Friday, August 24, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Back-to-shool enrollment up

Public schools resumed classes on Monday, and preliminary enrollment figures are encouraging.

Cabot reports an increase of about 200 from last year, while the Pulaski County Special School District reports 113 more students in Jacksonville and Sherwood.

These numbers could be a result of many things, but we are inclined to suspect PCSSD is benefiting from a public whose confidence has been boosted by the state’s takeover of the district that has seemed to be stuck in freefall for years.

Within a year under state control, Jacksonville High School has dramatically improved graduation and dropout rates, even test scores. The school’s fa├žade has been revamped with a modern entryway.

Principal Henry Anderson and Superintendent Dr. Jerry Guess deserve much of the credit, though the improvements would never have been possible without the dismissal of the incompetent school board, whose members have gone silent in shame.

Cabot’s enrollment figures may have been higher if not for PCSSD’s modest improvements, or they could be related to slower growth in Cabot. But with $29.5 million planned for construction projects this year, Cabot’s schools will no doubt remain a leader in education.

Lonoke also made gains in enrollment, and we have confidence that new Superintendent Suzanne Bailey will help the district to improve.

To all our area students and educators, hit the books and make us proud.

EDITORIAL >> Distractions spoil a visit

Mitt Romney looked distracted as he shook hands with supporters after he landed in Little Rock on Wednesday afternoon. He was headed for a couple of fundraisers at the Peabody and Capital hotels, where supporters paid up to $25,000 to meet him.

You’d think raising $2 million in one evening would cheer up a presidential candidate, but not Romney, who has been off-message all week. Rep. Tim Griffin, Romney’s state chairman, also seemed distracted with all the side issues swirling around his candidate.

Romney’s campaign was supposed to focus on the economy and jobs, but extremists in his party wanted to talk about not letting women have abortions even in cases of “a legitimate rape” — especially after “a legitimate rape” because fools like Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri say there’s no way a woman can get pregnant when she’s assaulted. Maybe she can get pregnant when she’s underage or a victim of a date rape, in which case she definitely should not abort her child.

But “a legitimate rape” is when a woman’s reproductive system shuts down, according to Akin, who thinks too many women claim they’ve been raped just to get an abortion.

Akin, who is running for the Senate, told a television interviewer last Sunday, “From what I understand from doctors ... if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

He has since apologized but has refused to drop out of the race against Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Democrat who had been trailing Akin but has now pulled ahead, making it almost impossible for the Republicans to take control of the Senate.

Romney and Paul Ryan, his running mate, and the entire Republican establishment have repudiated Akin’s remarks, although such ignorant views are pretty common. U.S. District Judge James Leon Holmes of Little Rock once said that “concern for rape victims is a red herring because conceptions from rape occur with approximately the same frequency as snowfall in Miami.”

Both Akin and Holmes have apologized for their stupidity, but the abortion distraction has hurt the Romney-Ryan ticket. A few years ago, Romney was pro-choice and must now run on a platform that outlaws all abortions. Although Ryan is for a total ban except when a woman’s life is in danger, Romney would still allow it in cases of rape and incest.

This is not the debate the Republican Party wants. For one thing, it alienates moderate women who don’t want to abolish all abortions. That is why, despite all the rhetoric, the party’s presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan have been careful not to offend moderate women. You can’t win an election without them.

TOP STORY >> Academy still growing

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Light-house charter school is expanding once more.

The school recently received approval of its preliminary plan to build a two- story 50,000-square-foot college preparatory facility next to its original campus on North First Street.

The Jacksonville Planning Commission approved the plans last week for the new facility.

The school will still have to come back to the commission with its final plans, which could come as early as next month.

Groundbreaking ceremonies are tentatively set for sometime in late September.

Once the new facility is finished, the temporary buildings will be removed and work on the school’s gymnasium will start, more than likely in 2014.

The Lighthouse Academy opened in 2009 with around 350 students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

It has grown to include ninth-graders and has opened an upper academy or junior high on Little Rock Air Force Base and now has close to 1,000 students.

The ninth-graders, part of the school’s College Prep Academy, are now housed in temporary buildings at the original campus.

The schools are led by principals Norman Whitfield, Chris Carter and Evan McGrew.

The school starts earlier then most area public schools, goes longer each day and doesn’t break for the summer until the middle of June.

A student who goes to the school from kindergarten through 12th grade actually picks up about three additional years of education from the longer days and longer school year.

The school’s Flightline Upper Academy, which opened last year, won the prestigious Shining Star Award at the national Lighthouse Academies University Summer Session held at North Central College in Naperville, Ill.

All Lighthouse teachers and leaders gathered for a week of intense professional development.

The award was given to the best school in the Lighthouse Academy Network of 21 schools for achieving the highest growth in reading and math combined for kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I think this is an amazing achievement for a first-year school and especially since so many of our scholars have studied in some of the best schools in the nation”, commented Dr. Phillis N. Anderson, vice president of the Southern Region.

Lighthouse Academies is a nonprofit network of charter schools and has 21 schools in six states and the District of Columbia.

TOP STORY >> City attorney’s absence explained

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville and its civil service commission had no representation at a hearing in Pulaski County District Court when the city attorney failed to show up Tuesday.

City Attorney Robert Bamburg was informed weeks in advance about the disciplinary hearing for a suspended firefighter. Bamburg filed a motion late Monday afternoon to get the date moved and then didn’t come to the hearing after the court called him to say it was denied.

Bamburg has made it a practice to not respond to The Leader’s requests for comments.

Officials with the district court also didn’t return a call from The Leader.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said the attorney found out about the hearing Monday and the Little Rock courts know he is unavailable on Tuesdays.

That is the day Bamburg has to be at Jacksonville District Court, the mayor said. That court hears traffic offenses on Tuesdays.

Fletcher also said Bamburg tried to call the court but couldn’t reach anyone.

Fire Capt. Scott Moon was recently suspended a day and a half for misconduct. The hearing concerned his appeal of that disciplinary action. Bamburg told Moon that he couldn’t object to the punishment in court because it wasn’t a three-day suspension.

A workday is considered to be eight hours long. Moon is arguing that because firefighters work 24-hour shifts, a day and a half is 36 hours, three workdays for him.

TOP STORY >> Autism activist visits

Dr. Temple Grandin, an animal scientist and autism advocate, visited the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Beebe last Sun-day and spoke to area educators, parents and families with autistic children.

She visited at the behest of Eric Moxley and his family, whose child Mary Madison Moxley, has been diagnosed with autism. She attends Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Diagnosed with autism at the age of 2, Grandin overcame social disdain and uncooperative educators to become one of the nation’s leading experts in the treatment of livestock as well as an outspoken activist in the field of autism.

A professor of animal science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., Grandin has received numerous awards from the livestock industry and animal-welfare groups for improving conditions in large processing plants around the country.

She credits her sympathetic approach to animals to her mental condition and her fascination with the power of human contact.

Named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010, she received a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975 and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989.

The HBO film about her life and early career, “Temple Grandin,” earned five Emmys in 2010.

She spoke of her life at a recent luncheon at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion sponsored by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Psychiatric Research Institute and the University of Arkansas College of Medicine’s Division of Genetics.

Educators from Beebe, Cabot, Jacksonville and the Bryant school districts were present last Sunday.

Families with autistic children and adults listened to Grandin’s views on how the talents of these children can be better utilized.

She stressed the importance of early-intervention and of these children getting appropriate therapies and services.

She emphasized the importance of slowing down when communicating with children who have autism, of giving proper instructions for things you want them to do and of encouraging their creativity.

Grandin shared some scans of her own brain in comparison with a non-autistic college professor.

She said that children or adults who have been “labeled” autistic can be some of the smartest people around.

“If you took away all of the autism in the world, you wouldn’t have another computer or video game, etc.,” she said.

Some of the smartest people in the world have been diagnosed as being somewhere on the autism spectrum, including Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, many computer programmers in Silicon Valley and others, she said.

Grandin also broke from her normal protocol of written questions and took questions directly from the floor — from teachers, parents and from adults with autism who were present.

She told parents to make sure their children with autism are being taught skills that will enable them to find and keep employment, once they reach adulthood.

She stressed that too many times schools and parents try to keep these children “in a box” or on a certain education path, when at times it may be necessary to get outside-the-box and expand their capabilities.

“Sometimes these children become fixated on certain things,” she said.

Grandin encouraged educators and parents to “use that. Don’t squash what they are interested in. Use that thing to teach math or reading.”

She also said “if a child is capable of doing higher- level math or science than his grade level may allow, let him do it. Stretch them, expanding on their capabilities and strengths instead of focusing on areas they may not be as capable in.”

Grandin’s story is told from the standpoint of a woman thriving in a male field and she stood up for herself when others had written her off.

Madison’s father, Eric Moxley, said that as a family that has been affected by autism, one of the most helpful things he and his wife, Jaynna have is an active support system in place.

“We are very blessed to have a strong church family, and our family is here today. It matters. When you’ve got a strong support network that is engaged and they care — it matters. You may not ‘fix’ autism, but you can support those who are affected by it, and that will mean so much to these families,” Eric Moxley said.

For information, contact the Arkansas Autism Resource and Outreach Center, 501-682-9900. For news and information resources see

SPORTS STORY >> Carlisle plows over Bald Knob in benefit

Leader sports editor

The game started a little later than expected at the Carlisle-Bald Knob preseason matchup on Tuesday, but the Bison wasted little time getting things rolling once it did. Carlisle junior fullback Bo Weddle went 60 yards untouched for a touchdown on the first play, and that set the tone for the rest of the contest.

Carlisle got the ball in the end zone six times while Bald Knob was held without a score and scarcely converted a first down. It was a major improvement from last Friday night, when Carlisle head coach Scott Waymire was displeased with how his team performed.

“We played well tonight,” Waymire said. “We threw the ball and caught the ball. I was really pleased with how hard our backs ran the ball. We have to get a little better with pass protection. We missed some blocking at times but I’m glad we held onto the football. Last week I think we turned it over five times and we didn’t do that at all tonight. So overall I’m pleased.”

The two teams started the scrimmage session by trading 12-play drives. Carlisle got the ball back at the 40 after Weddle’s long touchdown run. Two Deron Ricks carries went for 9 yards, setting up third and one. But things went backward from there. An illegal procedure penalty, followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the same play, made it third down and 21. Josh Mathis ran for 1 yard on third down and an incomplete pass on fourth down put the Bison back at their own 40 for another set of downs.

Chris Hart hit Braden Reed for a big gain on third down, but an illegal block penalty called the play back. It made little difference. On the next play, Ricks ran 51 yards for another Bison touchdown.

Carlisle came out passing again on the eighth play of the drive. Hart completed four consecutive passes, the last one good for 32 yards and a touchdown to junior Justice Bryant on the last play of the possession.

Bald Knob could not get a first down until the 10th play of its possession. A 10-yard pass on fourth and 2 was followed by a 14-yard completion on the next play that got to the Carlisle 21-yard line. But the Bulldogs only had one play left and gained just one yard after quarterback Trevor Hyde was forced to scramble after pressure from Clayton Fields.

Carlisle’s second-team offense scored once when the backups traded eight-play possessions. On the fourth play, Tyler Young went 27 yards for the score.

After the designated plays format ended, the two teams put 12 minutes on the clock and played one long quarter of timed football. Each team got three possessions with Carlisle scoring twice while holding Bald Knob scoreless.

The Bison started their first drive on their own 30-yard line after forcing a Bulldog punt. It took just four plays to go the distance.

Mathis picked up 19 yards on two carries before Weddle had another 12-yard gain. On the fifth play, junior Deron Ricks broke two tackles and ran 39 yards for another touchdown.

Bald Knob got a little offense going on its next possession. The Bulldogs picked up 8 yards on first down and 9 on second down for their third first-down of the game. After an incomplete pass, Fields got heavy pressure on the quarterback, who turned and ran into Weddle who had also broken into the offensive backfield.

“I was pleased defensively,” Waymire said. “I thought we lined up right. I thought we did a good job of recognizing on defense. Bald Knob has a wide-open attack and they’ve put up a lot of yards recently.”

After another incomplete pass, Bald Knob punted to the Carlisle 18-yard line.

This time it took six plays and it was Ricks again who capped the drive with a 29-yard burst up the middle. Ricks finished with five carries for 128 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bison will open the regular season next Friday on the road at McCrory.

SPORTS STORY >> Harding identifies Badgers’ mistakes

Leader sports editor

There were pleasant surprises and a few unpleasant surprises during Beebe’s scrimmage game against Harding Academy at Bro Erwin Stadium on Tuesday, but ultimately, head coach John Shannon ruled the outing a disappointment as the Badgers struggled with their pass defense against the Wildcats’ prolific spread attack.

Beebe gave up a number of big pass plays to Harding Academy senior quarterback Will Francis, while the Badgers offense took a couple of possessions to get going. Junior fullback Eric Thorn picked up steam as the night went on, while second-group senior halfback Pearson Sloan had the most consistent success against Harding Academy’s defense.

“I thought our youth showed a lot,” Shannon said. “I’m a little disappointed; I was expecting a little more, but I always do. We’ll get in here and watch the film and see what we’ve got to get better at. We’ll get back to work on Thursday getting ready for Greenbrier, but we’ve got a long way to go. We’re not near where we need to be right now.”

Thorn had four carries for 16 yards on Beebe’s first 15-play series. The second series featured the second-team offense, with Thorn, sophomore quarterback Aaron Nunez and the first team returning for the third offensive series for the Badgers.

This time, Thorn opened things up after being stopped at the line of scrimmage on his first rush. His second touch resulted in a five-yard gain, followed by a 19-yard rumble and a 28-yard touchdown run for Beebe’s second score of the night.

“I thought he got a little bit better,” Shannon said. “I thought the offensive line was going to be the strength of the team – I was a little disappointed in them. They’re going to have to pick it up a bunch. We just made a ton of mistakes and things we can’t do to be successful. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Sloan needed little time to get his motor going with a 14-yard gain on his first run of Beebe’s second offensive series, followed by a six-yard gain and a 10-yard gain. Sloan then ran for a 20-yard touchdown and carried twice more before the end of the series to pick up 14 extra yards. His totals for the series came out to six carries and 64 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s a senior, and he’s worked his butt off for three years in our program,” Shannon said. “He’s just a hard-nosed kid – competitor. I wish he had a little more speed, but he’s going to give it everything he’s got. He’s going to be solid for us.”

Defensively, the Badgers stopped Harding Academy at times and gave way to some big plays in other spots. Senior defensive back Michael Kirby made one of the biggest plays defensively with an interception and 30-yard touchdown return to begin the Wildcats’ final offensive series.

“I thought Kirby made some plays, and I thought Colton Gibbs, the sophomore corner, made some good plays,” Shannon said. “I was pleased with him, but we’ve just got a lot of work to do on both sides of the football.”

With Greenbrier, another big-play passing team, on the horizon for the season opener on Friday, Shannon said there is still work to do in order to be game-ready.

“We scrimmaged last Friday, and I thought offensively, we looked as good as we’ve looked in a long time,” Shannon said. “And then we come out here tonight and didn’t look as good as I thought. Once you break down the film, it’s never as bad as what you think it is, and it’s never as good as what you think it is. So, we’ll get in there in the film room, break it down and see what we need to work on to get better before we play Greenbrier.”

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe rallies for win

Leader sports editor

Beebe fans who began exiting Badger Sports Arena following Greenbrier’s dominant third-game win assuming the Lady Panthers had it wrapped up missed the exciting conclusion, as the Lady Badgers came back to dominate Game 4 and tie the match at two games each, and won a dramatic final game to win the match 3-2 on Thursday.

The Lady Badgers went on a 9-0 run to end the first game with a 25-16 win before Greenbrier took control and won the next two games 20-25 and 19-25, but Beebe kept itself in the match with a near flawless performance in the fourth game to win 25-9.

The Lady Badgers also appeared as if they were going to dominate the final game, rushing out to a big 11-3 advantage, but Greenbrier fought its way back to make it close once again at 14-13, threatening to take the game into extra points. But a kill by Beebe junior Madison Richie finally ended it all with the Lady Badgers taking the deciding game 15-13.

“Basically, I couldn’t be more proud,” Lady Badgers coach Ashley Camp said. “Five games, and to win by two – I had some seniors step up, some sophomores step up. I’m very proud of Natalie Pruitt, Stephanie Pollnow once again, Brittany Gentry stepped up for us setting. The defense was off and on – we’ve got some work to do with that, but it came down to heart, and I’m just real proud of them for that. Mental toughness is what we’ve been focusing on for the last two weeks.”

Beebe senior hitter Stephanie Pollnow led the way with 16 kills and six aces, including three aces during a long stint at the line to end the first game. The Lady Panthers held a 17-16 lead when they hit a side-out to give serve to the Lady Badgers. That put Pollnow at the serving line, and her jump serves wreaked havoc on Greenbrier’s defense.

Kills by senior Brittany Mitchell and Richie put Beebe up 18-16, while Richie struck again later to give the Lady Badgers a 23-16 lead, and Pollnow finished the game off with back-to-back aces.

“Her jump serve – we’ve been working on that in practice,” Camp said. “We’ve been working on consistency and placement. For the most part, it’s pretty aggressive.”

Greenbrier adjusted to start the second game and kept the Lady Badgers off balance offensively for the next two games. The Lady Panthers were outmatched size wise, but compensated with an impressive rotation of constant movement that denied Beebe’s hitting.

“They had a lot of defense,” Camp said. “Coming out here and being able to defend our home court, and yes, they played a great game and their defense was tighter than ours to say the least, but I think our offense pulled us through at the end.”

Momentum was in Greenbrier’s favor to start the fourth game, but that quickly changed as the Lady Badgers rushed out to a 15-3 lead following three straight aces from Pollnow. Sophomore Sarah Etzweiler added a kill and followed that with an ace to make it 18-4, while Greenbrier errors stretched the margin further until senior Sachi Graham clinched the tying game with an ace.

Pollnow’s two early kills along with a pair of aces by Gentry gave Beebe a 4-0 lead in the final game, but the Lady Panthers went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead down to 13-10. Greenbrier scored three more points to pull within one before sophomore Natalie Pruitt assisted Richie to set her up for the winning shot.

“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” Camp said. “We’ve been working over the last month and a half, and just coming out here and performing the way they did and fighting through the down times, that’s what it’s all about.”

Richie led the Lady Badgers in blocks with five while Gentry added four aces.

The Lady Badgers will open 5A East Conference play at home against Nettleton on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers fall to Pioneers

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panthers volleyball team split the first two games of Thursday night’s match with Batesville, but after the Lady Pioneers took game three, they dominated the fourth game to win the best-of-five match 25-19, 21-25, 25-18 and 25-9 at Panther Arena.

In the first game, Batesville (2-0) scored the first point, but Cabot (0-3) scored the next four and held a close lead until the Lady Pioneers slowly crept back to tie the score at 14.

Batesville scored the next point, but Cabot scored again to knot it up at 15. The Lady Pioneers retook the lead, and eventually pulled away from the Lady Panthers to take the first game 25-19.

In the second game was when the Lady Panthers shined. Cabot earned the 25-21 win, but it didn’t come easy. The Lady Panthers never trailed after the first point, but never led by more than five. With Cabot leading 11-6, it appeared the Lady Panthers were well on their way to a win.

Batesville wouldn’t go away. The visiting Pioneers battled back and eventually tied the score at 16. Cabot scored the next three points, forcing the Lady Pioneers to call timeout. After the timeout, Batesville scored the next three to tie the score at 19, forcing Cabot coach DeAnna Campbell to call timeout. After the timeout, the Lady Panthers scored the next four points with senior setter Brylee Staten serving.

Both teams then scored two more points, with the final margin being set on a kill from junior Kaitlyn Pitman, which gave the Lady Panthers the four-point win. Timely sets, blocks and kills resulted in the Lady Panthers getting the win in game two of Thursday’s match. Cabot had eight blocks alone in the second game, and six kills from five different players.

“Our hitting this year compared to last year is a ton better,” Campbell said. “We’re getting a lot smarter, we’re seeing more. We’re just trying to keep our focus on being positive, pushing momentum and pushing momentum, because eventually I feel like some time this year we’ll get over the hump.”

Cabot led until the eight-point mark of the third game. After Batesville took a 9-8 lead, the Lady Pioneers never relinquished it. Cabot was able to keep the score close and cut Batesville’s lead to 21-17 down the stretch. However, the Lady Pioneers outscored the Lady Panthers 4-1 in the end to take game three.

With the momentum on their side, the Lady Pioneers coasted in the fourth and final game. Both teams went back and forth scoring-wise to start, but after Batesville held an 8-5 lead, the Lady Pioneers outscored the Lady Panthers 17-4. Morgan Huff served the final point to give Batesville the match-win.

Even though the Lady Panthers weren’t able to get the win, Campbell saw a lot of good things from some of her players – particularly in the junior class.

“Lakin Best played well, and Taylor Bitely was blocking really well,” Campbell said of her juniors. “Bailee Uhiren has a lot going on with the ball. She has to hit and she has to set. She’s very, very busy and she keeps focus, and she has a touch with the ball.

“We’ve really been working with the setters on making something out of nothing. Our passing looked a lot better tonight than it’s ever looked. We still are getting some shank passes, but the difference is our setters have been waking up and turning the shank passes into something that’s hittable.”

Best had a match-high 12 kills and seven blocks for Cabot. Uhiren had six kills and Bitely had four kills and two aces to go along with her six blocks. Cabot’s next match will be Tuesday at Morrilton.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Questions for Romney

Mitt Romney was supposed to lead President Obama by 10-12 points at this stage of the campaign. Instead, Romney is barely keeping up with Obama and, according to most polls, trails badly in the Electoral College, which is what counts.

Instead of attacking the Obama administration’s economic failures, Romney must answer questions about his tax returns. Many Republicans admit he’s paid ridiculously low tax rates even by the standards of the superrich. His rate is about half of what Paul Ryan pays and probably much less when all income is figured in.

Romney could have hit Obama on his record on jobs and the economy and coasted to the White House. Instead, Romney has to defend his preferential tax rates. Unless he’s hiding a terrible secret, he should have released his tax returns months ago and avoided a major distraction to his campaign.

Romney is faltering for several reasons: He’s not a good campaigner and looks like he’s No. 2 on the ticket. Over the weekend, he made another flip-flop: The ticket distanced itself from a Republican Senate candidate in Missouri who said rape victims never get pregnant, so they shouldn’t be allowed to get abortions. The Romney-Ryan campaign immediately issued a statement saying it supported abortions in case of rape. Ryan had previously sponsored legislation outlawing abortions even after a rape or incest.

Romney has also told Ryan to stop talking about cutting social programs and eliminating the capital-gains tax, which would lower Romney’s taxes to almost nothing.

Ryan at least believes in the remedies he’s pushing — huge tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate investment, privatizing Social Security and Medicare — while Romney has few strongly held beliefs, apart from his devotion to his church and keeping his taxes very low. He’s changed his mind on universal health care, abortion, gun control, amnesty for illegal immigrants and about every major issue in American politics.

What’s more, Romney may even have misrepresented his true residency when he claimed his son’s Boston basement as his home address so he could vote in a Senate primary after Ted Kennedy died and pay lower state income tax than in California, where he owns a big home.

Give Mike Huckabee this much credit: When he abandoned Arkansas as his home and built a large beachfront house in Florida, everyone knew he was doing it to avoid paying his state income tax. Sure, he turned his back on Arkansas, which educated him and nurtured his career, but at least he was honest about his move: Florida does not have a state income tax. But he didn’t claim he had moved into his son’s basement in Destin.

Romney has been running for president for a decade, so he should have cleaned up his tax returns and paid a little more — still less than his running mate, but not a laughably low rate either.

A presidential campaign can handle only so many distractions before it falters and time runs out, but here we are, a week before the Republican convention, and Romney is still defending his low tax rates—about 13 percent, although that figure could include state and local taxes. That’s not very much, when many middle-class families pay about 40 percent when all taxes are figured.

But he still insists that besides the 2010 returns he released earlier this year, he’ll release only his 2011 tax returns, which should be ready before the election but perhaps not in time for the presidential debates.

Voters might wonder if they’re supposed to make up for the millions in tax breaks granted to Mitt Romney.

TOP STORY >> Murder suspect declared unfit

Leader staff writer

The man charged with the first-degree murder of a Jacksonville firefighter and attempting to murder two other first responders was found mentally unfit to stand trial at his hearing on Monday. But he could be tried later if he’s eventually declared sane.

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley said the family is “frustrated, understandably so. We’ll hang with them every step of the way until this is completely resolved. We’ll hang with it and get it across the finish line…until he can be held responsible for the terrible misery he’s put upon so many people.”

In March, Bryce Allen, 47, of Jacksonville allegedly drove his van around emergency vehicles and struck Captain Donald Jones, firefighter/engineer Jason Bowmaster and police officer Daniel DiMatteo as they were working the scene of his mother’s accident. Thelma Allen hit a gas main on Hwy. 161 with her SUV. She wasn’t injured.

Jones, a 31-year-veteran of the department, died from his injuries. He was the first Jacksonville firefighter to be killed in the line of duty.

Jegley said Allen would be revaluated after treatment and his mental state must be reported to the court on June 17, 2013. But the hospital could turn in another assessment before that date, Jegley said.

He said he hopes Allen will be rehabilitated and be able to stand trial at a later date.

As of Tuesday, Allen was being held at the Pulaski County Jail. He is awaiting transfer to the State Hospital.

His diagnosis is bipolar disorder with psychotic features, according to the hospital’s report. It says he doesn’t understand the proceedings and is unable to help his attorney with a defense.

Capt. Kenny Boyd of the Jacksonville Police Department wrote in an e-mail to The Leader, “He (DiMatteo) is still recovering, making progress every day. We are not prepared to comment at this time (about the outcome of the hearing).”

Allen’s most recent evaluation includes a first-hand account of the tragic incident.

It states that the accused killer walked past the victims after he hit them and didn’t try to help them.

Allen allegedly told an officer that he was driving with the cruise control on and it got stuck. Allen claimed the accelerator went to the floor and he couldn’t stop.

There was no evidence that he attempted to brake or that the car malfunctioned.

Allen was arrested in 2009 for another incident involving law enforcement personnel. According to court records, he was acquitted of the second-degree battery of a police officer and terroristic threatening by reason of mental disease or defect.

At that time, Allen was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, hallucinations and delusions. Previous evaluations noted that he did not take medications as prescribed.

Some of the delusions included paranoia involving the Ku Klux Klan.

Allen told a doctor during his most recent evaluation that, “they are trying to hang me…prosecutors hate me, ‘cause I’m black and all prosecutors are white.”

Allen also claimed people were trying to “slip” him cocaine at the Pulaski County Jail. At a hearing earlier in the month, he talked over officials as they worked, accusing “everybody” of “hating” him.

Allen said then that the prison guards were abusing him. He also accused them of changing his medications in an attempt on his life.

No decision was reached at that hearing because the mental evaluation wasn’t ready yet.

According to his most recent mental exam, during Allen allegedly threatened a correctional employee for announcing the visitation list over the Pulaski County Jail’s intercom. The correctional employee reported that the prisoner spit in his face.

Allen has been described in previous evaluations as irritable, agitated, paranoid, threatening, guarded, suspicious, hyper religious and hyper talkative.

As Allen was escorted out of the courtroom at the earlier hearing, Allen said, “Guess I gotta get back in there and get killed. I’ll get back to preachin’ one of these days.”

The previous exams also said Allen has grandiose thoughts, an increased rate of speech, increased goal directed activity and a decreased need for sleep.

The most recent evaluation said he mentioned having “top secret” military clearance during a conversation with one of the State Hospital’s doctors.

Allen, who was an Army corporal from 1983-1986, told the psychologist who examined him in 2010 that he had been hospitalized eight times, mostly at Fort Roots Veterans Hospital in North Little Rock.

Allen has also been accused of hitting an Ohio police officer with a different car in October.

According to the Ohio police report, Allen got into an argument with a valet at a hospital. The valet called an off-duty policeman who was working there as a security guard.

According to the report, the guard tried to stop Allen while Allen was driving the car and Allen intentionally struck the guard with the car. The guard sustained a minor injury.

TOP STORY >> Doors open for another school year

Leader staff writers

The number of students who attended Cabot schools on Monday is down 68 from the first official count in 2011 and down six from the first official count in 2010.

In the past few years, the district’s size has increased as the Pulaski County Special School District lost students.

But the tables are turned this year as enrollment at the PCSSD is up by almost 600 students from last year with a first-day headcount of 16,984.

It was 16,403 for the first day last year.

This year’s count is also about 353 students more than what the district saw three years ago. It was 16,631 in 2009.

PCSSD didn’t do a first-day count in 2010 because of issues with students taking online classes.

The district’s elementary schools welcomed 9,064 this year and the secondary schools had 7,920.

On Monday, 10,047 students attended classes in Cabot. The official count last year was 10,115 and in 2010, it was 10,053.

But the count this year will almost certainly change.

Dr. Tony Thurman, district superintendent, said Monday that students would continue to enroll for many days.

“We traditionally have kids who wait until after Labor Day to begin school. The numbers will change tomorrow because we were enrolling students throughout the day,” he said.

The state pays all school districts by the head, so if the count doesn’t increase, Cabot will lose money.

The loss of one student is a monetary loss of about $5,800.

The first days of school are always hectic, but Thurman said traffic flowed smoothly thanks to street improvements made by the city and Lonoke county including the widening of roads and additional turn lanes.

He said there were no major problems with the buses.

“Transportation is always a challenge, running over 90 bus routes every morning and afternoon,” he said. “We have the ability to communicate directly with every driver which helps tremendously in locating kids that have gotten on the wrong bus.

“Our drivers were very patient and helped one another with students that may have gotten on the wrong route.

“We have a few routes that are overcrowded and will start making changes (Tuesday) to alleviate those issues,” he said.
But if there were a few glitches, at least the weather cooperated.

“The weather was great,” he said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve opened school in mid-August with highs only in the upper 80s. Hopefully, we can keep this trend going.”
Lonoke School District’s enrollment is up, Superintendent Suzanne Bailey said at Monday’s school board meeting. But the count wasn’t available by press time.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears play better once clock starts

Leader sportswriter

Sophomore power and senior muscle lifted Sylvan Hills to a 14-6 scrimmage victory over Pulaski Robinson at Bill Blackwood Field on Monday.

The Bears and Senators played two timed quarters following a series of untimed drives by the first and second units for each team. Joe T. took the advantage during that the untimed drives by scoring twice while denying Sylvan Hills the end zone. When the clock started and the first-down chains came into play, the Bears came to life.

The scrimmage was marred by the usual onslaught of offsides and procedure penalties typical of early practice games, but both teams held turnovers to a minimum. One turnover from Pulaski Robinson in particular led to the first score of thetimed scrimmage for Sylvan Hills, giving the advantage to the Bears for the duration.

“Way too many penalties, way too many mistakes,” Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow said. “We’ve got to tackle better. Offensively, we killed ourselves on drives, I mean, just little things. A lot of that is getting better – better playing condition, but I’m happy we won. The main thing is we won.

Senior punter J.D. Miller pinned the Senators deep in their own territory early in the second quarter.

Sophomore Tra Doss picked up a fumble two plays later and returned it to the Robinson 7-yard line.

Senior fullback Jaron Wade picked up a yard on the first play of the goal-line situation, followed by two short gains from Doss on quarterback keeps that led to fourth and goal at the Joe T. 1-yard line. Wade got the call again, and went over the top for the score. Junior Philip Wood added the extra point to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.

Doss started the night as a backup quarterback to Miller, but by the end of the night was handling most of the duties behind center. The 10th-grader also made some heads-up plays on defense to establish himself as an all-around playmaker for the Bears.

“He’s solid,” Withrow said. “He’s a good player. We’ve got a senior quarterback, so I feel good there. I also feel good with Tra. I don’t know, we’ll just see how it plays out, but I think we’ll wind up playing both. We can get a lot out of J.D. also.”

The Bears’ next scoring drive started at their own 49-yard line with 7:11 left to play and lasted eight plays, ending with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Doss to Marlen Clemmons with 2:49 remaining to give the Bears a 14-0 lead.

Clemmons did not have many rushes during the timed scrimmage, but showed great speed on a number of sweeps during the early portion.

“He can play,” Withrow said. “He’s got field awareness, he has everything else. I feel good about the future.”

Wade had a number of solid carries up the middle, and was one of the biggest playmakers on defense. Fellow senior Jaleel Henson also came up big on defensive stops, while sophomore DeAngelo Bell used his speed to make a touchdown-saving tackle on a long run by the Senators. Joe T. quarterback Kristian Thompson eventually punched it in for the score on a 16-yard keeper in the final minute.

“We’ve got to get better. If we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ve got to get better. And you can tell, we still need to grow up a little bit, and we need to handle adversity a little bit better.”

Sylvan Hills will hold its annual Blue-White scrimmage on Friday at Bill Blackwood Field, and will open the season at home against Vilonia on Aug. 31.

SPORTS STORY >> Defenses swarm in Red-White

Leader sports editor

Defense dominated most of the Jacksonville Red-White football game on Saturday at Jan Crow Stadium.

The Red team got a 12-6 win, but the Red Devils lost a key starter for the season on the third play of the game when Robert Harris went down with a severe ankle injury.

Harris caught a pass in the flat. After dodging one tackler and picking up eight yards, he was hit by two other defenders, resulting in a severely dislocated ankle and a broken fibula in his lower left leg.

“I just feel terrible for him,” Jacksonville coach Rick Russell said. “He worked so hard and was really becoming a great player for us. It’s a blow to our team but our main concern is for his well-being.”

The White team’s only touchdown in regular-drive situation came on defense. The Red team scored one offensive touchdown and one defensive. Overall, the Red offense fared better than the White team.

The Red defense did not allow a first down until the White team’s fourth offensive possession, and even then only by penalty. The White offense managed just three first downs, and two were the result of pass interference penalties by Red.

Red scored first when backup quarterback Reggie Barnes’ pass was tipped by his intended receiver Nykel Wortham and caught by defender Tyler Davis, who was on his way to the end zone when whistles were blown.

As is usually the case in intra-squad games, whistles were blown very early, and became even quicker after Harris’ injury.

On White’s first offensive possession, an illegal procedure penalty and a tackle-for-loss by Red team’s Jesse Walker left White’s offense with third down and 16 yards to go. White quarterback Kevin Richardson dropped back to pass and was hit from behind by left outside linebacker Carlin Heard as he released the ball. The pass traveled backward, making it a live ball.

Right outside linebacker Jacob Price scooped it up and scored the game’s first touchdown. Extra points were not attempted in the scrimmage.

The White team took four straight possessions, competing just one of 10 pass attempts for negative two yards.

The game’s only offensive touchdown came during goal line situations where the ball was placed on the 10-yard line.

Red team quarterback Aaron Smith scrambled for five yards on first down, but a 10-yard holding penalty on second down backed it up to the 15.

Two incomplete passes left it fourth and goal from the 15. Lined up in the shotgun, Smith handed off to Lamont Gause on a draw play. Guase ran up the middle, cut to his right, dodged one tackler, turned back left and run up the middle for the score.

“I was pleased with how the defense got in the right spots and ran to the ball,” said Russell, who accompanied Harris to the hospital and watched the game on film. “In open spaces I thought our pursuit of the football was really good. We still need to work on some things offensively and defensively. But like I’ve said all along, we have a great group of kids this year that we know are going to go to work on the things we need to do better.”

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot dominates scrimmage

Leader sports editor

Cabot drastically changed the tone of last year’s preseason scrimmage game against Lake Hamilton by dominating the practice matchup Monday in Pearcy.

The format didn’t allow for a proper score to be kept. The two teams alternated 15-play drives that started on the 30-yard line, and they ran 15 plays no matter what happened.

The good news for Cabot is that its first-team defense did not give up a single score against the Wolves’ first-team offense. That was not the case last year when Lake Hamilton’s first teamers torched Cabot over and over again.

The second-team defense was also pretty good. The defense would have scored two touchdowns had returns not been blown dead.

In all, the first and second-team defenses each forced three turnovers.

After the 70-yard drives, each team took two 10-play drives that started at the opponent’s 20-yard line, one each for the first and second teams.

Cabot scored eight touchdowns, missed one extra point and missed one field goal. Lake Hamilton scored one touchdown and made two field goals.

The Panthers scored one touchdown on their first 15-play drive. Max Carroll broke a long run to get the offense to the Wolves’ 1-yard line. Quarterback Kason Kimbrell snuck it in from there.

Lake Hamilton’s first team offense couldn’t get anything going. The Wolves’ second team offense got it in the end zone once in six plays into their first possession. They also drove the ball downfield to set up a field goal after resetting back at their own 30, but the drive wasn’t legitimate. Cabot forced two turnovers that were disregarded so the Wolvescould complete their 15 plays. The first was a scoop-and-score by Joshua Samons after Rob Rankin forced a fumble when he sacked the Lake Hamilton quarterback.

On the very next play, Bryson Early intercepted a pass at the 15-yard line and returned it to midfield. Lake Hamilton reset back at the 20 to attempt the field goal.

The Panthers’ second-team offense put together a 11-play drive that totaled 75 yards because of an illegal procedure penalty. Russ Rankin had runs of 11 and 17 yards while halfback Karon Brown and quarterback Grant Bell had carries of eight yards apiece. Bell capped the drive with a 4-yard keeper for the score.

After resetting back at the 30, the second-team offense drove the ball deep again before running out of plays at the 16-yard line. Bell broke loose for a 15-yard run followed by an 11-yard carry by Peyton Barger. After an incomplete pass, Brown went 5 yards and Russ Rankin got loose for 17 on the 14th play. Cabot used its last play to try a 33-yard field goal that was no good.

Cabot’s first team defense gave up one big play on Lake Hamilton’s next possession. A pass out to the flat saw one defender miss and the Lake Hamilton receiver outrun Cabot defenders to the 19-yard line. From there, though, the Wolves went backwards. Matt Griffin got two sacks, Conor Bennett got a sack and a tackle-for loss.

Brandon Arthur blew a play up by knocking his blocker back into the handoff exchange, and linebacker Ian Thompson intercepted a pass at the goal line.

Seth Hoggard then blocked Lake Hamilton’s field-goal attempt to keep the Wolves’ first-team offense scoreless.

Cabot’s first-team offense took the field again and scored twice before experimenting with the passing game. After driving to the 26-yard line on seven plays, Cabot suffered its first major miscue of the evening. A fumbled handoff exchange lost seven yards, but fullback Zach Launius broke loose for 33 yards and a touchdown on the next play.

After resetting back at the 30, Kyle Edgar broke a tackle, beat the defense to the left sideline and raced 70 yards for another score. With five plays left, Cabot tried throwing it four times without a completion. After two incomplete passes and a holding penalty, the Panthers ran a reverse to Launius for a 50-yard gain. Cabot’s drive ended with Kimbrell being sacked for an 8-yard loss.

In the drives starting at the opponent’s 20-yard line, Cabot held Lake Hamilton to two field-goal attempts. The first was good, the second was again blocked by Hoggard, who also had an interception at the 2-yard line that would have gone 98 yards for a score had the play not been blown dead. Right after Hoggard’s interception, Colby Ferguson got a pick before the blocked field goal.

Cabot’s first-team offense scored three touchdowns on its 10-play possession. The first took four plays. Launius went eight yards and Edgar 11 to get it to the 1-yard line. A fumbled snap lost a yard, but Edgar scored on the next play. The Panthers scored again in four more plays.

Kimbrell was dropped for a loss on the first play before picking up 11 yards on the second. Carroll went 8 yards and Kimbrell scored from there. On the third drive, Launius went 6 yards to the 14. Edgar then showed good lateral movement, taking a handoff right and cutting it back to the left after reaching the second level of defense, and outrunning everyone to the end zone.

“You saw those two fullbacks, Launius and Edgar,” Malham said. “Both of them have pretty good speed and we’re probably going to play Edgar some at halfback too.”

The Panthers open the season on Tuesday at War Memorial Stadium against Jacksonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons’ practice game a positive

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski turned in a good performance for onlookers at Falcon Stadium on Friday night in Jacksonville. The Falcons played their annual Maroon-White game with offense and defense both turning in some highlights.

North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram mixed the starters between the maroon and white teams, and felt pretty good about his team performed.

“Well you know we basically wanted to come out and run some things we’ve been working on to try and improve,” Ingram said. “We did some good things, but the things we did wrong, we have a game-type situation we can take them to the film room and show them where it went wrong and how to fix it. It’s a learning tool. We wanted to give game-type experience, play in front of crowd and that type of thing, but we also wanted to make it a very productive practice. I think we’ll get a lot out of this.”

The first series saw big offensive plays, but didn’t result in a touchdown. Yakeem Young broke loose for a 20-yard gain on the first play. Damon Thomas had a 15-yard run on third down to keep the White team’s drive alive. Gates then hit Steven Farrior for a 25-yard pass play to the red team’s 20-yard line, but the drive stalled from there.

On the second possession, Weaver caught a 33-yard pass in the flat but that drive also stalled.

The third drive ended when a handoff exchange was fumbled and recovered by the defense.

The fourth drive ended without a first down when Fred Thomas made a huge hit on fourth down to stop the play for lost yardage.

Fred Thomas also scored the game’s first touchdown on the next drive.

He broke loose on a hand-off, dodged one tackler, cut toward the sideline and scampered 70 yards for the score.

North Pulaski played three different quarterbacks trying to find a new starter. Projected starter Austin Allen will miss the entire season after suffering a torn ACL.

Gates, Farrior and Michael Barnes all took snaps and had good moments, but Ingram is no closer to selecting a possible replacement for Allen.

“Gates throws the best ball,” Ingram said. “Farrior looks good running it and Barnes knows the offense better than the other two. So we’re not really any closer. You may see a situation where we play all of them.”

On the sixth and final drive, Fred Thomas again found the end zone, this one on a 12-yard run to the right sideline.

“We know what Fred can do and we’re also very excited about Damon Thomas’ ability to run the ball,” Ingram said. “I think we’re going to have better run blocking that we had last year as well. I just wish our passing game was further along that it is right now.”

The Falcons travel to JA Fair to start the regular season on Aug. 31.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke offense stings Hornets

Leader sportswriter

Junior Quarterback Grant Dewey and the Lonoke Jack-rabbits put together an aerial assault against Maumelle, beating the Hornets 49-21 on Monday.

The scrimmage at Maumelle High School was Lonoke’s final tune-up before opening the regular season next Friday.

Maumelle had no answer for the Jackrabbit spread attack as Lonoke reached the end zone on its first five offensive series. Lonoke turned the ball over on downs on its sixth drive. After Maumelle’s next snap, the Jackrabbit defense forced a fumble and defensive end Reid McKenzie returned the fumble to the Hornets’ eight-yard line. Running back Dra Offord punched it in two plays later.

“The kids have been working hard,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost after the game. “So, we were just ready to come out here and go against somebody different. The kids came out with a lot of energy and a lot of excitement. So, that was great.”

Lonoke’s defense forced Maumelle’s offense to go three-and-out on its first series. The Jackrabbit offense then marched eight plays down the field, capping off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run from senior running back Eric Williams. The Jackrabbit defense forced another three-and-out on the Hornets’ next possession, and the offense got back to work.

The Jackrabbits then went six plays down the field before Dewey hit junior wideout Blake Mack up the middle for a 31-yard touchdown reception with 3:04 left in the first quarter. Jose Garcia’s extra point put Lonoke up 14-0.

Maumelle did find some offensive rhythm its next series. Senior running back Terry Rhoades, who has 4.5 speed, broke away down the sideline for a 32-yard touchdown run to make it a one-possession game.

But Lonoke answered with a three-play drive, capped off by a 58-yard touchdown reception by versatile senior D.J. Burton.

Dewey was stellar in his three quarters of action, completing 25 of 33 passes for 378 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. The only ill-advised throw he made was a lob ball in Mack’s direction. Two Hornet defenders had better position on the ball, but Mack leaped over them and made a juggling, highlight reel-worthy catch.

Mack, who led Lonoke in receiving with 38 catches for 544 yards and six touchdowns last year as a sophomore, finished the night with eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown.

“He bobbled it four or five times and he came down with it,” Bost said about Mack’s acrobatic catch. “That was great concentration. He stepped up and made a good play for us. He’s probably going to see some double-teams, because teams know who he is. He was our leading receiver last year. But if you want to double-team him, we have D.J. over here. We have three or four receivers we feel good about, and I think we did a good job of spreading the ball around to those other guys tonight.”

Junior Kody Smith caught the next two touchdown passes for Lonoke. The first came on a 6-yard reception inside the Maumelle 10-yard line with 8:50 left in the second quarter. The second was a 30-yard reception just over two minutes later to put Lonoke up 35-7.

Maumelle scored again before the half on a 75-yard deep post play that caught the Lonoke defense off guard.

The Jackrabbits then had its first failed drive of the evening, but got it back on the Hornets’ next snap by forcing a fumble that McKenzie returned to the Maumelle 8-yard line.

Offord later scored on a 2-yard run with 2:52 left in the half. Garcia’s extra point made the score 42-14.

Lonoke was the first to score in the second half. After starting on their own 24-yard line, the Jackrabbits scored on the fourth play of the drive, an 8-yard touchdown reception from Smith – his third of the evening.

Smith, like Mack, had a dominant game at receiver with eight catches for 122 yards and three scores.

Rhoades scored the final touchdown on a 4-yard run with 20 seconds left in the third quarter. Hunter Cockrell kicked the extra point to set the final margin.

Both teams limited most of their starters to three quarters of action. The Jackrabbits finished the exhibition with 428 yards of total offense, most of it coming through the air. Maumelle finished with 296.

The Jackrabbits host Star City on Friday, Aug. 31 to kickoff the regular season at home.