Saturday, April 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Red Devils fend off persistent Falcons

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devil softball team got a doubleheader sweep of rival North Pulaski on Wednesday, but it didn’t come as easily as expected. Jacksonville has enjoyed success against some teams that have beaten the Lady Falcons handily, but the youthful NP team brought its A game on Wednesday.

Jacksonville won by scores of 5-1 and 9-4, but North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon was still pleased with what he saw from his team.

“You have to remember I’m starting five freshmen, three sophomores and a senior,” said Bohannon. “We’ve struggled at times this year, but I’m as proud as I can be of how they played tonight. Defensively this is probably our best game of the year. They competed. They kept their heads about them when Jacksonville started hitting the ball and scoring a little bit. At times this year we’ve lost our focus when things started going wrong. Tonight they stayed with it and competed. I’m very proud of them.”

Given that North Pulaski competed so well, and even put some pressure on Jacksonville early in both games, Lady Red Devil coach Hank Hawk praised his team as well.

“I love competing with these girls,” Hawk said of his squad. “If they get in jams, they don’t panic and they work out of it. They’ve done it for the last seven games. This team competes hard.”

North Pulaski, 12-7, 6-2, took the early lead in the bottom of the first of game one. Allison and Kelsey Seats got back-to-back singles to start the inning. Bailea Holt lined out to third base, but a sacrifice grounder by Madeline Graves scored Allison Seats.

Jacksonville got on the board in the top of the second inning when Brianna Loyd hit a two-RBI single to right field that scored Kymberly House and Sacha Richardson.

The score remained 2-1 until the sixth inning when Jacksonville, 11-4, 6-2, added the game’s final three runs. House reached on an E6 to start the rally. Emily Lovercheck singled to center field. Richardson tried to bunt, but Holt picked the ball up and fired to third to get House. Loyd then put down a bunt single to load the bases and Alexis Goodman was hit by a pitch for an RBI. Morgan Lloyd then hit what should have been a sacrifice grounder to second base, but the throw went home, wasn’t in time to get Richardson and left everyone safe. Zyla Richardson then grounded to third for what should have been the third out, but again the throw went home and this time got Loyd for the second out. Bailea Mitchell then grounded to third for what again should have been the third out, but again the throw went home, and again wasn’t in time to get Goodman, whose run set the final margin.

Loyd took the mound in relief of House in the fourth inning. She gave up a double to Holt to start the fourth, then issued a one-out walk to Peyton Mullen. After that, Loyd retired 11 in a row, including six strikeouts, to finish the game. She fanned the side in the bottom of the seventh.

North Pulaski got three hits, one each by Allison and Kelsey Seats, and Holt.

House gave up hits to the first two batters before retiring nine straight in the first three innings.

Kelsey Seats scattered seven hits over seven innings on the mound for North Pulaski. She struck out three, walked one and gave up just three earned runs.

Loyd started on the mound and pitched three innings before yielding to House in game two.

The Lady Red Devils scored four runs in the first inning to quickly assume control of the nightcap. North Pulaski answered in the second with four runs to tie the game, but Jacksonville added five runs in the bottom of the third to set the final margin. House and Seats dominated from the mound for the rest of the game.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe bangs out two wins against Rams

Leader sportswriter

Beebe’s baseball team got a 5A-East doubleheader sweep over Paragould on Wednesday at Gillam Field with a 3-2 win in eight innings in the opener, and a 5-2 win over the Rams in the nightcap.

Neither team scored in the first inning of game one, but Paragould, 2-4 in 5A East play, scored in the top of the second to take a 1-0 lead. That lead, however, wouldn’t last, as Beebe (8-7, 5-3) scored two runs in the bottom part of the inning to take a 2-1 lead.

Badger five-hole hitter Will Aughnbaugh started the bottom of the second with a single to left field. Two batters later, catcher Hunter Naramore singled to left field and then stole second base. With runners at second and third with two outs, center fielder Justin Browning drove both runners in with a stand-up double to left field, which gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead.

The score remained 2-1 till the top of the seventh, when the Rams took advantage of two costly Beebe errors at shortstop that tied the game at 2-2 as a result, sending it to extra innings.

The Badgers held Paragould scoreless in the top of the eighth, and Beebe shortstop and cleanup hitter John Finley made up for the costly mistakes in the field with the game-winning hit.

Two-hole hitter Dawson Burge started the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff single to center field, and a sacrifice bunt by John Underwood the next at-bat put Burge at second base with one out.

That brought Finley to the plate, and Finley won the game with a stand-up double that dropped in deep left-center field, allowing Burge to score with ease and set the final score of game one.

Even though they won both games, Beebe coach Mark Crafton wasn’t entirely pleased with his team’s performance Wednesday, especially in game one. On top of the two errors at the end of that game, his team left runners stranded at pivotal times that helped Paragould stay in the game.

In the bottom of the fourth, Beebe had the bases loaded with just one out, but the next two batters struck out, allowing the Rams’ starting pitcher to get out of the jam.

“We are missing those timely hits,” said Crafton. “We had runners at third and couldn’t get them in. We had a popup and then the bases loaded and two strikeouts. We kind of put it in cruise control when we get ahead instead of keeping that gas pedal pushed down and staying on people.”

Beebe won the second game with five runs on four hits. The Badgers scored two runs in the second inning and three in the third. Paragould set its run total with a run in the third and one in the fifth.

Kord Simpson got the win on the mound in game two. He threw six innings and recorded six strikeouts and gave up six hits and four walks. Browning got the save in the seventh and struck out one and walked one in that time.

Angus Denton was the winning pitcher of game one. He threw all eight innings and finished with a game-high 13 strikeouts. He gave up six hits, one walk and one earned run.

Denton, Burge, Finley, Aughnbaugh, Simpson, Nara-more and Browning each had one hit in game one. Under-wood, Finley, Simpson and Naramore combined for Beebe’s four hits in game two.

The Badgers played a nonconference game against Mayflower yesterday at home after deadlines, and will resume conference play Monday with a doubleheader at Nettleton.

The first pitch of game one Monday is scheduled to start at 4 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Two big innings lift JHS over NP

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s baseball team stayed perfect with a doubleheader sweep of crosstown rival North Pulaski on Wednesday at Dupree Park. The game was scheduled to be on North Pulaski’s field on Tuesday, but Sunday’s torrential downpours made that end of Dupree Park unusable, so the two teams met on Hickingbotham Field the next day.

Game one was a miserable one for the officially recognized host school, as Jacksonville won 19-0 in four innings. Game two was close for four innings, until a 7-run fifth lifted the Red Devils to a 13-4 victory.

Jacksonville’s Derek St. Clair tossed a phenomenal game in the opener. St. Clair threw a no-hitter and was one walk from a perfect game. He got the leadoff hitter to groundout to shortstop to start the game, then walked Jordan Walter. From there, St. Clair struck out the next 11 batters in a row before the game ended in the fourth on the 15-run mercy rule.

Jacksonville had trouble adjusting to North Pulaski freshman Caleb McMunn’s slower approach in game two. The Red Devils got their early runs largely from North Pulaski errors and capitalizing when McMunn struggled with control. Otherwise, McMunn got the 5A-Central leading Red Devils to pop it up numerous times for easy outs.

Jacksonville pitcher Blake Perry also struggled with his control, and North Pulaski made good use of it, especially Ean Collie. He went 2 for 3 and drove in all four of the Falcons’ runs in game two. Three of the four he drove in got on base via base on balls.

Jacksonville was the home team in game two, and took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning without a base hit. Courtland McDonald’s routine grounder to second base was mishandled.

He stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice grounder by Brandon Hickingbotham. Kaleb Reeves then walked and stole second, and McDonald scored on the throw to second base.

The lead didn’t last long. North Pulaski scored two runs in the top of the second. McMunn drew a leadoff walk and Tyler Montgomery was hit by a 1-2 pitch. Hunter McPherson’s sacrifice bunt didn’t work and McMunn was thrown out at third. But Collie came through with a two-run double to deep left-center field to bring both base runners around. Collie tried to steal third, but was gunned down by Greg Jones and Brandon Bridges flew out to left field to end the rally.

Jacksonville tied it in the bottom of the second. St. Clair drew a leadoff walk and stole second base. Perry then singled to left field for the RBI. The Red Devils then took a 5-2 lead with a rally in the bottom of the third.

Reeves started it off with a leadoff single, and that’s where the rally should have ended. Jones flew out to left and James Tucker grounded out to shortstop, but Ryan Mallison’s routine pop up to second base was missed, leaving him safe at first and Reeves at third.

St. Clair then doubled down the right-field line to score both runners. He then scored off another RBI base hit by Perry.

North Pulaski answered with two runs in the top of the fourth on one hit. The Falcons loaded the bases with no outs when Perry walked Fred Thomas and McMunn. A pitch in the dirt advanced the runners, leaving first base open. Perry then struck out Montgomery on a breaking ball in the dirt that got by Jones behind the plate. Jones gathered the ball, but his throw drew Hickingbotham off of first base, leaving everyone safe.

Jones made some amends for the series of follies that led to loading the bases when he picked off Thomas at third base. Perry then struck out McPherson for the second out, but Collie came through with another base hit to score the two base runners.

Jacksonville loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth but was unable to score.

Hickingbotham took the mound for Jacksonville in the fifth. He committed a fielding error and walked two batters to load the bases, but also struck out the side to get out of the jam.

Jacksonville finally broke it open in the bottom of the fifth after McMunn left the game after walking or hitting three of the first four batters. Collie, who started on the mound in the run-rule shortened first game, took the mound in relief, and it was a wanted change for Jacksonville, who is more comfortable against harder-throwing pitchers.

St. Clair and Perry drew the walks before D.J. Scott put down a bunt single that loaded the bases. McDonald took a pitch to the hip to drive in one run. Hickingbotham then singled to left field for one RBI, and another run scored when the ball was misplayed. Reeves then hit a double down the left-field line for two RBIs and Jones walked. Tucker then hit a two-RBI shot to left field to make it 12-4. Though there were still no outs after eight batters, Jacksonville did not score again.

The Red Devils added a run in the sixth when Reeves doubled again, stole third base, and then walked home after the throw from to third sailed into left field.

Jacksonville led just 1-0 after two innings in game one before scoring 15 in the third inning on eight hits, three walks, one hit batter and five North Pulaski errors.

Reeves went 3 for 3 with two walks, two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored in game two. Perry went 2 for 2 with two walks and two RBIs, and St. Clair went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers’ penalty kicks beat Tigers 5-4

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers’ soccer team battled Little Rock Central to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation Tuesday at Panther Stadium, but the host team won the 7A/6A East matchup by scoring one more goal than the Tigers did in the penalty shootout, which ended the game 5-4 in Cabot’s favor.

With the win, the Cabot boys improve their overall record to 5-2-1 and are still perfect in conference play with a 3-0 record.

Central (4-7-1, 2-2) scored the first goal of the game less than 10 minutes into the first half with a successful kick from 17 yards out by William Mitchell. The Tigers maintained their 1-0 advantage till Cabot senior midfielder Fabian Knoell booted a free kick from 53 yards away that sailed into the goal with 1:56 remaining in the first half.

Knoell’s lengthy shot tied the score at 1-1, and that was the score till the end of regulation. Central scored the first goal of the shootout on its first attempt, but Cabot’s Edi Alfonso answered with a goal on the Panthers’ first attempt, which tied the score at 2-2.

Central’s Ross Regan was next up for the Tigers and his kick was blocked, thanks to a diving save by Panthers’ goalkeeper Jack Whisker. Cameron Stokes was next up for Cabot, and he put one in the net that sailed just under the top crossbar, which put the Panthers up 3-2.

The Tigers scored on their next shot, but Knoell answered with his second goal of the game, making the score 4-3 Cabot. Central’s Peyton Robinson scored on the visitors’ next attempt, but Nathan Taylor scored on the next attempt for the Panthers, which set the final score.

College signee Trevor Reed would’ve been next up for Cabot had Central been able to tie the score, but Central’s Ian Kim missed wide left on his shot attempt, which gave Cabot the win.

It was a good win for the host Panthers, but head coach Steve Porter was surprised there weren’t more goals scored during regulation.

“It was one of those games that I thought on the balance of play and chances that it should’ve been like a 6-5 game,” said Porter. “There were that many opportunities for both teams. I thought, especially in the first half, we should’ve had more chances, better chances.

“We just need to maintain focus. Technically, during practice they can do it. But we need that when we’re in a game under pressure, when it matters. We can always improve technically and tactically. The mental aspect of it – staying focused, staying tough, that’s what we need to continue to work on.”

The Lady Panthers’ game also took a shootout to decide a winner, but Central came out on top in their matchup, winning by the final score of 3-1. Neither team could score in regulation, but Central’s Rebecca Hardcastle scored on the first shot attempt of the shootout to give the Lady Tigers a quick 1-0 lead.

Cabot missed its first attempt, but the Lady Tigers’ next attempt was blocked. Braxton Reed tied the game at 1-1 with a goal, but Central retook the lead with a goal by Paige Sander.

Cabot missed its next attempt, and the Lady Tigers (3-1 in 7A/6A East) won it with a goal by Grayston Barron that set the final score.

“I really expected us to finish our chances better than we did,” said Cabot girls’ coach Kerry Castillo. “We had three point-blank chances to score right in front of the goalkeeper, and when you don’t make those and you let a team that’s as athletic as they are hang around you’re going to pay for it.”

Both the Panthers and Lady Panthers (8-3-2, 2-1) will play a nonconference game at Little Rock Christian on Monday before resuming conference play Tuesday with a pair of games at home against West Memphis. The girls’ game will be played first on each day, and both games are scheduled to start at 5 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS No. 40 jersey retired

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School had its first jersey number in school history officially retired Friday. Former Red Devil standout Clinton McDonald, a starting defensive tackle for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last season, was honored with a ceremony in the JHS gym that ended with his No. 40 football jersey being retired.

McDonald’s No. 40 jersey is one of two Jacksonville jersey numbers to be retired this year. Later in the fall, former Red Devil and Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle Dan Hampton, who won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1985, will also have his jersey number retired.

McDonald’s journey to success wasn’t easy. The Seahawks cut him just before week one of last season, only to re-sign him for less money the next week. He started the next 15 regular-season games for Seattle’s stellar defense, as well as each playoff game that followed, including Super Bowl XLVIII.

“I think it’s more so a blessing than anything, along with a responsibility,” said McDonald. “God has allowed me to make it this far, to play in a Super Bowl and actually be a Super Bowl champion. I feel like he set the responsibility on me, too, to go out there and speak on his behalf and show the kids a positive role model.”

McDonald wore No. 21 throughout his junior high playing days, and described what led to him switching to No. 40 in high school.

“I wore No. 21 in junior high and coach Rick Russell said a guy named Dominique Harris wore No. 40 before me, and when he gave me the jersey, he said ‘You’ve got some big shoes to fill.’ He was a pretty good player, and I told him I was going to try to do my best to fill them.

“I like a challenge. So when I get a challenge I like to try to meet that challenge. I just wanted to make the best out of whatever jersey they put me in.”

Russell was McDonald’s defensive coordinator at the time he played for JHS, and he said McDonald is just as impressive of a guy off the field as he is on it.

“The thing that comes to mind most is the way that he and his family approach life,” said Russell, “athletics, school, and relationships and everything they do. And that comes from their home.

“They had such a great example to follow with Mr. Mac and Mrs. Mac. They’re all just great kids with great character. They’re hard workers, leaders; every aspect of being a champion, they have. Whatever it takes for him to be successful he’s going to do.”

Jacksonville athletic director Jerry Wilson, who was McDonald’s basketball coach at JHS, shared much of the same sentiments.

“The thing that I like about him is he’s very humble,” said Wilson. “He’s given back to the community. What he’s meant to the city and the community, he’s an example.”

McDonald was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 before being traded to Seattle in 2011. He had his best year as a pro last season, recording 35 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

On March 11, he was rewarded for his play on the field with a four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers worth $12 million.

EDITORIAL >> Support sick kids

Two upcoming fundraisers deserve extra mention because they will benefit sick children. So we encourage community members to turn out and support the families who are trying hard to help their kids overcome rare illnesses. (See Events Notebook, page 2A.)

The first one, a fish fry from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday in Jacksonville High School’s cafeteria, will help pay for out-of-state travel expenses for the medical care of 6-year-old Charli Kay Cooper, who is suffering from a rare seizure disorder.

Catfish, chicken, coleslaw, baked beans and hushpuppies are available dine-in or take-out for $10. Tickets are available at the JHS main office or by calling 501-982-2128. Donations can also be contributed at the JHS office.

The other is a 5K run/walk Saturday, May 3 at Beebe City Hall. It will help pay for the medical expenses of Gracie Hall, the 15-month-old daughter of Josh and Juli Hall. The toddler has HLH (Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis), a rare immune system disorder.

All donations will be appreciated. For more information, e-mail or call Jenni Taylor at 501-281-0540o or Mary Seymore at 501-605-2864.

Let’s show these families that we are with them in their time of need.

EDITORIAL >> School chiefs key to future

Cabot Superintendent Tony Thurman told us this week he’s withdrawing his name for consideration as leader of the Fayetteville School District. He said his work in Cabot is not finished and his ties to the community are too strong to be lured away to Hog heaven in northwest Arkansas.

That’s good news for Cabot, which owes much of its success to its quality public schools. Thurman deserves a lot of the credit, as do the scores of teachers and administrators who make up his team. Under his leadership, several of the city’s schools have been ranked among the best in the state.

Had Thurman jumped ship, the community would have had little time to find a first-rate successor before the new school year starts in August.

Cities either thrive or languish depending on the quality of their schools. A case can be made that superintendents are as important as mayors. It seems that school boards and city councils understand that educating young people is the top priority.

School districts win out over city halls. Just look at the superintendents’ salaries:

Thurman’s annual pay is $174,000. Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert’s salary is about $90,000.

The Pulaski County Special School District’s interim superintendent, Jerry Guess, takes in $215,000 every year. And he manages one of the largest school systems in the state. It is also arguably one of the most financially and academically challenged in Arkansas. Though he will only be in charge of PCSSD for one more year, he could get a long-term contract when the district is freed from state supervision.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher’s salary is $89,000, and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman is paid $87,419.

Both cities are part of PCSSD but hope to form their own districts soon. Jacksonville will vote in September to leave PCSSD and could hire a superintendent next year.

Guess would be a good choice to lead either city’s new district. Who is in a better position to understand the complicated issues of breaking up the district than him?

For comparison, state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell, who lives in Cabot and was also up for the Fayetteville superintendent job, is paid about $220,000. As a political appointee, he will likely be replaced next year by a new governor since Gov. Mike Beebe is term-limited.

Kimbrell would also be an excellent choice to lead Jacksonville schools when they split from Pulaski County. After all, it was his call to have the state take over PCSSD. He’s also been supportive of Jacksonville’s efforts to gain control of its schools. As a Cabot resident, he sees what communities expect their schools to look like.

The smaller towns in our area also pay superintendents more than their mayors.

In Beebe, Belinda Shook is paid $135,410, and Mayor Mike Roberson gets $40,310.

Lonoke Superintendent Suzanne Bailey’s yearly salary is $105,000 compared to Mayor Wayne McGee’s $30,000.

Thurman, who will likely have a pay raise before next school year, was right to stay here. We hope Cabot residents understand their good fortune because he won’t stop until their city looks like a college town that even Fayetteville would envy.

Besides, he’s a Monticello Boll Weevil at heart.

TOP STORY >> Super Bowl champ returns home for tribute

Leader staff writer

Super Bowl Champion Clinton McDonald came back home this week to help raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Jacksonville, a place that allowed him to make friends and grow into the humble man he is today.

McDonald, a former defensive tackle for the Seattle Sea-hawks who recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was the guest speaker of the Boys and Girls Club banquet on Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Center.

“We are here to honor a great entity in this community, the Boys and Girls Club. This isn’t about me. I’m just a product that came out,” McDonald said.

McDonald, his brothers, sisters and friends went to the Boys and Girls Club during the summers when they were young to play and get a meal.

One time, McDonald’s father and community members got together and — through the Boys and Girls Club — took some kids to a flight school.

“They taught us about the Tuskegee Airmen and other pilots. It opened our minds to aviation and flying. We went to a hangar and got a chance to fly,” McDonald said.

He remembered wondering how many other kids ever had the chance to fly in a private plane and being grateful that someone was taking time out of their busy schedule to do it.

McDonald said, when Seattle won the Super Bowl, his teammates were in the back of the plane saying, “Hey Champ”. They were laughing because they accomplished something people only dream about.

McDonald told the guests that one of Seahawks’ coaches turned the conversion around and said, “It is a responsibility being a champ. Everyone knows your face. What are you going to do with that responsibility?

“My responsibility is to come back to the community or the community I’m in and affect it in a positive manner that Christ wanted me to affect it. For me to do (youth football) camps in Jacksonville was not to get glory for it. God has blessed me enough that I can be fine if I did not want to do anything else,” the football player said.

“But, at the same time, it’s a responsibility he blessed me with as well, to give back and be a part of Jacksonville. God has made it so that I stand here today as a Super Bowl champion and as a champion in his eyes, to be an example to this community,” McDonald said.

“This Boys and Girls Club has more impact on the children than we know,” he continued.

McDonald said the Boys and Girls Club helps children see their value and see that they can succeed. The club produces a lot of great people and needs the community to make sure opportunities remain open for the children and for people for who want to participate and give back wholeheartedly, he noted.

“The Boys and Girls Club means a sacrifice. A responsibility for (director) Laura (Walker) and (athletic director) Mike (Williams) that they take out of their busy schedule every day and make sure the children are taken care of,” McDonald said.

He said it is one thing to have, but it is another to give back your time, sometimes money, effort or a word of encouragement to a young child. “You never know which flower is going to bloom the brightest. You water them all the same. Today, I just happen to be the flower that bloomed. It’s not by chance, but the grace of God,” McDonald said.

He said there is another star in Jacksonville who needs somewhere to go and get creative, to let that anger off, to come to after school, to learn different things, to meet new people. That is the Boys and Girls Club, McDonald said. They do not deny kids. They allow them to grow and mature, he explained.

McDonald said, without the club, he may not have become the well-rounded person he is today. And he is still friends with people he first met there as a 6-year-old.

The Boys and Girls Club encourages youngsters to get out of their comfort zones and see what the world has to offer, McDonald said.

During the banquet, Mayor Gary Fletcher gave McDonald the key to the city. Fletcher said, “He loves people and it shows. He is a great role model for our young people.”

 The Boys and Girls Club of Jacksonville presented $500 scholarships to Kayla Williams and Tiffany Smith. Both are 12th graders.

 The Dub Myers Leader-ship Award, a $500 scholarship, went to Sierra Thompson, a 10th grader at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School.

 Chris Perry was given the Boys and Girls Club’s Volunteer of the Year Award.

TOP STORY >> A modern library opens in Beebe

Leader staff writer

The Goff Public Library in Beebe, a dream of many people, held a grand opening on Wednesday for residents and city leaders.

Mayor Mike Robertson said White County Regional Library System chairman Clay Goff came to him over a year ago and told him the city needed a library.

Robertson said no grants were available, but the library system, the city and the state helped fund the project.

Developer Leroy Goff donated his time, labor and expertise to design and construct it.

Robertson said, “This building was paid for by your tax dollars. The regional library system saved money. (The city) had some money, so we put it all together, and a dream came true.

“We have a wonderful library to be proud of,” he concluded.

The $375,000 library was paid for with funds from the White County Regional Library System plus $100,000 from the city.

The 3,500-square-foot building is located between city hall and the fire department.

It moved from its old 1,200-square-foot building the city leased for $350 a month from the Beebe American Legion Post 91. The library has been at the Legion hut since the 1970s.

Clay Goff said, “About five years ago, I had a dream but did not have a plan. I began to study, and, finally, 18 months ago, I went to the board and said, ‘I’ve got some ideas.’ We began to work on things, and they said, if you can make it happen, do it.”

Clay Goff met with his dad, Leroy, who helped make it happen. His father was at the building site daily making the plans a reality.

“I had lots of folks come to my office — 90 percent were excited and had positive comments, but 10 percent were negative comments. A library? Aren’t they on the verge of extinction? Aren’t they a dinosaur with today’s technology and modern times? Do we really need a library?” Goff said.

“Yes, we do. What we have today is a state-of-the-art building that is a tree of knowledge that will continue to grow,” he said.

Goff said the library offers summer reading programs for grade schoolers so they do not forget what they learned and do not fall behind during the upcoming school year.

For teenagers, the library has Wi-Fi access and a teen area with books and magazines for their age group.

The building has six computer stations, so people looking for work can apply for jobs online.

The library also offers e-books to download, so patrons do not have to leave their homes to enjoy reading.

For retirees, the facility is a place to socialize, stay up to date on current events and keep their minds sharp.

And they can e-mail their children and grandchildren.

Goff said 55,000 items were checked out last year from the old library.

“Imagine what this facility will do,” he said.

State Librarian Carolyn Ashcraft said libraries have changed over the years to meet the needs of today.

She said there is something for everyone at the Goff Public Library.

“Every year, circulation keeps going up. As you open up this new facility people (will) start coming in and using it,” Ashcraft said.

“You will see, in less than five years, this board will be talking about how can we raise the money to do an expansion on that new building we’ve already outgrown. That is a wonderful thing,” Ashcraft said.

“Think of this facility as your community center. There are lots of things you can get besides just a book to checkout,” Ashcraft said.

The Goff Public Library is open from noon until 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

It is closed Friday and Sunday.

TOP STORY >> Ex-clerk airs grievance

Leader staff writer

The Lonoke County employee whose grievance hearing was canceled four times before she was transferred to another office says she did Assessor Jack McNally’s job before he fired her.

According to the former chief deputy assessor, Therese O’Donnell, McNally was in his Lonoke office or the Cabot office less than 10 hours a week when it wasn’t campaign season.

She claims he didn’t even work then, instead delegating tasks and “bullying” his staff.

The assessor wasn’t in his office on Friday when The Leader called.

O’Donnell also said McNally worried her family when he told The Leader last week that she had been prescribed four kinds of heart medication.

O’Donnell said in an interview at The Leader on Thursday that a cardiologist gave her a clean bill of health in July, and she has never been prescribed heart medication.

Even if his comments had been true, McNally violated the HIPPA law that prohibits employers from releasing medical information about their employees, O’Donnell said.

The former deputy — who has lived in Lonoke County for more than 40 years — started working for Collector Patricia McCallie on March 31.

Her career in Lonoke County government began in 1999. She worked for Hugh Keller, a former county collector, and then for former assessor Jerry Adams.

“I loved my job, loved working with the people,” O’Donnell said.

She and her husband, Paddy O’Donnell, said they were trying to keep things civil and out of the press, but McNally’s claims about her health was the last straw.

O’Donnell said the assessor has, for three years, refused to learn how to do the job he was elected to do.

Instead, he delegates tasks to the staff, she told The Leader. An employee is doing the budget for him, O’Donnell said.

She added that Jerry Adams, not McNally, brought Geographic Information Systems to the county. The county piloted GIS in the early 2000s, while McNally was elected in 2011.

O’Donnell said she started signing time sheets because he wasn’t in the office, and she didn’t want to drive to the Cabot office or his house to make him sign them.

Then she was asked to pay the office’s bills and write a grant the day before it was due, O’Donnell said.

On Thursday, she was still receiving calls from other county employees about how to complete their duties that involved the assessor’s office.

O’Donnell said, “I was hoping that he would take responsibility for the job he was elected to do because I was tired of doing the job that the taxpayers pay him to do…I cannot sit by any longer and see him waste the taxpayers’ money for his own gain. He has said many times this is the best job I ever had for not doing anything.”

The former deputy said McNally has made several questionable or unnecessary purchases, including T-shirts promoting the Homestead Credit program and signs and stands for The Wounded Warrior Project.

Some of the purchases have been hotly debated during Lonoke County Quorum Court meetings.

Paddy O’Donnell added that McNally’s favorite saying is: “We can get around this. We’ll work around this.”

He said the assessor has been saying that since he was a code enforcement officer for Cabot under then-Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh.

Theresa O’Donnell then shared several text messages she would have read to county officials if her grievance hearing had been held.

But, she said, she appreciates several quorum court members who apologized about her having to go through this ordeal.

The texts from McNally are compliments, such as, “You are the best,” “You are a blessing in my life” and “…please forgive me for relying on you so much.”

One text sent on Nov. 18 reads, “Things run well because of you. Things run well in spite of me.”

O’Donnell said McNally’s wife sent one of the longest text message. It reads, “Between you and me, please try and get Jack to stay at the office and work today. If he’s told ‘it’s under control, we can handle it,’ he uses that as an excuse to stay home. He’s on his meds and has had a good diet all weekend and says he feels better. When he’s home, all he does is sit in the chair and watch TV or lay in bed. He needs to be up and active and he will NOT do that here. That can’t be good for his health either. If he’s going to keep this job, he needs to be there and be seen WORKING!!…”

The assessor never explained to her why she had been fired, O’Donnell said.

She said McNally met her at the back door of the courthouse on Feb. 3, asked for her key, told her she was a good employee and that she was fired.

O’Donnell said McNally often became upset at work, yelling at her and the other women on his staff. She became emotional over what he might say to them after this article is published.

“I want to apologize to the ladies that I worked with in the Lonoke office. I hope this will not make it any harder on them. Jack is known to carry a grudge,” O’Donnell said.

She added, “It breaks my heart because they don’t deserve it.”

On Jan. 23, O’Donnell said McNally yelled at her after County Judge Doug Erwin came in to remove and replace the carpet in the assessor’s office.

O’Donnell said McNally wanted the office to close, but she suggested the staff work with their office doors closed while the main room was worked on.

The assessor called her into his office, she said.

“At that point, Jack McNally showed a side of himself that should have never been seen at any point in time. He put a fear in me that I have never experienced before. I felt that he was uncontrollable. He was mad because the judge did not inform him in advance that he was doing the carpet. I was told later that the judge did try to contact him a few times, but he would not answer his phone.”

O’Donnell said McNally cursed at her, but that he would probably dispute her accusation because some words may be curses to one person but not to a another person.

Eight days later, on a Friday, O’Donnell’s husband confronted the assessor. He told McNally that his wife should not be treated that way.

O’Donnell said her husband didn’t raise his voice, but McNally did, saying, “I don’t need this (expletive).” Then, she said, the assessor sarcastically apologized to her as she was speaking to another county employee.

O’Donnell was terminated the Monday after her husband spoke with McNally.

The assessor has argued that she resigned.

O’Donnell said she never turned in a letter of resignation. But the former deputy did say she told McNally she would quit in May if he didn’t start helping her run the office.

O’Donnell added that she canceled only one of the four grievance hearings that were scheduled.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot setter to Lindenwood

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot volleyball program had its first official college signee in the DeAnna Campbell-coached era Friday, as senior standout setter Bailee Uhiren signed her National Letter of Intent to play volleyball for Lindenwood University in Belleville, Ill.

Uhiren was a key player for the Lady Panthers all three years she was with the team, and her passion for the game itself had a lot to do with her wanting to take her game to the next level.

“Playing volleyball is more than just a sport to me,” said Uhiren. “It’s taught me a lot about life in general, the challenges I’ll have to face when I’m older. It’s helped me mold and grow into the person that I am today.”

Uhiren said Lindenwood was already on the short list of schools she was interested in attending, but it was when she visited the campus in Belleville that her interests grew.

“I went to go visit the school and just fell in love with it,” Uhiren said. “The volleyball program was very promising and they offered me a good amount of money to play. So I took the chance and decided to sign with Lindenwood.”

As a key starter in all three years she played for the Lady Panthers, Uhiren was part of a senior class that in many ways laid the foundation for success in the Cabot High School volleyball program.

This past season, the Lady Panthers advanced to the second round of the Class 7A state tournament before losing a 3-1 match to eventual state champion Fort Smith Southside. Campbell said she believes Uhiren will have no trouble taking the success she’s had to the next level.

“I think she’ll do great,” said Campbell. “She already has the skills and the smarts. She’s got a really high volleyball IQ. She gets this game inside and out, and she’s just always been a strong player.”

Because of the success and camaraderie her class had, Uhiren said she’s leaving a lot of great memories behind at Cabot, but added that she looks forward to the opportunity to make new ones at Lindenwood.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Panthers hold mark at Jonesboro

Leader sports editor

The Cabot softball team held on for a 4-3 road win over Jonesboro on Friday in a crucial 7A/6A East Conference matchup.

A scoreless game for four innings suddenly burst open when the Lady Panthers posted four runs in the top of the fifth inning, but all that almost slipped away when Jonesboro responded with three in the bottom of the sixth.

After Jonesboro’s Marcie Bewley was hit by a pitch to start the sixth inning, Madi Bishop cut the lead in half on the first pitch of her at-bat when she put it over the fence in right-center field. Susannah Kelly followed that with a double, and scored two batters later on a single by Taylor Rainey.

Cabot pitcher Lauren McCluskey got a groundout to shortstop and struck out the next two batters faced to get out of the jam.

McCluskey then struck out the first and third batter of the seventh inning, and got a groundout inbetween to hold on for the victory.

Cabot was at the top of the order when it broke through for four runs in the fifth. Leadoff hitter Rachel Allgood got things rolling with a single and Erin Eckert walked. The next two batters went down in order, but an error at shortstop kept the Lady Panthers alive.

Molly Wood hit a hard grounder to short. The error allowed Allgood to score and left two runners on base for Macee Abbott.

She sent a 1-0 pitch over the fence in left-center field to clear the bases and give Cabot just enough runs to maintain the lead and victory.

Cabot got just six hits, but walked five times and had several opportunities to score throughout the game. Allgood and Abbott led the way, each going 2 for 4 at the plate. Heather Hill and Hannah Montgomery got the other two hits for the Lady Panthers.

McCluskey went the distance on the mound for Cabot. She gave up five hits, three in the sixth inning, while walking just one and striking out six.

The Lady Panthers, 8-6, 6-0, played Little Rock Central at home on Tuesday, and added a home nonconference game against Wynne on Thursday. Look for details of those games in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls runner-up to Conway

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers turned in another second-place performance last week at the Wampus Cat Invitational Relays at Conway High School. The host school won the event with 133 points while Cabot finished with 114. Vilonia was third with 82 points while Bryant’s 75 and Little Rock Central’s 66 rounded out the top five.

The boys scored 70 points in their meet, but it was only good for seventh place. Sylvan Hills also made a decent showing as one of the smallest schools participating in the meet.

The Lady Panthers got just one event win. Lexi Weeks did not approach her career best by clearing 12 feet, but it was still five feet higher than second place.

Lexi and Tori Weeks joined Ladaysha Evans and Danielle McWilliams to finish second in the 4x400m relay, and that same team finished fourth in the 4x400 relay. Cabot also took second in the 4x800m relay. The team of Ashley Odom, Emily Dey, Seaton Howard and Ashley Gore finished with a time of 11:01.72.

McWilliams was also second in the long jump with a lead of 16-8.5, which North Little Rock’s Malica Monk won at 18-5.5. Sylvan Hills sophomore Aljahnay Duncan was eighth in that event.

Katie Wright took second in the shot put with a toss of 29-10, but she was still more than six feet short of Greenbrier’s Shelby Shaw. Samantha Nickell took second in the 3,200m run, not far behind Conway’s Lauren Campbell. Gore took fifth in the 3,200m and the 1,600m.

Cabot’s Rachel Hall took second in the 300m hurdles, just .18 behind Conway’s Kelsey Kordsmeier’s time of 49.4. Sylvan Hills’ Cassidy Zgonc was seventh in that event and Cabot’s Briley Quardstrom finished eighth.

Evans took fourth in the 200m while teammate Miranda Walker was sixth. Marquetta Magwood took fourth in the 100m hurdles while Wright tied for fifth in the high jump. Dey and Howard finished fifth and sixth in the 800m run. Lexi Weeks took sixth in the 100m dash. Walker was seventh in the triple jump and Odom took seventh in the discus throw. Sylvan Hills’ Jasmine Washington was second in the discus with a toss of 79-7.

In the boys’ meet, the sprints were among the most exciting events. Cabot’s Jordan Burke took second in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Central’s Tre James won the 100m with a time of 11.28, but Burke and North Little Rock’s Anthony Louden tied for second at 11.30.

Cabot’s Layton Alley was fourth at 11.55 and Sylvan Hills’ Qunicy Flowers was fifth at 11.66. James also won the 200m. His time of 22.58 was .26 faster than Burke. Alley was fifth in that event.

Sylvan Hills’ Malik Strong took third in the high jump and triple jump. His teammate Trajan Doss took sixth in the triple jump. Doss was also sixth in the long jump, clearing 19-4, exactly two feet shorter than winner Darian Jarrett of Bryant. Strong took eighth in the long jump for the Bears.

Cabot and Sylvan Hills finished fourth and fifth in the 4x100-meter relay. Burke, Alley, Jalen Hemphill and Logan Melder made up Cabot’s fourth-place team, while Strong, Keyundra Hardimon, Doss and Flowers made up the Sylvan Hills’ sprint squad. Strong, Hardimon and Doss were joined by Tre West to finish eighth in the 4x400, one spot behind Cabot’s Hemphill, Burke, A.J. McClean and Caleb Duerkop.

Duerkop was also fifth in the 300m hurdles while McClean took seventh in the 800m run.

McClean also anchored Cabot’s fifth-place 4x800 team that included Nick Davis, Brayden Mercantel and Dylan Ball.

Rocky Burke took fourth for Cabot in the pole vault with an 11-6 vault. Jake Ferguson took fifth for Cabot in the 400, Keith Pledger and Brandon Jones were fifth and eighth in the discus throw and Davis took eighth in the 3,200 meter run.

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers second at relays in Heber

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers were a close second behind Heber Springs last Friday at the Sarah Low Relays at HSHS. The hosting Panther boys racked up 91 points while the Badgers were just three points shy of that mark. Jacksonville also turned in a good showing, scoring 68.5 points to finish in sixth place out of 22 teams participating. Sylvan Hills had 31 points for ninth place and North Pulaski totaled 20 points to finish in 11th.

Beebe’s Connor Patrom won the 400-meter race with a time of 50.94, and he finished second, just .1 seconds behind Batesville’s Justin Gallant, in the 200m. Jacksonville’s Jaylon Tucker and Danial Curley were third and fourth in the 200m, while Sylvan Hills’ Qunicy Flowers was sixth.

Gallant also won the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.62. That was only .05 seconds ahead of Tucker. Flowers was right behind Tucker while fellow Bear Keyundra Hardimon was fourth and Red Devil Treseasn Lambert was fifth.

Two Red Devils placed behind Patrom in the 400m as well. Quinlan Britt and Dameion Smith were sixth and seventh.

Jacksonville won the 4x100m relay. The Red Devils’ team of Lambert, Tucker, Curly and Damon Thomas finished with a time of 43.98, beating second-place Batesville by almost a full second. Sylvan Hills’ team of Kadarius Wilson, Tre West, Hardimon and Flowers finished third and North Pulaski’s team of Christopher Johnson, Joe Aikens, Ny-Gel Cross and Michael Johnson finished in fifth place, which was good for four team points.

Beebe took second place in the not-so close 4x400. The Badger unit of Patrom, John Diaz, Justin Burlison and Keishaun Davidson was eight seconds behind Heber Springs. Jacksonville was fourth and Sylvan Hills seventh in that event.

Beebe, Sylvan Hills and Jacksonville finished third, fourth and fifth in the 4x800 as well.

Marcus Burns took second and teammate William Peterson third in the 300 hurdles. Peterson was also fourth in the 110m hurdles while Diaz took third in the 800 for the Badgers.

North Pulaski’s Aikens, Sylvan Hills’ Malik Strong and Jacksonville’s Curly were three parts of a seven-way tie for second place in the high jump, two inches below Cameron Wilkins of Vilonia.

Lambert won the triple by bounding 43 feet, seven inches. Strong was seventh and Curly was eighth in that event.

Beebe’s Race Payne won the shot put and teammate Jesse Crisco won the discus throw. Payne’s toss of 50-7.75 was three feet farther than second place David Jackson of North Pulaski. Beebe’s Dusty Skinner was fourth at 43-4. Payne was also fourth in the discus throw. His toss of 114-11 was well short of Crisco’s 133-7.

Thomas took fifth and Aikens seventh in the long jump to round out the local scoring.

The Lady Badgers finished third with 80.5 points and Heber Springs was second with 91.5, but both were far behind Vilonia’s winning score of 146. The Lady Bears finished sixth with 52 points, Jacksonville was eighth with 28 and North Pulaski 12th with 5 points.

Jacksonville’s Antrice McCoy won the 100m dash with a time of 13.04. Beebe’s Kassidy Elam and Paige Smith were sixth and eighth in that event.

Beebe’s Taylor McGraw won the 800m with a time of 2:33.28, wile teammate Tori Colbert was fifth. McGraw was also third in the 200m dash while Sylvan Hills’ Mya Graham was fifth and Smith eighth. Beebe’s 4x100 relay team edged out Jacksonville by .87 seconds for first place. The team of Jabria Coleman, McGraw, Elam and Madison Richey finished in 53.05 while Jacksonville’s unit of Dyshaii Doyne, McCoy, Nastassia Williams and Amber Lockhart finished in 53.92. Sylvan Hills’ team of Graham, Aljahnay Duncan, Ariona Flemons and Justis Jakes took third. The Lady Bears were also second in the 4x400. Graham, Jakes, Duncan and Cassidy Zgonc made up that unit. Beebe was fifth in the 4x400 and Jacksonville was eighth. Beebe and Sylvan Hills also finished third and fifth respectively in the 4x800 relay.

Zgonc took second in the 400m race while Flemons was seventh and Beebe’s Trystan Taylor eighth.

Beebe’s Breanna Johnson took third in the mile while Taylor again finished eighth. North Pulaski’s Rachel Mason took fourth in the two-mile while Sylvan Hills’ Abigail Persson was eighth.

Duncan took third for Sylvan Hills in the 100m hurdles while Richey was seventh and Lady Bear Nia Savage was eighth. Elam took fifth in the 300m hurdles while Savage took seventh.

Richey took second in the long jump with a leap of 16-4 while Doyne took fifth and Lockhart seventh for Jacksonville. Richey was also third in the high jump while Duncan finished tied for fourth.

Elam and McGraw took fourth and fifth in the triple jump.

Sylvan Hills’ Ke’Jana Taylor was fourth in the shot put and Jacksonville’s Alayah Johnson was fifth and Sylvan Hills’ Sa’Maya Farmer was seventh.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe one-hits, skunks Lonoke

Leader sportswriter

The Beebe Badger baseball team put up five runs in the second and fifth innings Friday at Lonoke en route to a 12-0 mercy-rule win over the host Jackrabbits in a nonconference game between the two local rivals.

The first inning was scoreless, but Beebe grabbed a 5-0 lead with that many runs scored in the top of the second. The third inning went scoreless before the visiting Badgers added two more runs to their side of the board in the fourth to lead 7-0.

Beebe starting pitcher Kord Simpson kept the Lonoke bats at bay once again in the bottom of the fourth to maintain the seven-run lead, and the Badgers got back to work in the top of the fifth, scoring five more runs and holding the host team scoreless in its next at-bat to leave Lonoke County with the dominant shutout victory.

Simpson threw the first four innings and got the win on the mound. He gave up just one hit and three walks and recorded one strikeout, allowing his team to play solid defense behind him. John Finley relieved Simpson in the fifth inning, and he retired the side to ensure the 10-run after five innings mercy-rule win.

Beebe scored its 12 runs on seven hits while also taking advantage of Lonoke’s four errors committed in the field. Half of the Badgers’ runs scored were unearned. Lonoke’s only hit of the game came off the bat of Pierce Johnson.

For Beebe, leadoff hitter Angus Denton led the way offensively with a 3 for 4 showing at the plate. He also scored three runs and had an RBI. Cleanup hitter John Finley was 2 for 4 for Beebe, and he had four RBIs, while teammate and three-hole hitter Jonathan Underwood went 1 for 4 at the plate, and he too finished the game with four RBIs.

The Badgers played a 5A-East doubleheader yesterday at home against Paragould after deadlines, and will play again at home Friday against Mayflower in a nonconference game.

Lonoke played a nonconference game against Carlisle yesterday at home after deadlines, and will resume conference play Thursday at Stuttgart. Both games Thursday and Friday start at 4:30 p.m.

EDITORIAL >> School board is not missed

Jacksonville High School, still in the care of state authorities charged with rehabilitating the Pulaski County Special School District, has been named one of the state’s most improved schools, but area residents are tired of not having an elected school board.

In Sherwood last Thursday, parents of children in the troubled district said they were tired of paying taxes just to see more cuts to education programs. One parent, who said she was happy when the state took over three years ago, when the district’s finances were in a tailspin and school board members couldn’t get control of themselves or the mounting problems, is now unhappy that the state won’t let go.

We recall former school board president Tim Clark making false allegations about a fellow board member taking bribes. Clark had worked diligently to build the new Maumelle High School that the district couldn’t afford. The state quickly began monitoring all of the district’s spending after that reckless building project.

There was more foolishness from that school board than we care to remember. We don’t miss them. That wasn’t how a school board was supposed to operate, but they still won re-election time and time again.

The man who was appointed by the state Education Department to fix things may not win the support of skeptical residents, who for decades have seen the district’s quality slip away, but Jerry Guess, the interim superintendent, first needs to trim spending as millions of dollars in desegregation funding will soon end and property taxes will drop after Jacksonville finally breaks away.

But there still is reason to be hopeful:

Guess has already appointed an advisory panel that will help the district transition back to a traditional elected school board. A plan for Sherwood to leave PCSSD is gaining momentum, too. It could take several more years, but with the desegregation agreement settled, local control of schools is looking more feasible.

Jacksonville High’s recent most improved designation was based on its end-of-course algebra test. The school went from just 21 percent of its students being proficient on an algebra test in 2007 to 71 percent making the grade in 2012. The school’s grade-point average went from 1.82 to 2.82, nearly four times faster than the state average. If students don’t score well enough, they must repeat algebra.

The University of Arkansas study also ranks Cabot Middle School South as the state’s eighth best middle school based on its 2013 benchmark scores. Students there were 87 percent proficient or advanced in both math and literacy and those students had a grade-point average of 3.41.

Cabot High School is third best in central Arkansas based on its biology end-of-course scores.

Cabot Middle School North ranks 23rd in the state with a math and literacy score of 86.5 percent proficient or better and a GPA of 3.34. It tied with its counterpart, Cabot Middle South, as the 15th best in the state based on math achievement.

Cabot Junior High South is 10th best in the state based on geometry scores. Students scored 98 percent proficient or advanced.

Westside was named the top school in literacy for the state’s northeast region and it was fourth in the region in math. Cabot’s Magness Creek Elementary ranks 21st best school in the state in literacy with a proficiency or better rate of 93 percent and a grade-point average of 3.65.

Lonoke Middle School was the eighth most improved middle school in the state in algebra from 2007 to 2012. It was also the third best middle school in central Arkansas based on algebra scores.

So we can have first-rate public schools. If Cabot and Lonoke can do it, Jacksonville and Sherwood can, too. It will take time, patience and talented administrators.

When the time comes to elect school board members in north Pulaski County again — Jacksonville will vote this fall on forming its own district — whoever wins must listen to school administrators and not return to the combative, aimless ways we’ve seen in the past.

TOP STORY >> Legacy Jewelers opens in Cabot

Leader staff writer

Legacy Jewelers opened its new store in Cabot last month after being a Jacksonville fixture for decades.

Owner Cathy Miller said the timing was right for the move. The store on South Pine Street has double the floor space, is closer to where her family lives, and she followed the customer market.

Miller said, since the move, the store has been welcomed by the community.

“It was an immediate sense of being home,” Miller said.

She is pleased her customers from Jacksonville, Sherwood and Little Rock are visiting the new location.

Miller worked for Abdin Jewelers for 28 years. When Mike Abdin passed away in 2000, Miller ran the business for 11 years for his wife.

In 2011, Miller bought the store from Abdin’s widow.

Miller said, if the name of the business hadn’t changed to Legacy Jewelers because of its new ownership, this would have been Abdin Jewelers’ 50th year.

“(Mike Abdin) taught me how to engrave and watch and jewelry repair,” Miller said.

“The name seemed to sum it all up. The legacy is, I hope, to honor the Abdin family and have a growing legacy for my daughter and her children to keep alive,” Miller said.

Miller’s daughter, Tracy Garner, has worked at the store with her since 1999.

Miller said is proud of being able to restore or repair family heirlooms that may be 75 to 100 years old. The new generation is privileged to wear them, she added.

Miller also sees jewelry she sold in the 1970s coming into her store for resizing or an update. Customers sometimes update older pieces to give as gifts.

Miller said wants the store to be welcoming. “We want customers to feel like they walked into our living room. We don’t want a museum feel,” she explained.

Garner said, “Jewelry is bought for the celebratory times in a person’s life. It should be fun, a lighthearted time, not haute.”

Legacy Jewelers offers watch and jewelry repair and engraving.

They can custom design a diamond engagement ring and replace stones in costume jewelry.

The store has Case pocket knives, wedding accessories and gifts, officially-licensed sports jewelry, watches and accessories, Seiko watches and clocks and alternative metals jewelry made of titanium or stainless steel.

The staff can order previously-owned Rolex watches. And Legacy Jewelers has a case full of heirloom jewelry.

The store has everything, from sterling silver baby spoons and cups to memorial pieces for crematory remains, Miller said.

“We can take care of customer’s needs from the cradle to the grave,” she said. “We hope to be here for generations to come.”

Legacy Jewelers is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at 1604 S. Pine Street, Suite A and B. The store’s phone number is 501-941-3003.

TOP STORY >> Thurman will keep district’s top post

Leader staff writer

Cabot School District Superintendent Tony Thur-man is staying on to continue leading one of the largest districts in the state.

Thurman was contacted by the Fayetteville School District and interviewed by the Fayetteville School Board on March 31 for the superintendent position. He notified Fayetteville on April 7 that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the job.

Thurman said Fayetteville has a strong school system and will be a great position for the applicant who will be chosen as its next superintendent.

He will begin his eighth year as Cabot school superintendent in July and his 14th year in the district. He was principal at Middle School South for three years and Cabot High School principal for four years.

Thurman said he will remain a part of the growing Cabot Schools District for several reasons.

“We have lived in Cabot for 14 years and this is our home. Cabot is a great place to live and raise a family. I’m very proud of our school system but there is still so much work to be done,” Thurman said Tuesday.

“I’m excited about the continued development of our programming for students in grades seventh, eighth and ninth. The opening of the Freshman Academy this fall provides us with many opportunities,” he said.

“We will begin a renovation and addition to the S-building on the high school campus that will provide our agriculture and broadcasting programs with much needed space for growth. We will redesign the student parking area at the high school in the summer of 2015, closing out the transformation of Cabot High School that we started when I was principal at the high school in 2003,” Thurman continued.

“We are in a very good situation with our facilities and space across the district with the opening of the Freshman Academy this fall. Growth patterns must be constantly monitored, and future facilities and classroom additions considered, depending on enrollment,” he said.

Thurman said the district is financially stable and performs well academically. Students are graduating from the Cabot school system. They are successful in college, the workforce and the military. He attributes this to the faculty and staff that comes to work each day focused on doing what is best for the children.

The district will be making a presentation tomorrow to the Arkansas Department of Education requesting approval to expand its charter school to include a classroom building on the high school campus. Thurman said there are students in seventh through 12th grade who need a setting other than a large campus to be successful.

“This model will allow the district to offer a true blended learning environment utilizing the elective resources of Junior North, Freshman Academy and Cabot High School with the core academic online system currently being used at the Academic Center of Excellence,” Thurman said.

“Another aspect of Cabot that is an exciting challenge is how we will continue to integrate technology into every classroom. Technology will never be able to take the place of a highly effective teacher, but its impact on teaching and learning in the future will be great,” he said.

TOP STORY >> Hospitals see more insured with new law

Leader senior staff writer

While stressing the perils of extrapolating from such a small data set and in a short period of time, the percentage of uninsured patients coming to his hospital has declined each month since Medicaid expansion began on Jan. 1, according to Dan Riley, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ chief financial officer.

“Historically, our uninsured levels are 12 percent to 14 percent,” Riley said. “December’s uninsured rate was 13.8 percent. January, despite startup problems (enrolling on the federal website), moved to 11 percent, a pretty precipitous drop. It usually moves slowly.”

Riley said the percentage of uninsured — which translates into millions of dollars in uncompensated care — dropped again, to 7.5 percent for February. In March, it fell to 6.5 percent — less than half of the uninsured rate in the month before the January launch of the private option and the federal health exchange.

Riley again stressed that the numbers could be an aberration — the 6.5 percent could be the nadir, he said, although the numbers of uninsured could keep dropping.


“But we can see affordable care in totality is having an impact on our uninsured numbers. We’re hoping it is a harbinger,” he said.

Riley said emergency room visits during that time have remained relatively stable. “All things being equal, we’re on the right trail,” Riley said.

Other providers agree it’s too early to evaluate the effects that Arkansas’ private option and the federal health care program will have. But, just weeks after the enrollment deadline, some local hospitals are reporting emergency room visits are up while uncompensated or charity care is down.

236,742 COVERED

Arkansas’ private-option applicants totaled 195,341 by March 22, according to Kate Luck, director of communications for the Department of Human Services, and — as of this week — 41,401 applicants through the federally facilitated health-insurance marketplace have been determined eligible. Their data has been processed by the state.

Together, that’s 236,742 Arkansans insured under the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion.


“Patients who come in with the private-option plan are still a little confused,” said Cindy Stafford, North Metro Medical Center chief executive officer.

“Many don’t have the primary-care physician,” she said, so they still go to the emergency room.

She said private option hadn’t been in effect long enough to know if it is financially helping North Metro.

“Potentially, it’s a good thing,” Stafford said. “We just have to see how it plays out.”

Dr. Joe Thompson, Arkansas Surgeon General, told a legislative subcommittee that estimated savings to hospitals for the first two months of the year were hundreds of thousands of dollars, attributable to implementation of both Arkansas’ unique private option and the federal Affordable Care Act.

That’s according to House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot), a chief architect of the private option.


“Uncompensated care for hospitals raises insurance premiums for everyone and places a greater revenue burden on the state,” according to Carter.

Stuart Hill, vice president and treasurer, said, “White County Medical Center saw an increase in emergency department visits by 2.5 percent, or 600 visits, more than expected, since Jan. 1.”

But ER visits are only one measure of the effect the new insurance is having, he said.

“Also, our hospital admitted 5 percent more patients with commercial insurance, 20 percent more Medicaid patients and 6 percent fewer self-pay patients, since January 1, than had been projected,” he said.


Meanwhile, the number of Arkansans enrolled in the federal health-insurance marketplace part of the new insurance increased about 23 percent in the two weeks between March 24 and April 7, according to public information manager Heather Haywood with the Arkansas Health Connector Division of the Insurance Department. Statewide, 41,401 are now enrolled in the federal portion.

New numbers and numbers by county for the private option portion haven’t been released.

In Pulaski County, 5,647 out of an estimated 32,472 eligible people signed up for the federal program — a 25.1 percent increase from the 4,514 who signed up by March 24.

In Lonoke County, enrollment increased 23.4 percent, from 692 to 854 over the two weeks. In White County, the number signed up increased from 795 to 970, or 22 percent.


Statewide, emergency room use may be “up a little bit,” because there is a lot of re-educating to do, according to Paul Cunningham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association.

“People need to get used to going to their physician after years or decades of treating the emergency room like a family clinic,” he said. “We just don’t have any hard information yet.”

The new policies went into effect Jan. 1.

In the first quarter, Baptist Health Center’s emergency room numbers were up 10.6 percent, according to vice president Mark Lowman.

“The private option is a critically important issue to the health of all Arkansans and critically important to the hospitals in the state,” Lowman said. “In 2013, Baptist provided $50 million in charity, bad debt and discounted care.” He also said that was the net amount, not gross.

“Insuring people won’t come close to equalizing that number, but it will help, and particularly in small rural hospitals,” Lowman said. “It’s well thought out and starting to work.”


The Baptist system, including the North Little Rock branch, saw an increase of 38 percent — 3,785 — for in-patient, out-patient and emergency room visits by Medicaid patients compared to the first quarter of 2013, Lowman said.

Nearly half of all visits were to the emergency room, he said.

In the first quarter, 2,161 private-option patients came to Baptist Health, a third of them to the emergency room.

At St. Vincent’s Infirmary, the number of first-quarter emergency room visits had increased 25 percent, from about 4,000 a year ago to about 5,000 this year, according to spokeswoman Margaret Dedman.

Dedman said that was the only information the hospital would provide and that “There won’t be an opportunity for an interview.”


In a recent column, Carter wrote: “It is easy to become confused with the private option and the marketplace, but there are some very important distinctions that Arkansans need to know.

“The private option is available to individuals making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That is roughly $30,000 for a family of four and $15,414 for an individual. Premiums for the private option are paid for with federal Medicaid dollars. There is no deadline to enroll for the private option. However, you can still be penalized for not having coverage for an extended period of time.”

He said the deadline for enrollment in the marketplace exchange was March 31. The next open enrollment period will begin Nov. 15. Those looking for coverage under the exchange are being directed to

The marketplace exchange offers health-care plans with prices based on income and household size. The plans are available to anyone making from 138 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. That is, an individual making up to $46,680 a year or a family of four making up to $95,400.

Advance tax credits are also available to help pay the cost of premiums to those who qualify.