Saturday, March 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Defense gets win for Lady Devils

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils had a tough time with the Morrilton Devil Dogs in the first round of the 5A state tournament, but they gradually pulled away in the second half for a 47-33 win Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Morrilton (14-9) opened the game in what at first appeared to be a box-and-one defense designed specifically to stop Jacksonville standout Jessica Jackson. But it was a ruse. It turned out to be kind of like a box-and-one, which is four players playing zone and one playing man. Morrilton’s defense was four defenders playing a deep sagging man defense, while the fifth stayed on Jackson like a glove.

It took quite a while for the Lady Devils to figure it out. In fact, they never did entirely break the defense down in a half-court setting, so head coach Katrina Mimms decided to go with pressure defense in the second half to try and create points in transition.

“You never know how officials are going to call things in the state tournament, and we’re not real deep so you worry about foul trouble,” Mimms said. “But if things don’t work out, you know you’ve still got that in your back pocket. That made some things happen for us and we were able to get some control in the game.”

Jacksonville led just 9-7 after the first quarter and 24-20 at halftime, but never trailed the entire game.

Jacksonville (22-4) also focused on stopping Morrilton’s inside game with 6-foot-2 senior KT Davis. Despite both teams’ best efforts to take away the other team’s tallest player, each one scored eight points in the first half to lead their respective teams. Jackson got all eight of her points out of the half-court offense. Davis got six of her points on offensive rebounds and putbacks.

Points were very hard for either team to come by in the third quarter. Five minutes and 37 seconds in, Jacksonville got a bucket by sophomore Shakyla Hill. It was just the Lady Red Devils’ second bucket of the quarter, but Morrilton had still not scored and Jacksonville’s lead was 28-20.

Each team added one field goal in the final 3:23 to finish the quarter 6-2 and Jacksonville holding a 30-22 lead heading into the final period of play.

That’s when Mimms called for pressure, and it was effective. Jackson drained a three pointer while Hill got two buckets off steals for a quick 7-0 run. Mimms slowed it down again with a 15-point lead. Morrilton’s Tori Jackson came off the bench and nailed a three pointer with 3:30 left in the game that made it 37-25.

After a free throw by Hill, Tori Jackson drained another three pointer to cut the margin to 10, but Morrilton would get no closer the rest of the way.

Jacksonville had been awful at the free-throw line through three quarters, hitting just 4 of 12 attempts, but made 6 of 7 in the last three minutes to seal the victory.

Jackson led all scorers with 15 points while Hill added 14. David led Morrilton with 10 points after being held to one bucket in the second half.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers move on

Leader staff writer

PINE BLUFF — The game was close between Beebe and Hot Springs through the first half until Jamie Jackson took over in the third quarter, as the Lady Badgers pulled away to claim a 58-47 victory over the Lady Trojans in the opening round of the class 5A state basketball tournament at the Pine Bluff Convention Center on Thursday.

Beebe (23-6, No. 2 East) held a slim 26-23 advantage going into the break, but Jackson, the Lady Badgers’ standout senior guard, scored seven consecutive points on the heels of a three-point basket by Madison Richey to start the second half. That gave Beebe a more comfortable margin at 36-23, and the Lady Trojans (18-8, No. 3 South) could never recover.

Jackson turned in one of the more dominant performances in the opening round of the tourney with a game-high 27 points, along with 15 rebounds and five steals. Hot Springs did its best to contain her in the first half, holding her to eight points, but the Division II college prospect had her way in the second half with 19 points, including a 7-of-10 performance at the free-throw line.

“We made an adjustment at halftime to where she could get to the basket a little better,” Lady Badgers coach Greg Richey said. “And she took advantage of it. I thought the girls just did what they needed to do. They started getting the ball where we needed to get it. Then we went on that run, and I told them that if we could get it up above 10, we could take over the game. We made a few mistakes, but I was really pleased with what they did.”

Junior guard Kalela Miller added 17 points while Madison Richey finished with eight points and six rebounds. Senior Whitney Emison gave the Lady Badgers an early spark with a three-point basket at the 3:19 mark of the first quarter to give Beebe an 8-6 lead, and a three by senior Sydney Gunter with 2:08 remaining in the opening period made it 13-8 Beebe.

“They made some big threes,” Richey said. “Sydney, Whitney, Madison, we had three threes there. Kalela stepped up; our three-point shooting has been better as the year has gone on, and it’s coming at a good time.”

Beebe shot a stellar 55 percent at 23 of 42 while holding Hot Springs to 35 percent at 17 of 48.

The Lady Badgers came out to the arena floor just prior to their scheduled 4 p.m. tipoff time, but had to wait another 20 minutes as Wynne and Camden Fairview went into overtime before the Yellowjackets advanced 67-65.

“We’ve been pretty loose,” Richey said. “I’ve been joking around with them quite a bit. Strangely enough, I hated that that game went into overtime in front of us, but it really gave us a little bit of time to relax. They were so keyed up, and they started relaxing a little bit, and I think that helped out.”

For Hot Springs, Ashley Clayborn led with 18 points and nine rebounds.

With the win, Beebe advanced into the quarterfinal round of the tournament, where they faced Huntsville, the No. 1 seed out of the 5A West, in the 7 p.m. game last night. The Lady Eagles easily advanced through the first round with a 70-37 rout of Sylvan Hills.

“They look like Paragould to me,” Richey said of Huntsville. “I think as a team, we’re very familiar with the style. We’re just going to have to go out there and play hard. They’ve got some big girls that are very physical. We’ve just got to run our stuff real well.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers come up short in OT

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE — The Cabot Panthers went down for the final time this season on Wednesday, but they went down doing what they’ve done all along – battling.

The Panthers lost in overtime to Bryant 57-46 in the first round of the class 7A state tournament at Fayetteville High School, but not until rallying from a nine-point deficit and giving the higher-seeded and more athletic Hornets all they wanted.

“They just had a better overtime than we did,” Cabot coach Jerry Bridges said. “We battled. I’m proud of them. We missed some chippies in the first half that could have made it a different game, then we missed a couple of layups late in the game that were big. But that’s been us all season. We struggle to score the basketball. What makes me so proud of this team is how hard they battle and play defense. I’ve enjoyed this group.”

After an exciting four quarters, the overtime wasn’t much to speak of. Bryant scored the first nine points of the extra four-minute period to put the game away with 90 seconds remaining.

Cabot started to run its offense effectively in the third quarter and continued to do so in the fourth period and overtime, but the shots didn’t fall. When the Panthers had to start fouling in overtime, Bryant put it away with good free-throw shooting.

“I wish we could’ve gotten the foul calls they got when we would penetrate,” Bridges said. “I felt like we drew just as much contact as they did. Our guards don’t get to the rim just a whole lot. I thought Kyle (Theilemier) made a couple of great plays getting to the rim; we just didn’t get the call. But that’s not why we lost. Overall they called a pretty good game.”

Junior post player Michael Smith spurred Cabot’s comeback after the Panthers fell behind 31-22 midway through the third quarter. Smith scored on two baseline drives that resulted in reverse layups in the third quarter. The second capped an 11-2 run and tied the game at 33 with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter.

The Hornets took a 36-35 lead into the fourth, but it didn’t last long. Smith, at the high post, found Clayton Vaught streaking through the back door for an open layup that gave Cabot its first lead of the game with 7:50 remaining to play. That lead didn’t last long either. Bryant sophomore K.J. Hill put the Hornets back on top just 12 seconds later.

Bryant led 42-39 when Smith found Ryan Stafford on the same play run earlier for Vaught. After a defensive stop, Theilemier drained a three pointer that put the Panthers up 44-42 with 1:17 remaining.

Bryant’s C.J. Rainey was fouled away from the basket and sent to the line for a one-and-one.

He made both to tie the game with 54 seconds remaining, and that’s the way it stayed until time expired.

SPORTS STORY >> NLR ladies stun Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Charging Lady Wild-cats pulled off the upset of the class 7A tournament in Thursday’s quarterfinals, knocking off No. 1 seed Bentonville 63-54 to advance to today’s semifinal against Fort Smith Northside.

The game pitted North Little Rock’s pressure defense against Bentonville’s dominant inside game, and the pressure won out. Bentonville struggled with the pressure early, but came back to take the lead by two points at halftime.

The continuous relentless pressure eventually wore down the 7A West champions and the Lady Wildcats assumed control of the game midway through the third quarter.

North Little Rock, the four seed from the Central conference, hasn’t been ranked all season and lost its season finale heading into state, but head coach Daryl Fimple still felt like his team would be one that would be a difficult out.

“We have been playing really well,” Fimple said. “We made some hard decisions – went younger. Sometimes when you do that the seniors don’t like it and it’ll fracture a team a little bit. But these seniors have bought into that and we’re just having a lot of fun. There’s no pressure on us whatsoever. This is the first year that we haven’t been the team that’s just fighting to stay alive.”

Bentonville led 26-19 with 1:34 left in the second quarter when North Little Rock made its first big charge, scoring six straight before going into halftime down 27-25. The Lady Wildcats came out of the intermission with five points in the first 20 seconds of the third quarter. After forcing a turnover on the half’s opening possession, senior Sasha Giles hit a 15-foot jumper. Freshman Kyra Collier then got a steal and layup and was fouled.

Bentonville came back to take the lead again at 34-33, and that was the last time the Lady Tigers led in the game.

North Little Rock went on a 6-0 run before Bentonville scored to make it 39-36 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but it was never any closer the rest of the way.

With the score 41-38, sophomore Malica Monk scooped up a loose ball after a missed shot and scored. Junior Dajha Hardamon then got a steal and layup to make it 45-38 with 1:09 on the clock, and that’s how it stayed until the fourth quarter.

The Lady Wildcats missed two layups in the early going of the fourth, and Bentonville cut the lead to 45-40, but another quick five points, a three pointer by sophomore Halley Hill and two free throws by Hardamon, made it 50-40.

The Lady Tigers answered with a couple of 5-0 runs, but North Little Rock answered in kind each time. Bentonville scored five consecutive points on a three pointer and putback by center Julia Garrad, that made it 50-45 with 5:16 to play.

North Little Rock scored the next five points to again make it a 10-point game with 3:38 remaining. Bentonville scored the next five to make it 55-50 with 1:40 left, but that was its last gasp.

“We’re playing really, really fast right now,” Fimple said of his team. “Malica Monk, I swear sometimes it’s like having a double team on people when she’s guarding them. She is a holy terror out there. She scares me. In practice I worry about my kids when we’re really working on guarding them.”

Collier led North Little Rock with 18 points while Monk added 12. Monk also finished with six steals while Collier had four.

Bentonville’s two 6-foot-2 post players led the Lady Tigers. Garrad finished with 15 points while Jasmine Secrest had 12.

SPORTS STORY >> Devils stick fork in Eagles

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils toyed with the Huntsville Eagles in the first round of the class 5A playoffs Tuesday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Jacksonville won 74-43 going with wholesale substitutions halfway through each quarter.

Huntsville actually outscored Jacksonville’s substitutes, but when the Red Devils starters were in the game, they outscored the Eagles 53-10.

“To me the first game is the hardest, so it was good to come out playing hard and making shots,” Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner said. “We’ve got much better teams coming up so we’re not going to put too much into this one.”

While Joyner was hesitant to heap praise on the starters’ stellar play, he wasn’t overly concerned with his bench’s lack of effectiveness either.

“That was wholesale substitutions there,” Joyner said. “We were 12 deep in the first half. That’s third string. We played everybody by halfway through the third quarter and we weren’t playing them with any starters. It’s going to get tougher the deeper we go. When we get to that point, we’ll sub player for player and not a whole lineup at a time.”

Jacksonville (22-4) scored the first 15 points of the game without team leader Justin McCleary taking a shot. The starters left the game with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter with a 15-2 lead. It was 20-7 by the end of the first.

With Jacksonville’s starters back in the game to start the second, Huntsville’s Logan McCullough hit a three to make it 20-10. Jacksonville’s Sergio Berkley answered with his own three pointer just 11 seconds later, a shot thats parked an 18-0 run that included a torrent of points by McCleary.

The senior point guard scored eight points in 34 seconds. Then after a defensive stop, drained a third-consecutive three pointer for 11 straight points and a 34-10 lead. Berkley got a transition layup after another Jacksonville steal, and Aaron Smith added two free throws with 4:26 left in the half to make it 38-10.

After another wholesale substitution by Joyner, Hunstville went on a 10-0 run to cut the margin to 38-20 with 1:12 left in the half. Khaleel Hart hit a nifty shot in the lane against Huntsville center Ricky Scott with 36 seconds remaining to set the halftime score at 40-20.

Huntsville (17-9) didn’t score a field goal against the Jacksonville starters in the third quarter, but the Red Devils were no longer as hot from the floor as they were at the beginning of the game. Hart, who started most of the season with 6-foot-7 senior Keith Charleston out with injury, played with the starters in the third quarter. He pulled down two rebounds and got two steals that created transition buckets while Jacksonville briefly struggled in its half-court game.

The Red Devils led 51-22 when the starters left the floor with 3:30 remaining in the third. That lead was trimmed to 55-32 by quarter’s end, mostly on the strength of Huntsville senior post player Garrett Weiland’s play. Weiland didn’t get on the floor in the first half, but finished the game with 12 points to lead the Eagles in scoring.

The starters took the floor one more time to start the fourth quarter and could only push the lead to 63-36 before being taken out with 4:13 left in the game.

The Jacksonville backups won the fourth quarter 11-8, enacting the mercy rule on two free throws by Hart with 1:39 remaining.

Smith led all scorers and three Red Devils in double figures with 18 points. He added five rebounds, four steals and three assists to his stat sheet as well. McCleary finished with 15, six assists and three steals while Berkley added 13 points.

Jacksonville had a 20-4 advantage in rebounding in the first half and finished the game with a 36-12 advantage. Jacksonville made 26 of 50 field goals in the game, but hit 14 of their first 18 shots, including their first five three pointers in a row. The Red Devils hit 7 of 10 three pointers in the first half and finished 9 for 15.

Jacksonville got 13 steals in forcing 22 Huntsville turnovers, while committing just six turnovers the entire game, four of which came in the second quarter.

TOP STORY >> NTA: Schools will suffer

Leader senior staff writer

The National Teachers Association figures the cost of sequestration in Arkansas schools to be more than twice as great as the $11.5 million figure released by the White House and the state.

The White House figure is just for K-12 Title I funds and special-education funds, while the NEA’s $26 million figure includes 19 federal education funds ranging from infants, prekindergarten and Head Start to vocational and post secondary education programs.

The state, using White House figures, calculates that the automatic sequester of funds will cost Arkansas schools about $5.8 million in Title I funds to help educate low-income students and another $5.7 million in special education grants for the 2013-14 school year. The National Education Association says the total losses to K-12 education in the state will be about $7.9 million for the Title I programs and $10.7 million in all.

Then special education programs get hit for another $5.7 million K-12 and preschool grants. Grants for infants and families will lose another $475,000, making a total of $6.2 million less for programs covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

NEA’s estimated total of $26 million in cuts for Arkansas represents education programs at all levels, pre-K-12 plus post secondary, according to Tom Zembar, senior policy analyst for that teachers’ union.


The NEA’s list includes adult education and campus-based student-aid programs, such as federal work-study, among others, he said Friday.

Actually, the total will be higher than $26 million — that’s just for 19 federal education programs NEA chose to illustrate, he said.

Zembar said the White House also uses a slightly lower percentage cut than what NEA used. NEA’s percentage cuts are based on an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The OMB will determine the actual percentage cuts once sequestration goes into effect, he said.

Phyllis Stewart, chief of staff to state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, said this week she doesn’t anticipate any cuts going into effect before June 30, the end of the school year.

She said former Pinewood Elementary School principal Bobby E. Lester has been working with districts around the state trying to help prepare them for the sequester cuts, which will be about 5 percent across the board in federal education funds. Lester, son of former Pulaski County Special School District superintendent Bobby Lester, is the state director of federal programs.


PCSSD Chief Financial Officer Bill Goff, like Stewart, says he doesn’t expect any cuts this school year, and says there’s nothing coming down the pike that the district can’t handle.

Assuming that the sequester took effect on all federal spending at midnight, about 180 Arkansas teachers could get pink slips before May 1, when school districts are required to inform teachers if they are not being rehired.

Other automatic cuts affecting education in the state are vocational-rehabilitation grants, $2.5 million; career- and technical-education grants, $636,000, and adult basic and literacy-education grants, $298,000.

Cuts to federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, work study grants and outreach programs that target students who would be the first to attend college in their families that amount to about $1.7 million for next school year.

Cuts to the Head Start program will be about $3.8 million, with 241 jobs lost.

That’s nearly half the jobs expected to be lost to the sequestration.

TOP STORY >> Police shoot former sheriff’s cow

Leader staff writer

A white cow owned by former Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson was shot and killed in Cabot on Wednesday afternoon near the playground at Southside Elementary School after leading police on a chase through open fields, brush and a cemetery.

Roberson called Cabot police at 3:25 p.m. to ask for help with the cow that had gotten out of his trailer when he stopped at the intersection of Hwy. 321 and Hwy. 89. The trailer gate was apparently not secured properly.

Officer Cory Griffith and Sgt. David Thrush responded to Roberson’s call for assistance and eventually so did Cabot Animal Control.

According to the incident report that was required because shots were fired, Roberson told the police officers that they wouldn’t be able to get the cow back into the trailer and asked them to shoot it.

Lt. Brent Lucas, a police department spokesman, said someone on a horse had roped the cow but had been unable to hold it. Lucas said Roberson asked the officers to kill the cow because of the real concern that it might cause a wreck on the highway.

Griffith wrote in the incident report, “Officers attempted to keep the cow in the field behind Doublebee’s but were unable to do so. At this time the cow ran across the intersection of (Hwy.) 89 South and (Hwy.) 321 into the Mount Carmel Cemetery and back across (Hwy. 89 South) near West Lake Plumbing.

“Officers attempted to corral the animal beside West Lake Plumbing but were unable to do so and the animal ran across (89 South) back into Mount Carmel Cemetery. The cow then proceeded back across the intersection of (89 South) and (321) back into the field behind Doublebee’s.

The report continues, “Officers located the cow in the heavy brush between Doublebee’s and Faith Baptist Church. Mike (Wheeler) from Animal Control was able to flush the cow out into the open field where Sergeant Thrush fired one shot and hit the cow in the side. The cow didn’t go down and ran across the field, back across (89 South) across the parking lot of Mount Carmel Church and into Brentwood Subdivision.

“Officer Griffith drove over to Brentwood Subdivision where the cow was heading north back toward (321). Officer Griffith was able to get turned around and follow the cow west down (321) and back across (89 South).”

The report continues, “Officer Griffith followed the cow on to Southside Elementary where the cow stopped between the school and the fire station. Officer Griffith was able to keep the cow distracted until Sgt. Thrush arrived on scene. Officer Griffith and Sgt. Thrush each fired one round at this time, putting the animal down.”

In response to questions, Lucas said some children may have been at the school for after-school programs, but most had left for the day when the cow was shot. Someone took the cow for processing into meat, he said.

TOP STORY >> Medicaid deal tied to tax cut

Leader senior staff writer

Gov. Mike Beebe returned from Washington with permission to use Medicaid expansion money to help buy private coverage for the working poor through an exchange.

But there is some indication that Republicans, led by House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), want new concessions from Beebe.

In reports this week, Carter has not definitely linked capital gains tax cuts to expanding Medicaid, but he has consistently worked them into the same sentence.

Carter has said that small businesses will be paying for much of the Medicaid expansion, so they should get a tax break.

Republicans have opposed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and the Medicaid expansion is part of that.

They asked Beebe to get clarification from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about whether or not there were options other than whole-hog Medicaid expansion.


“For months, I’ve worked to convince our lawmakers to accept federal money to insure about 250,000 of our citizens,” Beebe said Friday.

“Most of these Arkansans are the working poor, people who have jobs but don’t make enough to afford insurance premiums. Federal funds would pay for that insurance for three years, and eventually Arkansas would share 10 percent of the cost. This is an opportunity to help our people lead healthier, happier lives. Our hospitals would see reduced burdens for uncompensated care, expenditures that often end up costing all of us more,” Beebe said.

Sebelius told Beebe that “Arkansas could place as many of these newly insured clients into our health-insurance exchange as we wished. The federal government would still cover the costs for the first three years, but now these Arkansans could receive private insurance.”

Beebe said such flexibility allows the state to look at targeted co-pays and cost-sharing as part of potential new insurance policies.

“Nothing is certain yet, and a three-quarter supermajority of both the House and Senate is required for any additional insurance coverage to occur,” the governor said. “However, we are definitely making progress with this new option on the table.”

State Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) said, “We will use Medicaid expansion to pay private premiums. Technically it’s not an expansion of Medicaid,” he said, but it means health coverage for the working poor, and that’s the important thing.”

Nickels said Carter has been more positive about the program since Beebe returned. “We should be able to take care of this issue during this session,” he said, because Gov. Beebe went to Washington and got everything the Repubicans were wanting.

“If (Republicans) will sign on to this, it will be a great solution,” Nickels said. “It may help the doctors and the hospitals, since they will have insurance covering their bills they may be able to collect more.”

Carter could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

EDITORIAL >> We’ll feel Sequester

Sequestration may not affect everyone in Arkansas, but if Congress goes ahead with mandatory spending cuts amounting to $37 million in the state, many of us will start feeling the pain.

We’ll see the effects, especially at Little Rock Air Force Base and at other military installations around the state as the Pentagon’s budget is reduced $42.7 billion. Clinton National Airport will have fewer TSA security screeners this weekend.

As many as 4,000 civilians at Little Rock Air Force Base and at other military installations will have to forgo a day of pay every couple of weeks. That will save the government $19.2 million this year.

In addition, the air base will also lose $2 million in funding. Repairs on hangars are on hold and flying hours have been reduced.

Defense spending here will drop 2.4 percent, which could have been much worse. Arkansas will see a 6.2 percent reduction in federal grants, putting the state in the middle range of cuts across the country. Nonmilitary procurement, salaries and wages will fall 3.4 percent.

The military will take almost half the cuts, but education isn’t far behind with $20 million less for school districts. That figure includes a $5.9 million cut for elementary and secondary schools, including 80 teachers and aides. Education for children with disabilities would lose $5.6 million, and about the same number of teachers and aides for those programs.

Arkansas will lose $1.6 million in environmental funding for air and water quality and pollution control.

Cuts will also hit public health, including vaccines for children ($1.1 million), nutrition assistance for seniors ($310,000), law enforcement ($159,000 for justice assistance grants), job search assistance ($273,000) and several other programs.

Arkansas is one of the poor states that send less money to Washington than we get back. So every dollar we lose hits us hard.

Across the nation, security checkers will be furloughed and illegal immigrants freed for lack of money. Call it scare tactics by the Obama administration, but the cuts must come from somewhere if there’s no budget deal this week.

Law enforcement will get lower funding. Crime will go up. As we wrote here after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, reviving Bill Clinton’s COPS program would reduce crime in our communities. The program wasn’t cheap — more than $1 billion a year, but it helped pay for more police officers and equipment in just about every town around here. They took a bite out of crime.

A dysfunctional Congress is unlikely to restore funds to the COPs program anytime soon, but the news is not all bleak: Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday he has negotiated a deal with the Obama adminsitration — the first in the nation — to include the working poor in an insurance exchange that will provide private health insurance through Medicaid.

This should satisfy opponents of Medicaid expansion in the state Legislature, who worry about funding the program, which will be 100 percent supported by the federal government for three years. States will have to fund 10 percent after that, but they can then opt out if they can’t afford it. At least nine Republican govenors have said they favor the expansion.

There’s no reason for Republicans in the Legislature to keep opposing a program that will give the state $1 billion over the next decade.

TOP STORY >> Job fair aims to help area vets

Leader staff writer

Despite looming federal budget cuts, more than 100 job seekers and at least 40 employers at the Hiring Our Heroes job fair on Tuesday in Sherwood were optimistic.

Company representatives found themselves hiring qualified applicants right away or looking forward to vetting out an excellent selection of highly skilled active servicemen and veterans for a handful of openings.

Job seekers were pleased to find such a wide variety of opportunities and resources available to help them make the transition from military to civilian life.

Bobby Sherron, a senior master sergeant with the Air National Guard who is retiring after 31 years of military service, said, “It’s going good. This is what I hoped for, someone to point me in the right direction.”

He continued, “The challenge is applying for jobs, interviewing, putting yourself out there.” Sherron said he was also struggling with figuring out exactly what field to get into.

The veteran has been a maintenance professional for decades, but doesn’t think that kind of physically demanding work will suit his aging body.

Tech. Sgt. Tessiah Graen, who lives in Cabot and works at Little Rock Air Force Base, agreed.

She said, “It’s very interesting. It’s a lot of information. I’m a bit nervous because we’re so used to the military telling us what to do.”

Dale Clinton of Premier Staffing, an employment agency in Little Rock, told Sherron he could help.

Clinton said some servicemen and veterans are afraid the skills they learned from serving in the military won’t be of any use in the civilian job market.

But they’re wrong, he said. Clinton said jobs are out there for veterans and servicemen with solid work histories and work ethics who can convey those qualities in a conversation.

Clinton said a lot of people who talked with him weren’t sure how to transfer from military to civilian life. Clinton said, “With budget cuts, the military probably can’t help with the transition as much.”

Through Premier Staffing, Clinton said, “Employers can try before they buy and employees can too.” He said the employment agency could give job seekers “a foot in the door,” a glance at what it’s like to work for a company before they make a commitment. Employers also use them to find people who are a good fit for their business.

Jason Minyard of the National Guard’s 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team said, “I’m pretty excited. There are a lot of employers here, a lot of opportunities I wasn’t aware of.”

Many of the employers were sending the job seekers to online databases and websites where they could submit applications for available positions.

At least one said face-to-face interaction is still an important part of applying for a job.

Store manager Sandy Wilke of JoS.A.Bank, a national men’s clothing chain with locations in Little Rock, Texarkana and Jonesboro, said, “Everything is computer-based. Come meet me. That makes you stand out.”

Wilke also told one of the job seekers that she searches every applicant on Google and looks at Facebook pages. Halfway through Tuesday’s event, Wilke had filled one of six openings the company had. She said there were two more candidates who had potential.

Deborah Parsons of Arvest Bank said there were a couple of job seekers who would be a good fit. She hopes to hear from them soon.

Parsons said a lot of the people who approached her were seeking opportunities in the information technology field.

Jacquelyn King of the University of Phoenix said people approached her about educational opportunities and job openings. She said the school offers both.

King said 60 percent of employers in the next few years would require new hires to have four-year degrees.

Daniel Hoggard Sr. of Tyson Foods said the plant in Pine Bluff has openings for maintenance workers, line people and management.

He said the advantage of hiring people with military backgrounds is, “We don’t have to teach them leadership. We don’t have to teach them work ethic, dependability, about wanting to be on a winning team. We’ve been impressed with the caliber of people visiting with us today.”

Enduring Freedom veteran Travis Smith said, “I think (the job fair was) a good opportunity for people looking at getting their feet planted somewhere.”

Participating employers and other entities included several offices under the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Health and Human Services, Entergy, First Command Financial Services’ Squared Away, Walmart, Sherwood Police Department, Sprint, Caterpillar, Simmons First.

Also Edward Jones Investments, AT&T, AutoZone, Harrison Energy Partners, American Income Life Insurance, Hot Springs Police Department, Regions Bank, Cintas, the Double Tree by Hilton, Riggs CAT, Union Pacific, the Hughes Agency, Star Transport, Tyson Foods, Texas Department of Public Safety, Walgreens, Optus, Cardinal Health, Acxiom and Leslie’s Swimming Pool Supplies.

TOP STORY >> LRAFB to be shorted by millions of dollars

Leader senior staff writer

If — as now widely assumed — Congress fails to cut the budget by $1 trillion before the Friday deadline, Little Rock Air Force Base will have to cut $2 million out of its base operations budget this year, according to base spokesman Arlo Taylor.

The widely discussed “sequestration” would trigger about $1.2 trillion worth of automatic, across the board cuts in the budget over the next decade, about half of that at the expense of the military. It appears that only a last-minute budget agreement in Congress can forestall these cuts.

“The cuts will be made by deferring repairs to two conversion hangars used for electron and mechanical work on C-130 cargo planes and a training facility,” Taylor said.

If sequestration is triggered, unpaid furloughs for civilian Defense Department employees will start in late April, according to Pentagon officials.

“The furlough policy also will affect the more than 600

Defense Department civilian employees at the base, but will not affect the contractor force, which makes up the bulk of the civilian work force here,” Taylor said.

Asked how sequestration would affect the mission of the wings on the base, Taylor said, “We cannot speculate on future mission or personnel actions.”

C-130 trainees could log fewer in-air training hours and spend more time in the base simulators.

Officials have said the base will probably have fewer old C-130s, but Sen. John Boozman said last week he hopes procurement of state-of-the-art C-130Js will continue as planned.

“In a difficult fiscal situation and economy, the Air Force along with (Department of Defense) and the nation have to make tough choices. Our approach has always been, and will continue to be, to act and operate in a fiscally responsible manner while maintaining a high level of readiness and excellence,” said Col. Brian Robinson, 19th Airlift Wing commander.

“Despite the challenges, our innovative airmen will continue to meet emerging challenges and ensure the security of the nation, but there may be significant limits to how much the wing can do within the bounds of acceptable risk and safety,” Robinson continued.

“Our foremost concern is the safety and welfare of our military and civilian airmen in getting our assigned missions done during this challenging time,” the colonel said.

The Air Force has “implemented prudent measures that will help mitigate budget risks, to ensure these measures are reversible and recoverable, and to the extent feasible, minimize any harmful effects on readiness,” according to a statement from Little Rock Air Force Base.

Throughout the Air Force, actions will include curtailing nonreadiness or mission essential flying and travel, curtailing or stopping minor purchases such as furniture and information technology refresh, deferring non-emergency facility maintenance, restoration and modernization, implementing civilian hiring freeze for all nonmission critical positions and releasing non-mission critical temporary and term employees at the end of their term, according to the statement.

These near term actions only achieve a small portion of the funding decrease required in the event of sequestration or a significant reduction, according to the statement.

Sequestration is expected to have immediate and negative impacts on Air Force readiness, specifically flying hours, maintenance, and manning, top brass said earlier this month in a media briefing.

Planning is under way for longer-term budgetary uncertainty.

In November, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told lawmakers that the sequestration would reduce Defense Department spending by nearly 20 percent during the next decade, leaving the nation with its smallest ground force since before World War II, the smallest Navy since before World War I, the smallest tactical fighter force in Air Force history and the smallest civilian workforce in the history of the Defense Department.

He warned it could result in canceling the Joint Strike Fighter and new bomber, delay the next generation of ballistic missile submarine and cuts to the submarine fleet, and eliminate modernization of helicopters and ground combat vehicles.

TOP STORY >> Schools brace for deep cuts after impasse

Leader senior staff writer

Former Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Bobby Lester of Jacksonville, lured out of retirement and into the breech yet again, has been advising districts across the state how to prepare for anticipated funding cuts first surfaced during the fiscal cliff in January and now likely will kick in Friday.

“We don’t expect to have cuts this school year, which ends June 30,” according to Phyllis Stewart, chief of staff for state Education Department Commissioner Tom Kimbrell.

But differences in the federal fiscal year and the school fiscal year may cloud the issue.

Districts can carry over 15 percent of the Title I programs funds to offset some of the cuts, she said Tuesday.

The White House and Gov. Mike Beebe put the FY 2013 Arkansas cuts at about $11.5 million. But National Education Association figures, which include Head Start and numerous other programs, place that amount at about $26 million.


“Any cuts to education will be tough. We just want to help our school districts in planning so they can do the best they can with the funds that will be available to them,” said Stewart, formerly PCSSD’s assistant to the superintendent.

She said cuts will affect special-education funding, and the school improvement program.

“I don’t see a major impact hitting this district this year,” said PCSSD chief financial officer Bill Goff. “There’s not any federal money lined up for construction. It could affect Head Start,” he said.

Goff said no employees would be sent packing and no programs will be cut before the end of the school year.


Because federal lands are not subject to property taxes, and property taxes are important to financing school districts, the federal government pays in-lieu-of tax money known as impact fees.

Impact fees to the district have averaged about $250,000 in recent years, but those funds, while tracked, go undesignated into the operating fund. If that money is reduced by approximately 5 percent, the cut would be about $12,500.

“We don’t want to commit it to anything critical,” the chief financial officer said, and that includes personnel and programs.

The district receives about $5.7 million in Title I money intended for use in programs to help low-income students, such as aftercare and free or reduced lunches. The cut to those programs would amount to about $567,000, he said.


“While that’s a problem, its not a problem until the 2013-2014 school year, because the federal funds for this year are already committed.”

In its assessment, the NEA — a teachers’ union — said the cuts threatened elimination of after-school programs, decimation of programs for homeless students, English language learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools.

It said the cuts would result in the loss of tens of thousands of education jobs nationally — at early childhood, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.

Stewart said, based on information released by the White House Sunday evening, the state could lose about $5.9 million for primary and secondary education and another $5.6 million for education for children with disabilities, with the possible loss of about 70 teachers and aides.

But that’s not all the expected cuts. The National Education Association, based on fiscal year 2012, calculates that overall in federal education programs, Arkansas could lose about $26 million in fiscal year 2013 funding, affecting about 55,000 students and resulting in about 500 jobs lost.


Among the largest dollar cuts:

 $7.9 million to Title I funds would affect 13,900 students and could result in the loss of 95 jobs.

 $5.727 million in special education grants to states, affecting 2,635 students with the potential loss of 69 jobs.

 $3.85 million for Head Start Daycare, affecting 545 students with about 241 jobs lost.

 $2.5 million in vocational rehabilitation grants, affecting 1,060 students with 24 jobs potentially lost.

 $1.1 million in federal outreach and student services programs, affecting 1,160 students with the potential loss of 10 jobs.

 $1.2 million in improving teacher quality grants — no direct affect on students, 14 potential jobs lost.

Among other cuts, those affecting most students:

 Rural education, $242,000, 8,810 students.

 Federal supplemental educational opportunity grants, $236,000, 7,430 students.

 Federal work study $382,000, 5,060 students.

 Adult basic literacy, $298,000, 1,740 students.

 Career and technical education grants, $636,000, 6,760 students.

 English language acquisition grants, $160,000, 1,530 students.


“We have planned in advance for this since it was first brought to our attention last year. There would not be an immediate impact on the district that would cause any program or staff changes,” Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman said.

“The long-term consequences would certainly not be positive. We would expect a significant cut to our federal programs funding. The amount that we would expect could not reasonably be covered by district operational funds. I would anticipate some changes may be necessary to those programs that are primarily or solely funded by federal funds,” Thurman said.

Thurman could not provide specifics on staffing and programs until the district started working through a preliminary budget.

The district receives $3,064,643 in federal funding.

Federal funds account for 2 percent of Cabot’s $172 million budget.

The district is allocated $1,062,448 in Title I funds to assist low-income students who are not performing at their grade level for all grade levels, $217,310 in Title II funds for professional development, $14,546 in Title III funding for English as a second language students and $1,770,338 in Title VI-B for special education.

Cabot also receives impact-aid funds based on the number of military family students, special education children in military families and children of civilian parents working on base.


“We have cut back on spending in case we are cut. We will be prepared,” Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook said.

Will Beebe schools experience immediate cuts to school programs or employee layoffs if sequester happens?

“No, we planned for it when we budgeted. If they don’t pass it, we will have extra money to spend. However, it will mean about an estimated $60,000 to $70,000. It will mean less money and possible cuts, for sure next year,” Shook said.

Federal funding accounts for 5 percent of the Beebe School District’s $26.4 million budget.

This year the district was allocated $624,000 in Title I funding to assist low-income students who are not performing at their grade level. Beebe has a carryover of $95,000 from last year making the total budget for Title I funds $719,000.

The district cut Title I spending by 50 percent in preparation for possible federal budget cuts.

Beebe focuses Title I spending on pre-K through fourth grade to reach students having difficulties before advancing to upper grade levels. The funds are used to employ more teachers and staff, salaries, additional professional development, training and instruction, tutoring, parental involvement and to purchase new equipment and technology.

Title II funds are used for professional development and training. Beebe was allocated $112,312 this year.

Title VI-A funds are used by Beebe district as Title I funds for literacy coaches and materials. The district was allocated $62,808.

The Beebe district receives Title VI-B funds for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which sends money to special education students. The district received $593,929.

Leader staff writer Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe boys outlast Chapel in overtime

Leader sportswriter

PINE BLUFF – It took two overtimes to get it done, but Beebe eventually got past Watson Chapel 53-50 in the opening round of the class 5A state basketball tournament at the Pine Bluff Convention Center on Tuesday.

Beebe led 26-20 at halftime, but managed just 14 points in the 20-minute span of the third and fourth periods and the first overtime. The Badgers finally found their offense in the second overtime by starting with an 8-0 run and scoring 13 points in the four-minute span.

The Badgers (21-6, No. 1 East) enjoyed a flowing offense early on, but halftime adjustments by the Wildcats (13-13, No. 4 South) made it a defensive struggle from the third quarter until the second overtime, when two quick baskets by Beebe finally sealed it.

“Chapel played harder than we did in spurts,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “I thought our depth hurt us, but they played harder. We made some bad decisions and had a couple of kids who just didn’t show up and play.”

Momentum was up for grabs from the 6:06 mark of the fourth quarter until the start of second overtime, when senior forward Austin Burroughs scored on a putback of his own miss to give the Badgers a 42-40 lead.

Junior point guard Tanner Chapman followed with a basket and a chance for a three-point play with 2:14 left to play, but missed his free-throw attempt.

Chapman re-turned to the line seconds later and hit the front end of a one-and-one free throw, and a basket and free throw by junior post player Zach Baker with 1:38 remaining gave the Badgers their first comfortable cushion since early in the third quarter at 48-40.

Baker finished with nine points, with few other looks due to a defensive scheme by the Wildcats that focused on taking him out of the mix.

“I thought early he was actually good, but the second quarter on, they did take him out of it,” Marshall said.

“I thought he took himself out of the mix more than anything – very disappointed in how he played. And then I think Austin got fatigued, his shots started coming up a little bit short,” he added.

“We got up 10 a couple of times, eight a couple of times and couldn’t finish them off, and that’s because of them,” Marshall said.

With the victory, the Badgers move on to the second round of the tourney where they will face the winner of today’s first-round game between West No. 2 seed Harrison and Central No. 3 seed Pulaski Academy. Tipoff for the second-round game will be at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow night.

Though the Badgers eventually earned the win, Marshall was visibly and vocally upset with his squad immediately following the game.

“I think with the anxiety for the game, I thought we got a little tired,” Marshall said. “And they’re extremely athletic. They were beating us to spots. I felt like they outhustled us for a big stretch of the ballgame.”

Beebe shot 44 percent for the game at 18 of 41 while the Wildcats were 41 percent at 19 of 46.

Burroughs led the Badgers with 20 points while Chapman added 13 points.

For Watson Chapel, Tevin Brown and Benjamin Marcus led the way with 12 points each while Jalen Courtney added 11 points for the Wildcats.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville starting youngsters

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils’ baseball team has the large task of replacing an NCAA Division I pitcher and a fourth-round Major League Baseball draft pick from last season, and it has to do it with a very young team.

Though the team is young, it isn’t inexperienced. At least six sophomores will start on a regular basis, and four of them were full-time starters last year as freshmen.

“We’re young but everybody we’re going to put out there played some last year and they all played summer ball,” Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows said. “I think they’ve all improved. We’ll know how much once the season gets into swing, but I like this team. We’re going to struggle some but we’re going to scrap and compete. They work hard.”

Sophomores James Tucker and Derek St. Clair are the top two pitchers in the starting rotation. St. Clair became the No. 2 starter behind current UALR pitcher Jesse Harbin last season, but Tucker also got lots of time on the mound in key games. Tucker first caused people to take notice of his potential when he threw a seven-inning two hitter and got the win against 5A-Southeast champion and perennial powerhouse Sylvan Hills last season.

“Those are our two best and that’s what we’re going with,” Burrows said. “In conference, St. Clair will probably be No. 1 and Tuck No. 2. They’ve both improved. There usually is some improvement at that age. Tucker’s velocity has increased some but he’s still going to have to hit his spots and do the things he did last year to be successful.”

Sophomore Kaleb Reeves and junior Blake Perry will also see time on the mound, as well as freshman Brandon Hickingbotham.

“Perry’s going to get a lot of time on the mound and we’re going to need him,” Burrows said. “Where we’re going to be hurting this year is depth. Brandon can play, but he’s been in basketball and is a little behind right now. As a ninth grader coming in, it might be a little overwhelming for him to start.”

Reeves and Perry will also share time at third base. Across the diamond at first base will be David Williams, the team’s only senior starter.

Returning behind the plate is sophomore Greg Jones, who caught every conference game last season.

“Greg is definitely improved from last year,” Burrows said. “He was a lot better at the end of the year last year than at the beginning, and he’s continued to get better. So that’s going to help.”

Sophomore Courtland McDonald moves from right field where he started as a freshman last season, to centerfield to replace Cleveland Indians’ draft pick D’Vone McClure. McDonald struggled at the plate last year, but Burrows expects that to be better this season.

“We expect is average to be up this year,” Burrows said. “McClure only hit .242 as a ninth grader. It’s hard when you’re used to playing kids your own age to step right into varsity as a ninth grader. All of a sudden you’re 14 or 15 stepping in there against a lot of 18-year olds.”

Sophomore Justin Abbott will take over at right field. Abbott wasn’t an every-day starter last season, but did log quality innings. The same can be said of second baseman Ryan Mallison, who Burrows said is the team’s most improved player.

“He had a really good fall,” Burrows said of Mallison, also a sophomore. “He’s improved more than anybody we have from last year. He’s still small, but he’s grown a little. He’s a little stronger and his footwork is a lot better. He’s far exceeded where I thought he’d be right now.”

D.J. Scott will get the start in left field, with Laderrious Perry also vying for the position. Both are also sophomores.

“Defense is why D.J. gets that start,” Burrows said. “A couple years ago you started guys for offense, but with the new bats, defense wins out.”

Jacksonville’s first game was scheduled for yesterday at Burns Park against Central Arkansas Christian, but that game was canceled. They are scheduled to play at Cabot on Thursday.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers earn two titles at 5A state wrestling

Leader sportswriter

It was a successful weekend for the Beebe wrestling team as the Badgers came away with two individual state titles, one runner-up finish as part of an overall team runner-up performance in the 1A-5A state wrestling finals at the Jack Stephens Center on Saturday.

Sophomore Aaron Nunez and senior Jared Presley each captured state championships in their division, as Nunez won the 145-pound division and Presley took first in the 170-pound weight group. Senior Brody Welcher also made it to the finals in the 220-pound division, but fell to CAC’s Jason Kidder in the championship match.

Overall, Beebe placed eight medalists in the final day, and finished second in team points with 195.5 to team winner Maumelle, which had 288.5 points. CAC finished third overall in front of Little Rock Christian and Bismark.

Freshman Destiny Nunez was one of few female entries, and finished fourth in the 106-pound division for Beebe’s first medal of the night, followed by another fourth-place performance by Micah Dubose in the 120-pound class. Matthew Whitaker was fifth in the 132 class and Alex Warner was fifth in the 182 class. Christopher Gilly-McNair also earned a medal for Beebe with a fifth-place performance in the 195-pound weight group.

Nunez was the first of the individual state-title contenders for Beebe with a match against Maumelle’s Willie Wright. It didn’t take long for the sophomore, who is also starting quarterback on the Badger football team, to claim victory as he pinned Wright 1:29 into the first round.

The title bout between Nunez and Wright also served as a rubber match for the grapplers.

“We’ve faced off before, I won the first one, he won the second one,” Nunez said. “I just went down and started warming up, put my headphones on. I knew I had to get my mind right before I went down there, and that’s what I did. From the start, I knew it was my game.”

In an age where most kids try to specialize in one sport or another, Nunez slimmed his list of athletic endeavors down to three sports this year as opposed to the four he pursued as a freshman, dropping basketball to focus more on wrestling.

Nunez will now be off to the baseball diamond throughout the spring and summer before football comes back around in the fall. Nunez finished wrestling with a stellar 29-3 record.

Presley did not have it quite as easy in his title match against Little Rock Christian’s Ben Thompson in the 170 class. Presley fell behind 2-0 early when Thompson scored on a takedown, but Presley fought back and scored on a pair of takedowns to go ahead 4-2 at the end of the first round. He went up as much as 6-3 in the second period before Thompson closed the gap again with a reversal, but Presley dominated the final round and took the decision 9-5, closing with a snake move.

“Coach has always told us that we have to outwork and outhustle,” Presley said. “He kept working, but you could tell he was tiring out. I just came back and put him in a spot he wasn’t used to.”

For Presley, who has also been a starter in football at Beebe for the past three years, his success in sports did not come easy.

“It took a lot of hard work and dedication,” Presley said. “Because I was not a top athlete, I always had to work to be where I wanted to be at.”

SPORTS STORY >> Panther makes history

Leader sportswriter

Cabot senior Tyler Kurz may be a young man of few words, but his high-school wrestling legacy could fill volumes.

Kurz became the first four-time state champion in the brief five-year history of Arkansas high-school wrestling when he defeated Edwin Santos of Rogers High School in the 7A/6A 182-pound division late Saturday in the state wrestling finals at the Jack Stephens Center on the campus of UALR in Little Rock.

Kurz made the leap from the 145-pound class, where he won his third state championship as a junior, to the 182 group, finishing with a season record of 18-1, with his only loss coming to Santos in an earlier meeting.

Kurz was one of three finalists for the Panther wrestling team, and one of seven medalists. Austin Dye was the other state-championship winner for Cabot in the 106-pound division as he took down Catholic’s Connor Perkins in overtime.

Kurz’s accomplishment of four consecutive state championships is unprecedented in Arkansas high-school wrestling, but after months of rigorous training that included a strict diet, he was not able to focus on the magnitude of his feat following his championship bout.

“Pretty much, I just went out there to attack,” Kurz said. “I got kind of worn down. I’m just glad I got it done. I can go home and eat now.”

Kurz was the immediate aggressor against Santos and scored four points on a pair of early takedowns, and was ahead 5-0 at the end of the first round. The second round proved uneventful for the most part as Kurz led 6-0, but the final round made up for it. Santos pulled to within 7-4 on two takedowns, but Kurz answered to win 10-6.

“It’s exhilarating,” Kurz said. “It’s a legacy everyone can chase after. First period, I just kind of stuck to what I knew he was going to do. Towards the end, I got a little tired, got off track. I just had to push through it.”

Dye’s final bout was even closer, as he and Perkins ended the third round tied 2-2. The extra round appeared to be just as close until Dye, a freshman, scored on a takedown with 25 seconds remaining to claim a state title in his fifth year of wrestling.

Senior Kyle Wheeler came close to clinching a state championship in the 152-pound division, as he led Nick Mulcahy of Rogers until the final seconds of regulation. Mulcahy tied it at 1-1 just as time expired, and pulled off another late move in overtime to win 3-2, relegating Wheeler to his second-consecutive runner-up finish.

As a team, Cabot finished fourth overall with 161 points. Bentonville won the overall title with 254 points with Catholic second and Rogers third.

Other medalists for Cabot included Hayden Mills, who finished sixth in the 113-pound division, Erik Cooley, who was fourth in the 132-pound division, Bryce Mitchell, who took fourth place in the 145-pound division and Seth Roberts, sixth in the 160-pound class.

“Tyler works hard every day, and it shows when he comes out here to wrestle,” Cabot wrestling coach Jason Rogers said. “He is proof that what you put into it is what you get out of it.

“We had seven kids medal, that’s the most we’ve ever had. It was a great day. We came into it short a heavyweight, and had a bunch of young kids wrestling as well. We came back with nine, and seven of them medaled, so that’s a pretty big deal.”