Friday, November 30, 2012

EDITORIAL >> High court drops bomb

Surprise of surprises, the Arkansas Supreme Court reopened the 20-year-old school-equality debate by favoring wealthy school districts in what had been until this week an obscure little dispute between two school districts and the state Department of Education.

How far-reaching the decision will be is subject to debate, but Chief Justice Jim Hannah and two other dissenting justices left no room for conjecture.

“The state’s carefully crafted constitutional system of state-funded public education is obliterated by the majority’s decision,” Justice Hannah wrote. Retiring Justice Robert L. Brown, who wrote much of the judicial law in the landmark school cases the past 10 years, was equally mournful.

“Today’s decision,” his opinion began, “takes us back twenty-nine years to a time when a student’s public education was based on the property wealth of that student’s school district.”

The rhetoric in all three dissenting opinions may be a little overheated, because even with the court’s surprising 4-to-3 decision the system maintains a good deal more equity among the state’s schools than once was the case. But there is no doubt that the decision violates the principle that underpins three decades of judicial striving to bring equality to the funding of public education in Arkansas. It was the Supreme Court that stood steadfast in decision after decision that any school-finance system that left the quality of a child’s education to the whims of local wealth was unconstitutional. Now the four-judge majority on the Supreme Court says that need not necessarily be so.

Of course, Supreme Court personnel have changed since 2003, when the legislature finally got around to complying with the court’s stern orders that it must assure every child in the state an equal opportunity regardless of whether the child lives in a district with considerable property wealth or very little. Only three of the seven justices who rendered the last decisions in the cases known as Lake View are still on the court, and two of the three strongly objected strenuously to the majority’s holding.

The dispute is over the wording of a 2003 statute that fixed the formula for distributing state aid so that combined state and local taxes would equalize the funding for schools regardless of any school district’s ability to raise local funds. When the dispute between the state Education Department and the school districts of Eureka Springs and Fountain Lake arose three years ago, it became clear that the statute was confusing and could be read a couple of ways. The legislature didn’t repair the wording last year, and now a trial judge and a narrow majority of the Supreme Court have sided with the two school districts, which have a large amount of property wealth to tax to support their relatively small enrollments.

School-aid formulas have always been nightmarishly complicated, and this one is no exception. A constitutional amendment adopted in 1996 required every school district in Arkansas to levy a minimum property tax of 26 mills. The proceeds of the 26 mills in each district goes each year to the state, which redistributes it among the schools, along with an allotment of state taxes, to equalize spending on public school children, as the state’s 1874 Constitution seems to require.

But the 26 mills from both Fountain Lake and Eureka Springs each year produce more than the expenditure per child that the state says is required to furnish a suitable education. They want the extra money to be returned to them rather than redistributed to other schools, and they claim that the vague wording of a key sentence in the 2003 statute guarantees it to them so that they can enhance the education of their own children. A majority of the Supreme Court agreed with them that this is exactly what the sentence does.

The dissenting justices acknowledge that the statute can be read that way, or another way, but that that interpretation contradicts the doctrine of every Supreme Court order back to the landmark Alma v. Dupree case in 1983, which began the long struggle to equalize funding, as well as the intent of Amendment 74 of 1996 and the legislature’s clear goal when it enacted funding laws to implement the court orders and Amendment 74.

Right now, the decision affects a relatively small amount of money from two school districts, but next year or 10 years from now, the stakes may be far greater and we may be headed down the slope on the other side of the peak that it took so long and so much bitter struggle to scale. Some years from now there will have to be still another lawsuit to force Arkansas to comply with the Constitution and give children from Lake View to Eureka Springs an equal chance.

Gov. Beebe and the attorney general may persuade the majority to reconsider the decision. If not, the legislature needs to fix the law this winter. Lawyers may need the work, but let’s don’t fight that epic battle again.

TOP STORY >> Doll maker inspired by fantasy

Leader staff writer

DeRue Johnson of Jackson-ville will be selling her whimsical dolls at the Arkansas Craft Guild’s 34th annual Christmas Showcase next Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.

Next weekend’s showcase will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $5 at the door or free during the early bird shopper special hours from 8 to 10 a.m. next Saturday.

Johnson, 80, said her inspiration to create cloth fairies, elves, dragons, unicorns and more was the illustrated children’s books she read as a youngster.

And her other passion, growing flowers aplenty in her spacious yard, helped keep Johnson’s imagination alive.

“I can see them (fairies) out of the corner of my eye when gardening,” she teased.

Johnson started making dolls in 1980, when her first grandchild was born.

She made a prince for the baby and her family encouraged her to begin selling her work, which includes patterns Johnson designed so that others could also enjoy her craft.

“The biggest challenge is finding an outlet to sell at. They don’t sell well because people want more traditional dolls,” Johnson said.

She started selling her dolls in 1984 through a store in Hot Springs and at shows in Little Rock.

Johnson said she and her dolls have also traveled to shows in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas.

The doll maker said she has always been interested in sewing and has a good reason for choosing material for her creations rather than plastic or porcelain. “Fabric is soft, tactile, a sensation that is appropriate for dolls. I love fabric. I love the colors,” Johnson said.

She joined the craft guild in 1987. This year is the group’s 50th anniversary, Johnson said.

“I have always wanted to be a professional craftsperson,” she shared.

And quality is important, Johnson said. She explained that members of the guild must meet its standards. A committee reviews their work every five years.

Johnson said her dolls and other items made by the members of the guild must be handcrafted and original.

“The people who come to our shows to buy recognize quality,” she said.

Her love of making quality items with her own hands runs in the family.

Johnson’s grandmother was a dressmaker, and Johnson said she comes from a long line of seamstresses.

When she was a child, Johnson enjoyed fairy tales and mythology. Her mother was a librarian so Johnson would get to see the books that sparked her interest in fantasy before they were even put on the shelves.

She said that she once crafted 120 unicorns a few years ago, when they were popular.

Johnson said most of the people who buy her dolls are repeat customers, but she remembered a few who weren’t typical.

One of her customers was a teenage girl who had a brain injury. The dolls were the only things she would respond to, Johnson said. The doll maker received a thank-you letter years later from the girl.

Johnson also recalled a teacher from New York who bought a dragon for his classroom. He rewarded students for reading by allowing them to sit with it, she said.

Most of Johnson’s ideas just come to her, and it is difficult to do commissioned work, the doll maker said.

One of her recent pieces is a doll with a red dress.

Johnson agreed that it reminded her of “The Red Shoes,” a fairy tale in which a vain little girl is cursed to dance in her red shoes.

The doll maker joked, “I feel like the girl with the red shoes, except I can take them off to rest.”

Johnson said she tried to retire once and it didn’t stick. So, she sees no end in sight to her career as a craftswoman.

TOP STORY >> Ex-senator’s son in deadly wreck

Leader staff writer

Robert Lee Glover, son of former state Sen. Bobby Glover of Carlisle, has been charged with a felony in the August hit- and-run death of a 39-year-old woman attempting to flag down motorists after she ran out of gas.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham officially charged Glover on Friday with failure to stop after an accident with injury or death, a class D felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six years in prison.

Kimberly Perkins of Lonoke County was killed at about 10 p.m. Aug. 24 on U.S. Hwy. 70 at Cypress Creek Road in Lonoke County. According to the affidavit for Glover’s arrest, witnesses saw her near the middle of the highway and then saw her struck by an SUV that didn’t stop.

By the end of August, Arkansas State Police investigators had determined that the SUV was a GMC Denali manufactured between 1999 and 2002.

On Sept. 1, Glover, 50, called the trooper investigating the hit and run and told him that he had hit a deer on the same day and at the same time and location.

He told State Police investigators on Sept. 2 that he had been to Zin Urban Beer and Wine Bar in Little Rock’s River Market on the evening of Aug. 24 and had drunk about three glasses of wine. He left there at 7:30 p.m. and headed to Marlsgate Plantation on Bearskin Lake Road in Lonoke County to visit David Garner, owner of Marlsgate and his friend since 1986. He left Marlsgate at about 9:15 p.m. and headed home.

Traveling on Hwy. 70 with fields on both sides, Glover told investigators he saw movement on the right side of his vehicle and then struck what he assumed was a deer. He said he didn’t stop until he reached Lonoke where he washed off the bugs that had covered his SUV when he passed the Anderson Minnow Farm, which is about 3 miles west of the crash site. He didn’t see any blood, but he did notice damage consistent with hitting a deer, Glover told investigators.

He called on Sept. 1 because he read about the hit and run, including the description of the vehicle, two days earlier, and “flipped out,” he said.

Investigators matched broken glass from the scene to the remains of a headlight in Glover’s Denali and also collected DNA evidence from the Denali.

On Sept. 5, Garner, Glover’s friend from Marlsgate, told investigators that Glover left Garner’s home at about 9 p.m. without consuming any more alcohol.

Garner told investigators that since he doesn’t drink alcohol, there was none in his home. He said Glover didn’t appear intoxicated.

Garner said Glover called him on Aug. 25 to tell him that he hit a deer on his way home and messed up his vehicle. He said Glover called him later to ask if he had heard anything about a woman being hit.

Garner said that if Glover had known it was a woman and not a deer, he would have stopped.

On Sept. 11, Glover declined to take a polygraph test. He was arrested earlier this week and was released from jail on a $2,500 bond.

His plea date in Lonoke County Circuit Court Division 1 is Jan. 22.

SPORTS STORY >> North Pulaski press wears Malvern out

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski boys got back on the winning track on Tuesday, beating the Malvern Leopards 58-42 on the road. That win followed a 1-1 showing at the Alumni Classic at Central High School in Little Rock. The Falcons beat Blytheville 44-42 in its opening game at Central, then lost 55-46 to JA Fair, a team it had beaten earlier this season. It was the team’s only loss so far this season, but coach Roy Jackson was pleased to see how his young team bounced back from its first disappointment of the year.

“We came out flat against Fair,” Jackson said. “Anytime you go out against a team you’ve already beaten, you worry about the intensity a little bit. I just don’t think we played with the right intensity, but I think we learned from it. We learned you can’t do that because even teams you know for a fact you should beat can still beat you.

“We broke down film from that game and came back with a lot better intensity against Malvern. So they bounced back. I was happy to see that.”

Even in the loss to Fair, Jackson liked the effort his team put forth in the second half. The Falcons managed just nine points the entire first half and trailed 22-9. But battled back to score 21 in the third quarter and found themselves just three points behind going into the fourth quarter. In the course of the comeback, North Pulaski piled up fouls and Fair spent most of the fourth quarter at the free-throw line. The Eagles hit 16 of 20 attempts from the line to pull away late.

“It’s a young team and we’re going to have some ups and downs,” Jackson said. “They came back and really had one of their best quarters of the season.”

In Tuesday’s win at Malvern, the Leopards were without their starting point guard and the Falcons went to work immediately to exploit that weakness. North Pulaski’s pressure forced several first-half turnovers as the Falcons built a 31-18 lead at the break.

“We put a lot of pressure on them early and they couldn’t handle the press,” Jackson said. “We got a lot of layups and we shot the ball pretty well. We probably forced 25 or more turnovers in the game.”

Junior guard Joe Aikens led the Falcons with 18 points while freshman point guard RaShawn Langston added 17.

Jackson believes Langston is emerging as one of the best freshmen in the state.

“I think he’s right up there,” Jackson said. “He’s averaging about 13 or 14 points a game for us. You’ve got Adrian Moore at Conway and you’ve got the Monk kid at EPC, but RaShawn is in the top five freshmen anyway.”

The Falcons play Bryant at 7:30 p.m. Monday at at Conway High School.

SPORTS STORY >> Bad shooting dooms Jacksonville at NLR

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils’ defense kept it close, but their shooting betrayed them in a 55-45 loss at North Little Rock on Tuesday. Jacksonville forced 24 turnovers and took 14 more shots from the floor than their victorious hosts, but made just 17 of 52 shot attempts, including an abysmal 1 of 17 from three-point range. The Lady Devils were also 9 of 22 from the free-throw line while North Little Rock hit 16 of 21.

“It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world but we got a win against a really good team,” North Little Rock coach Daryl Fimple said. “That’s the first time we’ve out-rebounded our opponent this year. That’s something we’ve really been stressing so it was good to see that happen. We just have to take better care of the basketball. You’re not going to win a whole lot of games where you turn it over 24 times.”

The Charging Lady Wildcats were on the brink of blowing it open in the third quarter. After leading 31-25 at halftime, North Little Rock opened the second half with an 8-0 run for a 39-25 lead 2:30 into the third quarter.

Jacksonville’s first bucket came at the 4:40 mark to make it 39-27, but the Lady Wildcats went on a 6-2 run to take a commanding 45-29 lead with two minutes left in the third.

Jacksonville finally pulled things together and closed the period with a 7-0 run to make it 45-36 heading into the final period of play.

North Little Rock led 49-35 with 3:55 left in the game, but Jacksonville scored eight in a row to make it 49-43 with 2:10 on the clock. Fimple called his last timeout to regroup his team. Jacksonville came out of the break fouling, but the Lady Wildcats made their free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.

After the game, Jacksonville coach Katrina Mimms noted her team’s obvious shortcoming.

“We just have to knock down open shots,” Mimms said. “Everybody’s going to be all over Jessica (Jackson) and everybody’s going to have a man on Shakyla (Hill). That means we’re going to have other people wide open for shots. KeKe (Alcorn) didn’t make anything tonight and that’s unfortunate because she’s been shooting it really well in practice. We’re going to have to have some of those shots fall if we want to be able to loosen up those defenses. And I think we will see those fall. We’ve been seeing them fall in practice. We just have to take it to game time.”

Post player Kiara Webb led all players in two categories. She finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Malica Monk scored 16 for North Little Rock while Jasmin Mays added 12.

“Mays, again, is our unsung hero,” Fimple said. “She had to guard the best player in the state by herself. She still had a few points, but she didn’t do like she’s done in some other games.”

Jackson, who verbally committed to the University of Arkansas in October, led Jacksonville with 17 points and 14 rebounds. She was the only Lady Devil in double figures in either category, though she was 0 for 5 from three-point range.

The Lady Red Devils played at Cabot on Friday. Look for details of that game in Wednesday’s edition of The Leader. They also host Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday. The Lady Wildcats get back to action on Monday in the Wampus Cat Invitational at Conway.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe earns win over Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

It took a half to get going, but Beebe’s strong outside shooting helped lift the Badgers to a 57-47 nonconference victory over Sylvan Hills at Badger Sports Arena on Tuesday.

Beebe (2-0) gave up a 12-5 lead to the Bears (1-1) early in the first quarter but quickly rallied back and led 16-12 heading into the second, holding Sylvan Hills scoreless for just over eight minutes until Bears junior post player David Johnson scored inside with 3:31 remaining in the half. By that time, though, Beebe had increased its advantage to 24-14 and led by eight at the break, but the third quarter was where the hosts really did their damage.

The Badgers had their biggest lead of the night at 43-23 following a three-point basket by junior point guard Tanner Chapman at the 4:27 mark of the third quarter. Sylvan Hills ate up some of that deficit with a fourth-quarter run, but Beebe controlled the clock late to prevent any comebacks.

“I thought we adjusted defensively to their system,” Badgers coach Ryan Marshall said. “We didn’t have a scouting report on them, and that doesn’t happen very often to go into a ballgame and not know what they’re going to do. And then the third quarter, we finally knocked down some threes. I thought that busted the game open a little bit, so that was good to see some of those guys get in rhythm and knock down some shots.”

The Bears got out to a 7-3 lead when Johnson pulled down an offensive rebound and took it back into the paint for a score at the 5:02 mark of the first quarter and guard Nathan Burchett increased their advantage to 10-5 a minute later when he hit a three pointer. Delsin Parker then drove inside for another SH score with 3:53 left to play in the opening period to give the visitors a 12-5 lead.

Beebe struggled to get off the ground offensively until junior reserve post player Zach Baker checked into the game midway through the first quarter. Baker took an assist from senior guard Than Kersey for an inside basket to make it 12-7, and following a walking call against Sylvan Hills, took another assist, this one from senior Austin Burroughs, to cut the margin to 12-9 by the 3:04 mark.

Baker’s play rubbed off on Burroughs, who hit the front end of a two-shot foul before scoring on a putback to tie the game 12-12 with 2:14 remaining in the first. In fact, Baker and Burroughs together accounted for all of Beebe’s 19-0 run from the 3:53 mark of the first quarter until 3:31 remaining in the half.

“He’s offensive minded,” Marshall said of Baker. “He’s a tough matchup for teams, because he can shoot the ball from the perimeter. He also does a good job inside. He did the same thing against Lakeside. When Baker gets in, it seems like the offensive tempo picks up a lot.”

Burroughs scored inside to give the Badgers a 28-18 lead. Ronnie Hinton fought back for the Bears with a three-point shot before Jake Schlenker scored on a lay-in for Beebe at the 7:08 mark to make it 30-21. Parker charged in from the side of the lane to score two more for Sylvan Hills before the Badgers took off on another run.

Baker scored twice more inside, and Burroughs hit the first in a series of treys for Beebe that gave the Badgers a 37-23 lead with 5:33 remaining in the third.

Kersey followed with a three, then Chapman, to increase the margin to the biggest of the night at 43-23.

Hinton came back for the Bears with an inside basket and a three, while Johnson, the Bears’ 6-5 post player, hit a rare outside shot for three to cut the deficit back to 46-31 with 2:33 remaining in the third.

Burroughs led the Badgers with 24 points while Baker added 20. Kersey finished with eight points for Beebe. For Sylvan Hills, Hinton and DeMonte Davidson each had 13 points while Burchett added six points.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls get quality win over Paragould

Leader sportswriter

A late run from Paragould in the fourth quarter wasn’t enough to make a comeback against Cabot as the Lady Panthers handed the Lady Rams their first loss of the season, winning 45-37 Tuesday at Panther Arena.

Cabot (4-1) played sound fundamental basketball at both ends of the court in the first half, and led 27-13 at the break. Paragould (2-1) cut the deficit to 12 entering the fourth quarter, and opened the final quarter with an 8-0 scoring run to cut the Lady Panthers’ lead to four.

Senior point guard Jaylin Bridges picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter and had to sit a large portion of the fourth, which put the Lady Panthers at a disadvantage. Fellow seniors Ally Van Enk and Elliot Taylor picked up the slack in Bridges absence and helped Cabot grind out the hard-fought win.

“It was interesting,” said Cabot coach Carla Crowder about the fourth quarter. “We just missed a lot of easy shots and free throws that we need to make, and we normally do. We’ve got to make those, but Paragould’s a very good team.”

Cabot’s lone loss of the season came against Conway last week. In that game, the Lady Panthers stayed within two points of the Lady Cats until the 2:30 mark of the third quarter. From that point on, Conway dominated Cabot on its way to a 90-64 win. Paragould beat Conway by 10 points earlier this season.

The Lady Panthers led 11-8 at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Van Enk scored the first four points of the quarter to push the Cabot lead to seven. Paragould made only one field goal in the second quarter, its other three points came at the free throw line.

With 24 seconds left in the half, Cabot made the score 27-13 on a Taylor bucket inside the paint. Bridges picked up an assist on the play with a perfectly-placed pass from the perimeter. Bridges’ pass sailed over the defender and Taylor received the pass next to the rim, which led to the easy bucket.

Cabot cooled down offensively in the second half and Paragould outscored the Lady Panthers 10-8 in the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough to cut the lead to single digits as the Lady Rams trailed 35-23 at the start of the fourth.

“I think we just executed and we played great defense in the first half,” Crowder said. “Then we kind of started to slip in the second half. We had to do some different things. We got in foul trouble, and so we couldn’t do exactly what we wanted to do.”

Bridges left the court with 1:19 left in the third after picking up her fourth foul. Paragould took advantage of that in the fourth as Lady Rams senior point guard Carson Gill led a 6-0 run before Bridges re-entered the game about midway through the quarter.

The Lady Rams scored the next basket to cut the Lady Panther lead to four, but Cabot pushed it back to six on a pair of free throws by Taylor with 3:44 to play. Paragould was able to cut the deficit to four again on a basket by senior forward Sydney Layrock with 50 seconds left on the clock, but that was as close as the Lady Rams would get.

Paragould was forced to foul and hope Cabot would miss its free throws down the stretch, but it was to no avail. Taylor drained another pair of free throws with nine seconds left to set the final score.

“We’re used to her being out some,” Crowder said of Bridges’ foul trouble, “but we love her being on the floor. I was real proud of how we finished. We came back and really finished strong at the end.”

Cabot won the rebounding battle with 25 boards to Paragould’s 19. The Lady Panthers also had one fewer turnover in the game with 15. The Lady Rams committed only four turnovers in the second half, and only one in the fourth quarter. Neither team made a three pointer in the game. Paragould did finish with a better percentage at the free throw line. The Lady Rams made 84.6 percent of their free throws compared to Cabot’s 57.6 percent.

Van Enk led the Lady Panthers with a game-high 16 points and finished a rebound shy of a double-double with nine boards. Taylor added 11 points and four assists, and Bridges scored eight points and collected five assists.

Gill led Paragould with 14 points, eight of which came in the fourth quarter, and Layrock scored 10 points and had nine rebounds.

Cabot played Jacksonville yesterday at home and will play again on Tuesday in the second annual Cabot Pre-Holiday Tournament against Pulaski Academy at 8:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats get best of Devils

Leader sports editor

North Little Rock got its fourth win of the season and Jacksonville dropped its opener on Tuesday, as the Charging Wildcats beat the Red Devils 62-53 at North Little Rock Arena.

North Little Rock seemed on the verge of putting Jacksonville away, but ended up just holding the Red Devils off late in the second half.

Three big momentum shifts in the first three minutes of the third quarter culminated in the home team taking control for the remainder of the game.

North Little Rock led 31-27 at halftime and scored the first six points of the third quarter to take the first double-digit lead of the game with 6:30 on the clock. Jacksonville answered with a 10-0 run that tied the game with 4:20 left in the third. Wildcats’ coach Johnny Rice called timeout and Jacksonville floundered after the break.

North Little Rock’s Kevaughn Allen scored out of the break for a two-point Wildcat lead. Jacksonville then threw the ball away on its next possession, and was called for a backcourt violation on the one after that. North Little Rock turned both turnovers into points for a 43-37 lead with 1:42 left in the third. Jacksonville never got within five points the rest of the way.

“That’s a great win for us because Jacksonville, year in and year out, is one of the best programs in the state,” Rice said. “I know that was their first game but that’s a talented team. We play them again pretty soon at their place, so we’ll see an even better team next time.”

North Little Rock made just 16 of 30 free-throw attempts, but hit 9 of 13 in the fourth quarter to hold off a Jacksonville rally. The Wildcats also pulled off a rare feat of out-rebounding the Red Devils, and forced 20 Jacksonville turnovers.

Despite the loss, Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner was at ease following the game.

“That’s a talented team to open up against at their place,” Joyner said. “We just don’t have ourselves in sync yet. You could just tell that timing was off. This whole team, it’s all new for them. We only have two players that really played a lot last year and they’re going to have to play together a little bit to get all the timing and everything down. We got a lot of work to do, but I saw some good things tonight too.”

Both teams made 21 field goals. Jacksonville attempted 55 while the Wildcats shot it 49 times. North Little Rock went 4 of 8 from three-point range while Jacksonville was just 3 of 17 from the same distance.

North Little Rock finished with a 31-21 advantage on rebounds and also committed 20 turnovers. Jacksonville was 8 of 12 from the free-throw line.

A deep bench has been a strong suit for the high-scoring Wildcats this season. Two games ago, North Little Rock had nine players score in the first quarter. Only eight players scored against Jacksonville and the bench contributed just 11 total points, but five came from three-year starter Gary Vines, who came off the bench after practicing for the first time the day before. Vines is also a standout safety on the football team that just completed its season the previous Friday.

“Depth has been and will continue to be a strength for us,” Rice said. “Gary is a three-year starter but he’s literally had one practice. It’s just going to be different guys for us on different nights, but we’re going to get plenty of production from our bench this year.”

Allen led all scorers with 15 points. Thomas Alexander added 14 and DayShawn Watkins scored 13 for the Charging Wildcats. Justin McCleary led Jacksonville with 14 points while Khaleel Hart added 10 for the Red Devils. Aaron Smith, Keith Charleston and Sergio Berkley each scored nine for Jacksonville.

Both teams play today in the Battle of the Border at Little Rock Hall today. Jacksonville faced Olive Branch, Miss. at 3 p.m. North Little Rock follows at 4:30 p.m. against Memphis-East.

Next week, Jacksonville takes part in the Wampus Cat Invitational at Conway High School, while North Little Rock goes back to Hall for the Jammin for Jackets tournament that runs Thursday through Saturday. The two teams meet again on Dec. 11 at JHS.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Apartments big nuisance

Cabot officials recently evicted the tenants of a dilapidated apartment complex at 205 S. Linden St. that was unsafe for its residents and a nuisance to its neighbors.

The city made the right decision even if the timing may have appeared insensitive since the residents were ordered to vacate days before Thanksgiving.

The neglected apartment complex came to the attention of officials after neighbors complained in October that some of the residents often appeared to be intoxicated and that crime was increasing in the area. Inspections revealed exposed wiring, rotting walls, infestations and more.

The suspicion that the Linden Street tenants were committing crimes appears to be correct as three of those evicted were arrested for stripping copper from the complex, which was also vandalized while people were moved out: A water-heater valve was opened, flooding two apartments; paint was splattered on the outside of the buildings, among other petty damage caused by the defiant saboteurs.

The owner of the complex and its tenants did not take pride in the community or their property. We’d like to see Jacksonville improve or even shutter the multiple motels on Hwy. 161.

EDITORIAL >> Saluting our best schools

Arnold Drive Elementary on Little Rock Air Force Base has been honored numerous times over the years, capturing about all the academic kudos available, and it has now garnered another one.

It was recently named an “exemplary” school by the state. To be in the “exemplary” category of state schools is a big deal. Only five schools across the state received such a title or honor.

Arnold Drive may be the only exemplary school in central Arkansas, but the Beebe School District also needs a shout out. Nearly all of its schools have been named “achieving,” placing them in the second-best category.

Those Beebe schools include Beebe Elementary, Beebe Junior High, Beebe High School, Badger Elementary and the Beebe Early Childhood facility.

Other area schools also in the “achieving” category and doing well are Cabot’s Westside, Southside, Mountain Springs and Ward Central elementary schools, Cabot Middle School South and Cabot Junior High North. Also “achieving” from Pulaski County Special School District are Clinton and Oakbrooke elementary schools and Sylvan Hills Middle School.

The Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School and Lisa Academy North elementary and middle schools were listed as “achieving.”

But most of our area schools fall into the third and fourth categories of “needs improvement” or “needs improvement focus.”

Two area schools are in the bottom category, “needs improvement priority.” They are Harris Elementary and Jacksonville High School.

However, let’s for the moment celebrate, the good news of the day since ’tis the season.

Arnold Drive, being named exemplary, means the school has its act together. The teaching is on track and on target. There is learning going on. The students are getting it and advancing at either the required pace or even faster. Not just the smart students or the good students, but all students.

And with that strong push for learning, Arnold Drive hasn’t forgotten to throw some fun into the regimen. Earlier in the fall, the school participated in a worldwide run to help set a record for most 100-yard races in a 24-hour period. All the students got out on a cold wet Friday afternoon, ran the course and cheered others on.

That’s the other thing that is being taught and modeled, but doesn’t show up as a test score, and that’s camaraderie: a spirit of familiarity and trust existing between friends.

The Beebe School District is also going places. Five of its campuses are all achieving. The district is just on the cusp of exemplary — all it has to do is make a few tweaks to make sure every child is progressing in every way. That’s got to be a good feeling for the administration, the teachers and students — that students are running right up there near the top, and with just an extra burst here or there, they will break into the exemplary category.

Thank you, Arnold Drive Elementary, Beebe School District and other achieving schools for not just setting a high bar of achievement and expectations, but reaching it time after time after time. May the schools in the lower categories emulate you and make all of central Arkansas smarter, brighter and proud.

TOP STORY >> Fire trucks on parade

Leader staff writer

One of Sherwood’s first firefighters will be hitching a ride Saturday on the truck he used to battle blazes decades ago.

The attraction will be part of the annual chamber of commerce Christmas parade on Kiehl Avenue at 2 p.m.

Fire Chief David Teague said 91-year-old Bernard Olds is the only living person he could find that is pictured with the city’s first fire truck in an old photograph.

Firefighter Jodie Hartman said its body and frame were completed in 1949 and the engine was finished in 1951. It arrived in Sherwood on Sept. 22 of that year, according to “The Signs Say Sherwood” by Ailene Duran.

American Le France made the pumper and Dodge manufactured the truck.

Teague said World War II delayed production for a couple of years.

The chief said Olds seemed nostalgic when he saw the truck, which was used until the mid-1970s. Trucks are normally used for 20 years and they are usually a reserve truck for the last five years of that, Teague said.

Olds said he remembered helping the Sylvan Hills Voluntary Fire Association with several fires — including one at a house on Kiehl Avenue that left two people dead.

“We would swap. They would help us sometimes and we would help them sometimes. We went when they called us,” he said.

Olds said his crew traveled in that truck to an annual convention in Hot Springs. The convention is still held there.

He said he became a firefighter when he was in his 30s “because it was needed.” Olds said he couldn’t recall when he retired or how many years he spent with the department.

Hartman said that back in Olds’ time, Sherwood was the area between North Hills Boulevard and Club Road. The houses stopped after a quarter of a mile, he added.

According to Ailene Duran’s book, “The Signs Say Sher-wood,” there were only 220 houses in Sherwood in 1950.

Before the 1949 model came out, firefighters were using Ford Model Ts with water tanks attached to them, Hartman said.

Olds was invited to visit the station at 505 Sherwood Ave. this week to see the old truck and the new ones.

He said, with a laugh, “The only thing I recognized is the hoses and fire axes.”

The old truck has a 300-gallon tank and pumps 250 gallons of water per minute.

One of the 2001 trucks the department uses now has a 750-gallon tank and pumps 1,500 gallons per minute.
Hartman said the trucks firefighters have now haul more equipment, so the carrying capacity is much greater.

He said today’s firefighters have more responsibilities than just putting out fires. They also respond to car wrecks, medical calls, hazardous chemical spills and other emergencies.

The old truck is being stored at the department’s first station, a 24-by-36-foot metal building, which is located next to the current station.

Olds added that he thinks he still knows how to drive the old model.

Hartman said the department is restoring the older truck to its former glory with help from Mayden Tire, O’Reilly Auto Parts and Gwatney Collision.

He said the truck has been sitting for at least 20 years and that the last fire chief, Frank Hill, bought it back from the city in 2006. Hartman said he thinks the department purchased it for $1.

Teague said the truck may have been in a parade on Country Club Road during the 1990s, but it has not been in one since the location changed to Kiehl Avenue.

TOP STORY >> Ward man posts bond in death

Leader staff writer

The Ward man accused of murder in the shooting death of an employee was released from the Lonoke County Jail Tuesday on a $100,000 bond.

Christopher Reynolds, 34, is represented by attorney Hubert Alexander of Jacksonville.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said Reynolds has not been officially charged in the death of Ernest Hoskins, Jr., 21, of North Little Rock.

Graham expects to get the case file from investigators with the Arkansas State Police next week and file charges of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

Reynolds admits to killing Hoskins, Graham said. Hoskins worked at Reynolds’ business, which sells equipment that reduces gas mileage.

Reynolds reportedly said he was attempting to de-cock the .44-magnum pistol he had been pointing at Hoskins, who is black, when the gun discharged and shot Hoskins in the head.

The shooting was on Nov. 9 and Reynolds, who is white, was not arrested until Saturday. In the interim, Hoskins’ family retained Ben Crump, the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot to death 11 months ago by George Zimmerman as he walked through a multi-ethnic gated community in Sanford, Fla.

Crump’s law firm specializes in wrongful death, malpractice, personal injury and civil rights cases.

The case has received much media attention since Crump was hired. One report from Channel 11 in Little Rock can be found on You Tube under the title “Bizarre Cover-up Type Activity Surrounding Death of Ernest Hoskins Jr. During Business Meeting.”

But Graham said after Reynolds was arrested that investigations take as long as they take and that the race of the shooter and the victim were not a consideration.

“I don’t care what color people are. We just do our job,” Graham said. “I didn’t know the victim was black until the NAACP called me.”

Graham has asked police departments throughout the county to call him when they get cases that are likely to be turned over to him.

He said this week that Ward Police Chief Steve Benton called him within 30 minutes after he got the call about the shooting at 26 Deer Run.

Together, they decided to call the State Police to investigate because the Ward Police Department lacked the manpower. Mayor Art Brooke said the police department lacked the lie detectors that were needed for the investigation.

“Ward does a fine job but they’re short of people,” Graham said. “There’s nothing sinister there. It was just manpower.”

Special Agent David R. Moss interviewed Reynolds at the Ward Police Department the evening Hoskins was killed. He made this statement, which Reynolds signed, according the affidavit for his arrest:

“On Nov. 9, 2012, at approximately 2 p.m., I was conducting a meeting at my house for my business. My business reduces gas mileage on vehicles. Rachel Watson, Brian Washington, Melissa Peoples and Ernest Hoskins were at my house for the meeting.

“All four are my employees. I was discussing with Ernest why his sales figures for the week were so low. He had lower figures than Melissa and Rachel,” Reynolds continued.

“Ernest told me that I needed to get off my couch and work as well. We were bantering back and forth. I picked up a Desert Eagle .44 Magnum pistol from behind me.

“I pointed the pistol at Ernest’s head and we were bantering for approximately one minute. I pulled the trigger and the gun did not go off. I then pulled the slide back and a round went into the chamber.

“I tried to de-cock the hammer on the pistol by pulling the trigger and holding the hammer and it moved forward,” Reynolds continued.

“The gun then went off and struck Ernest in the face. I put the gun back up and called 911. I have had weapons and firearms training while I was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force,” he said.

Graham said the aggravated assault charges are from Reynolds holding the gun on Hoskins. Aggravated assault is a felony. Anyone who kills another person during the commission of a felony is charged with murder.

Reynolds is set for plea and arraignment before Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore at 9 a.m. Jan. 7.

SPORTS STORY >> Badger signs with Williams

Leader sportswriter

Some high-school athletes agonize over his or her college choice, but Beebe Lady Badger softball standout Madelyn Poe did not have that problem.

In fact, Poe, just a junior, already knows her academic and playing future as she signed her Letter of Intent to play softball at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge under seventh-year coach Eric Newell. Poe signed at the Beebe High School Media center on Tuesday afternoon in front of faculty, family and teammates with Newell and Lady Badgers coach Eric Chambers also in attendance.

Poe, a shortstop for the Lady Badgers, has started since her freshman season.

“I think she’s probably more of a second baseman in college,” Chambers said. “I think that’s probably what he is signing her for, but she’s a really good slap hitter, and she has a great on-base percentage these last two years, and she’s really fast. She does a really good job of putting the ball in play.”

Poe broke out big time as a freshman with an incredible .680 on-base average and recorded a .530 OBA her sophomore year.

“The first thing that catches your attention is her speed,” Newell said. “She’s extremely fast, and our program is built all around speed. And then when I found out she’s just an outstanding kid with good grades, it was just the total package that we look for in a student athlete.”

Newell has been successful at building a strong tradition in his six seasons over the Eagles women’s softball program. WBC has had a number of consecutive record-breaking seasons, including last year’s 51-10 record and 13th-place NAIA national ranking. The 2012 season also marked the third-straight Midwest Conference championship for the Eagles, who also won the conference tournament last season.

“We’ve had a great run,” Newell said. “And signing players like Madelyn Poe is hopefully going to keep that going. We’ve started a tradition, and we plan on keeping it.”

Newell agreed that Poe could possibly play second base or even outfield in college, but also said she is athletic enough to play wherever there was a need.

“I’m very excited,” Poe said following her signing. “I just knew the college was great, and I love the coach and the campus and everything about it. I’m getting to play at a Christian school. There was just no need in waiting.”

Poe also plays club softball in the summer with the Arkansas Heat, and is excited about the upcoming spring with the Lady Badgers team.

“I think this will be our year if any year to win it all,” Poe said. “So I’m really excited about this year.”

SPORTS STORY >> Strong field fills Cabot’s tourney

Leader sportswriter

The second annual Cabot Pre-Holiday Basketball Tournament will tip off Monday at Panther Arena and will last through Dec. 8.

Cabot’s girls and boys won last year’s tournament, which were the first series of games played at Panther Arena, and both teams are looking forward to defending their respective titles. Eight teams make up each bracket, and the majority of the teams from last year’s tournament are back this year.

Like last year’s tournament, each team will play three games with a winner’s and consolation bracket. The final games, which will be played Dec. 8, will decide who places where in the tournament.

Four games will be played Monday. In the girls’ bracket, Beebe will play Harding Academy at 5:30 p.m., and Searcy will play Watson Chapel in the final game of the evening at 8:30. The boys will take to the floor for the first game of the tournament as Benton will play Paragould at 4 p.m. The second boys’ game will be between Hot Springs Lakeside and Searcy at 7 p.m.

Cabot’s teams won’t play until Tuesday. The Panthers will hit the floor at 7 p.m. against Watson Chapel, and the Lady Panthers will play the final game of the night against Pulaski Academy at 8:30.

Cabot, Watson Chapel, Little Rock Catholic, Vilonia, Benton, Paragould, Lakeside and Searcy fill the boys’ bracket. Each scenario in the tournament presents a different kind of challenge according to Cabot coach Jerry Bridges, and if the Panthers want to repeat as tournament champs, Bridges knows his team will have to work for it.

“Those were our first games in the new arena,” Bridges said of last year’s tournament, “and it was a fun time. We’re trying to defend the title, and we feel like we have our work cut out. We have other games right now that we’re worried about before then, but we feel like it gives us a good feel for the tournament.”

When asked who some of the stronger teams are in the boys’ bracket, Bridges said each team has a shot, but said Benton could catch some teams by surprise.

“I tell you, I think Benton is going to be a very good team this year that people are going to discover as the season gets under way, because they have about everybody back,” Bridges said. “I’d probably say Benton has to be a favorite (in the tournament) this year, but I think everybody has a shot at it too. I feel like it’s going to be a good field. If we can win it that tells me we’re becoming a good basketball team.”

Cabot, Pulaski Academy, Beebe, Harding Academy, Searcy, Watson Chapel, Vilonia and Nettleton make up the girls’ bracket. The Lady Panthers, who went on to win the class 7A state championship last season, have already won a tournament championship this season.

On Nov. 17, the Lady Panthers defeated North Little Rock by 24 points in the Heavenly Hoops Classic championship game at Mount St. Mary Academy. Cabot started the season 3-0, but fell hard to Conway last week, losing 90-64 on the road.

Seniors Elliot Taylor and Jaylin Bridges are returning starters from last year’s state championship team, and although several Lady Panthers have stepped in and played well this season, assistant coach Charles Ruple wants to see more players step in and contribute.

“Right now our depth is a place that we really need to improve on,” Ruple said. “Against Conway, I don’t know that they had more fire-power, but they definitely had more man-power. We played about six, maybe seven in that first half. (Conway) ended up playing about 10 or 12 girls.”

Although Cabot is the most recent team to win a state championship in the girls’ bracket, others have strong basketball traditions. Watson Chapel has won three state titles in the past five years, and Vilonia won the class 5A championship in 2009.

Pulaski Academy is expected to have another strong season. Searcy and Nettleton have improved since last year, and Beebe could surprise some teams in the tournament. Harding Academy is another team expected to have a good year as the Lady Wildcats return just about every player on their roster.

Like Bridges said of the boys’ portion of the bracket, Ruple believes any of the eight teams in the girls’ bracket could finish at the top once it’s all said and done.

“I don’t think I’d be out of line at all to say really any one of these teams could win the tournament,” Ruple said. “We’re just going to have to play well, score well. We’re going to have a little bit of an advantage because we’re playing at home and that always makes a difference. These first four games we’ve played, we have not played at home. Whoever comes out of this tournament as the winner should be quite a bit better.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke gets two wins at tourney

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke boys and girls got first-round wins in the Hot Springs Invitational on Monday. The boys played outstanding defense in beating Little Rock Christian Academy 56-30 while the girls got by Mills University Studies 50-42

In the boys game, the Jackrabbits held the Warriors to seven total baskets and four of those came in the fourth quarter when Lonoke coach Dean Campbell played mostly reserves and junior varsity players.

Starter Blake Mack stayed in until the end of the game and finished as the leading scorer with 20 points.

“He got two quick fouls and didn’t play the rest of the first half,” Campbell said. “I wanted to leave him in there and get him some more playing time.”

While Mack was the leading scorer, point guard Jamel Rankin drew the most praise from Campbell.

“Jamel played one of the better games I’ve ever seen him play,” Campbell said. “He took care of the ball. I don’t think he had a turnover, and he set a defensive tone for us early on that was unbelievable. He got a handful of steals and a handful of rebounds for us that were huge.”

The Jackrabbits gave up two buckets in the first quarter and held a 12-6 lead at the end of one period of play. They did not allow a single basket by the Warriors in the second quarter, but committed several fouls and struggled offensively.

Lonoke stayed stuck on 12 points for over half the second quarter, and sent the Warriors to the line 18 times. Fortunately for Lonoke, Little Rock Christian made just seven of those 18 attempts, and the offense found its rhythm again late in the quarter. The Jackrabbits scored 11 points in the final three minutes and took a 23-13 lead into intermission.

The Warriors managed just one bucket in the third quarter to go along with four free throws, while Lonoke posted 16 points to stretch its lead to a commanding 39-19.

“We sent them to the line way too much in the second quarter,” Campbell said. “I liked how aggressive we were, but at times we were a little overly aggressive and reaching way too much. At halftime we talked about playing defense with your feet and they went out and did that. They did a great job of moving their feet and getting their chest out in front.”

Lonoke didn’t get to the free-throw line often, shooting just nine compared to LRCA’s 30, but the Jackrabbits made seven of them.

“I wasn’t very pleased with our free-throw shooting in our first game,” Campbell said. “We didn’t get a lot of opportunities, but we did a fairly good job of capitalizing when we did get them.”

Lonoke’s second-round game will be against the Mills boys, who beat Arkansas Baptist 61-57 on Monday.

“They lost a lot off last year’s team, but coach (Raymond) Cooper has those boys flying around everywhere just pressuring you like crazy,” Campbell said of Mills. “It will be a good learning experience for us because we’re going to face a couple of teams that play that style in our conference.”

The Lady Jackrabbits built a nice lead through the first half and simply maintained it in the final two quarters. Lonoke led 36-22 at the break, but was outscored 20-14 in the second half.

“We shot the ball terribly from the free-throw line,” Lonoke coach Nathan Morris said. “We had some opportunities to open it up a little bit but didn’t get it done.”

The Lady Rabbits finished the game making just seven of 23 attempts from the line.

Eboni Willis led Lonoke with 17 points while Amanda Sexton scored 11 and Kerasha Johnson added 10.

Lonoke plays Hot Springs at 7 p.m. tonight at HSHS.

SPORTS STORY >> Goodwin making name known

Leader sports editor

At the rate he’s going, former Sylvan Hills Bear and current Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin isn’t long for college basketball.

Goodwin leads Kentucky in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game. His high this season was 28. His best overall game was his last one when he almost tallied a triple-double. He finished Kentucky’s blowout win over Longwood with 22 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. And he’s done all this while spending most of his time away from his natural position.

NBA teams have already taken notice and have already begun their research on Goodwin as a possible draft choice. Two NBA teams have contacted Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis for information about his former charge. Davis didn’t feel at liberty to say which teams have contacted him, but he, if few others, isn’t surprised that Goodwin has been as good as he’s been.

“The Kentucky press asked me when he first signed how I thought he compared to the rest of the class, seeing as how he wasn’t has highly rated as some of the others,” Davis said. “I told them I thought he was the top kid in the class. He’s the kind of player, he will eject you out of your seat. You’ll be sitting there just watching a basketball game and then you’ll be up asking yourself, oh my goodness, did he just do that.”

Kentucky coach John Calipari has made an unprecedented habit of signing NBA-ready players out of high school. A recent NBA rule dictates that players are not eligible for the NBA draft until they’ve been out of high-school at least one year.

That’s helped certain college programs dominate a year at a time, but Calipari seems to get the vast majority of those NBA-ready guys every single year. The irony here is that Goodwin was not considered one of those guys. He, by Kentucky’s recent standards, was kind of a low-rated recruit.

The Wildcat fans are used to, and expect, only to sign guys that they know will only be there one year, but they don’t worry about it. They know their coach with the shady past and tattered trail of NCAA infractions will just sign some more the next season.

But Goodwin, with all his highly-publicized question marks concerning everything from his shooting prowess to maturity to which position he’ll even play, has been the Wildcats’ best player.

Kentucky’s point guard, Ryan Harrow, has missed every game since the season opener for various reasons, and Goodwin moved over from the two to run the point.

In just his second game at the point, the freshmen-laden Wildcats were beaten pretty thoroughly by a less talented but much more experienced and senior-laden Duke squad.

Make no mistake, though, compared to Kentucky, less talented can still mean extremely talented, and Duke is just that.

Goodwin had a decent game, scoring 16 points, but turned it over a few times early on and struggled defensively trying to contain Duke guards Quinn Cook and Seth Curry.

Basketball commentator and former college and NBA coach Dick Vitale was pretty hard on Goodwin throughout that ESPN-televised game, maligning the central Arkansas native as uncomfortable, wild, a poor shooter and immature.

Since then, Goodwin has been superb, even at the point. That’s why Davis believes the NBA has taken notice.

“I think his stock is steadily rising,” Davis said. “They see him showing some versatility and expanding his game. It took him a game or two to get comfortable, but he’s been outstanding since then.”

On one play against Duke, when walk-on guard Jarron Polson took the point for Kentucky, Goodwin, from his natural position, got around Cook, slashed to the bucket and laid it in over Duke’s best player, Mason Plumlee.

That brought praise from Vitale, but even his praise was tinged with criticism.

That’s Archie’s game right there,” Vitale said. “He’s just a natural born scorer.”

Davis agrees with that, but believes there’s more to Goodwin’s game than than filling the rim.

“He is definitely a natural born scorer,” Davis said. “But if that’s all he was I don’t think NBA teams would be calling around about him so early in his career. There’s more to him than that and I think the nation is seeing that unfold.”

Davis speaks with Goodwin weekly, and says the budding star is enjoying himself and handling the criticism well.

“He just lets that stuff roll off him,” Davis said. “He handles that stuff like he handles pressure in a big game. Nothing gets to him.

“Vitale and some guys say he’s a little too wide. Well I’ve always said Picasso can’t paint if you don’t give him a brush. You’ve got to give a guy like that some freedom to do some things. There might be a turnover now and then, but you have to let a guy like that experiment and see what he can create. You’re going to be pleased with the result most of the time, I promise you.”