Friday, August 21, 2015

EDITORIAL >> JNP district gets warned

Saying the districts aren’t making satisfactory progress in achieving unitary status, U.S. District Judge Price Marshall on Thursday ordered the Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District and the Joshua Intervenors to meet monthly to work out specifics of school facilities plans and report back to him in December.

The case assigned to the judge is the desegregation case where PCSSD is the last defendant and the Joshua Intervenors are the plaintiffs.

It’s not about the Jacksonville-North Pulaski detachment, but sometimes you couldn’t tell that sitting in court.

Detachment issues bump up against and sometimes bleed over into desegregation issues and vice-versa, and the judge has his hands full resolving them.

Joshua Intervenors’ attorney John Walker has complained regularly to the judge that his group has been excluded from conversations about issues that affect desegregation and achieving the unitary status necessary to get both districts dismissed from court oversight.

Jacksonville-North Pulaski hasn’t done all it could to include the intervenors in their discussions. They stumbled by hiring as an assistant superintendent a white man over a slightly more qualified black woman. That resulted in PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess refusing to offer that job. Marshall on Thursday reconfirmed Guess’ status as the decision maker for both districts.

Joshua has had no part in resolving and creating the school facilities master plan. Walker complains that determining where schools will go and deciding which to improve and which to build are desegregation issues.

But the intervenors come into court not seeming to know or understand master facility plan mechanics that even casual observers of the JNP school board meetings know.

For years, the PCSSD school board agendas — back when there was a board — always included the Joshua Intervenors on the agenda for comments. If anyone actually attended, they spoke less than a handful of times over several years.

Walker has complained that he doesn’t know what’s going on with the JNP facilities master plan. That’s his fault as well as theirs.

Jacksonville has accomplished a lot over the past couple of years, first with Bobby Lester, then with Tony Wood ramrodding the effort to get everything necessary done before taking complete control next July 1 and actually educating students.

The board did it by going as fast and as far as they could, and, while it’s not always pretty and perhaps not always completely transparent, they have moved the district forward on a credible timetable.

It’s sausage-making 101.

But now the judge has ordered JNPSD, PCSSD and the Joshua Intervenors to meet monthly to create a rough draft of a master facilities plan for both districts.

JNP has hired a consultant who may be the leading authority in understanding master facilities plans and qualification for the state’s matching fund partnership program. To us, it makes good sense. To Walker, it’s cronyism.

Judge Marshall has been thoughtful, incisive, good natured and helpful in discharging his duties as regards the desegregation suit and, as necessary, the detachment process.

In ordering the monthly meetings about the master facilities plan between the parties, he suggested that the host of each meeting should provide pie and drinks, implying that they need to stop being argumentative and pull in tandem to accomplish the task.

They are to report back to Marshall with their rough drafts on Dec. 16. The judge means business.

TOP STORY >> Hemingway museum to hold dinner

A dinner and wine tasting benefitting the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center in Piggott (Clay County) will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18 in Jonesboro at Arkansas State University’s Cooper Alumni Center, 2600 Alumni Blvd.

Tickets for the “Taste of Hemingway’s Italy” are $100. Tables of eight are $750. Reservations must be made by Sept. 11 by calling 870-598-3487 or emailing HPMEC director

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres and the dinner and wine tasting follows at 7 p.m. The theme for the evening will be “A Taste of Hemingway’s Italy,” and the courses will be derived from Venice.

The family of Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, owned a home in Piggott. The writer would vacation at the home, which includes a studio where he wrote part of “Farewell to Arms.”

The home has since been restored and is now a museum under the care of ASU at 1021 W. Cherry St. in Piggott. Tours are on the hour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The dinner will serve as a kickoff for the museum’s upcoming trip to Italy and Switzerland that will take participants in the footsteps of “A Farewell to Arms.” Details of the trip, which is open to the public, will be revealed at the dinner.

For more information about the trip or the dinner, call 870-598-3487.

TOP STORY >> Louisiana Purchase exhibit in LR

Commissioner of State Lands John Thurston has announced the opening of a new exhibit featuring the survey of the Louisiana Purchase. The exhibit is in the Commissioner of State Lands Office, Room 109 of the State Capitol. Visitors may tour the exhibit from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“This is the bicentennial of the beginning of the Louisiana Purchase Survey,” Thurston said. “Several other organizations are hosting events later in the year, but my office is presenting a snapshot of a surveyor’s life and what they might have seen as they began their survey, especially in southeast Arkansas, where the initial point was established.”

Following the 1803 purchase from France that more than doubled the size of the United States, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Hunter-Dunbar Expedition and other explorations of the new land. It wasn’t until 1815, though, that President James Madison ordered that the land be surveyed to prepare for orderly development and settlement.

In October 1815, Principal Deputy Surveyor William Rector contracted with two other deputy surveyors to begin work. Prospect Robbins and Joseph Brown began their journeys on Oct. 27, 1815. Robbins set off north from the mouth of the Arkansas River, on the fifth north-south line (Fifth Principal Meridian) to be surveyed in the United States. Brown’s course began several miles upriver, at the mouth of the St. Francis River, and ran due west on what was termed the “baseline.”

On Nov. 10, 1815, Robbins reached the baseline and sent a message for Brown, who had already traveled farther west, to return. Together, they marked the intersection of the baseline and the Fifth Principal Meridian. This intersection served as the initial point of the first survey. Lands in Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, North Dakota and parts of Minnesota and South Dakota are measured from that point.

“We all know the basic history of the Louisiana Purchase and the survey,” Thurston said. “But most of us rarely think about the day-to-day life of the surveying teams, the equipment they carried or the tools they used. This exhibit gives a small window into that life.”

The exhibit includes several documents from the Commissioner of State Lands records, as well as physical artifacts surveyors used. Documents include original journals, field notes and maps from the 1815 survey.

Items in the exhibit include an 18th-century flintlock musket, a reproduction flintlock and a surveyor’s compass made by 19th-century silversmith and instrument maker Goldsmith Chandlee. “The compass was actually used in Arkansas in the mid-1800s,” Thurston said.

Other items include camping and cooking supplies, a journal for the surveyor’s field notes and models of animals native to the wilderness that the teams traveled through in the survey’s early days. Those range from voles and squirrels to various species of snakes and an alligator.

The exhibit was developed with cooperation from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center, the Historic Arkansas Museum and historical re-enactors Timothy and Sharlene Richardson.

“We appreciate the assistance from all of these groups,” Thurston said. “The artifacts they have loaned us have built this exhibit into something that will be interesting to all ages.”

TOP STORY >> Judge: New district must obey orders

Leader senior staff writer

“This is not a new day,” U.S. District Judge Price Marshall said Thursday, giving the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District a slap on the wrist, saying it was still subject to desegregation Plan 2000 and to the desegregation agreement settlement that, among other things, authorized detachment of a Jacksonville-area district.

JNP attorney Scott Richardson told the court that the new detachment agreement — approved by both districts, Education Commissioner Johnny Key and the state Board of Education this month — was intended to replace much of the earlier agreement, giving the Jacksonville board the authority to operate pretty much autonomously.

Not so, Marshall said. He said Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess remains the final word on all desegregation-related actions contemplated by the new Jacksonville district.


“If and when collaboration fails, the decision maker is Guess,” he said, subject to review by the court. “He is the chief administrative officer (for JNP) until July of next year. (The two districts are) a single administrative unit until then.”

“There is great enthusiasm for ‘a new day,’” said Marshall, “but there was a day before yesterday and 10 years before that. The world did not begin with the decision for a new district.”

He said Richardson and JNP seemed to “second-guess, nitpick and quibble over” issues resolved in the post-creation agreement.

“The court perceives a slippage by the new district after being created and agreeing to oversight; it was coming back to the well,” Marshall said.

Speaking for the Joshua Intervenors, attorney John Walker said Joshua was not consulted or a party to the new detachment agreement between the two districts, an agreement that will involve desegregation issues such as staffing.

“In my view, PCSSD’s and Joshua’s argument is correct on staffing issues,” Marshall said.

The conflict was brought into sharper focus when, in July, at the recommendation of its new superintendent, Tony Wood, the JNP board hired Jeremy Owoh, who is black, as an assistant superintendent and Bobby E. Lester, who is white, also as an assistant superintendent.

A black woman, Janice Walker, the principal of Warren Dupree Elementary, scored two points higher than Lester in the assessment. The Jacksonville NAACP and Walker called foul.

Because the new district is not totally autonomous, Guess said bypassing Walker could hamper both districts’ efforts to achieve unitary status and refused to authorize it. Lester later withdrew his application for the job, and currently Owoh and JNP chief of staff Phyllis Stewart are “taking up some of the slack,” she said.

Lester is the son of former PCSSD Superintendent Bobby Lester, who served as interim JNP superintendent until Wood took over July 1. Wood was familiar with the younger Lester from the time they worked together for the state Education Department.

Richardson, for the JNP board, said it was its own district now and could make its own decisions — that it was a new day.

Marshall said that, for matters related to desegregation, Guess was still “the final word, captain of the ship.”

He declined to rule on the matter since it involved conflicting laws and was at the moment a moot point.

“This is a very difficult issue that has divided the courts,” Marshall said previously, commenting that he wasn’t sure the issue could be resolved.

As for signing off on the new detachment agreement, Marshall said, “I want to mull (the detachment agreement) further.” Until then, it’s the court’s order that the prior agreement holds.


Saying the districts weren’t making the progress he had hoped in achieving unitary status, Marshall ordered the Pulaski County Special School District, Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District and the Joshua Intervenors to meet monthly to work out specifics of school facilities plans and report back to him at the Dec. 16 status conference.

“I’m not sure we’re making the best use of time in these status conferences. Instead of moving down the road, it’s become an opportunity to fight.”

To help set the tone, he suggested that the host group for each meeting provide “pie and drinks.”

PCSSD’s proposed 5.6-mill property tax increase to fund an ambitious facilities building program failed at the polls May 12, meaning the district had to cut back to what Guess called “Plan B.” That plan focuses on replacing Mills High School and moving Fuller Middle School into the old Mills building.

Marshall said he wanted more details on Plan B, including a timeline.

He also wants more information on the JNP facilities plan. Walker has maintained that building and deciding on sites for new schools, for instance, made the plan a desegregation issue.

Marshall said he wants to know more about where the new district’s new schools are going to be.

Jacksonville-North Pulaski, starting from a plan developed previously by PCSSD and from a tentative facilities plan submitted to the state last February, has hired as a consultant Charles Stein. Stein, who retired as director of the state Transportation and Facilities Department June 30, was in charge of evaluating master facilities plans for participation in the state’s financial matching program.

To be eligible for matching funds for the 2017-19 period, the JNP long-range facilities plan must be submitted by Feb. 1, 2016, and the application for specific projects must be submitted by March 1.

Walker told the court that neither district had included the Joshua Intervenors in facilities discussions or planning.

That will change, assuming the districts follow the judge’s instructions.

Walker also told the court that JNP had already chosen an architect and contractor that were “not minority friendly.”

He said JNP decisions were fraught with favoritism and nepotism.

The JNP board has authorized Wood to advertise a request for qualifications for those positions, to narrow them down to three applicants for each position and to make them available to the board for the purposes of selection.

After the Thursday hearing, Stewart identified the three firms under consideration for each of the two positions.

Of the seven applications for construction manager, Wood chose Adevco with CDI of Little Rock, Baldwin and Shell of Little Rock and Doyne Nabholtz Partnership of Conway.

Of the dozen architectural firms that sent qualifications, Wood chose three Little Rock firms — Lewis Architects and Engineers, Wittenberg Delony and Davidson, Inc., and Witsell Evans Rasco Architects.

SPORTS STORY >> PA to repeat in 5A-Central

Leader sportswriter

The 5A-Central Conference was a compelling one in 2014, and even so in the offseason. Pulaski Academy once again rolled through the conference undefeated on its way to another state championship.

Beebe started the year 0-4, but finished the regular season by winning five of its last six games to earn the No. 2 seed in the 5A state playoffs, where they advanced to the semifinals.

Before the playoffs started, the Badgers were given a win for their fourth loss of the season against McClellan, who had to forfeit two games because of an ineligible starter. That, and the fact they upset previously unbeaten Sylvan Hills in week nine helped Beebe lock up the two seed from the Central.

Sylvan Hills was expected to give PA a challenge for the top spot, as the Bears opened their season with a perfect 8-0 record, but injuries decimated their chances down the stretch, and as a result, they lost their final three games, including their first round playoff game.

In the offseason, North Pulaski put an end to its football program because participation numbers were incredibly low for a 5A team, and that lowered the conference to seven teams.

As far as what team The Leader expects to claim the conference championship this season, until someone knocks this team off, it’ll keep getting picked to claim the league crown.

1) Pulaski Academy Bruins

There’s a saying that goes ‘to be the best, you got to beat the best.’ Well, that’s the case here, and no one in this conference has ever beaten the Bruins on the gridiron since the 5A-Central Conference was formed three years ago. But PA’s conference winning streak didn’t start there.

Pulaski Academy has won a whopping 35 consecutive conference games and five-straight conference championships, and none of their conference games were close in 2014. Coach Kevin Kelley has set high standards for the program, and has built it into one that’s gained national recognition.

The Bruins returns six starters on offense and five on defense from last year’s state championship team. They did lose some key starters – their quarterback, leading receiver, among others, to graduation, and their second-leading receiver from last year, who’s also the coach’s son, tore his ACL at a recent 7-on-7 tournament.

He’s a senior, but is not expected to miss the entire season. On top of that, the Bruins have plenty of other playmakers back for 2015, and should be in good position for yet another league title.

2) Beebe Badgers

The Badgers had a remarkable run from midseason on, and are hoping to build on that success this season. Injuries plagued the team early last year, but once those guys got healthy, or healthy enough, the Badgers became more of the team that many were expecting to see.

They’ve got two 1,000-yard backs (Trip Smith and Jo’Vaughn Wyrick) returning for their senior seasons, which has given the team a preseason ranking as high as No. 3 in Class 5A by some publications.

Beebe, though, has to replace almost its entire offensive line, a three-year starter at quarterback, and a total of eight starters on that side of the ball. The Badgers do have six returning starters on defense, and if the team can stay healthy, it could perhaps give PA a challenge when the two teams meet this fall.

3) Jacksonville Red Devils

The Red Devils had a rough start to their 2014 season, losing six of their first seven games before winning their final three to earn a playoff berth. The team jumped out to a 14-0 lead against perennial 5A power Batesville in the first round of the 5A playoffs, but the tradition-rich Pioneers responded with 33 unanswered points to put an end to Jacksonville’s season.

Jacksonville has seven starters returning on offense for second-year head coach Barry Hickingbotham, and four on defense. The Red Devils always have athletes on both the line and the skill positions, but some of those players are unproven at the varsity level.

Depth on offense should be a key strength for the Devils this season, but it remains to be seen how the unproven front seven on defense will fare once league play begins in week four.

4) Sylvan Hills Bears

As mentioned, Sylvan Hills was a state championship contender last season before injuries led to the team’s demise down the stretch. The Bears opened the season with eight-straight wins, but lost their final three, including their first round playoff game.

Granted, those three losses were against three of the four semifinalists in 5A, including the two teams that played for the state championship. But the Bears would’ve made things more interesting had they been healthy.

Head coach Jim Withrow has 70-plus players on his team this season, but 23 seniors graduated in May, and only three starters return on offense, and five on defense. A good chunk of those younger players will have to learn and develop quickly if the Bears hope to make a run at a league title this season.

5) Little Rock McClellan Crimson Lions

McClellan won five games last year, but had to forfeit two of its wins because of an ineligible starting player. As a result, the team officially finished the year 3-7. Head coach Maurice Moody is in his third year at the school, and has developed his team into one that coaches around the league have taken notice of.

The Crimson Lions have eight returning starters on offense and six on defense, and the speed and size to do well this season. The lack of depth, though, could hurt the team’s chances if injuries occur. Regardless, though, McClellan’s football team is no longer a gimme win for other teams.

6) Mills Comets

The Comets had a down year last season, finishing 3-7 and missing the playoffs. Only one starter on offense and four on defense return to the team in 2015. The Comets lost an All-State running back and All-Conference quarterback to graduation.

Mills will have some playmakers on its team, but so will every other team in this conference. Expect another tough year for Mills.

7) J.A. Fair War Eagles

It’s been a long time since the War Eagles were relevant on the football field. The team hasn’t won a game on the field since week one of 2013. They did receive a win in 2014 as one of McClellan’s forfeits, giving the team an official 1-9 finish for the second consecutive season.

The team does have some experience returning this year, but very little depth and the team as a whole is undersized for a 5A-Central team. Comparing it to recent years, expect a similar season for the War Eagles in 2015.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers embrace position changes

Leader sports editor

In the second week of preseason practices, the Cabot Panthers lost returning defensive end Bryce Crockom to a knee injury. It was originally thought the injury would have the 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior out for up to six weeks, but the loss was lessened recently after arthroscopic surgery revealed the torn meniscus was not as bad as originally thought. Crockom is now expected to return in three to four weeks, but there have still been major shakeups in the lineup in this week’s practices.

Projected starting fullback Kolton Eads has been working at Crockom’s position, while junior transfer Alex Roberts has shared carries at fullback with Eads.

Roberts, 5-6, 155, has impressed Cabot coach Mike Malham since his arrival, but he also still might play some defense in the secondary.

“Right now we’re definitely going to have Kolton at defensive end,” said Malham. “If Roberts has to play defense, we’ll probably rotate them at fullback, too. Kolton’s looked pretty good on defense. He’s strong and pretty fast.”

Cabot defensive coordinator Randall Black likes having Eads on his side of the ball, and is even more excited about the opportunities available when Crockom returns.

“Kolton’s getting better and better,” said Black. “The thing about him is, he’s going to work hard. He’s still thinking a little too much, but that’s just from not being used to it. He’s a lot better than when we started working him over there and he’s going to keep getting better. And when Crockom gets back, it’s going to give us some options and some diversity that’ll just make us better.”

Roberts transferred from Alaska, where he played for a much smaller 4A school in much different weather. Despite impressing the coaches, he admits the adjustment hasn’t been easy. Immediately after the team ran five gassers to close Thursday’s practice, a winded Roberts expressed the difficulties.

“It’s a lot more humid down here,” said Roberts. “Right now it feels like I’m breathing in chicken grease. But overall it’s been really good. Since I’ve got here I’ve had a lot of coaches supporting me and team members who were really good to me.”

Roberts has also had an eye-opener just about football in the south.

“It’s taken a lot more serious down here,” Roberts said. “It’s a lot better program than the one I was in. We didn’t have a lot of really great programs and teams are kind of scattered around. We have about seven or eight teams we’d play every year. And there’s a couple more bigger people here than up there. It’s more physical.”

Cabot runs gassers in units depending on position. Eads and Roberts both show their work ethic during those conditioning drills.

“They’re both at the front of their groups every time we run gassers,” Malham said. “They’re both guys that give 100 percent at whatever they’re doing, and that’s what you need.”

The Panthers take the field against another team for the first time on Monday when they host Lake Hamilton in a benefit scrimmage game at Panther Stadium. That controlled scrimmage is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

SPORTS STORY >> Panther tennis rolls in opener

Leader sportswriter

Cabot High School played host to Beebe in the two teams’ first official tennis match of the year Thursday, and the Panthers and Lady Panthers were stellar in their 2015 debut, winning 18 of the 22 matches played.

“For over 20 matches and to only lose four courts, that’s pretty good,” said Cabot coach Mary Emily Nash. “We’re really excited about how it went. We normally do nonconference matches just to gauge our kids.

“Some of them we’re not sure yet whether they’re going to play doubles or singles, but they all really exceeded my expectations. To have a team that’s mostly made up of juniors, I thought we did very well.”

Team scoring in a high school tennis match is usually decided by combining the outcome of the No. 1 and 2 doubles and singles matches. In the boys’ singles division, Cabot’s Clayton Ellis and Max Mathis won their respective matches.

Ellis beat Beebe’s Chase Underwood 8-5, and Mathis beat Garrett Glynn 8-1. In the top two boys’ doubles matches, Cabot’s Turner Bankston and Bryant Cason beat Beebe’s team of JP Savage and Garret Gardenhire 8-2, while Panther players Parker Gibson and Trey Wagnon beat Beebe’s Braydon Fort and Blake Childress 8-1.

That gave the Cabot boys a 4-0 sweep over Beebe in the official match score.

In the girls’ division, the Lady Panthers finished a match shy of earning a sweep. They officially beat the Lady Badgers 3-1. Cabot’s Emily Sumler won her singles match against Taylor Harris 8-1, and the Lady Panthers’ team of Lauren Roberts and Sadie Lea beat Beebe’s Brienne Jackson and Erin McNully 8-6.

In the No. 2 girls’ doubles match, Carly Carpenter and Julie Hill came out on top over Beebe’s Victoria Tarkington and Katie Pacheco. They won that match 8-5. Beebe’s lone win for the official match score came when the top Lady Badger singles player, Allie Lane, beat Cabot’s Jessica Vaughan 8-5.

Those scores are what counted for the match’s team scores, but Nash was pleased with how her group did as a whole, winning all but four matches.

“They all did really well,” Nash said. “I don’t know that anyone necessarily surprised me, because I have expectations for them to win.”

The match didn’t go as well as Beebe coach Brian Davis would’ve liked, but with it being the first match of the year, and a nonconference one at that, Davis said he used some different combinations among his doubles teams in order to see what combinations would work best.

“My No. 1 girl (Lane) won 8-5,” said Davis. “The rest of my top six (players) had some close losses and some not so close losses. We’re trying new teams together, so the first time you’re playing with a new partner it’s always going to be different.

“I saw enough good stuff out there that I was pleased with. We’ll probably try some of these team-ups again.”

Beebe returns experience on its girls’ team, but the boys, as a team, enter this season with little experience at the varsity level.

“Our girls are mostly all back from last year,” Davis said. “So we kind of knew where we stood there. We lost four of our top six boys from last year to graduation. So we knew we had a lot of stuff there to figure out with the guys – trying to figure out who’s going to play singles, who’s going to play doubles, which doubles teams would work.

“We’ve got a lot of experimenting to do in our next match. If they keep getting better at this rate, I think by the end of the season they’ll be in really good shape.”

Beebe’s schedule this year will be made up almost entirely of nonconference matches. In Beebe’s conference, the 5A-Central, only Beebe and Pulaski Academy have enough participants to form a team, so the Badgers’ and Lady Badgers’ matches this year will be against several different teams, including those in their previous conference, the 5A-East.

“We came from a conference that had eight or nine teams, and it is us and PA,” Davis said. “Our (conference) tournament was us and PA, and one kid maybe from Mills. Our conference tournament used to be two days, now it’s half a day.

“We’ve called a lot of people nearby. We’ll be playing Searcy and Harding Academy and some other local people. We’re playing some of our old rivals. We’re going to Nettleton next week, and Batesville’s coming to us after that.

“Our nonconference schedule is against people we’ve matched up OK with before. It’s competitive. We don’t want to play somebody we know we’re going to roll over or somebody that’s going to roll over us. We want to have good, competitive matches. That’s where we’re going to learn stuff.”

On the flip side, Cabot’s conference has plenty of participants, and plenty of competition, according to Nash. She added, though, that despite the stiff competition within that Class 7A league, she likes her group’s chances.

“Our conference is really, really tough,” Nash said. “We’ll be seeing teams that have been playing since they were 5 and 6 years old. Sometimes that’s hard to compete against, but if anybody can compete against them, this group can.

“We’ve been practicing since May to get ready, so we’re ready to get our reps in.”

Other Cabot players that earned wins in their matches Thursday were, in girls’ singles competition, Olivia New, Kaitlynn Follett, Ryane Thurman and Madeline Chosich. In girls’ doubles, the Lady Panther teams of Vaughan/Ally Bevis and Follett/Thurman won their matches.

Among the Cabot boys, Nathan Ellis, Bryant Cason, Parker Gibson and Wagnon won their singles matches. Besides doubles wins by Bankston/Cason and Gibson/Wagnon, the only other boys’ doubles match of the night was won by the CHS team of Mathis and Nathan Ellis.

For Beebe, Underwood lost his first match of the night, but later rebounded with an 8-5 win over Bankston. For the Beebe girls, other than Lane’s victory, two other Lady Badgers earned wins. Jaycee Hall won a 6-0 match against Cabot’s Chosich, and Noor won an 8-4 decision over Gracie New.

Cabot’s next tennis match will be a nonconference one at Vilonia on Monday at 3:30 p.m. Cabot’s first conference match will be Sept. 3 at home against Little Rock Central.

Beebe’s next match will be the same time on Monday at Searcy. Beebe’s first conference match against Pulaski Academy will be Sept. 10 in Little Rock.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

SPORTS SPORY >> Williams likely finished as Hog

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – If the Razorbacks conclude their season in a bowl game, maybe senior running back Jonathan Williams plays for them again.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said at his Monday press conference, the injury to Williams’ left foot in last Saturday’s scrimmage that requires surgery sidelines him for the 2015 season.

Though Williams has a redshirt year option for 2016 eligibility if he doesn’t play in the bowl game, Bielema said the running back from Allen, Texas likely will turn professional. He was on the verge of doing just that last January before opting to withdraw his name from 2015 NFL draft consideration.

Bielema declined to discuss specifics of Williams’ injury, announced Sunday by the UA as requiring surgery. He did say Monday that “it will require a screw be put in it.”

Bielema said he and Williams “shed a few tears together” Sunday, but that the outlook for Williams’ NFL future remains bright. He said Williams was in the weight room at 6 a.m. Monday doing an upper body workout.

“That shows you how much on task he is,” Bielema said. “Even if he doesn’t play a down of football this year, he could show where he needs to be in the Combine and maybe in an all-star game next year. I don’t think it’s going to overly hurt him in the NFL, his status there because of the type of back he is.”

Williams has a spotless reputation as a team leader for Bielema while rushing for 900 yards on 150 carries in 2013 and a team-leading 1,190 yards on 211 carries last year.
He broke in netting 231 yards rushing on 45 carries and 208 receiving yards on 8 catches for the 2012 Razorbacks under John L. Smith.

Bielema said he “reached out” to various NFL contacts Sunday night and Monday “and the overwhelming result was that this is an injury that is very capable of coming back 100 percent full strong better than ever.”

Thus Bielema foresees Williams not taking a UA fifth year.

“As a head coach obviously I would love to have that,” Bielema said of Williams returning, “but you also have got to think what’s the best for this young man. Unless he’s projected something way, way, way down the line (Williams was estimated third-round material before withdrawing from the 2015 draft) I would guess that it would be in his best interests to come out.”

Bielema said Williams, only needing three hours this semester to complete his degree in communications, and his family know he is extended an open UA invitation to return.

Bielema said Williams took an insurance policy through the UA upon deciding to forego last year’s draft.

Regarding the Razor-backs, Bielema said, “If there’s one team in college football that could take a hit at the running back position, it’s probably the Arkansas Razorbacks, and not get fazed too much.”

Junior running back Alex Collins, on the preseason Doak Walker Award and Maxwell Award watch lists as is Williams, rushed for 1,026 yards on 190 carries in 2013 and 204 carries for 1,110 yards in 2014. In Saturday’s scrimmage Collins rushed six times for 71 yards with a 43-yard touchdown.

Also, fifth-year junior 250-pound fullback-tailback Kody Walker, already granted a sixth year for 2016 by the NCAA after missing most of two seasons with injuries, was the leading rusher, 26 carries for 174 yards, in the spring game with Williams and Collins withheld and ran impressively, 6 carries for 36 yards, during Saturday’s scrimmage while freshman Rawleigh Williams III of Dallas popped a 63-yard touchdown among his scrimmage leading 105 yards on 15 carries.

Bielema also mentioned third-year sophomore Denzell Evans, who lettered on special teams and mopped up some games at running back.

“It’s not a setback in any way, shape or form.,” Bielema said of how his team must respond. “It’s an opportunity for others to take a step forward and I’m excited about that.”

Regarding film review of Saturday’s scrimmage, Bielema after Monday morning’s closed practice reiterated his Saturday comments that defensive line excelled and amplified on the secondary’s performance including the interception by first-team cornerback Jared Collins of a pass thrown by first-team quarterback Brandon Allen.

“Our DBs played pretty snug, you know those guys are very talented,” Bielema said.

“Our corners and safeties make great reads and reactions.”

Bielema also lauded sophomore Dwayne Eugene’s first scrimmage moved from backup weakside Will linebacker to backup strongside Sam linebacker.

Freshman Dre Greenlaw of Fayetteville scrimmaged well enough at backup Will that Bielema acknowledged down the road contemplating moving starting Will ‘backer Brooks Ellis back to middle linebacker, his starting spot for 2013 and 2014.

Sophomore first-team middle ‘backer Khalia Hackett has struggled, Bielema said, while sophomore walk-on backup middle backer Josh Harris, has drawn praise.

“Khalia Hackett was a safety two years ago and now all of a sudden he’s in the middle of our defense calling plays,” Bielema said. “We wanted him to come along quicker. We’re not going to do anything with Brooksie moving him right now, but I think that’s something in the back of our minds you can always do.”

SPORTS STORY >> Financial aid there for youth athletics

Leader staff writer

Questions concerning whether or not Cabot Parks and Recreation offers scholarships for low-income children were brought up by Alderman Ed Long, who is on the Advertising and Promotion Commission during Tuesday’s Advertising and Promotion meeting.

“Some of those fees for kids seemed a little high, especially when we have so many kids on free and reduced lunches in Cabot. There is a lot of money in Cabot but there are a lot of poor folks, too,” Long said.

An example Long gave was the volleyball registration fee is $70.

“Volleyball is great for kids, but the kids who need it the most are the ones sitting at home eating chips and Ramen noodles, the ones who need it the most and can least afford it,” Long said.

“It is a need that we are missing. If there is a way for it to be filled, we need to fill it.

“Entities that are tax payer supported have an obligation to go a little further on supporting things other folks do,” Long said.

The commission helps to support parks and recreation with funding collected from a 1.5 percent sales tax on prepared foods.

Parks director John Crow said sports programs and sports associations fees have money directed to fund scholarships. Crow said the fees could be lowered $5.

Crow said, “All of our fees are based on direct and indirect costs for our programs. We don’t pad our numbers. We bank on our concession sales.”

Football has a lot of equipment costs. Crow said there is used equipment available for struggling families.

“But we don’t turn anyone away,” Crow said.

“We don’t advertise that we offer scholarships, but we have scholarship applications, based on free and reduced lunch status at the school,” Crow said.

Crow continued, “The reason we don’t advertise is that we’ve had families who pull up in a $40,000 SUV and have eight kids pile out. They’ll say, I heard you give out scholarships, I’ve got six kids who need to play sports, can you give a two-for-one deal?”

Long suggested scholarship information is given to school counselors. They see the children who need to participate. He said there is a lot of need in Cabot schools that are being met.

Long said he is checking with the city attorney to see if $3,000 returned from Cabot’s Fourth of July celebration to the A and P Commission can be redirected for scholarships youth sports programs.

Cabot’s youth sports registration fees are very similar to surrounding cities. Cabot youth soccer costs, on average, about $10 less than Jacksonville, depending on age group, while baseball and softball in Cabot is slightly higher than Jacksonville.

Jacksonville does not have a citywide youth football program, which is typically the most expensive sport to play on a strictly local level. Cabot is $10 more than the next closest city, Beebe, at $90 per player. That fee also does not include cleats, helmets or shoulder pads.

SPORTS STORY >> Football’s new rules wrong for the game

Leader sports editor

College football fans will see some calls this year they’ve never seen before. As is often the case, the rule makers hurt the game more than help it.

Players will now be forced to leave the field for any equipment violation, not just for losing their helmet. These equipment violations include everything from not being properly padded to not tucking in their jersey.

It also bans facemasks with too many bars and jerseys tucked underneath the shoulder pads to reveal the stomach.

This is a particularly odd rule considering the NCAA ignored a 2010 study that showed cheerleaders whose uniforms show midriff were at a strikingly higher risk of developing eating disorders.

Nevertheless, the naval gazers at the NCAA suddenly decided the crop-top jersey presents a competitive advantage, even though the practice goes back at least to the 80s.

Also, get ready to see your favorite team penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct when a player helps his teammate out by pulling another player off a dogpile. Not only is this rule unnecessary, it’s exactly the opposite of the direction the committee should’ve gone.

For years, football has actually needed rules that penalize players for dogpiling. They usually occur after a fumble. One or two players will be on the ground. One usually has possession and the other is trying to take it, when a dozen more people pile onto the scene. The players are on the ground. The ball is dead. The play is over. It’s dangerous and it’s a huge waste of time for six more guys to slam into the growing mass of bodies.

Piling on should be the penalty, not un-stacking the pile.

Football is under attack for the very real health risks it involves, and they’re making rules that penalize players who are trying to alleviate that risk.

And it’s not just college rule makers going in the wrong direction.

The Arkansas High School Activities Association has taken a wayward step by eliminating ties in nonconference games. The former rule allowed overtime in conference games because those games mean something. Nonconference games ended after four quarters regardless of the score.

An unofficial Leader survey showed that most coaches like the change, but those coaches are, respectfully, wrong.

It’s an unnecessary risk for no reward. The only argument for it, by every coach surveyed, boiled down to “nobody likes a tie.” Those weren’t the exact words in most cases, but that was the basic premise.

The first argument to not play overtime in nonconference games is simple. Any injury in overtime of a nonconference game is a senseless injury that could’ve been avoided if a longstanding rule had not been changed just because our obsession to win is so strong that we extend it to things that do not matter.

And the time of year nonconference games are played make it more dangerous. It’s often still very hot. Players are very often not in top shape yet, and injuries are proven to be more likely when athletes are fatigued.

In Arkansas, nonconference games have no bearing at all on a team’s chances of making the playoffs or winning a state championship, unlike some other states.

Some other states count all 10 games. It seems illogical and rife with opportunities to pad the schedule, but those systems do exist.

If nonconference games now have to play overtime, they should at least count for something also.

A game several years ago between Fort Smith Southside and Broken Arrow, Okla., played in Oklahoma, was tied at the end of regulation. Barry Lunney Sr. coached Southside at the time and didn’t want to play the overtime, but it meant something to Broken Arrow. If that game had been played on the east side of the state line, Broken Arrow likely would’ve been stuck with the tie.

Also, the one and only argument for ending all ties, that being that nobody likes them, is not always true. Sometimes ties are good for one team or another.

Everyone approaches the tie game theoretically from the standpoint of thinking they should win. Nobody considers the possibility of losing in overtime. Nor do they consider those teams that don’t win very often. Only six Arkansas high school games ended in a tie last year, and one of them was North Pulaski vs. LR Hall. That tie ended a long losing streak for the Falcons.

What about the huge underdog team with a smaller roster and smaller players, that stopped a long drive at the goal line as time expired? That team would be a lot happier if the game could end there, than it would be to go into overtime and lose.

As football is trying to mend its growing reputation as being too dangerous, as more and more studies reveal more and more threats to young people’s health, as training staffs and safety videos become more prominent, the AHSAA changes a longstanding, perfectly operative rule, making the sport even more dangerous, all for games that mean nothing.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot cross-country rebuilds

Leader sports editor

The Cabot cross-country team has enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, especially the girls’ team. Two Lady Panther runners in the last four years have gone on to Division I colleges, the most recent being 2015 graduate Micah Huckabee signing with the renowned University of Arkansas track program.

This year’s Cabot cross-country squad has just one senior in Samantha Nickell, who performed well the last two seasons despite battling asthma. Coach Leon White says she has improved since last year, and leads a very young team into the season.

“It’s just a young group with a bunch of sophomores,” said White. “We only have the one senior for the girls and the boys don’t have any senior high leaders right now. We’re just sort of starting over.”

The girls’ team lost one strong runner during the 2015 indoor season. Ashley Gore injured her anterior cruciate ligament in the first indoor meet of last season. That caused her to miss the entire outdoor season, where Cabot missed out on a state championship by one point to Bentonville. It also has her out for this cross country year.

Joining Nickell this season as contenders to compete near the top of races are sophomores Casey Gore and Bailey Lebow.

“The best one is Samantha Nickell,” White said. “Casey Gore, who is Ashley’s younger sister, will help us. Bailey Lebow is another sophomore who’s going to be good. After that it’s just some other young girls that we’re trying to get in shape and see what they can do. Maybe one or two of them can come along and get up with these other girls.”

The boys’ team hasn’t been as competitive over the last few years as the girls have, but White sees some potential for this year’s young group.

The top runners on the boys’ team consists of five sophomores, including Gardener Howze, Stewart Nickell, Blake Scott, Grayson Kaufman and Wells Guyor.

“With this group of boys, and we talked about this the other day, what we’re looking at with these guys, if they stay together, by the time they’re seniors they have a chance to be pretty good,” White said.

The team has an intrasquad practice meet scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3 at the Austin course. The first official meet will be Sept. 12 at the Army National Guard Minuteman Race at Western Hills Park in Little Rock.

EDITORIAL >> New library instant hit

Cabot opened its new $2.6 million public library on West Main Street on Monday. The spacious modern design has 24,000 square feet, six times the size of the old Arlene Cherry Library.

The new facility continues a trend we’ve noticed at other new libraries in the area, such as Jacksonville’s Esther D. Nixon library and the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library in Little Rock.

The colorful new library, designed by Robert Schelle of Cabot, is pleasing to the eye and invites visitors to broaden their minds. It’s a temple of learning, where patrons can borrow thousands of books, use dozens of computers and reach out beyond their world through the Internet and interactive games.

The library is centrally located and has more parking. It is easily accessible from the highway and within walking distance for some neighborhoods.

The new facility is a tribute to the city’s leadership and its forward-thinking residents who approved a $42 million bond issue for the library, along with a sports and aquatics complex, a new freeway interchange, sewer improvements and drainage work in the Highlands subdivision.

Cabot’s library is an architectural marvel and is part of the city’s master plan for the streetscape and drainage improvements. The building was gutted except for the roof and the outside walls. The old storefront glass partitions were taken out.

There’s much more at the new library, from meeting rooms to storytime for kids to genealogical records for the whole family. Students are also encouraged to do their homework and research at the new library.

Tammie Evans, the energetic young librarian, says the library has much to offer the community. Don’t be surprised to see her at the next chamber of commerce luncheon or at CabotFest, where she will invite everyone to the library to find out for themselves what it has to offer.

There are low shelves and bright colors everywhere: calypso blue, mandarin orange, electric lime green, daisy yellow and cayenne pepper red. Colorful furniture adds to the welcoming feel at the library. Stained wood brings warmth to the building.

The floors are made of cork, which requires less maintenance, is environmentally friendly and has a less intuitional look. It is good for walking and standing. It is easy on the feet and has sound-deadening qualities.

Four study rooms have glass fronts. Two meeting pods in the center are enclosed with glass walls and doors.

The architects left nothing out: The children’s section has storybook characters etched into the glass walls as a safety measure so people do not run into the glass while walking. The fenced-in outdoor children’s area has an amphitheater to host library programs. It has a figure-eight walking track and landscaped lawn space.

The community room can be used for meetings when the library is closed. It has a state-of-the-art audio and visual system.

“I think it is going to be a useful space,” Schelle said, modestly, about his masterpiece.

Drop in for a visit soon, and you’ll agree.

TOP STORY >> 45 years of service recognized

Leader staff writer

Cabot Alderman Ann Gilliam was pleasantly surprised at Monday’s city council meeting with a citation presented by state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) recognizing her 45 years of public service. She’s been on the council seven years.

Williams, the former mayor of Cabot, told The Leader after the meeting, “I’ve had the privilege of working with her for many years, and she’s one of those people who changes the personality of Cabot. It doesn’t matter what she does. Whatever she sets her hands to, she does a great job.”

Gilliam, after receiving the citation, told The Leader she was born in the city and never left. She is so involved because “I enjoy doing things for other people.”

Williams added that she helps people who are less fortunate during the holidays and, although he doesn’t know how old Gilliam is, she’s “been here her whole life.”

He said, “I think she’s genuine…I can’t say enough good about her. She’s a precious lady and a good friend of mine, and I deeply respect her. She never asks for attention. She doesn’t want to be up front. She just wants to get the job done.”

In other business:

• Deborah Moore, director of the Lonoke/Prairie County Regional Library System, told the council, “I’d like to say that today, Aug. 17, officially changed the footprint of the Cabot library and the footprint for the city of Cabot. We opened this morning with people in line within 30 minutes. As of 15 minutes before we closed, we’d had 506 people come through our doors.”

The new $2.6 million Cabot Public Library opened Monday at its new location on Main Street. Moore thanked the council, voters and all others who supported the project.

Mayor Bill Cypert said she and her staff had done a “phenomenal job” in keeping the project on time and on budget despite some bad weather.

“Cabot is fast branding itself as a city of education…My dream, and it’s no secret, is that the whole area will become a center for adult education, kids’ education, and I think that’s something we can make happen over the next five to 10 years,” the mayor said.

• The council voted to save $50,546 a year by outsourcing payroll to Ellis, Tucker and Aldridge, LLP, and amended the personnel handbook to accommodate the change.

The mayor said the savings would help Cabot add another firefighter and a warrants clerk for the police department into its 2016 budget.

The new payroll process will affect the 139 people who received paychecks from the city and was thought of when officials learned Cabot’s payroll clerk would be retiring.

• The council passed a resolution adopting an access management plan for Hwy. 321. Alderman Doyle Tullos asked City Attorney Jim Taylor if it could be changed later.

Taylor said the plan had the blessing of the state Highway Department and was an effort to avoid, before development of that area, the cut-throughs that occurred in the downtown area.

Long answered that the plan could be amended if needed, but it would have to go back through the Planning Commission, state Highway Department, Metroplan — a process that would take at least a year. The council had looked at the plan and revised it previously, he noted.

• The council rezoned 114 Financial Drive from R-1 (single family) to C-2 (general commercial) with a special use to allow self-storage units.

Project manager Tim Lemons asked the council to adopt an emergency clause, making the rezoning effective immediately rather than 30 days from passage.

Lemons said the property has had a C-2 use for some time but had been annexed into the city as R-1. The closing of the sale is contingent on the rezoning being approved with the emergency clause this month, he explained.

The council did not pass the emergency clause after Alderman Ed Long said he was concerned too many of those were being requested for rezoning ordinances.

Alderman Rick Prentice questioned whether people knew about the typical process, which is to hold three readings before adopting an ordinance, although the council can suspend readings by a two-thirds vote. Emergency clauses also require yes votes from two-thirds of the council.

Lemons responded that more public education is needed, and the mayor agreed.

Lemons also said he always tells people about the rezoning process, but his firm is sometimes contacted after the selling timeline is set.

• The council rezoned 3980 S. First St. from R-1 to C-2 with a special use to allow self-storage units. That ordinance had been read three times.

• The council held the second reading of an ordinance rezoning 308 N. Madison from R-1 to O-1 (quiet commercial).

• The council held the second reading of an ordinance rezoning 707, 709 and 711 Campground Road from R-1 to O-1.

 The council reappointed Dennis Hyland to the Planning Commission.

TOP STORY >> Center feels more like home

Leader staff writer

Lonoke Health and Rehab at 1501 Lincoln St. showed off its brand-new look Thursday with an open house.

More than 200 backpacks filled with school supplies were given away in 45 minutes. Door prizes were awarded, and visitors enjoyed refreshments, including desserts from Charlotte’s Eats and Sweets in Keo. Even Elvis stopped by.

The long-term care facility is licensed to house 80 residents, according to administrator Ashley Thomley. It serves 55 now.

“Our mission is to give better quality care to improve the lives of the elderly, to make it feel like home instead of feel like an institution or something like that, (for them) to still be treated as people instead of numbers,” she told The Leader.

Activities — bingo, bunco, other games and more — are offered several times a day and the staff’s goal is to allow the residents as much independence as possible while meeting their daily needs, Thomley continued.

Other services include physical, occupational and speech therapy.

All but four of the center’s rooms are semi-private and designed for two roommates, but any semi-private room could easily be converted into a private room if needed, she noted.

The facility also offers a state-of-the-art whirlpool bath and a beauty salon many residents enjoy, she continued. Many residents are Medicaid recipients, Thomley confirmed.

Ann Pratt, who has lived there for 21 years, said, “All these renovations just blow me away…This is very, very nice.”

She added that the Lonoke Health and Rehab staff is excellent.

Thomley said CNAs and LPNs are on duty 24 hours a day. RNs are there for eight-hour shifts. There are about 80 people on staff, but a full house would require 120.

The administrator noted, “We can do that. That’s not a problem.”

Resident Marsha Kendrick has lived there almost a year. She said, “(The remodel) makes it look like a resort room…If you’ve got to be in a place, this is the place to be. I enjoy being here. I think of it as home now.” She added that the staff is congenial and here to help the residents.

TOP STORY >> Base repairs water leak

Leader staff writer

Arnold Drive Elementary students got a surprise on their first day of school – no drinking water.

A water main break on the base near the school early Saturday morning caused a precautionary boil-order to be issued by the state Health Department. It was sent to all base residents and the school, plus military family housing, the base exchange, commissary, lakeside shoppette, the family/recreational camp, 19th Medical Group (B1090), and child/youth centers (B1990 and B1992) on the base.

The boil order was lifted late Tuesday afternoon.

Derek Scott, with the Pulaski County Special School District, said he got the call about 20 minutes after the break was discovered.

“I hated to hear the news, but it was great that they called us so quickly,” he said. “I tip my hat to the men in blue for a job well done.”

The early warning allowed the district to turn off the school’s water fountains and get in touch with nutrition services to change the planned menu to sandwiches and other pre-cooked items.

“We also brought in 20 cases of bottled water for the students Monday and Tuesday,” Scott said. “I think they enjoyed that.”

According to Tech. Sgt. Jason Armstrong, the break occurred about 3:30 a.m. Saturday and about 650,000 gallons of water was lost, but no flooding or other damage occurred. “Our airmen were working on the break within 30 minutes of notification,” Armstrong said, adding that the water main break was caused by stress on the pipe from the rocky soil conditions in the area.

He said there were no reported illnesses from the water.

As part of the boil order issued by the health department, all affected customers were advised that the base or school water may have been unsafe for human consumption.

Water used for drinking, cooking, making ice, brushing teeth, or washing dishes needed to be boiled briskly for one minute prior to use. All ice cubes needed to be discarded. It was recommended that only boiled or bottled water be used for making new ice. Before boiling, water customers were asked to flush their water lines by turning on faucets until water ran clear.

Other non-potable uses, such as bathing, showering and hand washing, didn’t require boiling.

Kerry Krell, with the state Health Department, said the boil order was issued as a precaution because of the drop in water pressure from the break.

“When we are notified of an incident like this, we document it, require the water provider to notify all customers and issue the boil order. The order stays in effect until the repairs are made and the water is tested,” Krell explained.

The health department lab came back with an all-clear report about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the order was lifted.

Base bioenvironmental officials said Tuesday afternoon that an adequate disinfectant level had been established throughout the distribution system and the satisfactory completion of a bacteriological survey showed the water was safe to drink.