Friday, April 17, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Wood and his faculty

Former Arkansas education commissioner Tony Wood is now, or will be once the contracts are signed, the first official Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District superintendent, succeeding the interim superintendent, Bobby Lester, who’ll keep the job through June.

Before he steps down, let us thank Lester for his service on behalf of the new school district, but also for his decades of hard work as a Pulaski County teacher and superintendent. Lester, a White County native, brings professionalism and humility to an often thankless job. The community has been blessed to have his help as midwife for the new district, and here’s hoping the 70-year-old educator sticks around for a while in a consultant role.

Wood, 64, brings a can-do attitude to the task of rebuilding the northern portion of an often troubled district that has been in state receivership since 2011.

The infant school board for the new district needs to be congratulated for carefully considering all the applicants.

At the April 6 meeting, it was clear that the board thought Dr. Kieth Williams (former Beebe superintendent) — employed with the search firm the board hired to find the district’s first superintendent — would narrow the list of 12 down to two or three.

Instead, Williams made only one recommendation, former state education czar Tony Woods.

Williams exalted Wood’s achievements, record and ability to do the Jacksonville job. When board member LaConda Watson asked who would be second, Williams said Wood was his clear choice.

The board also took a close look at Marvin Burton, the deputy superintendent for the Little Rock School District. The board interviewed both candidates before reconvening Thursday at city hall and deciding on Wood.

Even if Wood was by far the best on paper, and that’s what the search firm believed, you always have a plan B.

Wood will need to focus on building support for a millage increase that will fund new schools and help secure the young district’s finances. It will be a difficult task, but we wish him luck.

What will help any effort to raise money is the state’s recent report on public schools that gave most of the Jacksonville schools a grade of a D or a C. Only one school, Arnold Drive, received a grade of B from the state.

Who was heading the Education Department while the state was calculating the grades? It was Wood. So he clearly knows what’s ahead of him.

Residents here are tired of failing schools and are willing to help however possible. They know it won’t be a quick fix, but the ship needs to be turning.

He also has some fences to mend:

As one of his last decisions as the state’s top educator, Wood signed off on a policy that calls for firing (the official term is “nonrenewal of contracts”) all Jacksonville-based teachers at the end of next year.

Now he is to be the boss of those same teachers. Even after they are all let go, a few, maybe even a majority, will be rehired.

So on day one, when Wood walks into the new district’s office, he should reach out to his 300 upset teachers, plus classified employees from secretaries to bus drivers to lunchroom cooks. Yes, they are all being let go.

Getting rid of all the teachers is not the do-all answer for the new district.

The students here need the continuity of the teachers they know, teachers the community knows, teachers the administrators know.

The talent of Jacksonville-based teachers is diverse and, in the end, Pulaski County Special School District officials will wish they had kept the Jacksonville teachers and let some others in their district go.

Many Jacksonville-based teachers hold multiple degrees and licenses, and these veteran teachers have been through tornadoes, fires, frozen pipes, no heat, excessive heat, bats in the roof and bees in the wall. They can monitor and adjust — that’s something newbies fresh off the college campus can’t do.

Inexpensive teachers who are being hailed as young and innovative are truthfully just cheap and inexperienced.

The board needs to keep an eye on the money, but at the heart of any decision is what is best for the students. Keeping students in mind will make the district what the board, the community and students want it to be – top in the state; second to none; soaring higher.

To put it even more succinctly: Be damned the money. It’s about the kids.

Welcome to Jacksonville, Tony Wood. We are happy to have you.

TOP STORY >> More time on case needed, judge says

Leader senior staff writer

District Judge D. Price Marshall on Friday declined for now to make Jacksonville-North Pulaski a party to the PCSSD desegregation case he is hearing, encouraged PCSSD to move forward on the divisive issue of seniority at the conjoined districts and warned that his court won’t be the arbitrator of detachment disagreements between the two districts.

An exception to that would be issues regarding desegregation.

Regarding the several questions brought before him, Marshall said he needed more information and documentation before ruling, deferring that until May 19 — the next desegregation status report.

John Walker, representing the Joshua Intervenors, told the judge that PCSSD had been too busy dealing with detachment issues to advance toward the goal of desegregation and unitary status. He said that violated the desegregation agreement settlement that allowed creation of the new district.

Joshua was explicitly excluded from separation issues as regard Plan 2000, Walker said.

Patrick Wilson, representing JNP, told Marshall that not all interests of the two districts were aligned and that JNP sought to be named a party to the case before Marshall.

PCSSD told Marshall that he had nearly characterized the relationship between PCSSD, the state and JNP as adversarial, but toned it down to “not aligned.” Marshall said he wasn’t convinced yet that Jacksonville needed to be made a party to the proceeding, but suggested they might, nonetheless, be represented by separate council.

Two examples would be the separate seniority tracks and also whether or not and how $20.8 million — the final state desegregation money — would be decided between the two districts. The problem has bogged down division of assets and liabilities as the two districts work to disengage.

Walker told the court that the Joshua Intervenors had been excluded from talks and negotiations regarding division of assets and liabilities between the two districts, and asked for discovery, but Marshall said the parties could probably work that out together and directed Wilson and Roberts to include Walker in subsequent meetings and negotiations.

Walker has defined the desegregation elements of these issues more broadly than the PCSSD and JNP, holding that division of desks and computers are subject to desegregation goals as part of facilities.

Mark Burnett, representing certified personnel in PCSSD, said the Personnel Policy Committee rejected Superintendent Jerry Guess’ proposal to create two separate seniority tracks for the two districts, pretty much keeping teachers at existing schools. He said the PPC would offer its own seniority proposal within a week.

In closing, Marshall said: “This is a nuanced and complicated matter; I’m not sure there’s clear answers.

“The new district both is and is not separate in many ways. I’m not sure what status it should have going forward.

“I don’t see wrongdoing or scheming,” Marshall said. “I see administrations in transition, busy in legislation, new leadership in the education department…You’ve come to terms on so many things. I’m hopeful the issues can be resolved or at least sharpened to where there is a point of law.

“I’m going to let the uncertainty wash over us,” Marshall said. “I’ll scratch my head over the role and status of the new district.”

Marshall also asked for briefs and responses within 10 days for the May 19 status hearing.

TOP STORY >> Wood: We’ll make it work

Leader senior staff writer

As state Education Commissioner, Tony Wood was the de facto school board for both the Pulaski County Special School District and — by default — the emerging Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District. But, come July 1, he’ll be the new JNP superintendent.

Both Wood, 64, and Little Rock School District Associate Superintendent Marvin Burton interviewed this week for the job. Both men had supporters when the school board met in executive session Thursday night before emerging to hire Wood 6-0.

In the end, Wood’s skill set was the difference, said JNP School Board President Daniel Gray. He said Burton was well qualified and “he’s gonna’ land on his feet somewhere.”

More than one person suggested that Burton, who is part of a 64-person Little Rock School District reduction in force, would make an excellent hire as deputy superintendent.

Just in terms of demographics, Burton, who is black and 14 years younger than Wood, might be a good choice waiting in the wings when Wood retires.

“Communities need community schools,” said Wood, who was previously deputy education commissioner for four years under Tom Kimbrell.


“The people of Jacksonville have had an unceasing battle to secure their district for their kids,” he said Friday morning. He said a thriving school district would help bring economic growth and prosperity to the Jacksonville area.

“I think I can be helpful in the phase of foundation work to help in this startup,” he said. “It’s a real challenge.”

“We’re going to make it work,” Wood said. In size and racial composition, he says the Jacksonville-North Pulaski school district is like Searcy, where he lives and where he served as superintendent for 18 years.


“This will probably be my last job,” the 64-year-old educator said.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson replaced Wood late last month with Johnny Key. Wood dropped back to deputy commissioner.

He said he’d be careful not to participate in Education Department actions involving Jacksonville-North Pulaski, noting that would be a conflict of interest.

His involvement will be minor in Jacksonville until his July 1 start, Wood said, but acting Superintendent Bobby Lester joked they’d “meet after dark” to smooth the transition.

“I’m mighty proud,” Lester said Friday morning. “Two well-qualified applicants.”

“I have a huge history with Bobby Lester,” Wood said. “We used to call him ‘Bobcat.’”

When Lester was PCSSD superintendent, Wood was deputy superintendent at Little Rock, Wood said.


The board had specified it wanted a superintendent with knowledge of state education law, the history — especially recent history — of JNP and PCSSD and the desegregation agreement, and knowledge about school finance, facilities and construction.

“I’ve got a lot of background in all aspects in the financial intricacies,” Wood added. “In my 18 years at Searcy, we did a tremendous amount of construction and renovation.”

Wood said Lester coming back to help guide the new district for the first few months was an important step.

“You couldn’t have a more dedicated, sincere person,” he said. “And Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart — she is so talented. I worked closely with Phyllis as the state Board of Education chief of staff.”


PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess said, “Tony’s a great choice. He’s had an uninterrupted run. He’s been involved in education his whole career.”

Wood said retention and attraction of personnel to meet the needs of our children was important.

“We’ve got to have the right and committed people in the classrooms to reach out and build relationships with the kids,” Wood said.

“There are some strong personnel doing good work everyday,” he said.

“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s likely to be the most interesting place I’ve worked.”

Wood said he hadn’t signed a contract yet, but “I’ve given my word.”

As the acting school board for JNP — the result of the state takeover of PCSSD in 2011 — Wood was involved in many decisions concerning the new district.

For instance, he helped decide how to pick the current, interim school board, which involved input from a variety of community leaders.

“I’ve been involved in working on how does the detachment proceed. This is the very first time we’ve had a separation in Arkansas — a number of consolidations, but this is the first separation,” Wood said.

Wood’s wife of 44 years, Ann, told him “I’m really glad you’re going to Jacksonville.”

In his resume, he notes a “deep appreciation of and allegiance to public education.


He cited “a proven record of leadership, a team builder experienced in scaling up organizations and the capacity to enforce accountability and cultivate a results-oriented culture.”

He worked as a teacher in the Beedeville School District and at Judsonia; deputy superintendent at Kensett School District; deputy superintendent at Little Rock, deputy commissioner of the state Education Department for four years and commissioner for one year.

Wood, born and raised in Columbus, Miss., came to Arkansas in 1969 to attend Harding University, he said, where he graduated with bachelor of science degree, followed by a masters degree in education.

He earned his superintendent certification at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

TOP STORY >> Mother recalls end of horror

Leader editor

“They have said, ‘Come, let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.” Psalms, 83:5

My 89-year-old mother spoke on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday at the assisted-living facility in Florida where she lives. She spoke for 10 minutes about the horrors of the concentration camps, as did another survivor, a man who is a couple of years older than my mother.

There are several others at the residence who survived Auschwitz, but they no longer talk about the past. My mother still remembers the names of the concentration camps where she was imprisoned, first Auschwitz, then Frankfurt, Ravensbruck and finally Bergen-Belsen. “The past is with me every day,” she says.

She was there on April 15, 1945, when the British army entered Bergen-Belsen in northwest Germany. I told her that Wednesday was the 70th anniversary of her liberation, when she was 19. At first she didn’t believe me, and then she added up the years in her mind and said, “That’s right.”

Bergen was the first camp liberated by the Western allies, who were stunned when they found thousands of people dead from hunger, overcrowding, hard labor, typhus and other diseases.

An estimated 35,000-40,000 died in Bergen-Belsen, many of them executed by orders of Josef Kramer, the commandant, who had the vicious look of dozens of serial killers you see in the news all the time. Kramer was tried and hanged in 1946.

Anne Frank and her sister died from typhus in Bergen a few weeks before liberation. “One day they simply weren’t there anymore,” one survivor recalled. Victims died from typhus 12 days after they showed their first symptoms.

My mother was too weak to walk after her liberation, and she remembers seeing corpses all around her. But she insists she never lost her faith in God. She heard the birds singing outside the camps and daydreamed about seeing them someday on the other side of the fence.

In her short memoir of surviving the camps, she writes of hearing the British approaching Belsen and the German guards running away.

“The next day, April 15, Sunday, I was lying down — I couldn’t move. We didn’t have food; I felt very weak. I heard the girls saying they will be here soon. We will be free; we will be liberated soon. When I heard that I said, my God, don’t let me die now. Maybe it is true; maybe the Germans left.

“So, a few hours later, early afternoon, the big miracle happened. I saw the first tank with the soldiers. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery of the British army liberated Bergen-Belsen, the death camp. The girls who could walk, they jumped on the tanks. They were crying and laughing and hugging each other. I was just lying on the ground. I was happy and sad, and the truth is, I didn’t understand the whole thing.

“I was there a couple of hours, then I thought I should move from here because it is spring. It can rain, then what will I do? So slowly I started to crawl and I got in the warehouse. There was lots of clothing — the SS uniforms, the long winter coats with fur linings. I lay down on that and I was lying and thinking. I was so mixed up with my feelings. I was very weak. I didn’t know how long we didn’t eat. I think I fell asleep for a little while.

“All of a sudden I heard a man’s voice. He asked in Hungarian, ‘Is anybody here?’ I got scared. I didn’t see him because I was lying down. I was afraid to answer. Then he said, ‘I want to help you.’ Then I answered. I said, ‘Hurry up, I am sick.’ I told him I am in the left corner of the room. He found me and he came closer. He asked my name and from where I came. I told him and he said where he is from in Hungary. His village wasn’t far from Nyirtura, where I was born. I looked at him and noticed a Star of David on his uniform’s arm. He explained to me he left Hungary illegally and went to Palestine and from there he voluntarily went to the English army — that was the International Jewish Brigade. They went to fight and they defeated the Nazi monsters together with the allies.

“I was so amazed. The first soldier, the first liberator whom I saw, was a Hungarian Jew from my part of the country. He felt very sad about what he saw. They saw many terrible camps, but Bergen-Belsen was one of the worst. He gave me a piece of chocolate and some cookies. It was a lifesaver to me.

“He asked me about his mother. He told me her name and asked if somewhere I was with her. But I wasn’t. He heard what they did in Auschwitz.”

He thought his mother was also sent to Auschwitz like my mother and her family. They all perished in the gas chamber soon after they arrived in the most notorious death camp, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered.

“He left,” my mother continues in her memoir, “and soon I heard the microphone, the loudspeaker in every language. Attention, Achtung, Uraga, Pozor — then in Hun-garian, ‘Figelem, Figelem. Attention, Attention. All the prisoners in Bergen-Belsen who suffered so much, you are all free now. The British army has liberated our lager.”

Three weeks later, on May 5, 1945, a group of black American soldiers entered Mauthausen concentration camp as Patton’s Third Army swept through Austria and into Germany.

My father and his cousins were among the survivors. He passed away almost eight years ago, having outlived most of the Nazis, as has my mother and another survivor who is 84 years old.

In November 1944 in Budapest, Hungary, when this survivor was only 14, a group of local Nazi thugs took her away, along with 19 other children from a so-called Swedish house that enjoyed the protection of the Swedish government.

The children were to be shot on the banks of the Danube, their bodies tossed into the river. They stood at the river when a couple of men working for the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg drove up in a car and told the fascists to let the girls go.

The Germans went along with the Swedes who offered asylum to the persecuted, but the men at the river were local Nazis. The 14-year-old girl heard the Swedes call out her name and she ran toward the car and escaped with the men, while the other children were murdered and thrown in the river.

A monument honors those victims, along with hundreds of empty shoes they were forced to take off before they were killed.

Raoul Wallenberg rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews and is honored at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. The Soviets kidnapped him after the Red Army entered Budapest in January 1945. He was executed in Moscow a few years later.

“Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe.”

(Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5)

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears beat North Pulaski

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills softball team found itself in a pair of close games against North Pulaski on Tuesday, but one big inning in each led to wins of 12-1 and 10-4 at Dupree Park.

Sylvan Hills scored twice in the top of the second inning for a 2-0 lead, but found itself leading just 2-1 when it came to bat in the fifth. That’s when the Lady Bears exploded for eight runs to take command of the doubleheader opener.

“These were good wins for us,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mark Anderson. “North Pulaski is not a team you can take lightly. So we’ve taken care of them and Jacksonville, now we have a big one with Beebe coming up at the end of this month and that’ll be for the conference championship. We’ve put ourselves in good position to repeat again but it’s going to be tough.”

North Pulaski committed three of its five errors in the fifth, and Sylvan Hills had five base hits in the inning.

It started when Taylor Yeoman was hit by a pitch with one out. Lynlee Broadway singled to left field. Maddison Shelton laid down a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by pitcher Payton Mullen, but Mullen’s throw was wild, allowing Yeoman to score and leaving Broadway and Shelton in scoring position. Tristen Goodson then singled to score one run and Cara Pozza walked to load the bases.

Callie Cavender then singled to score Shelton, and Storm Ellis doubled to center field to drive in Goodson and Pozza. Doma’Nique Hunt made it consecutive two-RBI doubles to end the rally with the Lady Bears leading 10-1.

Sylvan Hills scored two more in the top of the sixth on a walk by Goodson, singles by Pozza and Hunt and a double by Cavender.

North Pulaski failed to score in the bottom of the sixth, ending the game on the 10-runs-after-five-innings mercy rule.

Sylvan Hills scored two in the top of the second when Mullen briefly struggled with control. She walked two batters before giving up base hits to Ellis and Hunt.

Mullen later scored North Pulaski’s only run after leading off the fourth inning with a hard ground ball to center field. She advanced to second on a single by Bailey Holt and scored on a base hit to right field by Raigen Thomas.

Sylvan Hills doubled North Pulaski’s hit total of six. Ellis and Hunt each went 3 for 5 with one double. Ellis tallied four RBIs while Hunt drove in three. Cavender went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and Broadway also went 2 for 4 for the Lady Bears.

Allison Seats led the Lady Falcons, going 2 for 3 at the plate.

Cavender went the distance on the mound, giving up one earned run while striking out five and walking one.

Ellis’ and Hunt’s bats stayed hot in game two. Hunt went 2 for 3 with two more RBIs while Ellis went 2 for 4 in game two. Madison Phillips and Goodson also got two base hits in the nightcap.

Sylvan Hills (9-4, 8-0) briefly took control with four runs in the bottom of the second inning, but North Pulaski came back with three in the top of the third.

“I thought we lost focus in that inning after we took that lead,” Anderson said. “I was a little disappointed in that. We’ve got to do better. We were able to bounce back but that’s the kind of thing that can come back and bite you if you keep letting that happen.”

The Lady Falcons got just one base hit in the inning, but a walk and two errors led to the three unearned runs.

North Pulaski’s Neiagha Thomas got two of the Lady Falcons’ three base hits and scored two of the runs.

Broadway threw all seven innings for Sylvan Hills, giving up one earned run on four strikeouts and two walks.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers knock off Hurricane

Leader sportswriter

Cabot’s soccer teams both won their 7A/6A-East Conference games against Jonesboro on Thursday at Panther Stadium. The Lady Panthers dominated their game against Jonesboro en route to a 7-0 victory, while the Panthers held off a late Hurricane rally to win 3-2.

In the girls’ game, Cabot scored six of its seven goals in the first 40 minutes of play, and added their final goal within the last 20 minutes. Leelee Denton scored the first two goals of the game to give the Lady Panthers a 2-0 lead.

She scored her first goal nearly 17minutes into the game, and her second came at the 20:17 mark of the opening half. Tristyn Edgar scored the next two goals for Cabot. Her first came with 19:39 left in the half, and the second was with 9:03 remaining. That gave Cabot a 4-0 cushion.

With 6:03 to play in the first half, the Lady Panthers took a 5-0 lead on a goal by Braxton Reed from about 13 yards out. That goal was set up by a stellar pass from Edgar, who earned the assist.

Edgar earned another assist on the final goal of the half, which was scored by Maddie Rice from 15 yards out with 2:48 remaining.

Since the Lady Panthers led 6-0 at the start of the second half, the clock was reduced from 40 minutes to 20 because of the sportsmanship rule, and Cabot added its final goal of the game on a corner kick by Vanessa Weidling near the 15-minute mark.

According to Lady Panthers’ coach Kerry Castillo, it was the kind of game his team needed, considering it’s had trouble scoring throughout the year, primarily because of injuries.

“We’ve really struggled to score goals all year,” said Castillo. “Injuries have hampered us. I think this is our second, maybe third game of the entire season that we’ve had our best 11 players all together.

“Tristyn Edgar, who scored two goals today and assisted on two others, she got injured our very first game of the year. The injury bug got us early on. We’ve dug a couple of wins out and we’ve also dropped a couple and had a couple of ties as a result of missing our goal-scorers, but today was very refreshing. We needed that.”

The boys’ game didn’t go as well as Cabot coach Steve Porter would’ve liked, but the Panthers eked out the win, nonetheless.

It took more than 20 minutes for the first goal to be scored in the physical game, but Cabot got on the board first with a goal by leading scorer Kilian Oelrich from about 12 yards out. That goal came at the 17:57 mark of the first half, and gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

Cabot took a 2-0 lead with 13:56 left in the opening half on a goal by Evan Wilson from 11 yards out, but Jonesboro scored the final goal of the half. Salisu Yahaya, Jonesboro’s 6-foot-9 striker, scored with a shot from the left corner with 6:45 left in the half, which set the halftime margin at 2-1 in Cabot’s favor.

The first 20 minutes of the second half, like the first, was scoreless, but Cabot upped its lead to 3-1 near the 19-minute mark on a nice header by Wilson from about seven yards away.

The Hurricanes upped their aggression level down the stretch, and maintained possession for a good portion of the final 10 minutes of play. They scored what ended up being the final goal of the game on a free kick by Sam Harvey from about 12 yards out with 8:21 left to play.

Cabot missed some opportunities to score down the stretch, but so did Jonesboro. Yahaya missed high on a good look near the 7:30 mark, and Cabot goalkeeper Jack Whisker made a diving save right at the two-minute mark, which kept the Panthers’ 3-2 lead intact. That was the last time Jonesboro seriously threatened to score.

Even though his team held on for the win, Porter wasn’t pleased with its overall performance, and said the game shouldn’t have been as close as the score indicated.

“The result was close, yes,” said Porter, “but it shouldn’t have been. It wasn’t them (Jonesboro). It was our inability to finish the clear-cut chances we had created. By the half, we had missed four really good chances.

“It could’ve been 6-0 at the half and a mercy rule, but we did not put those chances away, and when you allow a team to stick around that’s what happens.”

The Panthers (8-1-2, 2-0-2) and Lady Panthers (5-5-2, 3-0-1) resume conference play Tuesday at home against North Little Rock. The girls’ game will begin at 5 p.m., and the boys’ game will follow at 7:15.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls win at Beebe

Leader sports editor

Cabot track coach Leon White took an unusual approach to Thursday’s National Guard Badger Relays, opting not to enter many of his athletes in their best events. But their performance was still good enough for the girls to win the 25-school meet by a wide margin, while the boys finished third out of 25 boys’ teams competing.

Cabot was also, by a wide margin, the largest and only 7A school in the meet. Searcy was the only 6A team in the meet while every other team came from 5A or below.

“What we’re doing is, we’re using this meet, especially for the girls, to get some people qualified for state in some events that maybe they haven’t run much this year,” said White. “We’re just trying to get ready for state.”

Cabot has had its last three scheduled meets canceled. The Wampus Cat Invitational was rained out twice before finally being called off altogether. And the John McDonnell Relays, a college/high school duel event at the University of Arkansas, uninvited the Panther teams, opting to keep the high school portion of the meet limited to northwest Arkansas schools. They made an exception for Cabot’s Lexi and Tori Weeks, allowing them to compete since they had already signed NCAA letters of intent to compete as Razorbacks next year.

Both set school records in different events in Fayetteville. Lexi Weeks set the school record and inched ever closer to the national record in the pole vault, jumping 14-feet, 1 1/4 inches, just 1 1/2 inches away from the national record she’s been chasing since the beginning of the season. It wasn’t, however, a state record because it was not a state certified meet. She also set a school record in the 100-meter high hurdles with a time of 14.79.

Tori Weeks broke her own school record in the 800-meter race with a time of 2:19.6, and finished second in the pole vault at 13-2. Despite holding the school record in the 800, Tori Weeks won’t run the event at state because she’s also the school’s best 300-meter hurdles runner, and those two grueling events are back-to-back.

On Thursday, Lexi and Tori swapped events they both hold school records for. Tori ran the 100 hurdles and won it with a time of 16.20, while Lexi ran the 800 meters and won it with a time of 2:24.70. Both qualified for state.

Tori also set a new school record in the triple jump, leaping 37-6 to win that event, while Lexi won the long jump with a leap of 18-feet. Danielle McWilliams took fifth, jumping 15-11.

Beebe’s Taylor McGraw was sixth in the triple jump at 30-9.

Cabot senior Alyssa Hamilton set a personal record and finished second in the discus throw with a fling of 95-7, exactly three feet behind winner Amanda East of Vilonia. Beebe’s Tori Lovelady and Natalie Biggs were fourth and fifth in the event, while Cabot’s Caytee Wright placed sixth.

Cabot’s Anna Sullivan joined Wright in the points in the shot put as well, with Sullivan taking sixth and Wright seventh. Wright and Hamilton also placed in the high jump, finishing sixth and seventh, both leaping 4-9. Wright also finished second in the 300 hurdles and McWilliams took third in the 100 hurdles, her first time running it this year.

Micah Huckabee needed an 11:43 to qualify for state in the 3,200-meter race, and got it easily with an 11:14.26. Her teammate Samantha Nickell was second but still needs to shave some time to qualify for state.

Lexi Weeks won the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.78. McWilliams won the 400 with a time of 1:01.82. Cabot did not enter its usually strong 4x100 relay team, and a shaken up 4x400 relay team won that event. The Beebe girls won the 4x800 by nearly 20 seconds with a time of 10:49.50.


Batesville won Thursday’s boys’ meet with 104 points while Beebe was second with 96 and Cabot third with 71.5. Searcy and Rivercrest rounded out the boys’ top five. The Batesville girls finished 46 points behind Cabot with 88.5 points. Vilonia was third at 85, Pulaski Robinson’s girls took fourth with 81 points and Beebe finished a distant fifth with 42 points.

Only one local athlete won an individual event in the boys’ meet. North Pulaski’s David Jackson edged out Beebe’s Dusty Grier in the shot put, tossing it 46-3 to beat Grier by 7.5 inches. Beebe’s Logan Yarborough was sixth.

Cabot sophomore Britton Alley set personal records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He won the 200 with a time of 22.78, just ahead of Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter junior Jordan McNair’s 22.97. McNair also finished second in the 100 with a time of 11.17, while Alley was third at 11.35. Beebe juniors Connor Patrom and Jo’Vaughn Wyrick were sixth and seventh in the 100 while Jacksonville’s Jaylon Tucker finished eighth.

McNair also took fourth in the triple jump, leaping 38-9, while Beebe’s Tyler Childress and Nathan Clifton were sixth and seventh.

Patrom took third in the 400-meter race.

Abundant Life junior Daniel Carrell took fourth in the 800 while Beebe junior Chris Owen took sixth. Cabot senior Nick Davis took second in the 3,200 with a time of 10:52.46, barely edging out third place Gus McCoy of Beebe, by less than half a second. Beebe’s John Paul Savage finished fourth.

Cabot senior Brayden Mercantel finished third in the mile with a time of 4:48.49, while McCoy and Savage were sixth and seventh.

Beebe’s Keishaun Davidson was second in the 300 hurdles with a time of 43.85, while teammate Micah Dubose finished third and Cabot’s Connor Daigle took seventh. Trip Smith and Patrom were sixth and seventh in the 110 hurdles.

Cabot and Lighthouse took first and second in the 4x100 relay, while Beebe was fifth and North Pulaski seventh. Cabot was second and Beebe seventh in the 4x400, and Beebe was third, Cabot fifth and North Pulaski eighth in the 4x800 relay.

Beebe sophomore Kirkland Miller cleared 6-0 in the high jump to tie for third.

Cabot’s Rocky Burke set a personal best in the pole vault at 12-6, good for third place, while teammate Braxton Burton tied for fourth at 11-0.

Wyrick took sixth and Cabot’s Jacob Howard seventh in the long jump.

In the discus throw, Beebe’s Jesse Crisco was second with a toss of 135-8. Cabot’s Brandon Jones was third and Jacksonville’s Terry Brown took eighth place.

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls hammer PA ladies

Leader sports editor

The Lady Red Devils picked up a pair of easy 5A-Central wins on Tuesday, hammering Pulaski Academy 15-0 and 16-0 in a doubleheader at Dupree Park.

Leadoff hitter Bailee Jones set the tone for the night, ripping a 2-1 pitch to left-center field for a triple in the game’s first at-bat. Zylah Richardson drove her in with a single, and ended up on third after two PA throwing errors. Kinley Burrows walked with one out and Kym House doubled to drive in both base runners and give Jacksonville a 3-0 lead. The next five batters were either walked or hit by pitches, giving Jacksonville a 5-0 lead going into the second inning.

Three errors, two more hit batters and singles by House and Morgan Loyd gave the Lady Devils four more runs in the second inning.

Richardson led off the third inning with a single, and finished it off with a walk-off, RBI single that gave Jacksonville a 15-0 lead that ended the game on the mercy rule.

Burrows tripled to score Richardson after the first hit. House singled to complete a 3 for 3 performance at the plate. Another hit batter, two walks and Richardson’s walk-off single ended the game.

House gave up two base hits in the first inning before retiring the last seven batters of the game in order. She had four strikeouts and zero walks. She fanned the game’s last two batters in six pitches.

Playing as the visiting team in game two, Jacksonville scored three runs in the top of the first, five in the second and nine in the third.

The Lady Bruin pitching got better with far fewer walks and hit batters, but Jacksonville got 14 base hits in the second game. Richardson went 3 for 4 and Burrows 3 for 3 in game two – including another triple. House went 2 for 3 with a double.

House also threw game two. Pulaski Academy got three one-out base hits in the bottom of the third, but House recovered with a strikeout and a fly out to shortstop to end the game. She gave up four hits while striking out three and walking none.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk. “They aren’t a very good team, but we didn’t let that effect our intensity. We came out ready to play and we played hard. We got to play some younger players and they did really well. We have some kids that came into this season with practically no experience, and they’re helping us. In one form or another, we played five freshman tonight.”

Jacksonville (8-5, 4-4) will play North Pulaski in another 5A-Central doubleheader on Tuesday at Dupree Park. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Hillside defeats, no-hits Falcons

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills’ baseball team earned a 5A-Central doubleheader sweep over North Pulaski on Tuesday at the Mills University Studies baseball field, beating the Falcons 14-2 in the first game, and 8-0 in the nightcap with senior pitcher Marcus Long throwing a no-hitter.

Tuesday’s game was originally scheduled to be played in Jacksonville, but wet conditions at Dupree Park and at the Sherwood Sports Complex resulted in the game being moved to Mills’ field in Little Rock, since it was available that day.

In game one, the Bears (12-7, 6-2) scored four quick runs in the first inning before the Falcons (8-6, 4-4) scored a run in the bottom of the second to make it a 4-1 game. Sylvan Hills added seven runs to its side of the board in the top of the third before scoring again in the fourth to push its lead to 12-1.

The Bears scored their final two runs in the top of the fifth before North Pulaski set the final score in the bottom half of the inning with a run scored. The game ended after the fifth because of the sportsmanship rule.

The second game was much more competitive, at least in the first three innings of play. Sylvan Hills scored a run in the bottom of the first inning to lead 1-0, but neither team scored again until the fourth inning.

Leadoff hitter Lukas Burrow led off the bottom of the first with a single to right-center field. He stole second and third base before scoring two batters later on a sacrifice fly to left center by Blake Maddox, which gave the Bears their 1-0 cushion.

Long kept North Pulaski’s bats silent, and the Bears were able to build on their lead in the fourth. Sylvan Hills scored four runs in that inning to take a 5-0 lead.

Mackenzie Seats singled to left field to get that rally started, and catcher Nick Fakouri walked the next at-bat. Kyle Clayton came in to run for Fakouri, and with runners at first and second with no outs, Hunter Heslep laid down a sacrifice bunt.

As Heslep ran to first, NP starting pitcher Chris Penn tried to get Seats out at third base, but the throw was off the mark, and Seats scored as a result to put the Bears up 2-0.

JoJo Craft was next up for Sylvan Hills, and he delivered a two-RBI double to deep center field that drove in Clayton and Heslep. Craft scored the final run of the inning three batters later on a dropped fly ball at shortstop off the bat of Connor Beaching. That made the score 5-0 Bears.

The score remained 5-0 until the bottom of the sixth. Craft walked with two outs in the inning. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch before teammate Carson Sanders drove him in with a single to the left-field gap.

With Burrow at the plate, Sanders stole second base, then stole third and scored on the same play thanks to an errant throw to third. Sanders’ run made it 7-0 Bears. Burrow eventually walked during his at-bat. He stole second base before stealing third and home on a pair of passed balls, which set the final score of game two.

Long retired the side in the top of the seventh to secure the no-hitter, and the conference sweep over the Falcons.

“In the first game, I thought we hit the ball real hard,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “In this game, we had a few more pop-ups than what I like. But Marcus did pitch a great game. He threw a no-hitter.

“We’re coming off four games where we’ve made 24 errors in four games. So we’ve had a little stretch where we’ve had trouble fielding the ball and catching the ball and throwing the ball. In the first game we had one error, so I was really proud of that.”

The Bears had zero errors in game two, while the Falcons had four errors in each game. North Pulaski was coming off of a very successful weekend where it won five games, including the Jaelyn Russell Memorial Tournament at Dupree Park on Saturday. Unfortunately for the Falcons, things didn’t go as well Tuesday.

“Once we started throwing the ball around the infield and making a few errors, and leaving outs on the field, it seemed like all of the momentum went away – hitting and everything,” said North Pulaski coach Michael Dean.

“You’ve got to give them (Sylvan Hills) credit. They’re well-coached. They’ve got a good team and solid baseball players, and you can’t make mistakes when you play a team like Sylvan Hills.

“You have games like that. I hate that it’s against a conference rival, Sylvan Hills. We’ve obviously played better than that, but we’ll bounce back.”

Long finished game two on the mound with 11 strikeouts and just three walks allowed. Heslep earned the win on the hill in game one. He threw all five innings, finished with four strikeouts, and gave up three walks, four hits and only one earned run.

Sylvan Hills outhit NP 11-4 in game one, and the Bears totaled six hits in game two.

Craft, Seats and Maddox led the Bears with two hits each in game one, while five different Bears had one hit apiece – the highlight of which was a grand slam by Beaching that came with one out in the top of the third.

For North Pulaski, Chris Hildreth led the offense in game one, going 2 for 2 with a single, double and run scored. Myles Bush and Braxton McKinney each had one hit for the Falcons in that game.

In game two, Burrow, Seats, Fakouri, Heslep, Craft and Sanders accounted for the Bears’ six hits.

SPORTS STORY >> PA no match for Red Devil baseball team

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville got two surprisingly easy wins over Pulaski Academy Tuesday at Dupree Park. The Diamond Devils hammered the Bruins 12-2 in five innings and 19-4 in four innings for the 5A-Central Conference sweep.

The wins leave Jacksonville squarely in the driver’s seat for the league championship. The Red Devils hold at least a two-game lead over everyone else in the conference, and the tiebreaker over all other two-loss teams.

“I think I can book the rooms (for the state tournament in Harrison) now,” said Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows. “I wouldn’t before tonight but this should at least get us in.”

Jacksonville scored four runs in the first inning. After an out, Ryan Mallison and Caleb McMunn drew back-to-back walks, and Greg Jones and James Tucker followed that with consecutive RBI base hits. After another out, Brandon Hickingbotham singled to drive in two more runs.

Number nine hitter Laderrious Perry drew a walk to start the second inning, setting up a towering two-run home run by Courtland McDonald that made it 6-0. The next batters went down in order, but Jones ripped a full-count pitch for a double, and an error at third base off Tucker’s bat scored Jones to make it 7-0.

The Bruins scored their two runs on a hit batter, a single and a double in the top of the third, but Jacksonville responded in its half of the inning.

With one out, a pitch hit Perry and McDonald doubled to straightaway center field for his third RBI. However, he re-aggravated a hamstring injury that sidelined him for two games, and came out for the rest of the night, replaced on the base paths by Caleb Smith.

Mallison followed McDonald’s hit with a pop-up to shallow center field, but it was dropped, leaving runners safe at second and third. Smith scored on a passed ball and Mallison crossed the plate after a deep fly ball out to right field by McMunn.

Jacksonville pitcher Derek St. Clair, who had struck out the first six batters of the game before running into the trouble in the third, quickly regained his form, sitting the Bruins down in order again in the fourth.

Jacksonville (13-5, 8-0) made it a 10-run lead with two walks and a two-RBI base hit by D.J. Scott in the bottom of the fourth inning.

St. Clair closed the show with a 5-3 groundout and two more strikeouts in the top of the fifth. The three hits in the third were the only ones yielded by St. Clair in the game. He finished his five innings of work with nine strikeouts and one walk.

Playing as the visiting team in game two, Jacksonville built a 13-0 lead through the top of the third before giving up three runs in the bottom of the third.

Jacksonville scored two in the first when St. Clair hit a leadoff single, McMunn a one-out, RBI double and Jones an RBI single.

Hickingbotham started the second inning with a leadoff single, followed by a one-out base hit by Smith. St. Clair drove in a run with a single to center field.

Mallison and McMunn hit back-to-back singles before Jones hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center. A pitch hit Tucker, Perry reached on an E6 and Hickingbotham hit a two-RBI double to left field in his second at-bat of the inning. Scott then singled and Smith was hit by a pitch. St. Clair got his second RBI hit of the frame to make it 11-0 before Mallison lined out hard to first base to end the inning.

In the top of the third, McMunn’s leadoff single was followed by RBI doubles by Perry and Hickingbotham for an 11-0 lead.

PA then got four base hits and three runs in the bottom of the third, but Jacksonville answered with six more runs in the fourth on seven base hits, including doubles by St. Clair, Jones and Tucker.

Jacksonville piled up 21 base hits in the nightcap. St. Clair and Hickingbotham went 4 for 4 with two doubles, and McMunn went 4 for 4 with one extra-base hit.

Jacksonville scored in every inning of both games, something that didn’t go unnoticed by Burrows.

“We talked about that before the game,” Burrows said. “That was one of our goals we set for this series and we accomplished it. Other than that one half inning, we played really well. We did a lot of nice things.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Why districts look to Cabot

The Van Buren School Board voted unanimously last week to hire Cabot School District deputy superintendent Harold Jeffcoat as the new superintendent of the historic community in western Arkansas.

Dr. Jeffcoat, 40, is moving to a smaller district with an enrollment of about 6,000 students and a dozen schools, compared with Cabot’s 10,000-plus enrollment and 16 schools. But it’s an opportunity Jeffcoat couldn’t pass up: Jeffcoat will receive a three-year contract and will earn $165,000 annually with benefits — about a 60 percent pay increase from his current salary of $101,322.

Jeffcoat starts his new job July 1. The Van Buren board interviewed the top five candidates in the last two weeks. Seventeen applicants from across the country applied for the position.

He has been the deputy superintendent of Cabot Schools since 2012 and was the curriculum director for four years before that.

“I love Cabot. Cabot Public Schools has been good to me and my family. It is a great place to grow in leadership and for my children to receive their education,” Jeffcoat told our reporter Jeffrey Smith.

“It is a great opportunity for me and my family. I’m extremely excited to be selected as superintendent,” Jeffcoat said.

He said Superintendent Tony Thurman has influenced his leadership style. “I’ve trained under some of the best qualified leaders in Arkansas,” Jeffcoat said.

“Looking back on my career at Cabot, it has not been a building or a program I am most proud of — it is relationships that I’ve built within the community,” he said.

Jeffcoat oversaw construction of the Freshman Academy, which was built under budget and ahead of schedule.

Before moving to Cabot, Jeffcoat was an intermediate school principal in Sheridan, an elementary school principal in Benton and a fifth-grade teacher in Benton and Little Rock.

Jeffcoat ran a construction business while he attended college and is still involved in Habitat for Humanity. He served in the Army National Guard for eight years. A graduate of Bauxite High School, he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education and a doctorate in educational administration at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. His dissertation focused on poor children growing up in homes without books.

Thurman said, “We are very proud that Dr. Jeffcoat was selected by Van Buren to be their superintendent. They have certainly made a very good choice. Dr. Jeffcoat has made a positive impact on our district and he will do the same for Van Buren.”

“We’ve had several assistant principals leave our district the past few years to take principal positions in other districts. We’ve also had several teachers leave our district for administrative positions in other districts,” Thurman told us.

“We had one of our district directors approached by a nonprofit education organization this past week wanting to gauge their interest in leaving Cabot schools. It is more common than anyone realizes for our leadership to be approached by other districts and organizations.

“We have quite a talent pool in Cabot,” Thurman added, “and there aren’t that many jobs in administration that become available. I also know that many of our administrators, both at the building and district level, choose not to pursue other opportunities even when approached, because they want to remain a part of our district and community. So, in the same context that we’ve sent strong administrators across the state, the ability to retain very strong talent is also a credit to what we’ve built in the district.

“I’m in my eighth year as superintendent,” Thurman continued. “It certainly isn’t about me, but there are great advantages to having consistency and stability in leadership. We’ve assembled a strong team in our district. We trust one another and work well together and having this type of working relationship helps us through the challenges that inevitably are a part of being in leadership positions.

“In regard to Dr. Jeffcoat’s hiring by Van Buren, it is interesting to note that he was the only candidate of the five finalists who was not a current superintendent. That is certainly a credit to Dr. Jeffcoat, but also a credit to the experience he has gained in our district over the last seven years.”

Van Buren’s gain is Cabot’s loss. But Cabot has a deep bench and its next deputy superintendent will help Thurman lead the district to new heights until others — perhaps Jacksonville? — try to hire away Cabot’s talent. Go, Panthers!

TOP STORY >> Vietnam vets saluted late, but well

Leader staff writer

“We were warned as we left Fort Lewis that there would be protesters lined up at the airport calling us names and spitting on us and we were to, under no circumstances, respond verbally or lay a hand on them.”

That’s what Dave Hoss remembers about his return from Vietnam. “I was called baby killer and murderer,” the Army veteran said Saturday while enjoying dinner at the Jacksonville Museum of Military History as part of the Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.

Hoss was one of about 50 Vietnam veterans among the 200-plus that attended ceremonies, listened to speeches, ate and enjoyed the camaraderie. He said the belated thank you was long overdue, but much appreciated.

Each of the veterans was presented a yellow flower by a group of young girls in honor of their service.

Hoss, who lives in Rosebud, served in Vietnam in 1967 through 1968 and part of 1969 from the central coast to the central highlands.

He now works as a service officer for the Disabled American Veterans helping Vietnam vets cope with the war, the return and life since.

Larry McDonald, an Air Force and C-130 crew chief who was in Vietnam, off and on, from 1969 to 1975, recalls that almost 50 years to the day he was on C-130s flying around the clock as Saigon was falling, loading up people and equipment, dropping them off in the Philippines or Guam and returning for another load.

He was also in the C-130 that picked up one of the first groups of POWs in 1973. “There were 20 of them,” he recalled.

Like Hoss, McDonald appreciated Saturday’s salute but says more needs to be done. Rather than listen to politicians and officials speak, he said veterans need to be allowed to come up and get the war and the aftermath off their chest. “If you’ve not been there, you have no idea,” he said.

Like most of the vets in attendance, McDonald is not upset that the United States went to war. He’s mad that the country didn’t finish it right. “We should not have lost. Did you know at one time we were five miles from victory and Congress had us stand down,” he said.

“You don’t know this stuff unless you took it to those that had feet on the ground there. We are the ones that will give you the straight up scoop.”

For Hoss, the 27 months in Vietnam has left him with recurring “memories.” “What’s terrible is that I can’t really recall any of the guys I was with. I did meet one in South Carolina last year, and we had a good time.”

Officially, Hoss was a senior wheel vehicle mechanic, but said in Vietnam your job description didn’t mean anything. “You did everything. If it was asked or told to you, you did it,” Hoss said. “The job changed daily.”

He said from that airport incident in Washington state he flew into Little Rock where there was nothing. No protests, no welcomes, just nothing. He said, after returning to Little Rock, he just tried to blend in. “You didn’t walk around and tell anyone you were there,” he said.

A fellow DAV officer, Sylvester Jordan, who lives in Quitman, was in the Air Force and stationed at Guam from 1972 to 1975 and worked courier service, which meant that he would go into Vietnam after a B-52 raid, collect and assess data on the bombing and fly out again. The trips were numerous, but never more than two or three days. He said, working with the DAV, he has discovered that the treatment after the war from protestors, the government and the military has left many veterans with a “bad taste.”

McDonald doesn’t have the bad taste but very well could have. It took him 30 years of fighting and getting his congressman involved to receive any compensation from his Vietnam time. “Many of our missions were secret, travel vouchers were destroyed after we were paid and nothing was placed in our service records.”

When McDonald retired in 1989, there was no mention of Vietnam in his service records. “Nothing on my DD214,” he said. He said, because of the type of unrecorded missions he was on, he didn’t get achievement medals or other accommodations used in promotions. “It’s terrible to think I may have lost a promotion by a few points because I didn’t have the honors,” he said.

His recommendation for today’s veterans, “keep looking at your records.” And what he wants now is the same as most veterans. “Respect. Treat us like we are supposed to be treated.”

TOP STORY >> District to name its chief

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board could hire and introduce a superintendent to lead the district forward toward operating on its own in the 2017-18 when it meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Jacksonville City Hall, according to Daniel Gray, board president.

From a dozen applicants, the board chose Arkansas Education Department Deputy Superintendent James Tony Wood and Little Rock School District Associate Superintendent Marvin Burton as finalists for the job.

Wood met and dined with the board Monday night, and Burton is slated to do the same Wednesday.

“We’ll announce something Thursday,” Gray said Tuesday. After meeting in special session, the board will either offer the job to one of the two men or announce the next step, perhaps another round of interviews.

Former Beebe Superintendent Kieth Williams, lead consultant on the McPherson & Jacobs team searching for qualified candidates, told the board last week that Wood stood alone as the person who satisfied the extensive criteria the board had set for its new superintendent.

Wood, 64, served as commissioner of the state Education Department for several months following the resignation of Tom Kimbrell.

As such, Wood served as a one-man school board for the Pulaski County Special School District, which the state took over in 2011, and is familiar with many aspects of PCSSD and the breakaway JNP school district. Johnny Key, appointed by new Gov. Asa Hutchinson, took over as commissioner March 25.

Burton, 50, currently second in command for Dexter Suggs in the Little Rock School District, served as interim superintendent between the resignation of Morris Holmes on March 22, 2013, and the arrival of Suggs. Burton has been with LRSD for 26 years, serving as a teacher, assistant principal and principal.

At its April meeting, the board hired Scott Richardson as its attorney for desegregation matters currently before Federal District Judge D. Price Marshall. Richardson was previously involved in the desegregation case as a deputy attorney general.

It also contracted Charles Stein, currently head of the state Education Department’s Academic Facilities and Transportation Division, to oversee JNP’s planning for the state matching facilities partnership program and to oversee the district’s building program.

TOP STORY >> Cabot’s spring festival April 25

Leader staff writer

The 13th annual Cabot Strawberry Festival presented by the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot will be held Saturday, April 25 at the Veterans Park Community Center. Admission is free.

This year, the Strawberry Festival will be held for one day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The carnival will be for three days starting on Thursday. It will run from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Ride armbands, good for four hours, will be available for purchase.

New this year is the Run for the Berries 5K Fun Run. The race/walk starts at 8 a.m. It begins and ends at the Cabot High School track and will be a timed on a certified course.

Fee is $25 by April 18 and $35 the day of the race. The cost for children ages 9 and younger is $15.

Awards will be presented after the race at the Strawberry Fest main stage at 9:30 a.m. For more information call 501-681-3520 or email

The Strawberry Festival will have a more spacious layout inside and outside the community center.

“There will be over 50 vendors selling clothing, handmade signs, jewelry, food vendors and direct sales,” promotions chairman Melissa Davis said.

Fresh strawberries will be available from Barnhill Orchards, Cabot Patch and Holland Bottom Farms. The Junior Auxiliary will be selling strawberry shortcakes and strawberry lemonade.

The Strawberry Fest Pageant will be held at 10 a.m. at the Junior High North Cafeteria. Entries are still being accepted. Forms are available at, or register at 8 a.m. on the day of the event. The entry fee is $50. Winners will receive a crown, sash and trophy. State pageant title holders will be the judges.

The Berry Patch Kid Zone will be at the Victory Baptist Church parking lot. The Berry Patch is $5 for all day play. It will have face painting, a petting zoo, bounce houses and other activities.

“By moving the kid zone next door at the church and the pageant to the Junior High North cafeteria, it created an increase in vendors’ space,” Davis explained.

There will also be a dunking booth during the day with scheduled notable targets; state Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) and Mayor Bill Cypert.

Groups will perform on the entertainment stage throughout the day. Go 4 Broke — a country, rock and blues band-- — will perform at 3 p.m.

“It’s one of the largest finance projects of the year. Money raised is used by the Junior Auxiliary for service projects to help students in the Cabot School District throughout the year,” Davis added.

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke 2-1 at Harrison tournament

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbit softball team finished 2-1 at the Ozark Softball Classic on Saturday at Harrison, with its only loss coming to 4A-2 Conference opponent Southside Batesville in the tournament championship game.

Lonoke won two close games Saturday to earn its spot in the championship game. The Lady Rabbits beat West Fork 4-3 in the first round of the tournament, and in the semifinals, Lonoke beat Calico Rock by the same score.

The championship game was also close, but Southside prevailed, winning by the final score of 4-2.

In the championship game, Lonoke scored two runs in the first inning, and led 2-0 up until the bottom of the fifth, when Southside tied the game with two runs scored. The Lady Southerners scored two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, and held Lonoke scoreless in the top of the seventh to seal the win.

Southside outhit Lonoke 9-6, and Maddie Pool led the Lady Rabbits with two hits.

In the first round against West Fork, Lonoke trailed 2-1 going into the sixth inning, but scored three runs in the bottom half of that inning to take a 4-2 lead. All three runs came with two outs.

Candace James started the two-out rally with a single, and Gracie Cole followed with a single. Sidney Hallum then came to the plate and singled to drive in Madison McFadden, James’ courtesy runner, and Cole to give Lonoke a 3-2 lead.

Winning pitcher Charley Jo Chesney singled the next at-bat to drive in Hallum, and give Lonoke a 4-2 lead after six. West Fork added a run in the top of the seventh to cut Lonoke’s lead to 4-3, but that was as close as West Fork would get, and Lonoke advanced to the tournament semifinal as a result.

Lonoke was the home team on the scoreboard in the semifinal round as well, and scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take a 2-0 lead. Calico Rock scored a run in the second and third innings to knot up the score at 2-2, but the Lady Rabbits scored a run in the bottom of the third to lead 3-2.

Jarrelyn McCall, who reached base on a single, scored the go-ahead run on an Amanda Sexton double, which gave Lonoke its one-run lead. The Lady Rabbits added another run in the fifth.

Chesney led off the inning with a triple to right field, and she scored the next at-bat on a single by Jasalyn Truelove. Calico Rock added a run to its side of the board in the top of the sixth to cut Lonoke’s lead to 4-3, but was held scoreless in the top of the seventh, giving the Lady Rabbits the win.

Lonoke got the win despite being outhit by Calico Rock, 15-8. Truelove, McCall and Chesney led the offense in that game with two hits each. Lonoke did outhit West Fork, 11-8, and Chesney, Truelove and Hallum led the offense in that first-round game with two hits apiece.

Chesney earned the two wins in the circle. She threw all seven innings in each win, and finished the two complete games with a total of seven strikeouts.

Lonoke also played a nonconference game against Harrison the night before Saturday’s tournament, and lost that game 12-2.

Despite that double-digit loss, it didn’t take away from Lonoke’s showing in Saturday’s tournament. If anything, it brought the team closer together, according to Lonoke assistant coach Heath Swinney.

“We had a little team get-together after that game,” said Swinney of Friday’s loss to Harrison. “Some of the parents cooked out for us. I think the team got a lot closer and I think that carried over into Saturday.

“Even though we got beat Friday, I think the experience of the whole weekend was a big team-builder for us, and it showed Saturday. It was very, very productive. We made plays when we had to. People stepped up, got hits when they needed to.

“We won Saturday and got to the finals, but to be honest, the most productive thing that happened that weekend for us was after the game against Harrison, watching those kids interact with each other.

“They just had a good time together. We have young kids and we have a lot of new kids that haven’t been on a team, and then the next day, all of that interaction they built with each other, it just carried over.”

The Lady Rabbits (9-6, 3-1) are scheduled to play again tomorrow at home against Newport. That 4A-2 Conference game will start at 4:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears win Lion Relays

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills ladies track team won the Lion Relays Saturday at Jessieville High School, scoring 138 points to outdistance second-place Des Arc by 30 points. Magnet Cove was third with 86, Sheridan fourth with 85.5 and Bauxite rounded out the top five of the 11-team competition with 66.5 points.

The boys’ competition was much closer. North Pulaski scored 70 points, which was 39 behind winner Sheridan, but only good for sixth place. Bauxite was second with 103, Bigelow and Fountain Lake each scored 77 and Jessieville posted 71 points to come in fifth.

The Lady Bears won two of three relays and two individual events, but finished in the scoring in almost every event. Senior Aljahnay Duncan won the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 16.70. She also took second on the high jump and third in the long jump. Junior Mya Graham added three more points for the Lady Bears by finishing sixth in the long jump. Freshman Erykah Sanders won the triple jump with a leap of 39-feet, 3 1/4 inches, almost six feet farther than second place.

Graham, Sanders, Duncan and Chanel Miller won the 4x100 relay with a time of 52.46. Graham, Sanders, Miller and Ka’Necia Allen won the 4x400 relay with a time of 4:34.95.

Sylvan Hills took second in several events as well. Miller, a freshman, finished just behind Des Arc senior Kirby Smith in the 200-meter dash. Miller was also second in the triple jump, third in the 300 hurdles and fourth in the 100-meter dash.

Sophomore Sa’Maya Farmer took second on the shot put while classmate Ariona Flemons was second on the discus throw.

Sophomore Dallyn Stubbs and senior Justis Jakes took third and fifth in the mile, while sophomore Veronica Lindsey and junior Gabriella Marquez finished fifth and seventh in the two-mile race. Jakes also took third in the 800-meters.

Graham and Sanders rounded out the Lady Bears’ winning performance by finishing third and sixth respectively in the 400-meter dash.

Other local scorers in the girls’ meet included sophomore Sydney Cossich of Abundant Life, who took seventh in the 200-meter dash and shot put, and sophomore Terrany Tate of North Pulaski took fifth in the shot put.

The North Pulaski boys won an exciting 4x100 relay by less than a second over Fountain Lake, and sophomore Kris Johnson took first in the 300 hurdles by a wide margin for the Falcons’ two race wins. Senior David Johnson also posted a first-place finish with a discus throw of 121-7, and plenty of other Falcons scored in their events.

It was Abundant Life junior Daniel Carrell who finished second in the 800 while North Pulaski’s Cedric Grant was sixth. Falcon seniors Hunter Daniels and Nathaniel Martin were third and sixth in the two-mile race, while classmate Obed Stamp was fifth in the mile.

North Pulaski took second in the 4x800 and third in the 4x400 relays.

In the sprints, freshman Ladarian Price took third in the 200-meter dash while sophomore Waltez Ware took seventh. Cedric Handley rounded out the Falcons’ scoring with an eighth-place finish in the 100-meter dash.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot splits twin bill with Mt. Home

Leader sports editor

The Cabot baseball team split a 7A/6A-East doubleheader Friday at Brian Wade Conrade field. The visiting Bombers stole a 6-5 victory in game one, but the Panthers bounced back to trounce Mountain Home 14-1 in the late game.

Mountain Home got all six runs in the top of the third inning to take a 6-2 lead, and was just able to hold off a Cabot rally in the last two innings.

Mountain Home got a one-out single before Cole Anderson slammed an RBI triple to the wall in center field. Another single and a walk issued by Gavin Tillery left it 2-2 with two men on base. Matt Robbins then hit a two-RBI double to center and pitcher Ryan Czanstkowski smashed a two-run home run to left field to complete the inning.

Cabot pulled to within 6-4 in the sixth inning on four singles and a Bomber error.

Czanstkowski then hit Tristan Bulice and Landon James with one out in the seventh. The runners then advanced into scoring position on a passed ball and Eric Larsen hit a sacrifice grounder that scored Bulice. Sophomore Easton Seidl swung at the first pitch with two outs and James at third, and hit a fly ball to center field to end the game.

Tillery went six innings and took the loss. He only gave up two hits in his other five innings on the mound, for a total of seven hits and six earned runs with six strikeouts and one walk.

Cabot also got seven base hits with Blake McCutchen leading the way with two.

The Panthers got 13 hits and Mountain Home committed five errors in game two. Many of those hits went for extra bases. Larsen hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning, while James, Bulice, Dylan Bowers, Denver Mullins and Evan Hooper all doubled.

Chase Kyzer went the five-inning distance on the mound, giving up six hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts and zero walks.

The Panthers (8-5, 5-1) will play their first conference road game tonight at Jonesboro, and will host nearby rival Jacksonville in a nonconference game at 5 p.m. Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers pummel the Lady Bombers

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers improved to 16-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play with an easy doubleheader sweep of Mountain Home on Friday in Cabot. The Lady Panthers won 16-0 and 18-0 over the Lady Bombers. Kaitlyn Felder stayed on the mound for both games for just seven innings of work.

She threw a no-hitter in a four-inning game one, striking out five and walking one. In game two, Felder fanned two and walked none.

She also ended game one at the plate, hammering a two-run home run over the fence in left field that scored Megan Goodnight, who had singled with one out.

Goodnight went 4 for 4 at the plate, including a two-out, solo home run in the first inning that triggered a two-out, three-run rally. Felder, Erin Eckert, Rachel Allgood and Hannah Montgomery all singled after Goodnight’s home run to give Cabot a 3-0 lead.

Felder struck out the side in the top of the second inning and Cabot added six more runs on four singles, a walk, an error and a two-RBI double by Allgood in the bottom half.

Leading 9-0, the Lady Panthers pushed the lead to 13-0 in the third. Goodnight and Felder got back-to-back, one-out singles and Eckert reached on an error at third base. Allgood, Montgomery and Ashlyn Spears then got consecutive base hits and Shauna Attendorn hit a sacrifice fly that scored Montgomery for the final run of the inning.

Cabot got 17 base hits and Mountain Home committed five errors to aid the home team’s cause. Allgood, Montgomery and Felder each got three base hits to go with Goodnight’s four.

The Lady Panthers didn’t score in the first inning of game two, but exploded for 17 runs in the top of the second. Cabot posted six doubles, three singles and a triple while Mountain Home committed four errors in the inning. Allgood got two base hits in the inning, including the triple and one of the singles. Macee Abbott, Lauren McCluskey, Goodnight and Felder hit four-straight doubles before Allgood tripled.

Montgomery then singled, followed by a Heather Hill double, a McCluskey single and before Goodnight and Felder got their second doubles of the inning.

Cabot’s final run came in the top of the third without a base hit. Abbott reached on an error to lead things off. Hill walked before Bethany Knowles reached on a fielder’s choice that got Hill out at second. Anna Beth Duncan then grounded out to third base to score Knowles from third.

McCluskey, Goodnight, Felder, Allgood and Abbott got two base hits each while Hill and Montgomery picked up the Lady Panthers’ other two hits. Felder and Abbott led the way with three runs batted in while Hill and McCluskey got two RBIs apiece.

The Lady Panthers are scheduled to play a nonconference game at home on Thursday against Jacksonville.

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons earn a tournament championship

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski baseball team won five games in two days over the weekend, including winning the Jaelyn Russell Memorial Tournament at Dupree Park on Saturday.

On Friday at J.A. Fair, the Falcons got a 5A-Central sweep of the War Eagles, winning 17-0 in game one and holding on for a 10-8 victory in the nightcap.

On Saturday, North Pulaski beat eStem Charter 12-2 and Mills 9-4. In a rematch with eStem in the championship game, the Falcons rolled to an 18-0 victory.

“Well here’s the deal,” said North Pulaski coach Michael Dean. “Because of all the ice and snow and rain delays and everything, we’re playing right now like we’re just starting the season. We don’t have an indoor facility or anything like that some of the other teams have.

“So we can’t do much if we can’t get on the field. So we treated this tournament kind of like our opening day. We’ve hit the ball pretty well. We have some good pitchers. When we get our defense up to speed and get it all together, it’s going to be fun to watch. I This is a pretty good team.”

On Friday, sophomore Zachary Douglass went six innings and threw a three-hit shutout while striking out 12 batters. No War Eagle advanced beyond second base the entire game. Sophomore third baseman Tyler Montgomery got two base hits, two RBIs, stole two bases and scored four runs.

The Falcons fell into a hole early in game two, giving up eight unearned runs on just one base hit. Starting pitcher Ramiro Urena struggled out of the gates, walking four in the first inning and leaving the mound with one out in the second. Chance Perry took his place and stopped the Fair rally. He struck out four, but was also pulled after consecutive walks in the third. Chris Penn took the mound and finished the game to earn the win.

Penn also led the offensive rally, going 2 for 3 at the plate with two doubles and two RBIs.

Junior David Broadwell got a walk-off, two-RBI double to end the game and seal the sweep for the Falcons.

In the early morning game on Saturday, junior southpaw Ean Collie threw a one-hitter over five and a third innings, striking out seven and walking two. Urena faced the final three batters and fanned two of them for the save. Penn and Douglass went 3 for 3 at the plate and Douglass was a home run away from hitting for the cycle.

Game two was feast or famine for Urena on the mound. He only gave up two hits, but walked eight and struck out five in five and two-thirds. Penn threw the last inning and a third for the save. Penn made it 5 for 5 in the tournament going 2 for 2 and scoring three runs in the semifinal win.

Senior Chris Hildreth tossed a no-hitter in the championship win over the Mets. He struck out seven and was one walk away from a perfect game in three innings of work. He also went 2 for 2 at the plate. Douglass went 3 for 3 with three doubles, and Penn completed the perfection, going 3 for 3 to finish the tournament 8 for 8.

Senior Hunter McPherson went 2 for 3 for the Falcons.

North Pulaski (8-4, 4-2) had a big conference doubleheader scheduled against Sylvan Hills on Tuesday, but the games were rained out. NP and SH are tied for third in conference play. They also have a nonconference game schedule at home against Bauxite.