor right there,” Mackey said. “We were worried about the big post girl early, and we let (Miller) get off on us right there, but we never lost our poise out there. I was very proud of our girls tonight.”

Both teams had easy roads to the semifinal round as Beebe downed Des Arc 51-20 in Wednesday’s first round while England clobbered Lonoke 57-35. England faced Pulaski Academy in the championship game Friday night while Beebe took on Sacred Heart in the third-place game.

Things went Beebe’s way early as Miller scored off a steal and feed from senior guard Alexis Miguel to give the Lady Badgers an early 6-4 lead, and Jackson earned a trip to the foul line off another steal, hitting both ends to make it 8-4 with 5:03 left to play in the opening period.

Miller upped it to 10-4 with another transition score, and followed a Jackson free throw with a jumper in the lane for a 13-4 Beebe lead. That drew England’s defense out just enough for a pair of inside baskets from Williams to give the Lady Badgers their biggest lead at 17-6.

But Janeka Watkins changed momentum for England when she followed a successful trip to the line with a three-point basket off a steal by Dunbar to quickly cut Beebe’s lead to 22-19 with 6:09 remaining in the half.

Jameka Watkins hit her threes early in the third and fourth quarter, while adding a basket and free throw to start the final period to put the Lady Lions up 51-46.

“The twins are awesome,” Mackey said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have another group of girls like them. They’re not the only players – we’ve got other great players, but the twins are a blessing to coach.”

Dunbar added 12 points for England.

The Lady Badgers rallied in the late going and cut the margin to 71-68 with a trip down the court to tie in the final 10 seconds before Jackson lost the ball and Jasmine Taylor came up with it for England with less than three seconds remaining.

“There’s a reason why those two girls are going to UCA to play. They’re very good,” Beebe coach Greg Richie said. “And the thing about them is, if you pressure them, or if you try to double off on them, they’ve got players who can knock down shots any time out there.

“The way they shot tonight, they would beat a lot of teams in this state.”

SPORTS >> Former Hog draws Pathfinder winner

Leader staff writer

Pathfinder Academy director Tim Thomas blushed slightly when he won two tickets to the sold out Cotton Bowl game at Pathfinder’s Friday drawing with former Razorback Elston Forte, held at the administration building.

The organization sold about 200 raffle tickets, at $5 each, from Dec. 19 to Dec. 30, to raise funds for the academy, its new school that serves autistic children.

Forte led about 20 adult clients in a Hog Call of “Woo Pig Sooie.” After the drawing, the former Razorback accepted a football painted and signed by the children enrolled at the academy.

He told The Leader, “I love to show my support, especially to an organization like this that is doing such great things. My heart is really here right now.” Pathfinder Board Chairman Joan Zumwalt said they have asked Forte to come back for other events.

“We’re proud to be his friend,” she said. “These clients, as everybody should, have the opportunity to be everything they can be. The support of men like Elston keeps us going.”

T.P. White, another board member, and Sha’ Stephens, Pathfinder’s public relations liaison, also attended the drawing.

SPORTS >> Lady Panthers play well in Texas

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Lady Panthers finished sixth out of 32 teams in the Mansfield Rotary Invitational tournament at Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas, this week, going 3-2 as one of two teams from Arkansas in the prestigious Texas tournament along with Springdale Har-Ber.

Senior Melissa Wolff was named to the all-tournament team as one of 11 players to make up the elite list, including tournament MVP Itana Taylor of Pflugerville, Tex.

“To make a road trip like that and play that many games, the girls came together well,” Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “They had to pull together, and we had to have some different players make some plays off the bench. I think we got mentally tired, but that could have a lot to do with the amount of travel. It did a lot for team chemistry with the kids, being close quarters like that for the whole trip.”

The Lady Panthers (12-4) cruised by Lamar in the first round, winning 76-65 to set up a second-round game against one of the hometown teams in Mansfield-Summit, the No. 4 ranked team in Texas coming in to the tournament.

Cabot prevailed again in a 47-29 victory as Wolff and junior point guard Jaylin Bridges led the way offensively with nine points each. Defense was the key for the Lady Panthers, as they allowed just 14 points by Mansfield-Summit in the second half.

That put the Lady Panthers into the semifinal round against Amarillo, where they suffered their first loss of the five-day tournament in a close 46-42 heartbreaker.

Cabot broke even once it reached the consolation bracket with a 66-55 victory over Cedar Hills to put the Lady Panthers into Thursday’s fifth-place game against Bowie, where they lost 44-39.

The Lady Panthers will open the new year with their final non-conference game at home against Greene County Tech on Tuesday before opening their 7A-Central Conference schedule against Conway at Panther Arena next Friday.

SPORTS >> Beebe forces tempo, beats rival Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

Depth and rebounding made the difference as Beebe rolled to a 59-45 victory over Lonoke in the semifinal round of Beebe’s First Security Bank/Gilliam Farms Holiday Classic basketball tournament at Badger Sports Arena on Thursday.

The Badgers (9-2) flew to a 21-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and stretched the margin further in the second quarter. Lonoke (9-3) was more limited in its offense, relying mostly on senior guard Tarrale Watson and super sophomore Blake Mack.

Watson led all scorers with 17 points for the Jackrabbits and played well despite facing double and sometimes triple teams.

“He’s a great ball player,” Beebe head coach Ryan Marshall said. “He hurt us; he hit some tough shots, but we kind of ran three guys at him. I thought overall, the key was rebounding and getting out in transition where we could get some easy buckets.”

Mack added 12 points for the Jackrabbits in a physical performance.

Beebe got 14 points from Scott to lead the way, along with 13 points from junior Austin Burroughs and nine points for sophomore guard Tanner Chapman.

“That’s kind of the group we’ve got,” Marshall said. “We feel like we’ve got anywhere from six to eight players who on any given night are going to get it done. Teams are going to have to pick their poison with us, and hopefully, we can figure out the guys whose night it is to take care of business.”

Scott broke an early 9-9 tie with a dunk at the 4:41 mark of the first quarter to start a 10-2 run for the Badgers. Junior sub Jake Schlenker hit a pull up in the lane before Jones scored on an inbound play to give Beebe a 15-9 lead. Scott got another dunk, this time from a steal near midcourt to make it 17-9 with 1:42 left to play in the opening period. Watson finally scored for Lonoke, but Beebe finished the frame with a basket by sophomore Zach Baker and a put back by Scott to make it 21-11 heading into the second.

Baker finished with four points and had two early rebounds, but it was his presence in the lane on defense that made the biggest difference for Beebe.

“I told him in the locker room I thought it was his best minutes by far,” Marshall said. “He was focused, and had a great effort tonight. He was pretty active on the boards there in the first half.”

The Badgers dominated on the boards 30-11, including a game high eight for Scott, seven for Burroughs and six apiece for Jones and senior point guard Brandon Fuller.

Chapman caught Lonoke’s defense off guard in the third quarter with a quick string of three pointers that helped the Badgers extend their lead to 43-29 with 2:22 remaining.

“We missed some free throws in the first half,” Marshall said. “We didn’t finish well with some chip shots in the second half, but overall, we got the job done and played pretty well.”

The Badgers had an easy time with Des Arc in the first round and won 65-44 while Lonoke went to the wire with England in a 62-61 shootout victory for the Jackrabbits on Wednesday.

Beebe played Pulaski Academy in the championship game on Friday while Lonoke took on Harding Academy in the third place game.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

EDITORIAL >> Griffin’s top priority is creating more jobs


My top priority is fighting for policies that encourage private-sector job creation in Arkansas, and the more than 900 votes I’ve cast this year reflect that focus. I have hosted more than 25 town halls as well as a “jobs conference” that brought together Arkansas job creators to discuss the challenges they face.

Their message is crystal clear: Uncertainty kills job creation by discouraging risk taking and investment.

What’s causing this confidence-crushing uncertainty? (1) Our overly-complicated tax code; (2) Government over-regulation of job creators; and (3) A ballooning national debt.

The U.S. House of Representatives has enacted its jobs plan by passing bills to reduce uncertainty, but these bills are stacking up like cord wood in the Senate. The House has led. President Obama and the Senate should join us.

President Obama talks about closing loopholes, but months ago the House acted. We are fighting for comprehensive tax reform to close loopholes, and consolidate and reduce rates for Arkansans and job creators to make the tax code simpler, fairer and flatter. We need tax reform to grow the economy and create jobs.

The House has led by including sweeping, bold tax reform in its budget in April. The President and Senate should join us.

The President talks about regulatory reform, but it’s just talk. Reasonable regulation is necessary, but the Obama Administration continues to over-regulate job creators. The House has acted by pushing for common-sense regulatory reform.

For example, I introduced H.R. 3194, the Job Creation and Regulatory Freeze Act, which would put a moratorium on all new major federal regulations until Jan. 20, 2013, and give job creators the certainty they need to begin creating jobs again.

The House is pushing to put some reason into regulation. The President and Senate should join us.

The House passed a budget in April that reduces spending and eliminates the deficit. The President’s budget spends us to bankruptcy, and the Senate has not passed a budget since April 29, 2009. We must pay down our debt and stop using China as a credit card. $200 billion a year in interest payments is money that could have been spent on critical needs such as infrastructure or cancer research. The House has led to address our debt. The Senate and the President should join us.

EDITORIAL >> Free postage and Congress

The holidays would not be the same if a few politicians, or a lot of them, did not try to gain some political advantage from Christmas. For the last dozen years or so, it has been to join the forces of the righteous against the mythical “War on Christmas.”

This year, the warriors were U. S. Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, and Arkansas’ own Mike Ross of Prescott, the Democratic congressman from south Arkansas. Ross, if you have not heard, is running for governor in 2014.

Ross and Walsh sent a letter asking their colleagues in the House to restore Christmas to the franking rules. They think that it is outrageous that congressmen can’t send Christmas greetings or Hanukkah greetings to the voters back home and have the taxpayers pay for it.

The news has been full of it for two weeks, nowhere more prominently than Fox News, which has been reporting for some time that there was a war against Christmas and Christianity in America.

The day after Christmas, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s weird columnist, Mike Masterson, got into the act. He breathlessly reported the old news that the House Franking Commission had sent a memo on Dec. 12 for members not to wish their constituents “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy New Year” in their franked mail. They could say happy new year or happy holidays in official correspondence as long as the specific holidays were not mentioned.

Masterson, who said he was sickened by the news, suggested that the anti-Christmas rules came from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” That is an effort to tie it to President Obama, whose opponents like to suggest may be a disciple of the organizer.

Not even close. The franking rules go back to 1974 and the great reform movement that followed the Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s resignation to head off impeachment and trial.

There was a desperate movement in Congress and the rest of Washington to restore confidence in the nation’s political institutions, which troughed after Watergate and other scandals involving all three branches of government. Congress passed a number of laws and rules to insure greater ethical behavior by the executive and legislative branches.

One was a law that sought to stop the widespread abuse of the franking privilege, which allows members of Congress to correspond with voters back home and have the taxpayers pay for it. Members got a leg up on re-election by sending holiday messages to voters back home at taxpayers’ expense.

The public was aroused by a report that the House of Representatives spent $36 million of taxpayers’ money in 1973 on promotional mail for congressmen to aid their re-election.

Holiday cards and letters were a big part of it. The 1974 law sought to put a stop to all the franking abuses and reassure people that they were not helping pay for a politician’s year-round re-election campaign.

Ross and Walsh know, though Masterson perhaps doesn’t, that a congressman or a senator can mail Christmas greetings, a Fourth of July message or any religious message to voters as long as they pay for it themselves or through their campaign organization, which all of them have. Some members of Congress actually do that. So does the president of the United States.

That is the way it should be. The taxpayers should not pay for correspondence that is undertaken for purely political purposes. Franking was intended to be for official business. That is what all the taxpayers in America believe, too, if they think about it for a few seconds.

The restrictions on Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Thanksgiving are not now and never were attacks on religion but a weak attempt to require a modicum of ethical behavior by politicians.

Remember, this House of Representatives is controlled by the most right-wing bunch to run one house or the other since 1929. Would they be outlawing Christmas?

As for Congressman Ross, we have come to expect little better. — Ernie Dumas

TOP STORY >> Accused in double murder held

Leader staff writers

A Conway man accused in the stabbing murders of two Lonoke County residents outside their home on Friday night was denied bond during his first court appearance on Tuesday by Circuit Court Judge Phillip Whiteaker at the Lonoke County Detention Facility.

James Davis, 37, of Conway is being held in the Lonoke County jail. Prosecuting attorney Chuck Graham requested no bond for Davis because he had multiple failure to appear and fleeing charges.

Davis’ next court appearance is 8:30 a.m. Jan. 9. Graham said the appearance has been scheduled as plea and arraignment, but he said it is highly unlikely official charges will be filed by that time, so no plea will be possible. It is more likely that the process will be started to have an attorney appointed to represent Davis, Graham said.

The sheriff’s office has recommended that Davis be charged with two counts of capital murder, which carries the death penalty. But Graham said he won’t decide the official charge until after the investigation is completed, and he has read autopsy reports from the state crime lab.

The autopsy report likely won’t be available for more than a month, he said.

According to the incident report Lonoke County Sheriff’s deputies were called at 7:48 p.m. Friday to a stabbing at 87 Charles Drive, a tri-plex on Charles Drive off North Stagecoach Road on Hwy. 38 between Cabot and Ward.

The caller told the 911 operator that a white woman on her front porch was screaming for help. She had been stabbed and she was bleeding.

While deputies were responding to the scene, the caller said a white man was now stabbing the woman and a white man on the caller’s front porch.

She then said the two stabbing victims were lying motionless on her porch, and she believed they were dead. The man ran on foot from the area.

When deputies arrived, they found Tracey Mills, 45, lying on her side with her back against the raised porch of 83 Charles Drive.

She was stabbed in the chest. A large pool of blood, was on the ground under Mills. Her shirt was covered in blood and a small charcoal grill lying next to her was tipped over.

Charles Smith, 56, was lying on his back with his head towards the door, and his legs were off the porch. Smith had a large amount of blood on him.

An ambulance arrived at the same time as deputies. Mills was asking for help. While paramedics were attending to Mills, a deputy asked her who stabbed her. She said it was “James Davis.”

As the deputy tried to get more information, Mills said she could not breathe and could not answer any more questions.

The deputy reported seeing Smith, as if he was gasping for air. His body rose slightly off the ground and went limp.

Mills was taken by ambulance to Ward where she was airlifted by AIR EVAC to North Metro Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Emergency medical technicians told deputies Smith had died from his injuries. Both Mills and Smith lived at 87 Charles Drive.

Deputies were unable to find other witnesses.

State Police, along with Ward and Austin police officers, assisted at the crime scene.

Authorities, with the assistance of the Department of Corrections — Tucker Unit’s dog-tracking team found Davis in a wooded area near the crime scene. He was arrested at 9:35 p.m.

Deputies searched Davis and found a cell phone, a cell phone charger, an empty pack of cigarettes, a lighter and a small plastic card. Davis’ clothes were bloodstained.

Sheriff Jim Roberson said Davis’ relationship with the three is unclear. But it appeared from items found in the apartment that they lived together. The motive for the murders is also unclear, and Roberson said Davis isn’t cooperating.

Chief Deputy Dean White, who runs the jail, said Davis says he doesn’t know his own identity.

TOP STORY >> Looking back at the year’s stories

Compiled by RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

This is the first of a two-part series looking back at 2011 through selected headlines from The Leader. This is what appeared in the world of print from January to June 2011.


“Mystery of birds falling on Beebe by thousands” — Strange occurrence under investigation.

“Charter school seeking infusion of funds” — Lighthouse would not only expand to air base, but wants $12 million construction loan for junior and high schools.

“For Cabot, new team at city hall” — Cypert names former Alderman Eddie Cook as personnel director to meet demands of growing city.

“Sherwood freezes most pay” — Only golf course employees are in line for salary increases.

“Austin, Ward $1M cities” — North Lonoke County towns double their size and increase budgets.

“Trainers laid off at air base” — Lockheed says 23 are out of a job, but losses could have been worse.

“Base commander: Build new schools” — Col. Minihan offers more land to school district as well as charter school on LRAFB perimeter.

“Lonoke QC shakeup leaves Odom isolated” — A lonely voice 20 years ago when GOP was struggling, JP says he’s now being tossed aside.

“Communities dig out after record snow” — The area is slammed hard as weathermen correctly predict up to six inches of snow over the weekend, closing schools, businesses and offices.

“Charter school expansion approved” — Lighthouse to build new middle school on LRAFB and a high school on North First.

“Will Bond to lead Democratic Party” — Gov. Beebe picks Jacksonville native to head embattled party.

“Chamber submits priorities for PCSSD” — Group tells district official that Jacksonville needs new schools to stop losing more students.

“Will city save golf course?” — Jacksonville mayor asks Foxwood residents and others what it would take for the closed facility to be profitable.

“Ex-clerk could go to prison” — Cassandra Williams admitted to taking money from Lonoke sheriff’s office but has made no restitution.

“Lawmakers get down to business” — Eddie Joe Williams and Jonathan Dismang, the area’s newest senators, and their colleagues are in their second week at the Capitol.

“Not everyone on board with PCSSD superintendent” — Tensions simmer as Charles Hopson’s contract is revised to please state auditors.

“Lonoke County gets more jailers” — At least 18 jailers should staff the detention center.

“Greystone residents fight for golf course” — Exclusive area in Cabot could lose one of its major draws as bankruptcy looms.

“Jacksonville military museum lands C-130” — Little Rock Air Force Base is retiring one of its old cargo planes.

“Sherwood to fix sewers” — City council approves plan to improve the town’s aging system.

“Deal set for Austin City Hall” — Mayor says the town is ready to close on the old health clinic.

“Plans call for a new elementary on air base” — Replace Arnold Drive and Tolleson with a school on base; demolish Jacksonville Middle School and Elementary, district is told.

“Cabot could allow inside firing range” — Committee is considering letting residents practice indoors at old plant.

“Sherwood stabilizing financially” — Mayor Hillman gives state of the city report and predicts more improvements this year.

“Deficits worry Griffin” — Congressman says debt could lead ‘to our next Pearl Harbor,’ calls for spending cuts, including defense.

“Dallas-area developers study Jacksonville sites” — Group that visited city this week (late January) builds shopping centers all over the country.

“Odom proposes funding plan for jail” — Lonoke County JP crunches the numbers and finds $292,000 from several sources to pay for jailers and nurse.

“AG&FC concludes trauma killed birds” — More results confirm that tragedy did not involve poisoning.


“Plan to save Greystone is goal in Cabot” — Residents are told to pool their resources and buy memberships so the golf course stays open and the community isn’t hurt.

“Joint Education center dedicated” — Governor, commander and mayor all agree college complex will boost higher education in the area.

“Save our schools, parents plead” — North Pulaski patrons told high school consolidation imminent in new building plans.

“Big Reserve unit coming to base” — As many as 700 reservists and civilians will keep older planes flying.

“Another Diamond School award in Cabot” — Despite being on improvement list, middle school earns distinction.

“Earthquakes from drilling feared” — Disposal of drilling waste into deep wells could be responsible for recent tumblers.

“Mayor says city can’t fund Greystone” — Cypert insists golf course needs support from Cabot residents.

“Sherwood passes Jacksonville” — Cabot, Ward, Austin, Beebe continue rapid growth; Lonoke down a few.

“PCSSD plans for schools bring praise, some gripes” — District’s facilities project moving forward, but not everyone pleased.

“Foxwood club gets offer” — Jacksonville golf course to get new attitude and become private under new name.

“Cities analyze census data as they set plans” — Even though there was growth in most areas, some expected more.

“City eyes state fair land” — Jacksonville officials say the 450-acre site has other possibilities if fair doesn’t come.

“Jacksonville tries smaller annexation” — Businesses along Hwy. 67/167 agree to come into city limits after voters said no.

“New jail might remain vacant” — The $6.2 million detention center in Lonoke lacks long-term operating funds.

“Funding available for reservists on base” — New budget calls for 200 more reserve jobs soon.

“Seniors will get $410,000 safe room” — Jacksonville center has been approved for a shelter from storms.

“Austin boom town” — Once a tiny community, the city north of Cabot has grown dramatically.

“Liquor wars on county line” — Owner of Ace Liquor wants to stop a store going in next door because it wasn’t properly advertised.

“Sherwood plans for a new library” — City considers a two-year tax hike to fund two construction projects.

“National Geographic in Beebe” — One tenth of U.S. blackbirds roost in the White County town.


“Leader starts 25th year”

“Lonoke rebuilds after small twister” — Community grateful it wasn’t worse and no one was injured.

“Vasquez sees school district growing again” — PCSSD board president says building more schools and remodeling others will mean growth for the district and better opportunities for students.

“PETA says fireworks killed birds” — Beebe City Council says it doesn’t need outside advice, although mayor warns roost will grow and more will die.

“Millage hike sought for gym” — Lonoke seeks tax increase to pay for a modern, all-purpose facility.

“Jail worries Cypert” — Cabot mayor fears Lonoke facility won’t accept prisoners from his city.

“Jacksonville finally set to expand north” — One resident calls area along Hwy. 67/167 ‘Sodom and Gomorrah.’

“Base puts $712M in economy” — LRAFB pumps $12 million more into area last year compared with 2009.

“Animal shelter asks for Taser protection” — Cabot workers say they are afraid of feral creatures and must defend themselves.

“Schools plans move ahead” — Architects hired to design two new PCSSD elementary schools and a middle school for Jacksonville.

“Cities still demand space in Lonoke county jail” — Mayors want to send their prisoners there since towns paid for facility.

“More foreigners train at air base” — Hundreds come here from 42 nations to learn to fly C-130s with 314th Airlift Wing.

“LRAFB sees undercount by census” — Jacksonville says wrong population numbers could cost city $40 million.

“Cabot gets set for new high school building” — District hopes to open $14.9 million facility soon after school begins in the fall.

“Lonoke County sheriff needs funds for jailers” — Sheriff Jim Roberson wants to hire more guards, but quorum curt isn’t sure how to pay them.

“Earthquakes rattle nerves” — Those who live near gas-drilling areas are looking to Japan if things should go wrong.

“The Leader earns 11 awards at advertising banquet March 18.

“State fair move seems doomed” — Jacksonville and Little Rock mayors differ on the need to relocate the event to a new site.

“Investors ready to resurrect Foxwood” — Venerable golf course in Jacksonville will reopen April 1 for members.

“Error keeps funds away from Cabot” — City still demands $1.1 million from federal government to build a north ramp on Hwy. 67/167, but the money went instead to Clay County.

“Funds needed for new jail” — Jacksonville mayor is supportive of Pulaski jail expansion.

“Sherwood looks at fees for builders” — Growing city wants developers to pay more to cover maintenance and extra costs, but not everyone is in agreement.

“Bill approved targeting JHS” — Rep. Mark Perry’s proposal would hasten state takeover of failing schools in Arkansas.

“Lost cemetery rediscovered” — Denominations partner to clean up and uncover story of historic graveyard in Lonoke County.

“Grim anniversary for Cabot twister” — It was 35 years ago (March 29) when deadly tornadoes hit town.


“District plans to dismiss teachers” — Administration, union at odds over how to fix Jacksonville High School.

“PCSSD: A state takeover unfair” — District hopes it can escape fiscal-distress label; move forward on new Jacksonville schools.

“New law lets city buy pipes” — Cabot will be allowed to purchase Ward water lines within city limits.

“Ward to sell bonds to improve sewers” — Mayor says he’s worried residents will have to pay more, but the council decides it’s time to bring plant into compliance.

“New deal keeps all operating for now” — LRAFB civilians were prepared to be furloughed until stalemate resolved.

“Jacksonville welcomes Little Rock Expo Center” — A year of successful Memphis Flea Market shows prompts the relocation of a major attraction.

“Council spends money on trash” — Jacksonville will buy new trucks and containers for approximately $1.3 million.

“Upgrades sought for base” — Rep. Griffin wants another simulator and to speed up avionics program.

“Funding parks is a puzzle for city” — Sherwood finds it cannot use impact fees to build new park in Gravel Ridge.

“Revelation Riders spread religion at bikers rallies” — Cabot motorcycle club is part of a growing Christian movement on wheels around the country.

Robbery behind pawnshop killing” — Joe Pipkin likely murdered during a stickup at his Hwy. 367 business.

“Storms sweep into area with 80-mph winds” — Power outages close schools in Lonoke County, leave others in dark.

“Parents, teachers upset by closure” — Many oppose closing Jacksonville Elementary before new school is built.

“Cabot fixing problem for kindergarten tests” — Vendor provided wrong practice materials for youngest pupils in school district.

“Pit bulls will get a reprieve” — The Cabot City Council decides to let vicious dogs move out of town.

“Allegiance, city set to sign deal to sell hospital” — Mayor pores over final paperwork that hands Jacksonville facility over to Louisiana firm for $8.3 million and major improvements.

“Fair feud deepens for cities” — Jacksonville is not worried about North Little Rock’s latest proposal.

“State to get last word on school plans” — Education Department will decide fate of $104 million PCSSD building program, which could depend on outcome of fiscal distress designation.

“Sirens sounded too often in storm?” — Cabot mayor wants to find out if system can be improved before the next round of bad weather.

“Sherwood can’t spend more for key services” — City’s budget panel hears requests for raises, but no funds available right now.

“Air base digs out after tornado” — Cleanup starts after homes and planes damaged; Col. Minihan thanks community for outpouring of support.

“High school hit, but plans are to reopen it April 29” — Despite the destruction of the auditorium and several classrooms, North Pulaski will hold classes and go ahead with prom at the end of the week.

“Storms cut wide swath across area” — Few spared as tornadoes and high winds swept through Arkansas.

“For air base, it’s recovery, going to war” — People and organizations open their hearts to help out.

“PCSSD has spending plan” — School district budget cuts $7.9 million; hopes to get out of fiscal distress and build three new schools in Jacksonville.

“Appeal sent state on designation” — PCSSD says it’s financially sound, opposes Education Department takeover.


“Huge rain pummels area, then moves on” — May rain on top of April totals, thunderstorms, tornadoes keep area saturated.

“Funding could run out for a big water project” — To complete pump station to help farmers, $350 million in federal and $190 million in state funds needed.

“Planting seeds of Afghan democracy” — Jacksonville soldier helped teach nation’s farmers modern techniques.

“Officials hear gripes about rising water” — Second 100-year flood in 18 months leaves many frustrated and looking for help and answers.

“Residents blame landfill for floods” — Residents near landfill say their problems have worsened as water has no place to go but into their homes.

“Missing man found dead in floodwater” — The body of a Butlerville driver who went past barricades finally located 150 yards away.

“Officials work on reducing flooding” — FEMA will assess damage as Jacksonville vows to work on drainage and make other improvements in the city.

“Jail ready to take in prisoners” — Lonoke County still trying to figure out how much it will cost to operate.

“Legislative audit slams PCSSD” — Lawmakers say they are tired of excuses as Education Department considers takeover.

“Sherwood will reconfigure its map for wards” — Northern expansion and addition of 8,000 residents call for change in boundaries for aldermen.

“Beebe plans new school for McRae” — A $2.9 million project.

“Another record for air drops” — Squadron that includes 41st AS helps deliver more pallets.

“Lonoke County pits JPs vs. JPs” — New census means many incumbents could face each other for quorum court next year.

“Jacksonville taxes up; Sherwood mulls hike” — Neighboring towns facing different financial realties, but only one looking to raise rates.

“Alderman case will likely be dismissed” — Judge tells Les Cossey that as long as he stays out of trouble, charges will be dropped.

“‘Boot camp’ business expo a success” — Jacksonville chamber’s event featured more than 60 companies.

“Two named in bribe scheme” — Former board president and Jacksonville principal were conspirators.

“Damage on base near $100 million” — LRAFB officials believe it will cost tens of millions of dollars to fix C-130s, homes and buildings.

“Bribe plot entangles 2 districts” — Mike Nellums is on the way out after fiasco; Tim Clark accused of payoff.

“Ruling: PCSSD wasted money” — District will meet today (May 25) to determine its options on deseg funding.

“Man dead after shootout in Cabot” — Police respond to domestic disturbance in the Village Square complex.

“Spending cuts proposed for solvency plan” — PCSSD passes 35-point financial program to get fiscally distressed district back on its feet.

“Cabot paying teachers to take early retirement” — School district to hire younger replacements, hoping to save $1.9 million.


“Rebuilding to start at North Pulaski” — Debris has been removed from the high school, which took a direct hit from April 25 tornado, Millions of dollars in construction to get under way soon.

“Technology grant to JHS worth $2M” — Over the next three years, the troubled high school could get as much as $5.7 million if it does well.

“Huge award in wreck” — Cabot woman, survivor of collision with dump truck, receives compensation from Lonoke County jury.

“Animals no longer dumped at landfill” — Practice called a violation of state law, so Cabot will resume incineration.

“Jacksonville pool repairs to run $1M” — Chlorine and moisture made ceiling and roof unsafe; closed for the summer and expansion possible.

“PCSSD takes another hit” — Disband board, panel says; Hopson answers he can’t undo mistakes of past decade in a year.

“Cabot gets school for ninth-graders” — District receives go-ahead to build a campus for one grade, then for 10th grade.

“Lottery winner in $2M drug bust” — Several suspects are arrested in a wide sweep in Lonoke and White counties.

“Breaking up PCSSD seen as a solution” — Despite threatened state takeover and drawn-out court suit, it could be an opportunity for Jacksonville to form its own district, lawmaker says.

“Redrawn districts pit pals, enemies” — New Lonoke JP lines will force friends and adversaries to run against each other.

“Jacksonville acts on expansion” — City will take in north business corridor along Hwy. 67/167.

“Farm-raised catfish may be thing of past” — Rising cost threatens Southern tradition.

“Lester: Local control two years away” — Former superintendent says he will stay for a few weeks before long-term chief comes in.

“Support for state takeover” — Jacksonville residents applaud move, but construction uncertain.

“Crossett’s principal leads JHS” — Former PCSSD teacher and administrator looks forward to coming home.

“North Belt hits a dead end for lack of funding” — Sherwood’s upcoming decision on whether or not to remove bypass from the street plan could put the project on permanent hold.

“Lester: I’m still backing district” — He says taking temporary post (interim PCSSD superintendent) doesn’t mean he has abandoned Jacksonville.

“Lonoke voters approve $5.7M to build school facility” — Residents and donors fund multi-purpose building at high school.

“Jacksonville’s $500,000 facelift” — Intersection at Main, Dupree and James gets a whole new look.

“New chief appointed for PCSSD” — South Arkansas educator moves from a district that has much in common with the Pulaski County schools.

“Mayor: $75M for Cabot needs” — Cypert proposes road and other upgrades and eliminating parks and recreation commission.

“North Belt still has chance to remain in plan” — Sherwood commission votes to keep right of way on master street plan.

SPORTS >> Badgers rout Lions at ‘Brier’

Leader sportswriter

Things finally came together for Beebe on the last day of the Battle at the Brier invitational basketball tournament at Greenbrier High School as the Badgers routed Searcy 61-29 in the fifth-place game on Friday.

Panther Pavilion was nearly empty for the 11:30 a.m. game, but the Badgers (8-2) kept themselves motivated against a Lions team unable to keep pace in the early going. Beebe rushed out to a quick 12-2 lead and had complete control at the end of the first quarter with an 18-3 advantage.

Senior post player Dayton Scott led the Badgerswith 12 points while junior forward Austin Burroughs added 11 and sophomore guard Tanner Chapman had points.

Scott also led with eight rebounds, and dominated inside despite the presence of 6-5 senior Searcy post Jonathan Powell.

“I thought our focus was much better, particularly for an a.m. game,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “I thought our kids came together and played a nice ballgame. We hit the open guy and made the extra pass.

“We got a lot of easy looks early, and defensively, I thought we did extremely well. We got lost a few times, but I thought we guarded real well and did some things that we’ve been working on.”

Beebe’s advantage in the turnover department in the first half was slim at 6-5, but the Badgers made the most of their gifts early on while Searcy took a number of shots that simply were not there.

“I thought they may have been a little rushed offensively,” Marshall said. “Any time you do that, the other team gets a little uncomfortable, and maybe they will rush some shots. I thought we had good ball pressure; it made it tough for them to feed their big guy inside. Just overall, it was probably one of our best defensive efforts from a team standpoint.”

Scoring wise, senior point guard Brandon Fuller had just two points off a jumper in the lane in the first three minutes of the game, but it was his direction of the offensive flow that created multiple opportunities for the Badgers to orchestrate a quick-strike style of attack.

“He’s starting to figure that out,” Marshall said. “He talked to me after the Mills game, and that’s one thing he realized is that it doesn’t matter what’s going on, he’s got to be the energy guy and the leader on the floor. He does a number of things that won’t show up in the scorebook, but he does a good job.”

Burroughs and Scott got Beebe out to a double-digit lead in no time as Burroughs took an assist from Fuller for a jumper that gave the Badgers an 8-2 lead with 4:23 left to play in the first quarter, and Scott got a steal he took all the way to make it 10-2.

Burroughs got the steal and conversion on Searcy’s next trip down the court, and Scott then scored on a put-back to put the Badgers up 14-2 at the 2:08 mark. Beebe also held the Lions without a single rebound until the 1:32 mark of the first quarter.

Beebe set itself up to go with a continuous clock in the fourth quarter when junior guard Jake Schlenker drove in the paint for a score with 38 seconds remaining in the third period to put the Badgers up 48-17.

The victory wrapped up a three-day tournament full of ups and downs for the Badgers after losing to Mills 53-35 in the first round and struggling to beat Sheridan 48-42 in the second round.

“The first day was just absolutely horrible to be honest,” Marshall said. “Mills played extremely hard – a lot of intensity, and we didn’t meet it. We hit that panic mode. We had guys who didn’t want the basketball because they were smothered. One team was ready to play, one wasn’t.

“I thought yesterday, we got some kinks worked out, and then today, I thought it came together pretty good for them.”

Beebe opens its own Christmas Classic basketball tournament at Badger Sports Arena today in the final first-round game against Des Arc at 8:30 p.m.

SPORTS >> Cabot beats Lamar in Texas girls tournament

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers came off a long break with a great performance in the opening round of the Mansfield, Texas, Rotary Club’s Girls Invitational Basketball Tournament on Tuesday.

Cabot beat nearby Lamar High School of Arlington, Texas, 76-65 to advance in the winners bracket of the 32-team tournament and run its winning streak to seven games. The tournament is spread out over four sites in the Fort Worth area, including Legacy High School, Summit High School, Timberview High School and Mansfield High School.

Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple was very pleased with how his team performed, especially considering the long layoff and long road trip.

“To score 76 points is pretty good after a layoff like we had,” Ruple said. “We shot the ball exceptionally well and our defensive pressure was very good.”

Although the final margin wasn’t a large one, Cabot controlled the game throughout. The Lady Panthers scored the first six points of the game, and forced turnovers on each of Lamar’s first four possessions.

Lamar called timeout with three minutes left in the opening quarter after Cabot had built an 18-5 lead. The Lady Panthers scored four more after the timeout before Lamar got back on the scoreboard with a minute left in the frame.

“We came out pressing and did a super job,” Ruple said. “It looked like it might be a blowout all the way but they brought in a girl off the bench that hurt us a little bit and kept them in the game.”

Cabot still maintained about an 18-point advantage throughout the game, and was able to stretch its lead enough in the second half to bring everyone off the bench for the final few minutes of the game.

“Everybody played including the sophomores, so that was good experience for them,” Ruple said.

Cabot wasn’t able to scout Lamar in person, but had done some homework, and got out of its opponent what it expected.

“They played a lot like we thought they would,” Ruple said. The main thing was playing well after a long trip like that. Lamar is right there nearby and didn’t have to drive very far. But the girls did play very well.”

Senior Melissa Wolff turned in complete game with 26 points, six rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. Elliot Taylor had 10 points and six rebounds and Jalyn Bridges had 10 points and three assists.

Cabot shot 56 percent from the floor and hit 50 percent of its three-point shots.

The win earned Cabot (10-2)a second game on the same day. They played tournament host Summit at 8:15 p.m. last night at Legacy High School. Look for details of that game and the rest of Cabot’s games at the tournament in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >> Beebe takes title from Lady Bombers

Leader sportswriter

To those needing hardware for verification, it is now official: the Beebe Lady Badgers are for real.

The Lady Badgers wrapped up the championship in the Battle at the Brier basketball tournament with a thrilling 33-31 victory over a defensively tough Mountain Home team in the title game Friday at Panther Pavilion in Greenbrier.

Beebe (7-2) got down as far as 22-17 late in the third quarter of the defensive struggle before clawing its way back midway through the final period to set the stage for a dramatic finish.

Junior guard Jamie Jackson solidified her place as tournament MVP for Beebe with 19 points, four steals and four rebounds, including a steal and layup with 1:08 left to play that broke a 31-31 tie and gave the Lady Badgers their first tournament championship since winning their own Christmas Classic tourney three years ago.

“You live for those games like that,” Lady Badgers coach Greg Richey said. “That makes your team better when you win close games like that. And I was proud of our girls.”

Jackson dazzled offensively, but it was the tough inside defensive work of 6-3 sophomore post player Angelina Williams that held Mountain Home’s Katie Kapler in check with just six points and 10 rebounds, a three-day tournament low for the dynamic junior post player.

“That was our game plan going in was to play behind,” Richey said. “We typically try to front the post, but tonight we wanted to play behind, and I told her ‘just make the girl try to shoot over you, and we’ll see what happens.’ She struggled all night, so that part worked out pretty well, and she did a good job of staying at home and not getting fouls. She had a good defensive effort inside.”

Jackson’s claim of MVP received a serious challenge from Mountain Home senior guard Anna Floyd, who led the Lady Bombers with 16 points. Floyd proved to be just as dangerous a threat as Jackson. The two battled to make plays in the final two minutes of a close game that was tied at 31 with just over a minute remaining.

“It was really tough for all of us, but we found a way to manage though it,” Jackson said. “I mean, I know we got down a little bit. We were nervous when they got up, but we had to pull our way out of it and work as a team to get there.”

The most nerve-racking moment for Jackson and the Lady Badgers came with 2:15 remaining in the third quarter when she picked up her fourth personal foul. Jackson went to the locker room at halftime with three fouls, but did not ease up on the intensity in the third as she continued to put defensive pressure on Floyd.

“I was really nervous,” Jackson said. “But I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t let my team down.”

The decisive momentum shift happened with 3:58 remaining when Beebe sophomore guard Kalela Miller stole the ball from Briana Leonard at midcourt and scored on a quick lay up to tie the game at 26-26. The Lady Bombers then had senior guard Bailey Crider take the ball down on their next trip, but Miller swiped the ball from her and repeated with another easy look under the basket to give Beebe its first lead of the second half.

Senior Sarah White scored the first points of the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws at the 5:43 mark to tie the game at 22 for her only points. As the Lady Badgers’ only starting senior and team captain, leadership proved to be White’s most valuable asset during the three-day tournament.

“She’s one of our senior leaders,” Richey said. “She’s our team captain, and Sarah will make a play. She’ll get a big rebound, and she went to the line tonight and hit two big free throws there late in the game. She’s not afraid of it. She’ll get out there and compete, and that’s what you look for in your seniors.”

Mountain Home (4-5) led 22-17 with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Williams stunned the Lady Bombers with a three-point basket beyond the top of the key to cut the lead to 22-20. Williams had been playing out on several of Beebe’s third-quarter possessions before pulling the trigger. Williams finished with eight points for the Lady Badgers.

Floyd put up one last three-point attempt in the final six seconds, but the shot was off the mark, and the scramble for the loose ball ate up the remainder of the clock.

“We beat a very good team tonight,” Richey said. “Mountain Home is typically one of the top teams in the state of Arkansas in girls basketball, and we’re trying to climb up there. And for us to beat a team like that, it really is big for the girls.”

The Lady Badgers will open their own Christmas Classic tournament at 7 p.m. today against Des Arc.