Wednesday, April 25, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Anniversaries worth noting

We salute First Electric Cooperative, which this week, along with North Metro Medical Center, celebrates a significant anniversary.

For First Electric Cooperative, which is marking 75 years of rural electrification and the progress which followed, the occasion requires mention of its huge contribution to the area’s development. The cooperative’s expansive efforts to provide electricity to much of our community’s rural confines cannot be measured without noting its contribution to almost all aspects of local life from simple family living, to farming, schools and industrial and commercial enterprises. The cooperative’s expansion of electrical services led to commercial and residential development of central Arkansas counties, including north Pulaski, White, Lonoke and Prairie.

The cooperative should also be praised for sustaining the notion of “cooperative” and for giving back a significant portion of its profits each year not only to its shareholders but also to worthy institutions within its service area with its Operation Round-Up made possible by customers who round up their payment to the nearest dollar. Among those recipients that have received community grants over the years are the Boys and Girls Club of Jacksonville, Fishnet Missions, Cabot Community Alliance, Antioch Fire Department, Ward Public Library, CS&Z Volunteer Fire Department and the Little Rock Air Force Base Historical Society.

First Electric also distributes capital credits each year to the cooperatives’ members or customers. This year’s refund came to nearly $4 million and represented the members’ share of the remaining revenue after the cost of operation.

The cooperative’s response in emergencies is also commendable. Local emergencies, such as storm-related power outages, are dealt with as quickly as possible and the cooperative also responds to storm-related outages outside its local area. Of memory are the cooperative’s response to Hurricane Katrina related outages in south Mississippi and Louisiana and to the more recent tornado outbreak in Oklahoma and Missouri, not to mention last year’s devastating storm in Joplin, Mo.

Notification to the public in local outages is timely, and officials are always responsive out of normal working hours.

Where would central Arkansas be without the cooperative? That’s a question we can only ponder.

North Metro Medical Center, on the other hand, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is an institution that once thrived as a city-owned hospital when there were few hospitals within a four-county area. That changed and so did North Metro’s balance sheet.

Its recent acquisition by Allegiance Health Systems and its promise to deliver up-to-date, quality health care could be a trailblazer in reviving Jacksonville’s economic development.

North Metro Medical Center was originally named Rebsamen Medical Center and was founded by Kenneth Pat Wilson, who formed a board of prominent businessmen to run a city-owned hospital. It was the visionary Wilson who led the group that worked to secure land for Little Rock Air Force Base 60 years ago. They knew the area would grow as a result and that quality health care would be a priority for military families and the community. As the landscape for health care changed running a hospital became a rigorous proposition, which most cities are no longer prepared to manage.

Allegiance’s acquisition of the hospital seems to be a good fit for the area and along with nearby Jacksonville Medical Clinic, will provide the type of care the community needs, quality emergency, medical, surgical and cardiac care, rehabilitation facilities and top-notch diagnostic capabilities. A recent partnership with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Hospital for expert radiological imaging diagnosis can only bode well for the future, providing oversight by the experts.

North Metro is also becoming known for its wound-healing center, a state-of-the-art sleep center, laboratory and medical imaging departments, inpatient geriatric psychiatry, orthopedic surgery, a new surgical inpatient and medical inpatient units in addition to recently reopened cardiac-catheterization and interventional-radiology labs.

The Leader is also marking a significant anniversary of 25 years serving four counties in needed news and advertising services. Local news is all important today and about the only place to find serious news about local government, crime and events is right here in your local newspaper.

The Leader has striven for 25 years to provide our local readers with news they need to understand their communities, schools and businesses.The Leader has also striven to provide advertising that satisfies the needs of our communities’ residents from groceries to pharmaceuticals to vehicles and car care. We know that a well-rounded newspaper not only satisfies the need for local news but also for local products and where to find the best prices.

A recent study by the PEW institute on journalism pointed out that most adults receive their local news, serious news, from their local newspapers.

Help us to continue to provide you with the local news, advertising and commentary you need.

Congratulations to all concerned.

TOP STORY >> 75th anniversary for First Electric

Leader staff writer

First Electric Cooperative, the first nonprofit power utility in the state, will celebrate 75 years of tremendous growth from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday in its Jacksonville community room at 1000 S. J.P. Wright Loop Road.

The nonprofit was incorporated on April 26, 1937, as the first electric cooperative in Arkansas under the Rural Electrification Act. There are now 17 cooperatives in the state.

The first power lines began operating on April 15, 1938, near Jacksonville.

First Electric started out with three employees and 150 customers.

Now, it caters to more than 88,000 active accounts in 17 central and southeast Arkansas counties.

First Electric employs more than 225 people, said Tonya Everhart, vice president of marketing and communications.

Full-service offices are located in Jacksonville, Benton, Heber Springs, Perryville and Stuttgart.

According to the company’s website, most of First Electric’s customers, about 21,300, live in Saline County.

Lonoke County comes in second with approximately 19,250.

About 12,500 live in Pulaski and about 7,100 are in White County.

But customers aren’t customers. They are members.

Everhart explained that at the end of each year, members are sent whatever money First Electric gets that isn’t needed for operating expenditures. That budget is based on an average over several previous years.

The money that is returned to members is called capital credits. A check is mailed if the money the member is getting back is more than $20.

If the amount is less than that, members get a credit on their bills.

At Thursday’s event, there will be a drawing for a $75 bill credit at each of the five offices. Members can register to win that.

Anyone who attends can watch a short film on the organization’s history, a look at memorabilia, comments by President/CEO Don Crabbe and Chairman Robert Hill, a proclamation by Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher, posting of the colors by the Cabot High School Air Force Junior ROTC and a musical performance by REAL Entertaining.

First Electric has experienced many transitions since the ‘30s.

Everhart said, “You’re going to get a different response from everyone in the organization — depending on what their job is and what their task is — about what has been the biggest improvement or changes in our organization. You can go from everything where somebody in accounting might say it’s the computers that came about that significantly changed how they do their job. Because there is a lady in our accounting department that has been here since the 70s and she remembers when they had the mainframes. They had one large computer that would take care of that. Today, everyone has the personal computer they work from.

“For the servicemen, or for the lineman, it might be that they went from setting a pole by hand to now to having a digger truck and everything they have to have to do their job.

“Or for the marketing department, we work with the (Arkansas Electric Cooperative Association) to produce our statewide magazine. We found these old plates. We went from printing plates to doing everything digital.

“Or that we went from having meter readers go out to read all of our meters to going to the digital readers. The information is sent back to our system so we don’t have to send the meter readers out. It’s more accurate. It makes us more efficient.

“With cooperatives it’s about doing our job as efficiently and effectively as possible because with the cooperative, at the end of the day, it’s about the capital credits we turn back to our members.

The one thing that has remained the same over the 75 years is our commitment to our membership. We are service-driven, not profit driven.”

Everhart said First Electric will continue to provide the same, reliable, affordable service to its members for the next 75 years.

“How it may be provided to them may be different. Will it be through coal, or natural gas or renewable energy source? Whatever it may be we want to do what’s best for our membership,” she said.

TOP STORY >> Cabot Strawberry Festival this weekend

Leader staff writer

The 10th annual Cabot Strawberry Festival will kick off Thursday and run through Saturday at the Veterans Park Community Center.

The event, sponsored by the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot, has many activities for youngsters and adults. Admission is free.

“The Junior Auxiliary of Cabot is excited to host the 10th annual Strawberry Festival. We plan for another great year of family fun with local strawberries and activities for all ages. Come support the children in the Cabot community at the Cabot Strawberry Festival,” publicity chairwoman Tiffany Duhamel said.

All proceeds from the festival help support many projects the Junior Auxiliary holds throughout the year to help the children in the Cabot community, Duhamel said.

The carnival will be open for rides from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Thrill seekers will need to purchase tickets at the festival for the rides. Carnival tickets are $3 each and each ride is 1 ticket. A book of 10 tickets is $25. Armbands are $20 for unlimited rides from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

The festival will have up to 34 vendors offering a variety of goods. Farmers will be selling freshly picked Cabot-grown strawberries. The junior auxiliary will be selling strawberry jam for $6, strawberry shortcakes for $3 and Strawberry Festival T-shirts for $12.

Vendor hours are 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Friday night’s entertainment will have karate and dance demonstrations. Miss Cabot Bailey Moses will perform a jazz dance. Bailey Stracener will sing country songs, Emily Freeman and Jade Gibbs will sing together, Miss Central Arkansas Erin Larsen will sing, leading up to a performance by Exit 111 from 8 to 10 p.m. outside.

The Miss Strawberry Festival pageant will start at 9 a.m. Saturday. Registration form can be downloaded at

Gymnastics and dance teams will perform throughout the day.

Admission to the Berry Patch children’s area is $5. Youngsters can jump around in two bounce houses or visit animals at a petting zoo. The Mommie Magic Clown will perform magic tricks and making balloon animals from 9 a.m. to noon.

The Home Depot will be at the festival in the morning with children craft projects. Austin Police Department K-9 officer Keith Stiles will be with police dog Lord Edward at 2 p.m.

TOP STORY >> PCSSD unions try to survive amid turmoil

Leader senior staff writer

Alleging that the state Education Department and the Pulaski County Special School District are intent upon illegally dismantling 40 years worth of teacher and support staff gains, the district’s two unions are fighting for their lives after losing their certification last week.

But the unions say they won’t strike now, according to Marty Nix, president of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers.

“We want to put fears to rest,” Nix said. “There won’t be a strike. We want to finish the year on a good note.”

Nix said negotiators for PACT and for the Pulaski Association of Support Staff entered budget talks with the district believing that both sides were interested in bringing the budget under control.

But it soon became apparent, she said, that the state and the district wanted to use the declining legal fund balance to pry open the entire contract and throw out most of the gains that two of the most powerful unions in the state had made on behalf of their members.

Nix said the declining-legal-fund-balance fiscal-distress designation was just the lever officials needed.

The district has been overturned in court in the past when attempting to run off the unions, she pointed out.

The next stop is Pulaski County Circuit Court, where the unions will challenge Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell’s instructions late Friday to Superintendent Jerry Guess to cease recognition of the unions as the bargaining agents.

Kimbrell told Guess to implement the sweeping cuts and changes in Guess’ proposal, even changes in conflict with the existing union contract set to expire in 2015.

Current contract would be honored only through the end of this school year. Pay cuts will go into effect in the fall.

The state has designated the district as being in fiscal distress twice in the last year — once for financial mismanagement, once for having a declining legal fund balance. The district and the state say PCSSD will be $32 million in the red by the end of the 2016-2017 school year unless dramatic cuts are made.

Guess has said that without a onetime windfall property tax infusion of about $15 million this year, the district would have finished $3 million in the hole.

“They want to reopen the contracts and put what they want in it,” said Emry Chesterfield, president of the Pulaski Association of Support Staff.

Nix and Chesterfield were given a unanimous vote of approval by union members at Monday’s emergency meeting.

“Morale is low, but we’re taking a conservative approach,” said Jacksonville High School math teacher Teressia Phillips as she left the meeting.

“We worked our behinds off in good faith,” Nix said. “I don’t think there was reciprocation at all.”

Nix calls it an “alleged” budget deficit and denies administrators’ claims that employee pay and benefits are at the root of the problem.

She says she’ll never apologize for fighting to get a good salary and benefits for employees.

“Did those gains contributed to a declining legal fund balance?” she asked. “No.”

She said that several years ago, teachers agreed to a three-year pay freeze, contributing to a $21 million legal fund balance, and that it’s not the union’s fault that the school board frittered the money away.

“This is the second year in a row we’ve agreed to a zero percent pay raise,” Nix said.

Clayton Blackstock, lawyer for the two unions, said Tuesday he hadn’t met with the union representatives since the emergency meeting and couldn’t say what kind of relief would be sought, on what grounds or when.

But promptly, Nix said.


Kimbrell hired Guess at $261,547 a year — an amount that union members like to note is more than the vice president of the United States makes.

They say the district has more than 50 administrators making more than $100,000 a year and another 90 or so making more than the teacher’s average salary of $61,856.

But while teachers are losing two paid days a year and pay for other nonteaching duties, “not a dime” is coming from the salary or benefits of those 140 employees,” according to the unions.


On Monday, PCSSD teachers were delivered letters in which Guess informed them they would not be rehired under the terms of the old contract, but would be renewed on different terms and conditions including:

Reduction of teacher salary schedule by two days.

Elimination of bus duty payments.

Elimination of payments for supervision 30 minutes before breakfast tutoring.

Elimination of compensation for lunch/recess duty for certified personnel.

Elimination of annual attendance incentive pay.

Elimination of one bereavement leave day

Phasing out 4 percent compensation for profession growth contracts.

Elimination of severance pay.

Changing “accrued” leave to “sick leave and reducing such leave by two days per year.

n Implementation of the new policies proposed by the Certified Personnel Policies Committee, effective July 1.

Both Guess and Kiimbrell say they have the authority to abrogate the existing contract, but so far, neither has cited specific authority.

The state does have the authority to fire a superintendent and dissolve a school board, Nix said Monday night, but, “we know our contract is binding, even in a right-to-work state.”

State law requires a personnel policy committee to represent teachers and another for classified personnel unless they are represented by unions, and employees and administrators already have formed those committees to replace the unions.

The unions have challenged those personnel policy committees in court, saying they were improperly constituted.

The state fired first-year superintendent Charles Hopson and dissolved the local school board, and Kimbrell, stepping in as a one-man board, hired Guess, a respected administrator, to clean up the mess.

Guess said the district needed to cut $11 million from its budget for next school year, and he and the unions were in agreement on about $7 million worth of cuts. Nix said the unions offered not only concessions but a plan to cut the rest, but after months of negotiating and mediation, district administrators were unsatisfied.

Among projected savings from some of the changes, Guess said retiring teachers were paid $800,000 in severance pay last year, have accrued leave in lieu of sick leave, which costs the district about $500,000 a year, and a liberal professional growth compensation policy that essentially pays teachers for lax, self-taught classes instead of the more rigorous post graduate courses required in virtually all other school districts.

SPORTS >> Red Devil senior signs with Williams Baptist

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville senior guard Dustin House became the latest Williams Baptist Eagle on Monday morning. At a special signing ceremony in the Jacksonville gym, House signed an NCAA national letter of intent to play basketball at the Walnut Ridge private college.

House, a 6-foot-5 sharp shooter was a perfect fit for what first-year Eagle coach Josh Austin was looking for.

“Coming in and looking at our personnel, we knew we needed to add some length to the team,” Austin said. “We needed length, really all over the court, but we really needed it on the perimeter. And that’s what Dustin’s going to do for us. We’re going to need him to step in there and hit the outside shot.”

House proved he could do just that the last two seasons for the Red Devils. Jacksonville High School coach Victor Joyner wasn’t sure early in House’s career whether he would make a varsity player on his team, much less a college-level player.

“We were concerned about his work ethic his sophomore year,” Joyner said. “Sometime in his junior year something clicked for him and he decided to go to work and earn his way. He was calling me just about every weekend for a while, ‘coach can I get in the gym?’ It was always, yes you can.”

House said it was near the end of his sophomore year that he decided he wanted to get to college on a basketball scholarship, and felt becoming a good shooter was his best ticket.

“I knew I had to work on my shot,” House said. “So that’s what I did.”

Joyner said getting House to understand what his strengths were was a big step in his development.

“It was a matter of understanding what you could do to help a team and working on that,” Joyner said. “He worked on his first step off the dribble and driving. And he got better at it, but that’s not his strength. He’s a dead-eye shooter when he’s on target and that’s where he was going to help a college team. He put the work in needed to get to that level and it’s paid off for him.”

House had other colleges of similar size to WBC showing interest, but WBC was always his first choice.

“I liked the new coach and what he’s trying to do there,” House said. “I just think it was a good fit for me.”

Austin coached for five years at Central Baptist College in Conway before taking the head position at WBC.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville shuts down Greenbrier

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville baseball team got a nonconference victory Saturday at Greenbrier. The Red Devils got a good effort on the mound from freshman Derek St. Clair, and got a big fourth inning to earn the victory.

The hosting Panthers took an early lead with a single run in the first inning as St. Clair struggled with control early. The Panthers got two base hits and the freshman hurler walked two more batters. He was able to keep the damage to a minimum and get out of the inning with just one earned run allowed.

“St. Clair did a very good job for us,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “He got us out of a couple of jams in the first and third innings. He kept his composure and did a really good job. He struck out their best hitter with one out in the first. He just froze him with a really good pitch. That was big for us.”

Jacksonville’s first nine batters went down in order through three innings. Burrows resorted to small ball to try and get some offense going.

Leadoff hitter D’Vone McClure started a rally with a double to start the fourth. That’s when Burrows began utilizing the bunt.

The first four batters of the inning scored for Jacksonville. After McClure’s double, Kaleb Reeves reached on an error at third base. Senior Jesse Harbin then doubled to score McClure and Reeves. Greg Jones singled on a bunt to drive in Harbin.

Walks by Ragan Jones and David Williams, followed by St. Clair getting hit by a pitch, allowed Greg Jones to walk in for the fourth run of the frame.

Greenbrier added a run in the bottom of the fourth to make it 4-2, but the Red Devils added a run in the fifth and another in the sixth to set the final margin.

McClure started it again for Jacksonville in the fifth with a single to centerfield. He scored two batters later on a single by Harbin.

Williams walked with one out in the sixth. St. Clair put down a bunt to drive him home.

McClure and Harbin got two base hits each. The other three Jacksonville base hits were on bunts.

St. Clair went the distance for Jacksonville, giving up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out seven.

The Red Devils have a big conference doubleheader against Parkview at 5 p.m. today at Dupree Park.

SPORTS >> Lady Bears win inaugural event

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Lady Bears came up big in the River City Rivalry Cup soccer tournament by taking the championship and placing four players on the all-tournament team at Burns Park over the weekend.

A coaches’ ballot determined player recognition, and Sylvan Hills sophomore forward Abigail Persson took the Outstanding Player award while senior Naomi Gregory was awarded as Outstanding Goalkeeper through the three-day tournament.

Sophomore forward Cayln “K.K.” Fulton and senior defender Kashima Wright were also named to the all-tournament team.

The Lady Bears had to fight hard to take the title in the championship game against a defensively-sound Maumelle team. The Lady Hornets fought the tourney hosts to a 2-2 draw in regulation before Hillside dominated the penalty-kick shootout period 3-0.

“We missed a lot of opportunities; things that are normally sure goals for us,” Lady Bears coach Nate Persson said. “Their midfield is so good, they wore us down, and it turned into a dogfight.

“I told them that we really didn’t want to go into a shootout with these people, because I didn’t think we had a chance, but they proved me wrong.”

Persson scored both of Sylvan Hills’ goals in regulation and added another in overtime, but it was Gregory’s work in front of the net that denied any more scores from Maumelle. Wright and Fulton put the Lady Bears up by two, and Persson’s kick into the lower right corner secured the crown.

“They were just exhausted, but they kept pushing,” Persson said. “That’s what made me very proud of them. The defense had to play really hard.”

Sylvan Hills defeated Vilonia 3-0 in the first round on Thursday, as all four winning teams advanced with shutout victories. Batesville downed White Hall 9-0, Maumelle beat North Pulaski 6-0 and eStem Charter got past Mills University Studies 3-0.

Sylvan Hills made it to the championship game with a 4-0 victory over eStem in Friday’s semifinal round and Maumelle shutout Little Rock Hall, which was playing in place of Batesville, 3-0 to set up the championship matchup.

The Sylvan Hills boys team took runner-up in the tournament, losing 2-0 to Maumelle in the final round on Saturday. The two teams battled to a scoreless tie at the end of regulation before the Hornets dominated the penalty-kick period to take the title.

Bears senior forward Jeremiah Persson received the Out-standing Player award while teammates Edwin Smith and David Johnson were also named to the all-tournament team. Chang Vang of Mills was named Outstanding Goalkeeper.

The Bears advanced through the first round with a 5-2 victory over e-Stem Charter on Thursday, and tied with Vilonia 0-0 through regulation in Friday’s semifinal match before pulling out the victory 4-3 in the shootout. Maumelle defeated Hall 3-2 in the first round and won a wild 11-10 shootout match with Mills in the semis after being tied 2-2 at the end of regulation.

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons recovered from a first-round loss to eventual runner-up Maumelle to win their next two games and finish fifth in the final overall standings.

The Lady Falcons beat 5A Southeast Conference rival White Hall 5-3 in wet conditions on Friday, and came up big against Vilonia 3-1 in the consolation finals on Saturday. Senior Mercedes Wilson was named to the all-tournament team for North Pulaski.

The Falcon boys lost all three games, including a close 3-1 heartbreaker to Hall on Saturday. Falcon forward Ulyses Aries was named to the all-tournament team.

SPORTS >> Lonoke wins top seed at district

Leader sportswriter

With a final from one game still pending and a district tournament quickly approaching, the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits made the most of a pressure situation with a 14-1 rout over Clinton on Monday to secure the No. 1 seed out of the 4A-2 Conference.

The Lady ’Rabbits (5-0 conf.) trailed Newport 2-1 on Friday when rain halted the game in the bottom of the second inning. They resumed play in that game last night with Lonoke still holding a chance to go through its league unbeaten, but the victory over the Lady Yellowjackets gave the Lady ’Rabbits the conference title and top seed. Lonoke will play the winner between seeds four and five at 8 p.m. Friday.

“It was an important ballgame because we went up to Newport Friday and played two-and-a-half innings, and we’re down 2-1 still,” Lady Jackrabbits coach J.D. Smith said. “We had to win one of these two to get the championship. It was good, now we can go up there relaxed and take care of business.”

Lonoke pitcher Hanna Murry took care of business with a no-hitter against Clinton, striking out five and walking one, while the Jackrabbit defense kept its visitor off the pads through the first three innings until an error in right field in the top of the fourth inning allowed the Lady Yellowjackets to score their only run.

“She’s a good one,” Smith said of Murry. “When she wants to throw, and she’s ready, she can put it where she wants it. She’s tough to hit.”

The Lady Jackrabbits built a 7-0 lead through the first two innings and doubled that advantage in the bottom of the third inning. In fact, Lonoke loaded the bases two different times and scored its first three runs in the frame without even making contact on the ball.

Kaley Dozier was walked from the bottom of the order to bring up lead-off batter Ashley James, who was walked along with two-hole Jaselye Truelove to load the bases with one out. Clinton’s starter then hit Katelyn James with a pitch to score Dozier. Another walk, this one for cleanup Alyssia Lewis, scored James to give Lonoke a 9-0 lead. That still left Lady Jackrabbits on every pad, and a fourth walk sent Truelove home and Courtney McGowen to first.

“That makes it a lot easier,” Smith said. “You don’t have to worry about it as much. But we’re playing together as a team, and we’re really excited about the district tournament.”

Amber James got the first hit in the bottom of the third when she beat the throw to first on a bunt to score Katelyn James. Courtesy runner Sydney Wheat then scored on a passed ball to make it 12-0. That brought eight-hole hitter Olivia Park back up to the plate. Park struck out to lead off the inning, but got her revenge with a single to left field that scored McGowan and Amber James.

Walks were also a big part of Lonoke’s early scores as Ashley James and Truelove led off with walks in the bottom of the first inning. James slid into a tag at first while stealing but Truelove scored on an error at third off a grounder by Alyssia Lewis, who later scored on a single to right by Murry.

Walks and errors hurt the Lady ’Jackets again in the bottom of the second as Lonoke added five runs off two hits, two walks and two errors, including singles by Park and Alyssia Lewis.

Park was technically the only Lady Jackrabbit to record multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with two RBI, but Ashley James and McGowen both reached base three times on walks, while Truelove made it on all four times she went up with two walks and two errors.

In all, Clinton walked Lonoke nine times and hit two other batters while the defense committed four errors.

SPORTS >> Cabot pounds Pats with big fourth inning

Leader sports editor

Cabot’s defense was sketchy early. Parkview’s was abysmal throughout a five-inning affair at Kanis Park in Little Rock. The Panther baseball team beat the Patriots 17-2 in a game marred by errors.

Both teams committed two errors in the first inning. Parkview ended the frame with a 2-1 lead, but it didn’t last. Cabot added another unearned run in the second thanks to another Patriot error.

The Panthers added one more unearned in the third, and the wheels fell off for Parkview in the fourth.

Cabot sent 12 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs in the top of the fourth before Parkview recorded a single out. Parkview committed four errors in the first three innings, but committed seven more in the fourth.

Cabot had only two base hits through three innings, but in the fourth the Panthers added several base hits and a few walks to go with all the errors.

Before fourth inning was over, 19 Panthers had batted, seven got base hits, five reached on errors and four walked.

“That’s pretty uncharacteristic for that team,” Cabot coach Jay Fitch. “They’ve struggled the past few years, but they’ve gotten better and really given some good teams a hard time. I liked that we were making good swings and making good contact.”

Parkview pitcher Patrick Yarberry struck out the side in the first inning, but two errors at second base allowed a run to score. He gave up one hit and one unearned run in each of the second and third innings.

Cabot’s eight-hole hitter Kason Kimbrell started the fourth inning by reaching on an error at second base. He got to second base on a passed ball and to third on a bunt single by Bryson Morris. Kimbrell then scored on a passed ball and leadoff hitter Hayden Vinson singled to left field to score Morris.

Cole Thomas reached when Yarberry fielded his bunt and hit Vinson in the back on his throw to first base. Vinson also scored on the play. Thomas then scored when Parkview’s catcher tried to pick him off at third and threw the ball high into left field. T.C. Carter reached on an error at shortstop and Casey Vaughan doubled down the third base line. That ended Yarberry’s day on the mound. He gave up six hits and walked one, and despite trailing 7-0, gave up no earned runs.

Parkview’s Evan Harris took the mound and walked the first two batters he faced to drive in Carter. Zach Patterson then singled to score another run and Kimbrell singled on his second at bat of the inning for two RBIs. Morris reached on another error at second base and Vinson popped up to first base for the first out of the inning.

Thomas walked and Carter doubled to left field to score Kimbrell. Morris scored on a passed ball and an error by the catcher. After the pitch got by, it bounced right back to home plate, giving the Parkview catcher plenty of time to apply the tag, but he dropped the ball while doing so.

Vaughan reached on an error at third base and Goffe grounded back to the pitcher for the second out. Scott Burnett singled to left to for two RBIs than ended the scoring in the inning. Kimbrell was robbed of a second base hit on his third at bat of the inning when Parkview centerfielder Mike Fitzgerald made a running, sliding catch of a fly ball behind second base for the final out of the inning.

Monday, April 23, 2012

SPORTS >> Lady Devils blow away Pats

Leader sports editor

Glancing at the box score, one would think there’d been a duplicate box score made of the same game. In fact, the Jacksonville softball team beat Parkview High School 17-0 twice Tuesday night at Interstate Park in Little Rock.

Not only did the Lady Devils win back-to-back games by the same score, they got 12 hits in each game, and the pitchers threw two no hitters while facing 10 batters each.

“It was kind of funny the way it worked out,” Jacksonville coach Kevin Sullivan said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that.”

And just to complete the strange set of coincidences, the two pitchers were twin sisters Whitney and Alexis House.

Whitney House threw the first game and was one hit batter away from a perfect game. She plunked the second batter of the game, but went on to strike out seven of the last eight batters she faced to end the three-inning game with the no-hitter.

Alexis House, pitching her first varsity since dislocating her kneecap before the season started, missed the perfect game by one error. A throw to first base was off the mark, leaving the Lady Patriot base runner safe.

She fanned four batters en route to her shutout win.

Mailani Walker led things offensively in both games. She went 2 for 3 with a double and a triple in game one, then went 3 for 3 with three singles in game two.

Bailea Jones got a triple and a single in game one. Keke Alcorn got two doubles while
 Whitney House also had two base hits in the first game. Eight of the nine starters got base hits in the win.

Jacksonville got one run in the first inning, seven in the second and nine in the third to end the game on the 15-after-three sportsmanship rule.

Haley Hickingbotham got a double and a single in game two while Coyja Hood and Alex House got two singles apiece.

As the home team, Jacksonville only batted twice in game two. The Lady Devils got six runs in the first inning and 11 in the second.

“I was really pleased with how we handled the pitching,” Sullivan said. “Parkview’s pitching was bad. Time and again I’ve seen it happen where teams do one of two things when the pitching is coming that slow and off the mark. They either get impatient and start swinging at bad stuff, or they fall asleep up there and when they do get something to hit, they let it go by. We didn’t do that. We drew six walks in both games and we got 12 base hits in both games. So we were being patient but we weren’t lulled to sleep out there.”

The 6A East standings are jumbled up in the middle. Marion is undefeated and all but has first place wrapped up. Almost every other team has split with each other except for Parkview and Hall.

Jacksonville has split with Mountain Home and Jonesboro and plays its second game against Searcy next week.

“We really need that one,” Sullivan said. “We’re fighting for possibly as high as a two seed, but if we lose that one, we’re at six and fighting for a five. After Marion, two through six could go just about anywhere. Between us, Searcy, Mountain Home, Jonesboro, then you got Russellville and Van Buren coming in here for the tournament, it’s all up in the air.”

The Lady Red Devils have lost once to Searcy this season. They will host the Lady Lions at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Dupree Park.

SPORTS >> Panther girls beat Cyclones, stay alive

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers kept themselves in the thick 7A Central Conference race with a hard fought 3-2 victory on the road against Russellville on Tuesday.

Sophomore Jessica Souza scored the winning goal for the Lady Panthers (10-3, 6-2) in the final five minutes with a perfect setup and assist from freshman sensation Braxton Reed, who pulled defenders away to set Souza up for a one-on-one with the Lady Cyclones’ goalkeeper. Souza won the battle with a kick into the bottom right corner for the winner.

Cabot led 2-1 at the half before the Lady Cyclones tied the game midway through the second half on a free kick.

“We played the next 20-minute span brilliantly,” Lady Panthers coach Kerry Castillo said. “We controlled possession in their half and were patiently looking for the goal rather than forcing the ball into situations that would result in turnovers.  Braxton Reed, Lexi Lewis, and Jessica Souza were wonderful for us in the attack by holding the ball up on the dribble to allow runs to be made behind their defense.”

Sophomore Codee Park tied the game 1-1 for Cabot in the first half when she converted a 25-yard free kick from the left side, and put the Lady Panthers in the lead later in the half with another free kick, this one from 18 yards out.

Park was a question mark coming into the game due to a nagging ankle injury, but told Castillo it felt fine prior to the start.

Cabot’s defense also came up big against Russellville, as freshman Taylor Brady, sophomore Devin Patterson and junior Leah Srebalus turned away many of the Lady Cyclones’ best chances to score in the second half.

The victory gives the Lady Panthers sole possession of third place in the 7A Central Conference standings.

A strong effort from a young Cabot boys team fell short against a veteran Russellville group in a 2-0 road loss on Tuesday.

The Cyclones scored their first goal in the opening 15 minutes with a pressured attack before Cabot’s defense settled in. Both teams struggled offensively the rest of the way.

When the Panthers had to get more aggressive on offense in the final minutes of the match, Russellville took advantage with a counter attack that led to the final goal in the 33rd minute.

“The boys played really hard tonight and left everything they had on the field,” Cabot coach Steve Porter said. “I’m proud of how well they did under the circumstances. Due to injuries we started four ninth-graders and one tenth-grader, and we played another two ninth-graders off the bench. By age we are more like a junior varsity team, but by ability we can compete with all the teams in our conference.”

The Panthers beat Russellville in the first meeting between the two 7A Central Conference teams last month. The Cyclones took advantage of their home-field advantage, and the momentum of defeating league-leading Little Rock Catholic four days prior. The Panthers are now 4-4 in the 7A Central Conference.

“We just need a touch of luck maybe to make up for our lack of size, strength and experience to take us over the edge,” Porter said. “We are not losing due to a lack of effort, or discipline or focus for sure. Our conference is tough, nine out of the 14 7A State Soccer Championships have been won by our conference including seven of the past eight. My goal is to help Cabot get to a position where we can compete for one. I think we are heading in the right direction.”

The Cabot Panthers and Lady Panthers played at Conway last night after The Leader deadlines.

SPORTS >> Jacksonville drubs Hall twice

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Red Devils have started a winning streak in their last three outings. The Red Devils swept  Hall 9-0 and 13-0 Wednesday at Kanis Park in Little Rock.

The Warriors entered the game winless in conference play, but battled the Red Devils to a 2-0 score through five innings. In the sixth, their pitching and fielding fell apart and Jacksonville ran away with the game.

Jacksonville pitcher Jesse Harbin threw all seven innings, giving up just one base hit while striking out 10 and walking two.

Jacksonville got seven base hits, but no one had more than one. D’Vone McClure and Ragan Jones each had two RBIs in the victory. The Red Devils drew eight walks and left eight on base.

The Red Devils dominated from the outset of game two while Hall struggled to get pitches in the strike zone.

Three Warrior pitchers combined to walk 13 Red Devils, nine in the first two innings of the five-inning game.

“We just have to swing the bats better,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “We did pretty well last week. Today I thought we could have done better than we did.”

Freshman James Tucker got the start on the mound in game two. He threw five innings, giving up four hits while striking out seven and walking no one.

Jacksonville got five base hits in game two.

Senior Ragan Jones reached on every at bat, getting one hit and walking three times.

Derek St. Clair got two RBIs to lead Jacksonville in that category. David Williams got the only extra-base hit, an RBI double to centerfield in the first inning.

A total of 15 different Jacksonville players got at least one at bat, and 13 of them reached base at least once.

The Red Devils (9-14, 4-6) are at Greenbrier at 2 p.m. today. They will travel to Parkview on Wednesday for another 6A East Conference doubleheader.

SPORTS >> Lady Bears win game, lose coach

Leader sports editor

The Lady Bears’ softball team remained perfect in conference with a drubbing of Helena-West Helena Central in a 5A Southeast doubleheader Thursday, but they’ll have to finish off what’s been a great season without their head coach.

Sylvan Hills coach Phil Bradley, 59, who has held the head coaching position for the last six years after starting his career as an assistant at Jacksonville, is stepping down for the rest of the season due to health concerns.

“It’s just been a trying, stressful season,” Bradley said. “There are other issues involved with my health, and the way the season has gone, it’s just made some of those things worse.”

The doctor’s orders stated, ‘it is medically necessary that the above patient may not work the rest of the school year due to stress pain and numbness.’ Bradley says stepping down was a difficult decision, especially given the success of the team so far. The Lady Bears are in first place in the conference race. They are 14-4 overall and 8-0 against 5A-Southeast teams.

“This team can beat anybody,” Bradley said. “These girls are state title contenders. I believe that. I’m just not willing to take any unnecessary risks when it comes to my health.”

Volunteer assistant coach Jeff Johnson will take over head-coaching responsibilities the rest of the season. Johnson has been helping Bradley for the last five years.

“Jeff knows these girls and knows what this team is about,” Bradley said. “He knows they have potential to go a long way and he’ll work hard to get the best out of them.”

In Thursday’s games, Sylvan Hills made the long road trip and pummeled the Lady Cougars 21-0 and 22-0, each game ending in three innings.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Bradley said. “They don’t have anything.

Tyra Williams pitched and faced the minimum nine batters in three innings of play.

Williams struck out seven batters in her first-career perfect game.

Sylvan Hills scored four runs in the first, eight in the second and 11 in the third inning as the visiting team.

Callie Cavender won game two on the mound for the Lady Bears, who took the role of home team for the nightcap.

They scored eight runs in the first and 14 in the second inning, batting around twice in the second frame. Cavender gave up one base hit while striking out seven batters.

Sylvan Hills has a big conference doubleheader next Thurs-day when it hosts Monticello at Sherwood Sports Complex.

SPORTS >> Bears sweep North Pulaski

Leader sportswriter

Errors were more frequent than points as Sylvan Hills swept host North Pulaski in a twin bill of 5A Southeast Conference games, 12-2 and 7-0 at Dupree Park in Jacksonville on Thursday.

The Bears (18-6, 9-1) dominated the first game and held the Falcons scoreless through four innings while steadily increasing their lead each frame. North Pulaski (4-17, 2-8) kept the second game scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when Sylvan Hills went through its entire lineup and scored five runs.

Defensively, Sylvan Hills went without an error in the first three innings of game one before committing a pair in the fourth and two more in the fifth, while committing two more in the fifth inning of game two.

“First game, we did okay,” Bears coach Denny Tipton said. “I’m not really pleased tonight with the way we played defensively. We play better than that. I think we had eight errors in two games – we probably haven’t made errors in 15 games. So I’m not real pleased with how we came out and played.

“I thought my pitchers threw well. I think they got one hit in two games, and that was there in the last inning. We’ll take the wins, but you’ve got to take care of yourself, and we didn’t play well defensively tonight.”

Senior Connor Eller earned the win in the first game with a no-hitter through four innings of work before classmate Lance Hunter relieved him for the final inning of the run-ruled contest.

Senior Dylan Boone threw a complete game one-hitter through seven innings to earn the victory in the nightcap. Eller struck out nine batters and walked two in the first game, while Boone had thrown a no hitter through six innings of the second game.

He had two batters out in the top of the seventh when North Pulaski right fielder Austin Allen played spoiler by hitting a double down the third base line. Boone also struck out 11 batters.

The Falcons shook off a dismal game one and kept Sylvan Hills in check until the bottom of the fourth, when the guests scored five runs on four hits, including a three-run home run over the left-field wall by J.D. Miller that also scored Hunter and Eller. Alex Broadwell started on the mound for North Pulaski in the second game before Allen relieved him in the bottom of the sixth inning.

He walked Miller and Brandon Baioni, who both scored off a single to right field by Hunter Heslep.

“We scored some runs – I’m pleased with that,” Tipton said. “I’ve got high expectations, and tonight I just didn’t think we came in here and played very well.”

Scoring came easier for the Bears in the first game as starting North Pulaski pitcher T.J. Waters walked four consecutive batters in the top of the first inning, giving two-hole hitter T.J. Burrows a free trip home before Boone tagged up on a sacrifice fly to left field from Dalton Freeling.

Sylvan Hills took control of the game in the top of the second. Miller was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, while Jacob White and Baioni reached on errors to load the bases with no outs. Miller scored on a passed ball, and Burrows scored the other two runs with a double to left field.

David Carrasquillo walked to set up a three-run home run by Hunter over the left-field wall to gave the Bears an 8-0 lead. Boone knocked in another run in the top of the third with a single to center, and Freeling cleared loaded bases in the top of the fifth with a double to left field.

The Falcons avoided being shut out when Josh Greg and Broadwell both reached on errors.

Greg scored on another error when Broadwell beat a rundown at second base, and Broadwell scored moments later on a passed ball.

“We just made errors,” Tipton said. “We played a game on Monday and didn’t make any errors. Last Thursday, we didn’t make any. Tonight, we made eight errors. Basically, every one of my infielders had an error. That won’t win you games in the tournament.”

For Sylvan Hills, Boone was 2 for 3 in game one. Eller struck out nine batters and walked two through four innings for a no-hitter.

EDITORIAL >> Levon Helm, 1940-2012

I pulled in to Nazareth, was feeling ‘bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?’’
He just grinned and shook my hand, “No’’ was all he said
Take a load off, Fanny
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Fanny
And you put the load right on me.
—The Weight, 1968

Levon Helm, the drummer for The Band who passed away Thursday at the age of 71, helped open Alltel Arena in 1999 with Ronnie Hawkins, his longtime mentor, and a fellow Band member, the organist Garth Hudson.

The blues harmonica virtuoso James Cotton was also at the inaugural concert. Helm, with his propulsive drumming and downhome singing, was having a good time and appeared to be in charge, but in a good-natured way.

Like most singers from the Arkansas Delta — Levon was born in 1940 in Elaine in Phillips County — he was unassuming and a natural entertainer. He had a thin, sharecropper’s face—his father grew cotton in Turkey Scratch in Phillips County, where another blues legend, Robert Junior Lockwood, was born 25 years earlier.

Helm had been performing since the Eisenhower-Faubus years, when he was a teenager, not only backing Hawkins, but later Bob Dylan. Helm often came home and in the mid-1960s performed with the harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson around Helena before Williamson died in a boarding house there.

Sometime back in the 1960s, Levon even put on a show at his old high school in Marvell, where he sang “Up on Cripple Creek” to the delight of youngsters.

For many years, he lived unostentatiously in upstate New York, performing almost to the end. The Band had broken up decades ago — he was the only American in the group, the others were Canadian — so it was mostly because of Levon that they evoked 19th Century America with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,”  “King Harvest Has Surely Come,” “The Weight,” “Ophelia” and so much more. Their sound  influenced generations of musicians from Credence Clearwater Revival to Eric Clapton.

This weekend, watch The Band’s “Last Waltz” farewell concert or listen to their greatest hits CD. Levon Helm will take you back to the Delta and to another time. Rest in peace, Levon, a true son of the South.

TOP STORY >> Deadly end on rural road

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas State Police are continuing their investigation of a fatal shooting by a Lonoke County sheriff’s deputy on Thursdsy.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said Friday that Deputy Jack Fitzhugh shot and killed Dustin Williamson, 32, after Williamson attacked him with a tire-jack stand, not the bed frame he was reportedly swinging at passing cars when a neighbor called 911.

A piece of an iron-bed frame and a broken windshield lay in a the driveway of a residence along Hwy. 294 between Jacksonville and Furlow as State Police special agents processed the scene.

Fitzhugh was in his car when he fired on Williamson who was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It appears he swung and hit the vehicle and the officer fired,” Graham said. “The damage was all on his side of the car so he was in close proximity. The indication is that the officer was attacked.”

Fitzhugh was the only officer on the scene when Williamson was killed, Graham said.

He is on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by the State Police. Graham said that is standard procedure.

This is the second officer-involved shooting in less than a year. In November 2011, Eric Moore, a dispatcher and part-time deputy shot and killed his neighbor, Michael Perry, who had attacked him with a metal pipe.

The State Police investigation showed that Moore was justified in using deadly force. Moore, who had also been on administrative leave, went back to work. Some time later Graham decided that he would not file charges against Moore.

Spokesman for the state police Bill Sadler said there is no way to know how long the investigation will take. Investigators will interview all witnesses and others with knowledge about the chain of events that led to the shooting, he said.

Williamson’s body was taken to the state crime lab for autopsy.

Leader staff writer Joan McCoy contributed to this report.

TOP STORY >> Trophy goes to base and community

Little Rock Air Force Base and its community council have won the prestigious 2011 Abilene Trophy, the Air Mobility Command’s Community Support Award, which was announced Friday.
The base and community won the coveted trophy in 2009, and then in 2010 it went to Pope AFB.

“The relationship between Little Rock Air Force Base and the local community is truly incredible. This award says it all — we have the world’s best community support,” said Col. Thomas Crimmins, 19th Airlift Wing vice commander.

The Abilene Trophy, a sculpted eagle, is presented annually to a civilian community for outstanding support to a nearby AMC base and the winner is determined by a selection group of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee in Texas with final approval by AMC.

“The community’s unwavering support of our base, mission and people is unmatched. They genuinely care about our airmen and are driven to make a difference,” Crimmins said.

Community support has been strong all the way back to the base’s beginning when local leaders raised $1.2 million to buy 6,600 acres and gave it to the Air Force to create LRAFB in 1955.

Formally known as the Air Mobility Command Community Support Award, the Abilene Trophy has been awarded annaully since its establishment in 1998.

The award’s sponsor is the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. Abilene is home to Dyess Air Force Base, which has an AMC contingent, the 317th Airlift Group.

But the base’s main host, the 7th Bomb Wing, is under the Air Combat Command and thus Dyess would not be eligible for an award sponsored by its host city.

The award is a sculpture of an eagle with its wingtip touching the representation of a rock. It represents the partnership between the Air Force and the community, according to award officials, with the outstretched wings of the eagle representing the Air Force and all it does to extend freedoms across the world, and the base is a rock because the community is the foundation by which the eagle much be supported to take off into the air.

Charleston Air Force Base, N.C., has won the award three times. Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Dover Air Force Base, Del., Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., McDill Air Force Base, Fla., and now Little Rock Air Force Base have each won twice.

TOP STORY >> Cabot track told to share information with officials

Leader staff writer

The BMX track in Cabot, which got the attention of the city’s elected officials last year because it was supposedly part of the park system but was not open to the public, is now at the center of a controversy over finances.

The problem discussed Tuesday night at the Parks Commission was that no one, except possibly the volunteers who run it, knows how much money is raised from events held at the park or how it is spent.

But the commissioners acknowledged that they had never asked for it before. In fact, Shawn Bassinger currently leases the property and his lease says nothing about financial accountability except that the commission has approval rights over his requests for project funding from the Cabot Advertising and Promotion Commission.

Bassinger built the track on city property with help from the hamburger tax supplied by the A&P. But the city has never had any control over the facility until last year when Mayor Bill Cypert ordered it opened to the public.

Now the park commission says Bassinger must have a franchise agreement similar to the arrangements with the associations that run the ball programs and also give them a financial report on the track each month.

“When you’re dealing with public money, it’s an issue for everybody,” said commission chairman Stephen Tipton.

Ann Gilliam and Ed Long, members of the Cabot City Council who also serve on the Promotions Commission, attended the meeting.

“I’ve had a lot of questions asked me as a member of the city council,” Gilliam said. “There’s lots of tax money gone into that facility. But what has it brought in? Where did it go?”

Bassinger said he will sign the franchise agreement and accept control by the commission. He said the track is an asset to the city and all the money taken in is used to operate it.

“People from all over central Arkansas come here for races and buy food and gas in Cabot,” he said. “All the money we’ve ever made goes right back into the track.”

Work on the track began in January 2009. That was when Bassinger said State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, the mayor at that time, went with him to the 200-acre site off Willie Ray Drive that was once the city dump and told him, “There you go. Build your track.”

The park is officially called the North Lonoke County Regional Park and it was Williams’ goal to build a park that would live up to that name. But the parks are under the control of the commission, which had different members with little interest in building on a dump site which was also used by the police department as a firing range.

With the help of city equipment, Bassinger built the track and started holding races in August 2009. Williams said at the time that it was a good start toward building the park.
But if it was a park, it was not acknowledged by the parks department and commission.

“No one really knew what to do with us in the beginning,” Bassinger told the commission while explaining the genesis of the track.

Then, in the summer of 2011 residents complained that the gate into the track was locked most of the time. They had no access to the park.

Whether Bassinger wanted it closed to protect the dirt track or the police chief wanted it closed because of the firing range was never clear. But the mayor ordered it opened after city council members said that it must be. Bassinger signed a short document that said he was leasing the track from the city with the stipulation that the park commission had approval rights over requests for Promotions Commission funding.

At that same time, park employees started mowing the track like they do other city parks.
Bassinger told the commission Tuesday that he doesn’t know how much money came in and went out from 2009 to Jan. 1, 2012, but the track bank account has $658.58 now.

The 200 acres has been considered as a site for new ball parks and a water park when funding becomes available. And plans are under now for a mountain bike trail that will be maintained by park employees, not Bassinger’s group.

So it’s possible that the North Lonoke County Regional Park that Williams wanted could be built. In the meantime, Parks Director Larry Tarrant says Bassinger’s efforts to get it started are praiseworthy.

“He’s done a great job out there. It’s been good for the city and it’s something different for the kids to do besides ball,” Tarrant said.

TOP STORY >> State kills unions to cut costs in PCSSD

Leader senior staff writer

State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell gave Puaski County Special School District officials Friday evening everything they proposed to balance the budget, while kicking the district’s two employee unions to the curb.

One on top of the other, the state piled two fiscal-distress designations on PCSSD over the past years, and both Kimbrell and district officials have concluded that $11 million needed to be cut from the budget, including some cuts already in effect and agreed to by the district and the unions.

Kimbrell, acting under the authority of the state Education Board, instructed PCSSD acting Superintendent Jerry Guess by letter Friday to “withdraw recognition of PACT (Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers) as the bargaining unit for classroom teachers and PASS (Pulaski Association of Support Staff) as bargaining unit for the support staff.”

In his instructions, which he called “binding,” Kimbrell told Guess to “terminate the professional negotiations agreement with PACT and PASS,” while continuing to observe the compensation/fringe benefit obligations of individual employee contracts until June 30.

He also told Guess to implement the district’s revised fiscal-distress plan and policies for employees.

“Public schools have to manage every dollar carefully,” Guess told The Leader.

Asked if he expected the unions to sue to maintain their contracts and bargaining authority, Guess said, “I would be imprudent if I didn’t anticipate that. We’re planning for all possibilities,” he said, including the elimination of state desegregation funds of about $20 million a year.

PACT president Marty Nix — as is her custom — failed to return The Leader’s calls to her work and cell phones or respond to an e-mail request for a comment.

With the dismissal of the unions, Guess said the void in employee representation would be filled--as per state law--with personnel-policy committees, which have been formed by teachers and noncertified staff. The committees have already been challenged in Pulaski Circuit Court. The district is paying for legal representation of those committees.

Guess declined to characterize Kimbrell’s decision as a win for the district and a loss for the unions, saying instead: “Our proposals provided the opportunity to reduce expenditures to the budget as we need them and PACT and PASS proposals were much less likely to produce the results needed.”

Many of the union-proposed cuts would have expired at the end of the next school year, which Guess and Kimbrell said was insufficient.

“They (would have) left unusual benefits protected,” Guess said, citing among them excessive leave, severance pay and an unusual, uncertified professional-growth program.  


“My goal is to return control of the PCSSD to whom it belongs — the district’s patrons and a locally elected school board,” said Kimbrell, who lives in Cabot. “This will require steady financial belt tightening wherever possible and operational efficiency.  The focus must be on providing the best educational opportunities for the students of PCSSD.”

A press release that accompanied Kimbrell’s decision said, “Faced with declining fund balances, the district must cut $11 million from its fiscal 2013 budget. This includes $4 million in benefits provided for in the unions’ contracts. Some of these benefits are above what employees in other districts receive and are not required by state law. These cuts must be sustained in subsequent years in order for the PCSSD to remain financially solvent and provide an adequate and equitable education required by the Arkansas Constitution.”


Without cutting the budget as proposed, the district’s legal fund balance—sometimes called carryover—would be $32 million in the red by the end of the 2016-2017 school year, according to district and state projections.

The administration’s proposal included $6,667,680 in previously agreed upon reductions and additional reductions of $4,085,903 for 2012-2013, with additional cost reductions of $1,427,249 in 2013-2014 and $1,006,340 in 2014-2015.

The additional $4,085,903 includes cost savings from proposed modifications to the PACT and PASS Professional Negotiations Agreements.

The administration’s proposal projects cost reductions in the of $10.5 million in 2012-2013, $12.2 million in 2013-2014 and $13.2 million 2014-2015.

By law, a district’s school board has the authority to remove unions as bargaining agents. Since dissolving the PCSSD school board earlier this year, Kimbrell has acted as a one-man board who believes he has the authority to strip the unions of their bargaining role and to abrogate an existing contract

The unions have proven resilient in the past and quite litigious, so many observers expect them to sue to keep their contracts intact.

Guess said that Kimbrell’s instructions to implement his plan would result in cutting 77 teaching positions, of which 35 are already open due to retirement or resignations.


“My desired outcome,” Kimbrell wrote, “is that the (Arkansas Department of Education) and PCSSD be able to prove the following to the State Board:

“That PCSSD has corrected all indicators of fiscal distress;

“That PCSSD possesses a sufficient fund balance to operate in a fiscally secure and sustainable manner for years to come;

“That PCSSD can fully and completely fund its current desegregation obligations as set forth in Plan 2000 in pursuit of its efforts to attain unitary status; and

“That PCSSD can absorb a loss of, or significant reduction in, state desegregation funding.”
Action for the 2012-2013 school year is critical not only due to the requirements of Arkansas Code 6-20-1908, but because the district is projected to spend more than it takes in during the 2013-2014 school year, Kimbrell said.

The 2011-2012 ending legal balance includes one-time, nonrecurring property tax revenues of $15.1 million. Without this one-time infusion of revenues, the district would end this school year with a deficit of approximately $3 million.


Kimbrell’s letter explained that PACT/PASS appear to request that PCSSD defer important decisions until a later date, arguing that beyond salary freezes for the 2012-2013 school year, “[t]here is no urgency for anything more at the present time.”

The PACT/PASS proposal overlooks two key considerations, Kimbrell said.

“First, PCSSD is required, through its Plan 2000, to meet its own desegregation obligations, with or without state desegregation funding. PCSSD remains under court supervision with regard to nine separate components of its desegregation plan,” the commissioner said.

“One of the nine plan components requires PCSSD to improve several of its facilities. The first priority for PCSSD must be to become unitary in all of its operations, not for the benefit of the state’s budget, but for the benefit of the district’s students and patrons. PCSSD must be able to satisfy the ADE and the State Board that it possesses the financial resources to carry out its own desegregation obligations.

“Second, whether state desegregation funding ends in one year or several years hence, sound budgeting practices dictate that PCSSD should not depend upon state desegregation funding in order to continue its operations.

“PCSSD must be able to show that it can continue its operations for the benefit of its students with or without state desegregation funding,” Kimbrell continued.

TOP STORY >> Students re-enact drunk driving

Leader staff writer

Death made a dramatic entry upon the lives of area students Thursday.

The Every 15 Minutes Program designed to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving seems to have at least accomplished that goal with student actors involved in a simulation of what could happen after a poor decision.

“It was nerve-racking. A lot of things were going through my mind. It was a life experience. Something could have happened to me. I could have been med-flighted for real. Then I wouldn’t be able to see my parents,” said North Pulaski High School senior Alea Glassco.
She and her classmates were the actors in a film where a group of friends on their way to prom are involved in a two-vehicle crash because one of the boys partook of alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

Glassco played the character that was airlifted from the scene and taken to a hospital. A MedFlight helicopter was used for the movie and for the live demonstration held in front of the students at NPHS.

Her mother, Angel Glassco, said, “It’s given her a closeup of what not to do at prom, instead of me just telling her.”

Several Jacksonville police officers, EMTs, the fire department, the coroner’s office, parents, other volunteers and the NPHS drama department helped bring the demonstration and film to life.

Senior Austin Rodgers, one of the passengers, had the task of expressing his grief by yelling and pushing the mock drunk driver at the scene of the accident.
Rodgers said he hyperventilated on the set.

He said, “I think that is exactly how I would have reacted if it had really happened. I told the EMT that I couldn’t feel my face or my hands for real. We were telling her different things and she said, “oh, not part of your exercise.” And I said, ‘yes, for real, help me.”’

Senior Jordan Sereal played the character who died in the crash. In the film, she is the one person who doesn’t drink before leaving a restaurant and heading to the prom. She also chastises the driver for drinking.

Sereal was required to remain still for more than an hour in front of a car face down on the pavement, in the position a person would be in if they went headfirst through the windshield.

She said, “It was so hot. I was burning. Bugs everywhere. But I thought it went really well. “
Senior Abby Russell, another actor, said before the performance, “Sometimes, as teenagers, we don’t realize the repercussions of our actions. We just do what makes us happy. I think it (the demonstration and film) will have a huge impact because it’s not just actors on a screen. It’s people we know and love.”

The demonstration included the mock drunk driver, played by junior Nick McCracken, getting arrested after failing a sobriety test at the scene of the crash. The film showed him in a courtroom being told that he could receive three years in prison for manslaughter. The movie ends with a police officer escorting him to a jail cell.

NPHS drama teacher Jen-nifer Salazar said McCracken told her the roller-coaster-like restraints inside the police car were horrible and frightening.

Every 15 Minutes is a national program that was started by in 1995 by a California patrol unit, said school resource officer Jennifer Thrasher. She said the title is based on the 1995 statistic that someone dies in an alcohol-related crash every 15 minutes.

A student was removed from class at NPHS every 15 minutes, and the student’s obituary was read to the class.

Those “dead walking” students had their faces painted black and white. They didn’t speak for the rest of the day.

One of the “walking dead,” senior Portia Mullen, said as her makeup was being applied, “Death is not something you can undo. A lot of people think they’re indestructible. They shouldn’t.”

Danny Dutcher, a volunteer for the police department, played the grim reaper who took the “walking dead” students from their classes.

He said he feels close to this issue because a family member was pulled over for driving while intoxicated last year.

Senior Adam Lewis was the grim reaper who returned the “walking dead” students to class. He said, “It really makes the reality of it more tangible if they can actually see the consequences.”

An assembly with several speakers was held on Friday at Jacksonville High School to show the film to NPHS and JHS juniors and seniors.

Thrasher told the students at the assembly that the statistic the program was named for has changed from one death in every 15 minutes to one death in every 48 minutes for 2009. She said it is predicted that figure will be one death in every 60 minutes soon.

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes said, “I know you don’t think about the cost of this thing, but we’re speaking of over $20,000 for a 30-minute production for you all. Next week is prom. That is the time we really get concerned about drunk drivers. You’re going to be faced with a lot of challenges. The worst thing I had to do in my 37-year career as a police officer was knocking on someone’s door and telling them their teenager had just died in an accident because they were under the influence.”

Fire Capt. Dewan Walls said, “We’re selfish at times and think our poor decisions just affect us, but they don’t. We hate seeing you on an incident.”

Carolyn Whitley, a registered nurse at North Metro who spent 36 years working in the emergency room, explained that once a person is pronounced dead after a crash, like the one that was simulated, no one enters the room your body is in and no one sees you until the funeral.

Hayse Miller of Family Services Agency described how a drunk driver pinned him and broke both his legs while he was trying to have his car jumped. He said he thought he was cut in half and the leg would have been cut off, if not for the brace he wears. Miller suffers from polio.

The person who was helping Miller give Miller’s car a jump caught the driver. The driver had attempted to leave the scene but was stumbling around.

“He wasn’t concerned about anyone but himself,” Miller told the students. “It’s your life, and your life has an impact on others.”

Olivia Wilson of Arkansas Children’s Hospital said, “If you don’t make it home from prom, you parents will remember it as when you passed away, not as prom.”

Parent Christy Darrington had to write her son’s obituary because he was one of the “walking dead.”

She said, “You can choose not to drink and drive. You can choose not to put your parents through that agony (of losing a child).”

Parent Stacy Conrad said she got into a car with a drunk driver when she was 17. They ended up hitting a tree and she woke up in intensive care three days later with a broken back. She’s had four back surgeries since then.

Conrad said, “I wake up every day with pain and every night before I go to bed there is pain.” She told the students not to make the same decision she did.

Jacksonville High School also participated in the program Thursday.