Saturday, December 22, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> You really can enjoy season’s merriment

Leader sports editor

Have a Merry Christmas. That’s a common salutation that comes around about this time of year. In this rare case of a not-so sports related piece, it’s also a suggestion to actually do so. To the modern western man or woman, Christmas time is the annual propagation of some nebulous of good will that somehow permeates our souls. It can, for a short time, warm our hearts to consider such an idea. It doesn’t last because we know it’s not true.

Christmas is, among many other things, the fusing together of the two great big ideas of mankind, Paganism and Christianity. Christmas is the one holiday steeped in both Christian truths and a pagan ritual that is still plying a roaring trade in our streets today.

G.K. Chesterton made the brilliant observation that, “Pag-anism was the biggest thing in the world. Christianity was bigger, and everything since has been comparatively small.”

One thing those two great big ideas had in common was their affinity for ritual. So when this essay begins with “have a merry Christmas”, it means to take part in some of these rituals. It probably seems like a silly idea to one who’s never considered it, but the rest of this piece hopes to make a strong case for doing so.

Christianity replaced paganism in the western hemisphere, but not all at once. It infused some of the happier pieces of pagan rituals with the new rituals of a then brand-new Christendom. The very date of the celebration of Jesus’ birth was chosen to coincide with established pagan rituals surrounding the winter solstice and the Yule festival. There Pagans held some fascinating ideas that couldn’t have been more Christian apart from the incarnation.

The harvest festival is the best example. The early church created All Saints Day on Nov. 1 to coincide with this annual pagan spectacle. The day before that became known as All Hallows Eve, which we now call Halloween.

The delightful truth of the pagan festival that touched the nature of things was this. They recognized that there was something meaningful and mysterious about the death of living things (the harvest, i.e. grain, vegetable or animal) giving nourishment to other living things throughout the harshest season of the year.

Christ came and gave that beautiful mystery an eternal verification.

Ritual in our radically auto-nomous society is a foreign concept, though it’s design is to bring joy, which is sorely missed. Ritual, by its very nature means coming together with others for a common purpose. Pagans and early Christians were much better at it than modern man. That’s why they really enjoyed the merriment that we sometimes, if we can find the time, will make a feeble attempt to force.

Even the ritual of the daily offices of the early church (still practiced by liturgical churches), though a solitary activity, is steeped in community by the fixed time of day. Worshipers can be sure, though they are alone; they are a small part of a grand spiritual event at that moment.

Coming together has sadly become unnecessary. Combine our desire, nay, our force of culture, to be our own masters, with our self-sufficiency enhancing technology, then isolation reigns and community wanes.

This phenomenon is just as pervasive within the Church as outside of it. Every one of the schisms in church history has involved the jettisoning of some dogma or ritual. What’s left is a bunch of churches just as autonomous and separated as the secular society they claim to reject. It all adds up to a loss of joy and merriment.

What’s needed is an em-brace of the old meaning of Christmas and the old practices of enjoying it, not just for the survival of the Church in the future, but also for the merriment of man in the present. Take away the virgin birth and you do some strange wrong to sellers of spiked eggnog, not to mention the buyers.

So hang some mistletoe and kiss people for walking underneath it. Make some plum pudding then raise your spoons and shout when it’s set aflame. Sing to strangers.

Also, light a solitary candle to symbolize the star of Bethlehem. Light many candles to symbolize the light of the Logos whose birth we recognize. Go to a midnight Christmas Eve service or at the very least, go to your knees in your home. You not only will feel a mysterious and satisfying connection to your fellow man, you’ll feel one to your ancestors, pagan and Christian alike. You may feel one to Him who fulfilled the partial truths ritualized by the pagans, and is the source of true good will.

And you will experience a Merry Christmas.

SPORTS STORY >> Bison charge past Palestine-Wheatley

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle Bison got back into the winning column in a big way Thursday, beating fellow 2A-6 Conference-member Palestine-Wheatley 60-28 at Bison Arena.

Palestine-Wheatley has won only one game this season, but it came against Marvell, the same team that beat Carlisle 78-73 last week at Bison Arena. The Bison had an off night against the Mustangs, and didn’t play their best defense in the losing effort. Against the Patriots, Carlisle was more than ready.

“We said the keys for today is we want defensive energy, we wanted to share the ball, we wanted to dominate on possessions, and we wanted to have fun,” said Carlisle coach William Rountree. “And, you know, we lost a couple of games here in the last 10 days which we don’t think we should’ve lost. But we did, and the kids played good tonight.”

Palestine-Wheatley (1-9, 1-5) scored the first four points of the game. Senior point guard Chris Hart scored the first points for the Bison (4-3, 3-3) with an and-one play at the 5:48 mark, which cut the Patriots’ lead to 4-3. But it wasn’t long after that Carlisle committed its third turnover on a travel by junior post player Deron Ricks as he brought the ball up court.

Rountree called timeout after the turnover, and afterwards, the Bison began forcing turnovers instead of committing them. Carlisle finished the quarter with a 13-3 scoring run, and its press defense was highly-effective in the turnaround. The Bison forced nine Patriot turnovers in the quarter, and 32 for the game.

Palestine-Wheatley committed 14 of those turnovers in the second quarter, which helped Carlisle increase its lead to 34-13 by halftime. The Bison upped the margin in the third quarter by outscoring the Patriots 17-3 to take a comfortable 51-16 lead by the start of the fourth.

Chris Clayvon Edwards had a big third quarter for the Bison off the bench. Edwards, a senior post player, scored just three points in the quarter, but snagged six rebounds, had one steal, an assist and one block.

“He had a good second half,” Rountree said of Edwards. “He’s got a chance to be a nice player. He was big down the stretch for us. We have to have him. That’s the thing with us. You look out there and see who starts. It doesn’t really matter. We’re going to play nine or 10 every time.”

The sportsmanship rule was invoked at the start of the fourth quarter as Carlisle led by 35 points. The Bison starters sat the majority of the fourth, and Palestine-Wheatley outscored Carlisle 12-9 down the stretch to set the final score. It was a solid bounce-back performance for Carlisle, who hopes to carry the momentum from the win into its annual Bison Holiday Hoops tournament, which begins Dec. 27 and lasts through Dec. 29.

“I just thought we had outstanding effort overall,” Rountree said. “We put good pressure on the ball, got some easies, we moved the ball around well. And really, everybody that played, played good. So, you know, we have a chance to be a pretty good team. We’re 4-3 going into the break, and we’ve showed flashes of being a good team.”

Austin Reed led the Bison with 15 points. Dathan Hill scored 13. Edwards finished a board shy of a double-double as he scored 10 points, grabbed nine rebounds and had four blocks. Hart finished with eight points, six assists and four steals. Justice Bryant had six points, and Braden Reed scored four. The Bison will play Bradford in the opening round of its holiday tournament at 8 p.m. on Dec. 27.

SPORT STORY >> Carlisle girls barely tested by PW ladies

Leader sportswriter

The Carlisle ladies were dominant from start to finish as they beat Palestine-Wheatley 44-8 in a 2A-6 Conference matchup on Thursday at Bison Arena.

As soon as the opening tipoff got underway, it was clear who the better team was on the floor. Callie Hillman, Faith Walker and Breanna Young led the Lady Bison to a 20-0 lead after a quarter of play.

The Lady Bison led 27-0 before the Lady Patriots put points on the board. With 3:57 to play in the first half, Kelsey Lamb hit a midrange jumper to give Palestine-Wheatley (1-9, 1-5) its first two points. Bethany Thweat scored again for the Lady Patriots with 49 seconds to go in the half, but Carlisle (8-4, 5-1) added two more baskets before the break to lead 31-4 at halftime.

“Everybody got a chance to play and everybody got some minutes,” said Lady Bison coach Jonathan Buffalo after the game. “I saw some good things out of those that don’t always get a chance to play. I saw where they improved from practice. We realize sometimes there’s going to be games like that. We just get in and do what we have to, and we get out without getting anybody hurt.”

With the game out of hand, the clock ran continuously throughout the second half. The Lady Bison outscored the Lady Patriots 11-0 in the third quarter to increase their lead to 42-4 by the start of the fourth.

The Carlisle reserves saw plenty of playing time in the second half, but could only manage two points in the final quarter.

Palestine-Wheatley scored four points in the fourth, including the final bucket of the game. Thweat hit a baseline jumper at the buzzer to set the final score.

“There were times we played good defense,” Buffalo said, “especially early in the first half. We switched out of the man and got in the zone. But we still have some things we need to work on. Defensively we need to work on moving our feet a little better. Offensively we need to shoot the ball from the outside a little bit better than we’ve been shooting it. It wasn’t a factor tonight, because we got every shot that we wanted to get.”

Buffalo wants to see his team make those adjustments in the annual Bison Holiday Hoops tournament, which will feature some stiff competition. The tournament tips off Dec. 27 and will last through Dec. 29.

“We have our tournament coming up on the 27th, playing Bradford in the first round of that,” Buffalo said. “Bradford’s a much-improved basketball team. They’re better than they have been the last couple of years. So there’s not going to be an easy game. I could look at (the bracket) and say there are eight teams in that tournament that’s going to have a chance to win it.”

Against Palestine-Wheatley, as the scoreboard indicated, Carlisle led every statistical category. The Lady Bison out-rebounded the Lady Patriots 39-15, and committed 14 turnovers to Palestine-Wheatley’s 27. Eight of Carlisle’s turnovers came in the final quarter with the starters on the bench.

Carlisle made 40 percent if its free throws, and 20 percent of its three pointers. Palestine-Wheatley was 0 for 12 from the three-point line, and had zero attempts at the free-throw line.

Hillman led the way for the Lady Bison with 12 points. Ten of Hillman’s points came in the first quarter. Young scored 11. Thweat scored four of Palestine-Wheatley’s eight points.

The Lady Bison’s game against Bradford in the opening round of the Bison Holiday Hoops tournament will tip off at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 27.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS program earning great rep

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville High School has developed into one of the premier boys’ basketball programs in the state, and head coach Vic Joyner plays the key role in cultivating the reputation JHS basketball has.

The evidence of that can be found at the next level. There are currently more than a dozen former Red Devils playing college basketball, including five at the Division I level.

Raheem Appleby is a sophomore at Louisiana Tech. He earned a starting job as a freshman and was the team’s second-leading scorer. This year is the leading scorer, averaging 18 points per game with a season high of 34.

A trio of former Red Devils play for former Razorback and NBA world champion Corliss Williamson at UCA. LaQuentin Miles is in his second year with the Bears and leads the team in minutes played per game. He is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. DeShone McClure is also a junior, playing his first year for the Bears after two years in junior college. McClure averages 8.4 points per game. Tirrell Brown is a freshman post player who is already playing 13 minutes and averaging three points and five rebounds.

Demetrius Harris took the longest road to DI hoops. He played junior college ball at Mineral Area Community College in Park Hill, Mo. before signing with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last season. Harris is starting as a senior, averaging 8.1 points and five rebounds per game. He also has a team-high 11 blocks this season.

Besides Brown, three other Red Devils off last year’s team alone are playing college ball below the DI level. Dustin House was only averaging three points per game for Williams Baptist, but recently broke out and scored 27 in his last outing for the Eagles.

What’s the key to the steady success of Jacksonville’s program and the success of its players once they leave? Joyner says it is, in part, the demanding program that he, the administration and other coaches run.

“You have to have character and discipline to stay in this program,” Joyner said. “We don’t keep anyone on the team who isn’t focused on their future and being a good teammate. We don’t put up with a bunch of problems on the practice floor, the classroom or even outside of school. If you don’t show improvement from year to year, you get cut. By that I mean if you’re working at it you will get better. The ones that get cut are the ones who aren’t putting in the effort.”

Like any high-school coach, Joyner deals with student/athletes who let grades fall and lose their eligibility. He’s not a one-strike coach. Though it has borne out that those who lose their eligibility and come back, many times aren’t on the team by their senior year.

“I don’t really have to cut guys because they know the standards to be in this program,” Joyner said. “The ones who don’t want to meet those standards weed themselves out. What’s left are the high-character guys.”

Jacksonville currently has a cumulative team grade point average of 2.9. It’s the second year in a row the team has just barely missed a 3.0 cumulative average, which Joyner says is the goal for his squad.

“That starts in middle school and goes all the way up,” Joyner said. “Coach (Brandon) Weems has done a great job of getting kids ready for what we do on the court and what we demand off the court. Coach (Tirrell Sr.) Brown keeps that going, and the kids get to us already having a basic knowledge of what we expect and what we’re doing on the court.”

Joyner says college coaches tell him that players coming from his program are ahead of most freshmen in knowledge of the game and physical development.

“That’s why you see so many of them playing so much as freshmen,” Joyner said. “They can always get stronger. We hit the weight room but most young men’s bodies are going to fully mature in their college years.”

Joyner also spends a lot of time gathering, making copies and sending film of his players to colleges. He has more than 1,200 college coaches’ phone numbers in his phone. It’s even to the point where some college coaches are calling him sight unseen to see if he has a player that might fit a need.

Joyner, though, says the credit for his program’s reputation still should go to the players.

“I don’t give the guys the ability they have to get there, and I don’t give them the discipline and character it takes to make it,” Joyner said. “They have to possess that on their own. I’m going to do everything I possibly can to help them, but they have to perform and do it. Like I said, the bad ones weed themselves out. The ones left are people this community can be proud of. I’m proud of everyone of my kids who stuck with it through their senior year, because it’s not easy to do.”

SPORTS STORY >> Inner drive lifts a quiet competitor

Leader sportswriter

The old saying that talk is cheap but hard work is expensive certainly applies to Cabot senior Ally Van Enk.

Van Enk may have a quiet demeanor , but her inner drive has propelled her to a starting role with the Lady Panthers under longtime coach Carla Crowder. That’s not to say she hasn’t had much playing time up until this point, as she was a strong contributor last season during Cabot’s 27-5 run that included a 7A Central Conference title and the school’s first-ever basketball state championship.

It was a team loaded with premier talent, including a major NCAA Division I college recruit. There was so much depth for the Lady Panthers heading into the 2011-12 season that Van Enk, who would have easily been a starter at most other schools, was relegated to a sixth-man role.

It was a history-making season for Cabot all the way around with the opening of the new Panther Arena for the 2011-12 season. The Lady Panthers went undefeated in their new digs last year, including a thrilling overtime victory over Little Rock Hall in the state semifinals.

Cabot faced Fort Smith Northside in the championship on March 10 at Summit Arena in Hot Springs. The Lady Grizzlies came into the game with only one loss, but Cabot prevailed 51-41 to win the title. The starting five took few breaks during the course of the game, which meant Van Enk saw only two minutes of playing time.

“Nerves,” Van Enk said of the week leading up to the championship game. “Every-body was nervous, everybody was excited, but we all had to be on our A game. Everybody knew we could do it, we just had to make it happen.”

Some high-level players might have grown frustrated with limited playing time like the situation Van Enk faced last year, but her team-first approach made her an effective role player for Crowder.

“I knew my role in practice,” Van Enk said. “I didn’t mind not getting as much playing time, I knew I was helping the team.”

The Lady Panthers lost three starters to graduation in the spring, but for Van Enk, along with fellow senior starters Elliot Taylor, Jaylin Bridges and Abbey Allgood, the fight to defend the 7A state crown is just beginning.

“I feel a little more pressure as a starter,” Van Enk said. “Everyone is looking up to you. I feel comfortable being a leader. Coach pushes everybody to be a leader and push everybody else. Seniors are expected to be leaders, but then everyone themselves strive to be leaders.”

Her full first name is Alexandra, though she is known by all her friends and teammates as Ally. Van Enk, who is a 4.0 GPA student academically, is the oldest of three children for Justin and Erica Van Enk, and said her only real hobby outside of basketball is spending time with friends.

“We have a lot of team bonding,” Van Enk said. “We spend a lot of time together. Of course, we practice a lot too. Everybody’s really good friends, we all like to hang out with each other.”

Van Enk is eyeing Arkansas State University in Jonesboro as a potential college once she graduates this spring. To date, there have been no offers to play college basketball, but she said she would be open for offers.

“She’s a great person,” Crowder said. “Good student, and excellent player. Ally can do whatever Ally wants to do. She’s got that much ability. She’s probably the most athletic person on the team, and her level of expectation is high from me.

“She does a really good job for us. She’s able to rebound and hit the boards really hard.”

Crowder said Van Enk’s contributions on the court have been important for Cabot, but the example she sets off the court is vital for the younger players.

“I think she’s starting to be a leader,” Crowder said. “She’s kind of quiet and shy, but I think she’s starting to do a better job and be a good leader for us on and off the court. She’s really a good kid and makes good choices off the court, and I’m really proud of her for that.”

The Lady Panthers are off to Texas to play in a holiday tournament in the Dallas area before 7A/6A East Conference play starts up during the first week of 2013. It will be the final run playing high-school basketball for Van Enk, who said she would rather be remembered as a strong team player as opposed to any individual accomplishments.

“It’s been great,” Van Enk said. “I’ve loved everybody I’ve played with. I’ve gotten along with them well. They’ve pushed me, I’ve learned to push them as well. I guess I’ve just had a good chemistry with everybody.”

EDITORIAL >> Seniors will fall first

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are far from an agreement on taxing and spending to avoid the overhyped fiscal cliff in 10 days. Boehner couldn’t even convince his hardliners to support his so-called Plan B, which called for modest tax increases for millionaires, so he pulled his proposal Thursday night.

From the vague reports of a possible deal at month’s end, it would hit Arkansans plenty hard enough. God save us from something worse. It would alter the inflation index for Social Security to cut the pensions of Arkansas’ 650,000 retirees and disabled by roughly 3 percent over 10 years. Medicare would take a far bigger hit, and the question seems to be whether providers like hospitals, home healthcare services and physician specialists will bear most of the sacrifice as the president insists or the patients absorb it as the Republicans insist. Farm support, which agriculture says is the lifeblood of the east Arkansas economy, almost certainly will be slashed drastically. So will economic development and infrastructure aid for airports, highways and streets.

The fiscal cliff and the “debt crisis,” which are the reasons for cliffhanging negotiations between the leaders of the two parties, are manufactured emergencies. The large deficits and big debt growth since 2008 are the products mostly of the financial crisis of that year and the lingering economic malaise, which has sapped revenues and expanded relief payments like unemployment, food stamps and Medicaid.

Those were added to the structural deficit of $600 billion a year from the Bush tax cuts and a near quadrupling of military spending in the Bush years. Restoration of pre-recession economic growth and of the Clinton-era tax rates on the highest incomes (3,000 or fewer in Arkansas), along with a reduction in military outlays as the Afghan war withers away will bring the deficit down to the level of Ronald Reagan’s first year. The deficit has already come down by almost $400 billion since its peak in the last Bush budget and this year will be well below the dreaded trillion-dollar stage.

But the political crisis is as real as the fiscal emergency is not, and the president must deal with the reality of it. There must be large spending cuts or else the House majority will take the country over the cliff and probably into another recession, and those cuts must hurt ordinary Americans and not merely the rich, defense contractors and prosperous business.

Social Security should have been off the table because it is solvent for another 25 years and with a simple adjustment in the income limit subject to old-age and disability taxes it would be solvent far into the unseen future. But Obama, apparently sensing the reality of his predicament, reportedly agreed to try to persuade his party to accept a weaker inflation formula long suggested by Republicans.

Instead of using the consumer-price index (CPI) as the basis of annual inflation adjustments in pensions, Social Security would use a “chained CPI,” which calculates a lower inflation impact on the elderly on the theory that old and disabled people will not stop buying products and services when their prices go up but merely find cheaper ones—Kroger green beans rather than Del Monte—thus justifying a smaller pension than the inflation rate calls for.

Others, like the American Association for Retired Persons, say the CPI already eats away at the pension’s purchasing power because, even with Medicare, the elderly and disabled spend more of their income on medical services and drugs than do other people. Medical inflation is higher than everything.

Democrats will rebel at Obama’s cave-in, but he probably can bring enough of them along to get the deed done. For sure, Republicans in the House will stick together to see that the aged and infirm take a good solid hit. All of Arkansas’ GOP delegation is on board.

Health-care spending across the board—not merely Medicare, Medicaid and VA—is the chief driving force for domestic deficits and the declining spending power of most Americans, but Medicare must take steps to slow its spending growth. Obama has said again that raising the eligibility to 67 or higher is not an option. That would be not only intolerable but also irrational. The Medicare savings would simply be shifted to the rest of the health-care economy, including employer and individual insurance and the government. While longevity has improved the past 50 years, the point of fatigue for most of the labor force has not lengthened.

As for how the real Medicare cuts are made, let us hope that our delegates tell their party leaders—none of them are in the leadership ranks themselves and never will be—to stand with the recipients who have paid their old-age health insurance. That’s all we can hope for.

TOP STORY >> Slight chance of snow

Leader staff writer

With the Midwest recovering from an onslaught of heavy snows, what are the chances that it will be a white Christmas this year in Arkansas?

Weather statisticians give us a three percent chance of receiving up to an inch of snow — better odds than we’ve seen in the past few years.

Current weather models do show that parts of the state will get at least a dusting of snow. But it will come after midnight on Christmas and won’t count as a white Christmas. That storm, still forming way out west, could come in early though and surprise us with some white stuff.

On average, it happens about every 14 years.

Right now, the National Weather Service is calling for Christmas Day weather to be cold and cloudy with a chance of rain. Highs are expected to be in the high 40s to low 50s with a 30 percent chance of precipitation. A chance of light snow enters the picture after midnight as precipitation chances increase to 40 percent.

The greatest probabilities for a white Christmas are across the northern U.S. and in mountainous areas. Assuming a “white Christmas” is having at least one inch of snow on the ground on Dec. 25, the chances are 60 percent or better over an area including much of the northern Rockies, the northern Great Plains, the Great Lakes area and most of New England.

The chances are less than 20 percent over most of the southern third of the country.

According to Little Rock Air Force Base weather records, it has snowed in Jacksonville on Christmas just twice since 1956. The area was hit with an inch in 1975 and saw just a trace in 2009. In 1983, it snowed on the 19th and on the 27th, but the ground was clear on Christmas Day.

National Weather Service records show that central Arkansas saw Christmas snow in 1887, 1914, 1918, 1935 and 1939, with no accumulation.

In 1962, more than an inch of snow fell on Christmas Eve day, but it mostly melted during the night, leaving just a few patches for Christmas revelers to see.

In 1897, an inch of snow fell Christmas morning, but it was mostly gone by that evening. The same thing happened in 1913 when 1.5 inches of snow fell all through the night and into the morning, but a sunny afternoon of 40 degrees melted most of it away by the end of Christmas Day.

In 1926, Christmas morning started off with sleet that changed over to snow. About 2.5 inches dropped by mid-afternoon.

In 1963, four inches of snow was on the ground Christmas Day, the remains of a 9.8-inch snowstorm that hit the area on Dec. 22.

In 1975, snow came in on Christmas afternoon and piled up two inches on hilly areas and places with higher elevations, but most of central Arkansas saw a rain/snow mix that didn’t stick around long.

In 1983, there was about an inch of ice and snow on the ground Christmas Day, the remains of a storm that blew in earlier that week.

More than two inches of snow hit the area Dec.22-23, 1990, and some of it remained as a Christmas gift.

In 2004, about three inches of snow fell in the area on Dec. 22, and most of it was still on the ground come Christmas. In 2009, a trace of snowflakes flittered to the ground Christmas Day.

If it usually doesn’t snow much on Christmas Day here, when does it snow?

The earliest it has ever snowed in central Arkansas, according to the weather service, is the end of October (Oct. 28, 1925) and the latest snow has come in April (April 19, 1983).

The heaviest snows tend to hit from mid January to late February.

TOP STORY >> Grand opening for subdivision

Leader staff writer

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday in Jacksonville to mark the completion of The Meadows subdivision, a housing project with 55 single-family rental homes.

The subdivision is near Cloverdale Road off Hwy. 161.

The $9.8 million project was completed in five months after a groundbreaking in July.

One of the new tenants is Shuntia Woods, a single mom with three boys who moved from Little Rock. She works at Arkansas Children’s Hospital as an operating-room medical assistant.

“It is just beautiful, a blessing to start a new year and a new house,” Woods said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said just as a ribbon in sports signifies the finish line, Wednesday’s ceremony is the beginning of something bigger — the building of lives.

“I’m excited that lives are going to change,” Fletcher said.

Jacksonville Housing Authority chairman Mike Wilkinson said, “This is a fulfillment of a vision. Tax-credit public housing is something we wanted to try.”

Alice Rufus, the Little Rock Department of Housing and Urban Development field office director, said, “I’m grateful public housing has changed its face.”

She said people making low incomes don’t have to live in substandard housing. Public housing is no longer three, four, or five-story buildings.

“People can be proud of where the live. They are not living in a project but a community,” Rufus said.

Monthly rent for the 55 homes is between $307 and $960. Thirty of the homes have project-based vouchers for rental assistance, 11 have tax credits for higher incomes and 14 are at market rate.

Eight of the 55 homes are four-bedroom, while the rest are three-bedroom. Four homes were designed for handicapped accessibility. All houses have single step entrances.

The homes average 1,300 square feet. They have attached two-car garages, two bathrooms and a back patio.

The houses are carpeted except for the kitchens and bathrooms, which have vinyl floors.

The kitchens have a full sets of appliances. Each room has a ceiling fan.

To get the subdivision started, First Arkansas Bank president Larry Wilson provided a pre-development loan so the authority could purchase land for the houses in the Meadows subdivision.

The authority received an award of affordable housing tax credits, HOME funds and community development block grant funds from the Arkansas Housing Development Financing Authority and a permanent loan from mortgage lender Prudential Huntoon Paige, a national company.

The development was also made possible by Alliant Capital Group, an equity partner that purchased the affordable housing tax credits.

SE Clark and Associates, Inc. was the developer. Q. Steve Ficklin and Associates was the consultant and Guest Reddick Architects was the designer.

The PDC Corporation, a private real estate and management firm, oversees the development.

Individuals interested in one of the new homes can call PDC at 666-9629.

TOP STORY >> Young girl asks Santa for a very special gift

Leader editor

(This is a reprint of a previous Christmas column.)

When my friend Jack Sallee was with the Jaycees in Fayetteville, they’d put an ad in the paper at Christmastime saying that for $2 you could have Santa come to your place.

There’d be a group of Santas going out every night, and Sallee was among them.

“Each Santa went to about 10 homes a night,” Sallee says. “Each Santa had a driver. Mine was named Larry Nixon. He was a big fellow, and I would tell the kids Larry was driving me around town.”

Usually nothing out of the ordinary happened. Kids gotto tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas, and Santa gave them lots of candy, and everybody went to bed happy.

But then something different did happen. Sallee says, “One night we had two houses left to go. We drove around for a while, and when we found one, it was a one-room house. We went inside, and the house had a dirt floor and hardly any furnishings.”

A young girl was there with her mother. They were as poor as they could be: They had nothing — or very little.

The two Jaycees, college educated and professionals who had seen dozens of nice homes, couldn’t believe what they had walked into.

“There were two cots to sleep on and a table and a chair,” Sallee says. “The house had a potbellied stove. She had one of those small Styrofoam ice chests. So needless to say, I was taken aback because I didn’t think people still lived like that. This was inside the Fayetteville city limits.

“The girl was seven or eight years old,” Sallee continues, “and she had long hair and blue eyes. She wore a nightgown that looked like a man’s T-shirt her mother had cut off. She was flabbergasted that Santa Claus would actually visit her.”

He says, “For a Christmas tree, her mother had brought in a branch and put it on the table.”

Her mother had found her a present — a ball wrapped in tissue paper. Sallee wondered what else this poor girl would ask for.

“In the homes we had seen,” he continues, “the children would tell us what they wanted by reciting the toy sections in stores they’d been to.”

But that wasn’t what the girl wanted.

“The girl sat on my lap and looked at me seriously,” Sallee recalls. “She said, ‘Santa, the only thing I want is for Daddy to come home.’

“I looked at my driver, this big, burly guy, and he had to walk outside because tears were streaming down his face,” Sallee says.

“The mother turned her back to us, and I just turned my head away from her,” he adds. “I was just stunned and moved and speechless. I wanted to hold the little girl and tell her everything was going to be all right, but there was nothing you could do. You felt helpless. She never asked for a toy or clothes.

“I said there are some things Santa Claus can’t do,” Sallee adds, “but Santa Claus would try. I gave her all the candy I had.

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” he says. “It will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Sallee remembers that little girl around this time of the year. He wonders what happened to her father.

Maybe this Christmas he will be home, and, who knows, they’ll have a nice place to live in. You can’t lose hope.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

EDITORIAL >> At last minute, please shop local

Most of us have finished our holiday shopping and are ready to settle down to a cup of soothing tea. But there will always be last-minute stragglers, those who wake suddenly in the wee hours remembering who was left off that carefully prepared list. For you, The Leader has some last-minute nearby shopping suggestions. No mall traffic for these last-minute shoppers.

Last-minute auto buyers should head to Orr in Searcy and Excel Ford in Cabot for a gift that will be a big hit.

Oliver’s Antiques in Jacksonville has lots of stocking stuffers and a nice selection of quilts from hand-quilted antiques to some gently used that can be thrown casually over a couch, according to proprietress Sherry Oliver.

June’s Hallmark in Cabot has lots of last-minute specials, ornaments, wrapping paper and decorative items. June’s will have an extravagant Day After Christmas Sale next Wednesday. Be there.

At Cabot’s Merle Norman, Camille Stout has that wonderful scent Tussy and is running last-minute daily specials.

For the men in your life, Whit Davis in Cabot and Jacksonville has pocket knives, leather gloves, flashlights and power tools. A gent’s paradise.

And speaking of power tools, Ronald Wallace of Gravel Ridge Small Engine has a full line of chainsaws and chains in addition to outdoor equipment. “A sharp tool is a safe tool,” he says.

Hero’s Clothing and Skateboards on Main Street in Cabot has priced all hoodies at $35 and all shoes at $40.

Don’t forget Grandma’s Collectibles in Cabot for the collector in your life for treasured older objects and good condition depression glassware at low, low prices.

For a last-minute piece of furniture, visit the friendly folks at Crafton’s Furniture, who will deliver for free.

Furniture Store in Cabot will help you select just the right piece at half-off storewide.

Legacy Jewelry has diamond studs starting at $125. And Farmers in Cabot has 15 percent off on boots, clothing and toys.

Lastly, consider a relaxing professional massage at Mind Over Matter. Shop till you drop.

— Eileen Feldman

EDITORIAL >> Give COPS more funds

Their names are as beautiful as their faces: Ana, Avielle, Benjamin, Charlotte, Caroline, Catherine, Chase, Daniel, Dylan, Grace, Emilie, James, Jack, Jane, Jessica, Josephine, Madeleine, Noah, Olivia, Robie.

These are the young victims of last week’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 first-graders were gunned down by a madman, along with their principal and five other staff members.

Gun-control advocates are once again demanding legislation to ban assault weapons like those used in the massacre. There is a chance that pro-gun Democrats and moderate Republicans might join forces to enact sensible legislation to restrict access by these psychopaths whose victims number several dozen a year. Even the National Rifle Association might go along this time. An announcement will be made later this week

But there will be more mass murders, even with strict gun controls. Sociopaths will get their hands on guns even if they are restricted through background checks and waiting periods. The weapons used in the most recent mass shootings — those in Connecticut and Oregon — were stolen. Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who murdered the children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn., stole the weapons from his mother before he killed her and drove to the school and butchered the first graders and the staff and then killed himself.

President Obama and Congress might not agree on gun-control legislation anytime soon, but there’s a good chance a $1 billion community-policing program first passed during the Clinton administration will be revived next year as parents demand assurances that their children will be safe in school.

President Clinton’s Community Oriented Policing Services program — or COPS for short — was popular with law-enforcement agencies when it was introduced in the 1990s, providing local police departments extra money to beef up patrols. But funding has dwindled to almost nothing over the years: Congress did approve $1 billion in 2009 as part of President Obama’s stimulus program, but funding fell to $316 million last year and $200 million this year, far less than what the President wanted. Nothing’s been appropriated for next year, although Obama has asked for $300 million.

Requests for more federal funds are coming in from police departments across the country, especially in areas that had mass shootings in recent years, from Connecticut to Virginia, from Colorado to Wisconsin, from Idaho to Oregon and in too many places in between.

Congress, which is as unpopular as ever as it faces down the so-called fiscal cliff, could rebuild its credibility by restoring full funding for COPS and improve safety in our communities. Congress would then honor the young victims of the Sandy Hook massacre and those who were killed before them.

But let’s exclude overzealous Paragould cops, who would stop anyone who goes outside. Show them a copy of the Constitution instead.

TOP STORY >> Making music for 38 years

Leader editor

Next month, Jacksonville Guitar will mark its 38th year in business, and it may be the best guitar shop in the country.

J’ville Guitar is as respected by local musicians today as it has been for nearly four decades. Though it faces stiff competition from the Web, and teenagers seem more interested in video games and other gadgets, the store’s great deals, quality selection and conviviality keep it going.

Steve Evans opened the store in 1975 when he was just out of high school. Only 18 years old, and inspired to open the shop having grown up listening to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and James Taylor, Evans got some help from his father, who taught him how to rent a building and get the power turned on.

Twenty-six years ago, he built the current store at 1105 Burman Drive. The business was originally on Dupree Drive. It is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Evans’ two full-time employees, Bob Tanner and Bobby Appleby, have worked for him for almost 20 years.

“I think we’re doing it right here. And us three who work here want to stock the things that are smart buys. There are some things that are a little too much for what you’re getting. We try to stock the things that people should buy whether they know it or not,” Evans said.

The store’s walls are lined with photographs of mostly bygone local bands, but several are professional musicians like Evanescence, the Little Rock band that’s found success nationally and internationally, and Kris Allen, the American Idol winner from Jacksonville.

If visitors look closely, they will see a picture of Thunderstorm performing at the Sherwood Recreation Center in the late 1970s. The band included Butch Hale, now district judge in Sherwood, and Sherwood City Attorney Steve Cobb and Michael Connelly, who later became a bomber pilot.

Evans pointed to another photograph. “Gibraltar, they were a super local rock band back in 1979. A member, Keith Stewart, became successful” as a music producer in Asia, he said. Stewart has masterminded some of the biggest hits in Taiwan, Singapore and China with top record labels.

Then Evans points out, “Sanctuary Woods, Dan Hampton went on to play football for the Chicago Bears.” The NFL defensive lineman and Jacksonville native was also an enthusiastic bassist.

Evans recalls Hampton buying two Fenders while he was still playing for the Bears. Keith Van Horn, a Bears teammate of Hampton’s, bought a guitar from Jacksonville Guitar by mail.

More photos include the band Nothing to Lose from 1991 with Neil Allen, father of Kris Allen. Evans said Neil Allen’s other band, Maxzoid, was particularly memorable.

Evans remembered when Chris Allen, a few years before competing on American Idol, came into the shop to try out a Martin acoustic guitar that his mother was buying as a gift for his father.

A 1989 photograph shows Evans with Rick Nelson of Cheap Trick during an autograph session to promote the shop.

One photo shows a few young smiling fellows in a heavy metal band posing in a cemetery in 1984. “I tease this fellow here. See they’re obviously a heavy metal band, and he’s in a graveyard posed for this picture. But today he plays in church. I tease him about this picture, and I say ‘when your preacher comes in, I’m gonna take him over and show him this picture,” Evans said.

“A lot of the old rock band guys now play in church. They became family men.”


J’ville Guitar has seen a lot of changes the over years, but a more recent trend may be the most troubling of all.

“The teenage boys have lost interest. I realize that by going home. My 20-year-old son, he and his buddies have a command base in our living room, they got TVs going, and they’re playing video games. He has no interest in hearing guitar,” Evans said.

“It used to be that was our main customer. When school (got out) at 3:30 or whatever, we’d get a bunch of them in here looking at guitars. But there are more females interested than ever and I think it has to do with their not doing the video games. And they have people like Taylor Swift and role models like that,” he said.

Churches have a lot of guitar music too, which may be helping beat back the video game craze and mail-order onslaught.

Of online competitors, Evans said, “We’re losing business to mail order not necessarily because they’re cheaper. We’re getting the shaft because there’s no sales tax charged by the mail order places. Nine percent sales tax is what we have to charge so that’s a bad deal. I heard mail order has gone up 12 percent this year over last year. I’ve added up our numbers, and we’re exactly down 12 percent over last year. I’m not saying we’re closing up because I really love what I do,” Evans said.

“Maybe 8 years ago, a bunch of the big box stores like Walmart were starting to put in guitars, and I felt like they took some business from me. But there must not have been enough mark-up in it because they’re basically out of that now. So that’s good that I’m not competing with Walmart,” he said.

And shopping online or at a big box store can’t match the experience of visiting an independent community guitar shop. A website doesn’t have the photos on the walls or people strumming or chatting about things. As Tanner put it, “If there wasn’t a guitar shop (Jimi Hendrix) might have played an accordion,” he said.


The store gets some of its best inventory in December for holiday shoppers. “If someone needs a guitar, we have it here,” Evans said.

Beginner guitars start at about $100; and a $99 Fender acoustic has been a big seller for Christmas.

For 6 or 7 year olds, a half-sized electric Stratocaster for $100 would be perfect to learn rock or blues, Evans said. An amplifier to go with it is about $60. Acoustic guitars for kids start at $80.

“You might get a lesson on DVD. We sell them for $10, an hour-long lesson. Get a little nimbleness on where to put your fingers, how to operate your fingers and then sign up for lessons after you get your fingers a little toughened up and get a little dexterity,” Evans said.

Others may want to try a Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster for about $500. A more patriotic option with top-shelf quality would be the made in the USA Fenders that cost about $1,000. One of those is a cream-colored Telecaster from the company’s road-worn series. It looks like it’s toured the world a few times with Merle Haggard or George Harrison.

An acoustic standout, is a $2,200 Martin like what Eric Clapton plays with on tour.


Jacksonville Guitar’s private lessons have been known to pay off.

“About 20 years ago, a mom came in and wanted to sign up her son for guitar lessons. The boy was 5 years old, and we told her that probably won’t work. About 10 years old, that’s when they’ll sit down and practice and their fingers are stronger. But she told us, ‘he really wants to do it,’ and the teacher was willing to try. He’s kind of a superstar today. Seth Freeman is his name. He’s not rich from playing, but he does some touring across the country, and he’ll stop and play in Little Rock often,” Evans said.

(Freeman will perform at the Blue Chair Studio in Austin on Jan. 16 and Jan. 17.)

There’s one lesson room, two teachers and with about 25 students who are mostly beginners. Lessons are $18 for a 30-minute private lesson.

Andy Fullerton has been teaching guitar for 40 years. He’s played for 47 years, since he was 11. He’s been with Jacksonville Guitar for eight months, teaching guitar, bass, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and resonator.

Matt Emfinger teaches guitar and bass on Saturdays.

Fullerton has 10 or 11 students now — kids and adults. “I have an 83-year-old lady who’s taking guitar lessons. She doesn’t seem 80 though, I was surprised when she told me,” Tanner said.

The students come from Jacksonville, Cabot and Sherwood.

Fullerton’s old band, the St. James Group, toured with Olivia Newton John in Mississippi in the 1970s. The band also opened for Bad Finger and Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show.

“I met Jim Croce three weeks before he died” in a plane crash in Natchitoches, La., on Sept. 20, 1973.


Appleby started working at the shop in 1993. “I was barely 21 at the time. Now I’m an old bald guy with gray whiskers,” he said.

“I’d been coming here as a kid and I was trying to find a job. I think I was in buying strings. Steve called me and said ‘hey, if you want to (work here) you need to learn how to work the register,’ which was a trick because it was really ‘clean all these photos’” that had collected some spider eggs and cobwebs, Appleby said.

He bought his first guitar at the shop around Christmas of 1984. “It was a Peavey Patriot made of ash, natural wood. Probably the only guitar I have left that’s unscarred. It looks brand new still.” He still has it, but doesn’t play it any more to keep it in mint condition.

“I originally wanted to be a saxophone player. My parents took me down to Bean Music, and immediately turned around and came over here. It was too expensive,” he said.

The store’s address, 1105, is the same as his birthday. What he calls “the real creepy tie-in.” He feels connected to the place.

It’s a lot busier today compared to his first day on the job.

“Going through a daily routine of cleaning and adjusting, restringing. Doing a lot of repair work, maybe putting a bridge on, leveling the fret wire, trimming the edges so there’s nothing sharp on the edge of the finger board,” Appleby said.

He says “the word of mouth for the shop is real good, too. Being around as long as Steve has.”

“A lot of people go for the online thing just because it’s a good deal. But, heaven forbid, if shops like this go away, it’s like losing the garage down the road. I don’t even know how to change oil, same with guitar strings. I take it for granted because I’ve done it for so long,” he said.

He’s proud to be a part of J’ville. “Not very many of these places left. The good old music store is dwindling down. Last of the Mohicans it seems like,” he said.

“We help (our customers) out. It’s not fair to the little guy. The free shipping, no tax sounds great, but it comes down on the little guy,” Appleby said.

“It’s kind of like the song ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’ (Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, 1979). Technology takes out the human element.”

Appleby studied jazz guitar and religion at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He’s as comfortable talking about Ornette Coleman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, or any number of Miles Davis’ sidemen as he is about Hank Williams, John Prine or heavy metal.

He’s in the bands Moses Tucker — outlaw country Southern rock — and Stereo Down — Soundgarden meets the Allman Brothers.

Moses Tucker recently played in Brinkley for the Tri-County Farmers Association, a two-hour gig. They played some originals, George Strait covers and threw in some Jimi Hendrix, who he says “is like jello, there’s always room for him.”

But the bands don’t perform much these days though. “There is no money to be made in this gig of life that we call music. It’s just a matter of loving it and doing it,” Appleby said.

He graduated from North Pulaski High School and lives outside of Gravel Ridge. He plays a Telecaster, a Les Paul and an acoustic with a steel resonator. He plays every day.


In March, Tanner will mark his 20th year at the guitar shop. He played professionally in Memphis before Jacksonville Guitar, touring the Southwest and Southeast with the Café Racers, a new wave dance rock band.

He grew up in Jacksonville and in Little Rock, where he now lives. He plays either the bass guitar, keyboards or drums every day.

As a student at Warren Dupree Elementary, he participated in the Strings in Schools program, an orchestral education program for primary students.

It was the first year for the program to be offered in the Pulaski County Special School District. He credits that with helping him appreciate music and learn music. That program was canceled by PCSSD long ago.

Tanner earned a music scholarship to attend the University of Memphis and study music performance for the upright bass. He found the program to be too intense and eventually got a degree in radio, TV and film at UALR.

Now he plays in a band called Blue Wave, which covers everything from Elvis to the Police. They recently performed in Walnut Ridge at the Rock and Roll Highway/Beatles at the Ridge Festival.

He talked about the time when the Beatles visited Walnut Ridge during a short break in their tour of America during the 1960s. Late one night, the band’s plane touched down in the town they knew as the hometown of rockabilly music. The stars rode horses, shot pistols at a ranch owned by the tour’s promoter.

Tanner looks forward to the next big direction for American music. “We’re 20 years past something big happening (with music). I’m afraid right now it’s like canned cheese. They call rap music, I don’t call rap music. I think it’s an art form or an expression, but it is not music. If you can chart out rap then you can prove to me that it’s music.”

He thinks it might even happen in China or Thailand. “Maybe there are some kids over there that are going to put their spin on American rock and roll just like the Beatles. You never know,” Tanner said. “Somewhere out there, there are some kids right now rewriting rock and roll.”

But musicians don’t need to worry about breaking new ground. “My philosophy is the Mel Bay philosophy. It’s not how well you play, it’s how much you enjoy it. I just enjoy people experiencing it and making it a life-long journey,” Tanner said.

TOP STORY >> More safety promised at local schools

Leader staff writer

Six central Arkansas school districts scrutinized and adjusted safety procedures this week after Friday’s shooting at a Connecticut elementary school put the nation on edge.

Twenty children and six staff members, including the principal, were killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza open fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He is believed to have also shot his mother, Nancy, who was found dead at their home.

Lanza committed suicide as police were closing in on him at the school campus.


Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess sent out an email telling principals to be extra vigilant and “take extra safety precautions immediately and through next week. Please make sure your school follows all established safety/security procedures. Please ensure that all exterior doors are locked and that you keep your eyes and ears open for anything out of the ordinary.

“If you have Watch Dog groups or volunteer security, you may want to ask them for extra assistance.”

The district did not add extra safety officers or counselors.

Gary Beck, the principal of Bayou Meto Elementary School in north Pulaski County, said parents have called the office with concerns.

He is planning to hold a meeting after school the week of Jan. 7, when the students return from their holiday break.

“Hopefully if we can put our heads together we can make it safer,” Beck said, adding that he hopes the meeting will turn into a forum where parents and others can offer suggestions about how to enhance security at the school.

He said Bayou Meto would go into lockdown if something like the Connecticut shooting happened there.

That means all of the doors would be locked, the children would stay in their classrooms and police would be notified immediately, Beck said.

He said visitors have to check in at the office and the only door left unlocked at the school is the front door. Anyone coming into Bayou Meto would be seen from the office, Beck said.

He said the staff calls a student’s parent if someone who isn’t on an approved list is checking the child out of classes.

Beck continued, “If someone really wants to do you harm and plans for it, you can take all the precautions you can but it’s hard to prepare for something out of the blue like that. You do everything you can to make it as safe as you can.”


Shyrel Lee, the principal of Cato Elementary School in Sherwood, said the shooting upset several students.

“A lot of kids had been watching the news. We caution parents that it might not be the best idea to let kids watch CNN. We need to shield them some. Some of them understand. Some of them do not understand,” she said.

Lee said the Cato counselors have been working with the students who have been upset.

She has also received calls from concerned parents.

Lee said, “We have plans and we consider ourselves to be very safe. We have been double checking throughout the day to make sure doors are locked.”

Until recently, all doors except for the front door were kept locked. Lee said she sent a memo to parents letting them know that the front door will also be locked from now on. Any visitors will have to call the office to request that someone let them inside the school.

Lee said, “The way our school is laid out, it’s open space. It’s hard to manage everything.”

But a sticker on the doors instruct visitors that they must check in at the office and there are locations where the children can go to be safe in case an intruder enters the school.

“We have to go over emergency plans every year. No. 1 on the priority list is an intruder. We’re telling kids what they need to do if there is a situation. We’re communicating with older kids. We want to be proactive,” Lee said.

Kathy Kemp, the principal of Oakbrooke Elementary School in Sherwood, also said PCSSD requires a crisis prevention meeting at the beginning of each school year.

She said, “We know who’s going to do what, what’s going to happen during an bomb threat or whatever.”

The school has tornado, fire and lockdown drills once a month and security cameras at every door, Kemp said.

She said the staff just started locking all of the doors. Before, there was a note on them telling visitors to go to the front door and check in at the office.

Kemp sent a letter to parents this week about safety at Oakbrooke. She said the fact that the school is located behind the Sherwood Police Department is a comfort.

Teachers are told to carry their cell phones on campus, Kemp added.

“We’ve got the technology. We need to use it,” she said.

Kemp said she is hoping that President Barack Obama’s speech in response to the Connecticut shootings means the federal government will help schools with funding for more measures to keep students safe.

“It’s very traumatizing,” Kemp said about the attack.

Kirk Freeman, the principal of Northwood Middle School in Sherwood, said, “We are emphasizing (safety more).”

He added that Sherwood police are at the school constantly since the property was annexed into the city in November.

Freeman said a lot of parents know the teachers because they have taught several generations of their families. So, those parents may not always go through proper channels when visiting the school.

But he is encouraging everyone to check in at the office and get name badges. Freeman said many people have been very understanding about that.

Sherwood Alderman Tim McMinn opened Monday night’s city council meeting with, “Our hearts are grieving tonight for the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, EMTs and police officers of Newtown, Conn. They need our prayers. This shows us how fragile life is and what is really important — our children, grandchildren, our community and our schools and our teachers.”

In discussing an increase in franchise fees, Alderman Charlie Harmon asked that the money be dedicated to adding school resources officers to all city schools and increasing their security.


Janice Walker, the principal of Warren Dupree Elementary School in Jacksonville, said district officials came out recently to review the school’s safety procedures and the placement of security cameras.

She said they determined that the cameras were in good positions, but one additional camera could be added to enhance the view of the outer entrance. Another suggestion the officials made was to install a bigger monitor for the office personnel to view visitors, staff members and students going in and out of the building.

Walker spoke with parents about the school safety at a parent-teacher organization meeting Tuesday night.

She said, “I think there are things the parents can do to help.”

Walker said parents who drop their children off in the morning should remember that the doors open at 7:20 a.m. She said they shouldn’t leave students at the school before then.

The doors at Dupree are unlocked because it is an open space school, according to Walker.

“It’s secured as much as possible,” she said.

Walker said parents have not called her with concerns. “That tells me parents are confident in the safety procedures we have,” she added.

Walker said all schools are looking at locking their doors and adding a buzzer system that would better control access.

She said the district sent out a call to alert parents about safety protocols all its schools have to follow.

Don Booth, principal of the Jacksonville Middle School, said, “My kids know they are safe when they come on the campus.”

He said administrators and security guards walk the campus, being vigilant about anyone who appears to be suspicious and making sure the school is secure.

Booth said no one has called with concerns. The school will conduct a lockdown drill when students return from the holiday break.

There are cameras and monitors at Jacksonville Middle, Booth said. He added that they are working to make sure the school’s gates are also secure.

Jeff Senn, the principal of North Pulaski High School in Jacksonville, said he has requested more security officers, but people without ID badges are stopped immediately and there is a crisis plan in place.

“We’re just double checking ourselves right now,” he said.

No parents have called and students don’t seem to be talking about the shooting, Senn said.

He added that teachers are encouraged to lock their doors and buzz the office if they see someone they don’t recognize walking around.

Security cameras are up and running at the school.

Lisa Peeples, the principal of Homer Adkins Preschool in Jacksonville, said they train teachers every year in safety protocols. Doors at the school are locked.

Parents have called and visited since the tragedy.

“Most of them have stated they know their (children are) safe here and the sadness they feel for the families in Connecticut. We had a security guard for a couple of days. We just hold our kids a little closer and love them a little bit more,” Peeples said.

The preschool also has to meet additional childcare licensing requirements because its students are younger than school age. “We have to be really careful anyway,” Peeples explained.


In North Little Rock, the approach after the Connecticut shooting was low key, with no extra personnel added, but the principals were told to increase security.

By Monday afternoon many elementary schools that had been easily accessed were locked tight except for single doors by the main offices.

The Little Rock district increased security and made 25,000 automated calls to parents to explain the district’s safety procedures.


Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman said, “We had a few students request to visit with counselors regarding the incident.”

“We received several suggestions from parents and school staff regarding safety that will be taken into consideration. I encourage our parents to provide ongoing feedback to our building and district administrators in regard to school safety and security,” Thurman said.

Schools will be practicing emergency lockdown drills in the upcoming weeks.

“There is a lot of emphasis today on securing our schools. We do not want to lose this focus as time passes and we begin to return our regular routines and the events of last week are not as fresh on our minds,” he said.

“We have full-time police officers based at the high school and both junior high schools and will be requesting their feedback as well,” Thurman said.

A meeting with local law enforcement, medical and fire personnel was already planned for January before news of Friday’s shooting broke.

In an e-mail to faculty and staff members Thurman said building administrators would review and explain the importance of following lock down procedures. He said that Sandy Hook Elementary’s lock down protocol more than likely saved lives.

“Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to totally stop an emotionally unstable person intent on doing bad things,” Thurman wrote.

He said the priority is to put as many obstacles as possible in front of a person trying to hurt people and be able to secure the campus and classrooms as quick and effective as possible.


“The shooting in Connecticut is one of the saddest things I have seen in my educational career. I believe educators feel such a sense of protection for their students, and this example just shows that some things are out of our control,” Beebe School Superintendent Belinda Shook said.

She continued, “The educators at that school who died protecting their students are true heroes. I don’t know if there are security measures to keep someone as mentally unstable as that shooter from acting.”

Shook said, “I still believe schools are safe places and that this was a random act of violence by a very disturbed individual. Unfortunately, we are hearing of these things way too often in shopping malls, churches and schools.”

She continued, “The Beebe School District has crisis plans, security measures and we are going to revisit them all. We will do everything possible to keep our students and staff safe.”

Shook will be meeting with the administrators to review the district’s disaster and crisis plans this week. Shook has e-mailed the staff and asked for suggestions. She has already received several for consideration.

Shook said concerned parents have also contacted her. She said parents with concerns, questions or suggestions should contact their child’s building administrator.

Beebe schools practice limited access into buildings. Visitors are required to sign in and wear a visitor badge. Staff members supervise designated student pick-up areas.
“It is incomprehensible to those who care for children how anyone could deliberately cause harm to innocent young lives. Senseless violence is difficult to grasp and it is important to understand the big difference between possibility and probability. Safety is, and will always be, the first priority of the Beebe School District,” Shook said.


Lonoke Superintendent Suzanne Bailey wrote a report on student safety that was posted on the district’s website.

The report reads, “Our primary responsibility and top priority each day is to do our best as employees of the school system to keep our children safe. When someone is mentally unstable and/or enters the campus armed and with intent to cause harm to others, it does create an atmosphere in our learning environment to which we may or may not be able to control the outcome, no matter how much we practice or provide preventative measures.”

The report continues, “With this said, we, as educational leaders are guarded with the important task of providing a safe learning environment for every student, must do our best to ensure that we have put in place the necessary preventative action steps that we have available at the current date.”

The report goes on to say that administrators met on Monday to discuss school safety, which was set as a district goal at the beginning of this year and has been set as a goal every school year.

School resource officers were planning to visit each campus to provide more safety training to teachers and staff members.

Doors at the schools should be locked at all times, the report states.

School board member Matt Boyles said at Monday night’s school board meeting that he was comfortable with the high school’s security.

“I think you pretty much have to go through the office to get in, but at our other three buildings that isn’t the case,” he said.

Boyles suggested putting in glass doors at the elementary and primary schools that would force visitors to go to the office.

“I know millage is a dirty word. But I think our community (would support it) if we had to have a millage or something, he said.

Bailey said she knows some schools have buzzer systems. She said that would be quicker and less expensive than doing things like putting up walls.

Boyles and other board members said their churches have that kind of setup. Bailey asked them to give her contact information for the companies that installed those.

Boyles also suggested a panic button that would alert police if a situation like the shooting in Connecticut occurred.

Staff writers Jeffrey Smith and Rick Kron contributed reporting for this story.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Devils’ best game beats Patriots

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville ladies picked up another hard-fought win this season, handing Little Rock Parkview, the defending Class 6A state champion, its first loss with a 56-48 victory Friday at the Devil’s Den.

Jacksonville went 0-3 against last year’s Lady Patriots, including a 31-point loss in the Class 6A semifinal. Lady Red Devils coach Katrina Mimms remembers it all too well, and was glad to be on the other side of the fence this time around.

“After last year, (losing) three times, it’s good to get a little revenge at least,” Mimms said. “Overall, I thought that’s probably one of the best overall games we’ve played. Offensively we did some good things. Defensively, we slowed them down. We didn’t do everything right, but as far as a whole game, that’s one of the best games we’ve played all year.”

It took a few minutes for the two respective teams to settle into the game. Senior standout and University of Arkansas signee, Jessica Jackson, scored Jacksonville’s first pair of points at the free throw line at the 5:17 mark of the opening quarter. Once each side put points on the board, it was back and forth for the remainder of the quarter.

The score was knotted up at 14-14 after a bank three pointer by Parkview’s Christyal Holloway with 50 seconds to play in the quarter. Junior two guard Tiffany Smith countered with a three of her own on the Lady Devils’ next possession to give Jacksonville (6-4) a 17-14 lead at the end of the first.

Parkview (5-1) took a three-point lead early in the second after a 6-0 scoring run. Smith ended Jacksonville’s scoreless streak with another three pointer that tied the score at 20 apiece with 4:24 left in the half. After Smith’s game-tying three, the Lady Devils went on a 12-0 run to take a 32-20 lead at the break.

“I thought we did a good job of getting them in foul trouble,” Mimms said. “They got in foul trouble and that helped us, because 34 (Sausha Davey) got in foul trouble early. And when they take her out of the game, that kind of negates their inside game.

“Our plan offensively, we knew they were going to do two things. They would run man-to-man or they would run a matchup, and we were ready for both. We knew that we had to come down and be a little more patient than we’ve been in a half-court set. And we knew defensively that we had to cover shooters and box out.”

Jacksonville pushed its lead to 16 near the end of the third. Parkview’s Taylor Boles was able to cut the deficit to 14 by the end of the quarter on a basket inside the paint with 8 seconds on the clock. In the final quarter, the Lady Patriots did all they could to make a run.

Parkview’s press defense gave Jacksonville problems in the final eight minutes. The Lady Patriots forced nine Jacksonville turnovers in the quarter while committing just one. With 1:18 to play, Parkview’s Derriel Banyard scored an easy layup after a Jacksonville turnover, which cut the Lady Devils’ lead to eight.

The Lady Patriots cut the deficit down to six with another two pointer, but sophomore point guard Shakyla Hill put the game away in the final seconds as she scored the last four points for Jacksonville. It was Hill’s only points of the game, and they couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

“Today is her birthday, so a much-needed birthday present,” Mimms said of Hill.

Although neither team shot great from the free-throw and three-point lines, Jacksonville had the better percentage in each category. The Lady Devils shot 60 percent from the free throw line and 30.7 percent beyond the perimeter. Parkview made 26 percent of its shots from downtown on 23 attempts, and made a less than stellar 30.7 percent of its free throws.

Jacksonville’s 24 turnovers were 10 more than Parkview totaled, but the Lady Devils dominated the rebounding statistics with 38 boards compared to the Lady Patriots’ 19.

Jackson finished with a double-double as she led all scorers with 24 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Markela Bryles finished a board shy of a double-double as she scored 10 points and had nine rebounds. Smith scored eight points, all in the first half.

Hill added six rebounds and seven assists to her four points. Roshunda Johnson, an Oklahoma State signee, led Parkview with 15 points and six steals.

The Lady Devils will play again Dec. 26 in a tournament at Springfield, Mo.

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons rally from deficit, beat ’Rabs

Leader sports editor

North Pulaski trailed most of the game, but a pair of second-half technical fouls on Lonoke and some clutch shooting by the home team lifted the Falcons to a 74-66 victory over the Jackrabbits on Friday in Jacksonville.

The Falcons got evenly-distributed scoring in a huge fourth quarter that saw the home team complete a comeback from an 11-point deficit earlier in the game.

“We needed a win in the worst way,” North Pulaski coach Roy Jackson said. “We lost some tough, hard-fought games in that Conway tournament. Lost three in a row down there, and we just needed to win one. Lonoke’s a great program, some state championships, great tradition. It was a great win for us, especially coming back from behind like that. These kids don’t quit. I’m so proud of them right now.”

Lonoke held a lead of between seven and 11 for most of the first half. North Pulaski put together an 8-0 run at the end of the half to cut it to 33-31. Lonoke’s Jamel Rankin drained a jumper just before halftime to end NP’s run and send the Jackrabbits into intermission with a 35-31 lead. Lonoke assistant coach Heath Swiney was hit with a technical foul as the team’s were heading to the locker room.

North Pulaski’s Joe Aikens drained two free throws before the second half began to make it 35-33. Halfway through the third quarter, North Pulaski got its first lead of the game at 44-43 when Aikens completed an old-fashioned three-point play with a bucket and a free-throw. But the lead didn’t last long. Lonoke forced three turnovers on North Pulaski’s next three possessions and scored after each one. The Jackrabbits led 50-44 on a Blake Mack scoop shot with 1:38 left in the third.

Jackson called timeout and his team hit the floor with renewed spark. The Falcons scored the next five points of the game. Senior Daniel Drone drained a high-arching three pointer over Mack’s outstretched arm. Aikens then got a steal and a lay-in before Lonoke’s Darrius McCall hit a shot to end the North Pulaski run.

North Pulaski freshman RaShawn Langston added a bucket to make it 52-51 heading into the fourth quarter.

The wheels then began to come off for Lonoke. The Jackrabbits committed turnovers on their first six possession of the fourth quarter. After the first turnover, Aikens hit a 17-footer. He then intercepted the inbounds pass and found Drone streaking to the basket for a layup. Lonoke threw it away on its next two possession and Langston hit a floater to give the Falcons a 57-52 lead with 5:09 left in the game. Lonoke then scored five straight to tie it up in just 25 seconds. Jamel Rankin hit two free throws and McCall got an and-one to make it 57-57 with 4:46 left. Then came a key turning point.

North Pulaski’s Aaren Scruggs missed a three pointer. Drone and Lonoke’s Reid McKenzie went up for the high-bouncing rebound. McKenzie had box-out position, but Drone got higher. The NP guard caught the ball and shot it in one motion. The basket putback went in and McKenzie was called for a foul. Lonoke head coach Dean Campbell, who was confined to his seat the entire second half because of the bench technical at halftime, yelled his disapproval of the call at the other end of the floor, and was hit with a technical foul. North Pulaski made two of three free throws for a 61-57 lead with 4:18 left in the game.

“We had opportunities after that so I’m not going to say it decided the game,” Campbell said. “But I think the official was pretty thin-skinned to give a technical in that situation. I was doing what I was supposed to do. I didn’t get up. I just said it was a horrible call. In a game like this, at this level with two programs with so much tradition, a call like that, it cheapens it.”

North Pulaski’s lead grew to 63-58 with three minutes left before Rankin hit a three pointer with 2:46 remaining. Lonoke called timeout right after Rankin’s shot, but North Pulaski came out of the break to score the next six points to all but seal the game. Aikens, Steven Farrior and Langston got the three buckets that put the Falcons ahead by eight and in control of the game with 1:08 left.

North Pulaski still made it harder than it should’ve been by inexplicably fouling on consecutive Lonoke possessions. Rankin hit four-straight free throws to make it 69-65 with 48 seconds remaining. North Pulaski held the ball and forced Lonoke to foul. Langston and Drone hit five-straight free throws to lock up the victory.

Aikens led all scorers with 25 points and added seven rebounds, three steals and three assists.

Drone scored 17, including seven each to lead the comeback efforts in the second and fourth quarters.

“Drone hit some big, crucial shots for us tonight,” Jackson said. “He’s been on and off this year but he’s a great team player. We need some more consistency out of him because he can be a really effective leader on the floor for us. Tonight was a great start.”

Both teams are off until after Christmas. Lonoke travels to Wynne while North Pulaski plays in a tournament at Camden-Fairview.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot beats Bryant while shorthanded

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers got a quality road win on Friday despite being shorthanded. Playing without senior forward Elliot Taylor and senior point guard Jaylin Bridges seeing very limited time with injuries and foul trouble, the Lady Panthers were still able to defeat Bryant 47-34 in their last game before Christmas.

“Elliot has a little foot problem she’s been playing with so we decided to rest her,” Cabot assistant coach Charles Ruple said. “Bridges saw very limited time. She’s had a little knee problem that’s been nagging her. She got into a little foul trouble early so we just sat her down too. The rest of the girls did a tremendous job. Bryant had beaten Vilonia who just beat us by 20 points. So going in there and shutting them down like we did was a great way for us to end before a little break here for a while.”

The two teams were dead even at the end of the first quarter and at halftime. Tied at 17 at intermission, the Lady Panthers equaled that total in the third quarter alone. Playing at a slower pace than the usual all-out pressing attack it usually plays, Cabot was able to create open shots in the half-court set.

“We played pretty well considering we didn’t have two seniors on the floor almost at all, and considering we were playing a different style than we’re used to,” Ruple said. “Bryant likes to slow it down a little and with us not having the depth we usually do, we went along with it. They ran the offense very well and found open shots.”

Sophomore forward Alyssa Hamilton led the way with 16 points while senior post player Ally Van Enk added 12.

While Cabot’s offense was efficient in the second half, its defense was stifling. The Lady Hornets managed to make just nine of 36 field-goal attempts the entire game. Cabot hit 21 of 52 and only three were three-pointers.

Bryant hit 14 of 18 free-throw attempts while Cabot was 3 of 4 from the line.

The Cabot boys weren’t just in a tight game early, but throughout. Bryant led almost the whole game, but never led by more than six points. Cabot took the lead midway through the fourth quarter but never led by more than two points. Missed free throws was the main culprit in Cabot’s loss.

“We just have to hit free throws and finish games out,” Cabot boys coach Jerry Bridges said. “If we had just made a few of those we probably would have come out on top in this one. Bryant’s a good team though. Their guard play is better than its been in a while but could have won that game.”

The Lady Panthers’ next game will be at the Mansfield Rotary Club Classic in Texas. They will face Plano East on Thursday, Dec. 27. The boys will stay much closer to home for the holiday break. They will make the short trip north to Beebe to face Pulaski Academy at 5:30 p.m. on the 27th.

SPORTS STORY >> Global event happening at Jacksonville

Leader sports editor

Some of the highest rated prep basketball players from all over the world will be featured at Jacksonville High School this weekend. JHS will be the site of the very first Hardwood Holiday Showcase, which begins at 4 p.m. Friday and will feature teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Illinois.

Orr Academy in Chicago will bring one of the nation’s top sophomores in 6-foot-5 Tyquane Greer, but perhaps the most intriguing team in the event lineup is Trent Internationale from Sugar Land, Texas. Trent Internationale is a basketball academy that features players from Europe and Africa. Roaming the paint for T.I. is two Egyptian giants in 7-foot senior Ali Mohamed and 6-10 junior Ahmed Hamdy. The T.I. perimeter is more culturally diverse. Edgaras Kvedaravicius, a 6-3 senior from Lithuania, will run the point for the Phoenix. Jimmy Salem, another 6-3 senior from Lebanon, handles the two-guard position while senior Justin McCray of Texas stands 6-4 and plays a combo guard/forward.

Also sharing time at the point is 6-3 Iranian Soheil Yousefi who is billed as the team’s most athletic player.

Also featured in the tournament is Putnam West High School out of Oklahoma City. PWHS features point guard Omega Harris, a 6-2 senior who rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in Oklahoma.

The tournament opens with a more local flavor. El Dorado takes on Camden-Fairview at 4 p.m. Friday. Little Rock McClellan then faces two-time defending Louisiana class 3A champion Bossier City at 5:30. Expect the Devils’ Den to be jam packed by the end of that game. At 7 p.m., Chicago’s Orr Academy takes on Trent Internationale before Jacksonville and Putnam close the opening night at 8:30 p.m.

Action starts again at 4 p.m. Saturday with Bossier City facing CFHS. El Dorado takes on McClellan at 5:30 before Putnam West faces Trent Internationale at 7 p.m. The Red Devils then close the event against Orr Academy.

The tournament is hosted and sponsored by C&B Sports of Little Rock. This is C&B Sports’ first foray into high-school tournaments in Arkansas, though they have been involved in AAU basketball for many years. Founder Cory Blunt, is seeking to bring the large-scale high-school tournaments back to Arkansas like it had in the days of the old King Cotton Classic in Pine Bluff.

“I’m from Pine Bluff and we’re trying to figure out a way to get the King Cotton type of feel back to Arkansas,” Blunt said. “Jacksonville is not as big of an arena as that was held in, but this is the first try. If the demand is there then we’ll grow. Right now, though, Jacksonville is a great fit. They’ve had a holiday tournament for a long time and it’s had a great following over the years.

“It’s a great atmosphere there and with the kind of teams and players we’re bringing in, it should be very exciting.”

Tickets for the event are only $8 per day and is good for all four games each day.

SPORTS STORY >> Turnovers hurt Devils again

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville did its best to make a late run against longtime rival Jonesboro, but it wasn’t enough as the Golden Hurricane beat the Red Devils 63-58 on Saturday in the Arkansas Hoops Challenge at Maumelle High School.

It was another close game between the two respective schools. Jacksonville and Jonesboro have had their share of battles over the years as members of the 6A East Conference. Jacksonville swept Jonesboro in the regular season last year before falling hard to the Golden Hurricane in the class 6A semifinal.

This season the Red Devils moved to class 5A, but Saturday’s game felt like the same old rivalry. Jacksonville scored the first four points of the game, and carried that early momentum to a 16-11 lead midway through the first half. It would be the Red Devils’ largest lead of the night.

Jonesboro battled back to take a one-point lead on a three pointer by Randle Toliver at the 5:21 mark. It was Toliver’s third three of the game. From there, the ‘Canes went on a 13-3 run to grab an 11-point lead with 1:27 remaining in the opening half.

Jacksonville scored the last four points of the half on baskets by Keith Charleston and Justin McCleary. McCleary’s basket came on a driving layup on the Red Devils’ final possession to cut Jonesboro’s lead to 36-29 at the break.

Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner was less than pleased with his team’s defensive play throughout the first 16 minutes.

“It was like they were shell-shocked,” Joyner said. “There are times you’re at the high school level that a kid will make one pass to a kid that didn’t come off a screen or nothing. And you’re standing off of him 5-feet, and you just let him shoot a shot? They weren’t defending.

“A lot of them were uncontested. They weren’t setting screens. We just didn’t get back and defend anybody. In the second half we started defending a little bit better, but then we didn’t execute in a half-court set. We have some things we need to do to get better.”

Jonesboro (7-2) pushed its lead back to double digits with a 6-2 run to open the second half. Jacksonville (5-3) responded with a 6-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to five at the 9:36 mark.

The Red Devils stayed within striking distance the rest of the way, but the ‘Canes had an answer for every Jacksonville basket.

McCleary scored six points in the final 2:00 for Jacksonville, including a three pointer that cut the deficit to four with 32 seconds to play. The Red Devils were forced to foul and after a pair of Jonesboro free throws, Kevin Richardson scored on a driving layup with 10 seconds to make the score 62-58.

Jacksonville was unable to steal the ball on the inbound pass, and with 8 seconds remaining, Jonesboro’s Tony White made one of two free throws to set the final score.

“We’ve got to defend and share the ball better,” Joyner said. “We have too many guys forcing the ball. Share the ball. We had too many unforced turnovers. The same thing has been going on for the last four or five games. We’re seven, eight games in, and we’re still having the same turnovers.

“I don’t know if it’s selfishness, people not wanting to share the ball. I don’t know what it is, but it’s going to get fixed quick. Monday it’s going to get fixed.”

McCleary led all scorers with 19 points. Aaron Smith scored all 10 of his points in the second half. Khaleel Hart had nine, and Sergio Berkley added eight. Toliver led Jonesboro with 15 points. Jacksonville plays Friday against Oklahoma City’s Putnam City West in the Hardwood Showcase at the Devil’s Den.