Saturday, September 05, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Badgers shed blue monkey

Leader sports editor

The Beebe Badgers ended a five-year winless streak against the Greenbrier Panthers on Tuesday, winning their annual season opener 41-27 in a game probably not as close as the score would indicate.

A key defensive breakdown and a quick fumble put the Badgers in a 14-0 hole, and the Badgers didn’t score until just two minutes remained in the first half. But that touchdown sparked a 34-6 run by the Badgers and led to the Kickoff Classic victory at War Memorial Stadium.

“It’s a big deal all the way around for everybody,” said Beebe coach John Shannon. “It’s been five years since the high school team has beat Greenbrier. So it’s exciting.”

Greenbrier got the ball to start the game and put together a 10-play, 74-yard drive that included first-down conversions on third and 11, fourth and 1 and third and 9. The last conversion went for a touch down and a quick Panther lead.

Beebe’s first drive ended with a fumble on the fourth play. The second drive stalled on an incomplete pass on fourth and 4 from the Panther 14. It was the only pass attempt of the game for the Badgers. Greenbrier’s Spread offense shredded the Badger defense on the ensuing possession.

The Panthers threw seven-straight passes and completed all of them, never facing a third down. The drive included plays of 31, 17 and finally 23 yards for a touchdown.

Beebe needed to change the pace of the game, and dialed up a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took 6:48 off the clock. Halfback Jo’Vaughn Wyrick burst up the middle, breaking one tackle and dodging another for the final 25 yards and the first of his four touchdowns.

Connor Patrom added the extra point to make it 14-7 with 2:08 left in the first half.

The Badgers got it back quickly when, on third and 1 from its own 34, Greenbrier quarterback Howard Ross completed a 15-yard pass to Alex Massey, who fumbled the ball after taking a big hit by Patrom. Garrett Grier covered it for the Badgers on the Panther 49 with 1:26 on the clock.

Beebe came out of the Dead T and lined up with three wide and a lot of motion, but it initially fell flat. Three plays lost 2 yards before Wyrick lined up at quarterback to take a direct shotgun snap, and again beat a trail right down the middle of the field for 51 yards and a touchdown.

Patrom’s extra point failed, sending Greenbrier into halftime with a 14-13 lead.

The Badgers got the ball to start the second half, but Wyrick fumbled it on the second play at the Panther 28. Two plays later, Ross hit Massey with a 17-yard touchdown pass. The extra point was no good, leaving it 20-13 with 11 minutes left in the third quarter.

That changed quickly when Patrom took the ensuing kickoff near the Greenbrier sideline at the 5, and returned it up the middle for 95 yards and the score. It was his second return of the game and third of his career.

“The first one tonight was my second one ever, so I was nervous,” said Patrom. “I felt like they were probably going to kick it to me, and I just kind of ran it out wide and didn’t get anywhere. It’s a wedge return so it’s supposed to go up the middle. The second one, I just said I’m going up the middle you know, why not? And I got some great blocks. Bo Smith got one huge block for me and that was it.”

Shannon said the execution of the return was perfect.

“Everybody did their job on that return,” Shannon said. “He’s the fastest kid we have on the team when he’s running in a straight line. Jo’Vaughn can go side to side and straight ahead. Connor can’t really go side to side, but straight ahead he’s just as fast if not faster than Jo’Vaughn. So we told him, you either get up field or you’re not returning anymore. And you saw what can happen with his kind of speed when everybody does their job.”

Beebe forced a three-and-out on Greenbrier’s next drive, but failed to score as well, turning it over on downs at the Panther 40. Greenbrier got one 17-yard reception on the second play of the possession, and then converted a fourth and 6 with a 10-yard completion before falling apart.

Wyrick sacked Ross on a corner blitz for a 3-yard loss on first down from the Beebe 34. After a 5-yard pass play that made it third and 8, Greenbrier got back-to-back illegal procedure penalties and threw incomplete to set up fourth and 18. Beebe pressured Ross again, who scrambled before throwing a pass after crossing the line of scrimmage, resulting in a loss of down and a turnover.

Beebe took over on its own 48, and fullback Trip Smith did most of the work on the ensuing drive. He had one run of 27 yards, and plunged it in from 1-yard out, giving Beebe its first lead at 27-20 with 10:37 remaining in the game.

The Panthers managed just one first down on the next drive, but lost 4 yards after that. On fourth and 14, Ross, under pressure again, fumbled at the line of scrimmage where Grant Jackson covered it for the Badgers.

Beebe then went 57 yards in nine plays, chewing up five minutes of clock and scoring on a 5-yard run by Wyrick with 4:32 left in the fourth quarter.

Greenbrier then almost broke a kick return, taking it all the way to the Badger 36. Two plays later, Gordon hit Brandon Thomas for a 32-yard scoring strike that made it a one-possession game with four minutes remaining.

The Panthers tried an onside kick, but Wyrick covered it at the Beebe 48. Greenbrier jumped off sides on a big third and 1 play at the 43. Three more plays gained just 5 yards and the Badgers lined up to punt on fourth and 5 from the Greenbrier 33. It was a fake that fooled all but one Panther. Wyrick avoided that tackler and ran 33 yards down the left hash mark for the game-clinching score.

Wyrick finished with 25 carries for 213 yards and four touchdowns while Smith carried 32 times for 167 yards and a score.

Ross had a great game for Greenbrier as well, completing 27 of 43 pass attempts for four touchdowns and 347 yards. Massey had seven receptions for 107 yards to lead the Panthers.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils beaten at Maumelle

Leader sportswriter

The Jacksonville Red Devils had a rough opener at Maumelle on Friday, as the Hornets scored early and often en route to a dominant 59-21 nonconference win over the Red Devils.

Maumelle did not punt the ball the entire game, and didn’t have to. The Hornets scored on their first two possessions to take an early 14-0 lead. The first TD was on the first possession of the game.

It was a five-play drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle by senior Jacob Acklin. Maumelle (1-0) lined up in the swinging gate for the 2-point try, and converted on a run play to the right side of the field to lead 8-0 at the 10:47 mark of the first quarter.

Jacksonville (0-1) went three-and-out on its first possession. The Red Devils lined up as if they were going to go for it on fourth down at their own 27-yard line, but shifted into punt formation once the offense realized it wasn’t going to get the Maumelle defense to jump offsides.

Quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham was where he normally lines up in the shotgun when he received the snap to punt, and as a result, it was blocked by Maumelle’s Charles McRae and covered by the Hornets at the Jacksonville 21.

Maumelle scored in eight plays this time, scoring on a 1-yard run by Acklin with 5:45 left in the opening quarter. That put the Hornets up 14-0. Jacksonville did get on the board its second possession, scoring on a 50-yard run up the middle of the field by Shawn Ellis.

The PAT was good, which cut the Hornets’ lead to 14-7 with 3:57 to go in the quarter. Maumelle, though, scored on its next two drives and converted each 2-point try to take a 30-7 lead with 7:40 to go in the opening half.

Jacksonville answered with an eight-play drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run up the gut by sophomore bruiser Danny Smith, and the PAT cut the Hornet lead to 30-14. However, Maumelle answered on its next possession with a three-play drive that went 65 yards and ended with a 19-yard TD run by Gabe Jones.

It was Jones’ second TD of the game, and the successful 2-point try gave the Hornets a 38-14 lead with just under four minutes left in the half, but that ended up being the score at the break.

“It was a tough night,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “We couldn’t stop them in the first half. We couldn’t get rolling offensively. We had some success, we just couldn’t finish drives early, and it kind of snowballed on us. We just never could figure out what we needed to figure out to get our team in the right position.”

Jacksonville did gain some momentum in the second half. The Red Devils received the second-half kickoff. Ellis received it at the Jacksonville 10-yard line and returned it all the way to the Maumelle 26.

The Red Devils got a 9-yard run by Smith on the first play of the drive, and scored three plays later on a 5-yard burst by Ellis. The PAT made it a 38-21 game. The Devil defense forced a turnover on downs on Maumelle’s first possession of the second half, and Jacksonville’s offense put together what looked to be another promising drive.

Starting from their own 34-yard line, the Red Devils marched the ball downfield and into Hornet territory, thanks in large part to a 30-yard run by Smith. However, two incompletions, one of which was a drop, and a negative rush set up fourth down.

A desperation throw on fourth down by Brandon Hickingbotham was intercepted at the Maumelle 11, and on the first play of the ensuing possession, Acklin’s first and only carry of the second half resulted in an 89-yard TD run with 5:01 left in the third quarter.

Acklin also punched in the 2-point try, giving Maumelle a commanding 46-21 lead, and it was all Hornets from there.

“We felt good running the football,” Hickingbotham said of his team’s early success in the second half. “We felt good running, we just couldn’t get it across and finish it. Then on defense, we just had trouble figuring it out and we missed a lot of tackles. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Maumelle’s next score came on what was easily the play of the game, and quite possibly the play of the week. Junior running back Cory Jones received the handoff at the Jacksonville 24-yard line, and in a tremendous effort to make a play out of nothing, he ran every which way possible sideways and backwards before finally breaking loose near the right hashmark.

Jones started to run out of gas as he approached the end zone, and just before he crossed the goal line, Jacksonville’s Terry Brown delivered a legal, devastating hit that sent Jones’ helmet flying off and knocked him out of action for the remainder of the game.

The PAT made it 52-21 with 3:12 left in the third quarter. Maumelle scored again to set the final score and invoke the mercy rule in the process on a 9-yard TD pass by Kobe Pounders with 10:11 left in the game.

The Hornets finished the game with 473 yards of offense, 317 of which came in the first half. Jacksonville finished the night with 328 yards of offense, but had just 93 in the second half.

Brandon Hickingbotham finished the night 7 for 18 passing for 65 yards and one interception. Maumelle used three different quarterbacks Friday. Those three combined to throw for 122 yards and two TDs with one interception.

Acklin led the Hornet backfield with 166 yards rushing and three TDs. For Jacksonville, Smith had 95 yards rushing and one score on 13 carries, while Ellis had 92 yards rushing and two scores on 11 carries.

Jacksonville will look to rebound at home next Friday night against Class 6A Benton in another nonconference game. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Big plays lift Cabot over rival

By RAY BENTONLeader sports editor

In years past, Cabot hasn’t had the spectacular athletes as some other teams, and has had to rely on discipline, conditioning and precision execution to play among the elite high school football teams in the state. On Friday, the Panthers’ execution wasn’t spotless, but athleticism saved the day as the Panthers beat rival Conway 34-18 in the season opener at Panther Stadium.

Cabot blocked two field goals and two extra points, returned one blocked field goal 70 yards for a touchdown, returned a kickoff for a touchdown, had a one-play, 40-yard drive, converted a nearly impossible fourth down, and had a 29-yard gain on third and 17 after a snap snafu lost 15 yards before the play ever started moving forward.

“Well it was the first game and we made a lot of mistakes, but the kids persevered and pulled it out,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “That score could’ve been a lot different. We blocked two field goals so that’s six points. We scored twice on defense that’s 12 or 14 more. If we don’t get those it could’ve been a whole different game.”

The Panther defense teetered back and forth between unstoppable and getting shredded through the air. Conway finished the game with 406 total yards to Cabot’s 389. Wampus Cat quarterback Breylin Smith finished the game 17 of 31 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but was 14 of 20 for 230 in the first half.

Despite the big yardage, Cabot’s defense came up big in the red zone.

Conway receiver Marquis Pleasant picked up 50 yards on the first play of the game when a Cabot defender missed a tackle on a swing pass. But the Wampus Cats got little else. On third and 1 at the Cabot 2-yard line, sophomore nose guard Dayonte Roberts dropped Conway tailback Shamar Harper for a 4-yard loss. Former Cabot kicker Christian Underwood’s return to Panther Stadium was a nightmare. His 23-yard field-goal attempt was the first of four to be blocked. This one by Connor Daigle and covered by Chris Jones at the Cabot 24.

The Panthers went 42 yards in six plays, but halfback Jess Reed wasn’t looking for an option pitch on first down at the Conway 34. The ball bounced off his hip and was covered by the Wampus Cats at the 39.

Pleasant made a 41-yard reception on the first play of the next drive, but again Conway went nowhere from there. Underwood’s 31-yard field-goal attempt was also blocked by Daigle. This time defensive end Kolton Eads picked it up and outran everyone 70 yards to the end zone, giving Cabot a 7-0 lead with 6:59 left in the first quarter.

“Well it was funny because yesterday in practice, they moved me to contain side and put a faster guy on the other side to rush it,” said Eads. “He was supposed to block it and I was supposed to be there to pick it up and run it. It’s funny that it worked out just like that in the game.”

Cabot left a lot of points on the field in the first half. The Panthers lost two fumbles during strong drives, and had a 43-yard touchdown run by Austin Morse called back for holding.

But the Cabot offense’s first scoring drive embodied what Cabot football has been about for the past 35 years. The Panthers chewed up nearly the entire second quarter, taking possession with 11:47 left in the half and scoring 17 plays and 79 yards later with 3:49 remaining.

The drive included a pair of fourth-down conversions. One was a fake punt to Alex Roberts at midfield. The other came at the Conway 20-yard line when Eads took a fourth and 1 handoff, got stuffed at the line of scrimmage, but bulled his way forward for a 3-yard gain. Sophomore halfback Adam Flores took an option pitch 11 yards to set up first and goal at the 6, and Eads did the rest with a pair of 3-yard runs to put the Panthers up 14-0.

Though the drive took most of the quarter, it didn’t take enough of it. The otherwise struggling Conway offense suddenly came alive, gashing the Panthers for 70 yards through the air on a 74-yard drive and scoring with 1:21 remaining. But for the third time in three kicks, Cabot blocked Underwood to keep the score 14-6 going into halftime.

The Panthers got it to start the second half, and put together another good drive. It almost stopped inside the 20, where Cabot faced fourth and 3 at the Conway 18. Sophomore halfback Adam Flores took a pitch left and had nowhere to go. He broke two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, spun, broke another tackle and ran 17 yards to the Conway 1-yard line.

“That one run he had was unbelievable,” Malham said. “He bailed us out with that one. I don’t know how he did it.”

Flores finished as the game’s leading rusher, carrying 17 times for 147 yards. Conway was pinching the middle to stop the off-tackle and dive, and was keying heavily on quarterback Jarrod Barnes on the option. That opened things up for the halfback on the pitch, and Flores made the most of the opportunities.

“The offensive linemen did a great job of giving me room the run,” said Flores. “The other halfbacks, Jess Reed, Braxton Burton and Austin Morse, they did a great job of making the read blocks. Without them and the offensive line playing so well, I couldn’t have done it, so I thank them.”

Eads got his third touchdown with a 1-yard plunge on the next play, but the extra point was blocked, leaving the score 20-6 with 6:54 left in the third quarter.

Cabot’s defense dominated the third period. Conway went three and out on all three possessions of the third quarter, and totaled -4 yards. Drew Stout and Trenton Erickson each pressured Smith into bad throws, and Eads got his second sack for an 8-yard loss on Conway’s final play of the quarter.

In the meantime, Barnes scampered 40 for a score on the one-play drive between Conway’s second and third possession. The extra point by Caleb Schulte made it 27-6 with 1:58 left in the third.

On Conway’s fourth drive, a pass interference call moved the ball into Cabot territory at the 49. Smith then hit Damontay Allen for 17 yards before tailback Dartanian Thompson blasted through several tacklers for a 34-yard touchdown run with 9:20 left in the game. Cabot blocked Underwood’s fourth kick to leave it 27-12.

Cabot then drove 12 plays to the Conway 13, but Schulte’s 30-yard attempt was blocked with 2:50 left in the game.

Conway needed just four plays to go 80 yards for another touchdown with 1:49 remaining. The two-point conversion failed when Cabot again put pressure on Smith.

Conway covered the ensuing onside kick, but was called for offsides. On the next attempt, senior Holdyn Barnes caught the onside kick, squirted through two defenders and ran 50 yards for the final score of the game.

Jarrod Barnes finished with eight carries for 107 yards, a touchdown and three fumbles.

Pleasant had eight receptions for 171 yards, all in the first half. Thompson finished with 11 carries for 102 yards and a score for Conway.

Dayonte Roberts had two sacks and a tackle for loss totaling -27 yards. Linebacker Easton Siedl also had two tackles for -14 yards.

The Panthers hit the road to take on Catholic High next Friday in Little Rock. The Rockets beat North Little Rock 32-25 in overtime on Friday, spoiling the Charging Wildcats’ inaugural game in the new Wildcat Stadium.

Friday, September 04, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Long road for schools

Not only are facilities substandard in Jacksonville and the Pulaski County Special School District school district, so is academic performance at nearly 25 percent of the schools.

Eight PCSSD schools are among 151 one ranked in the bottom 10 percent of Arkansas schools academically.

Student performance on Benchmark exams for math and literacy in grades three through eight, algebra I, geometry and grade 11 literacy from 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 were used to determine the newly identified priority and focus schools.

Although the designation came during the first week of school, PCSSD is already shifting personnel to troubled schools, including those in Jacksonville, to help correct the problem.

Nearly a quarter of PCSSD schools were among the worst, according to testing data.

Of those, Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Middle School, Harris Elementary School and Mills High Schools were among 46 “priority schools,” meaning they are in the bottom 5 percent, while Murrell Taylor and Daisy Bates elementary schools and Fuller and Maumelle middle schools were among 105 schools designated “focus schools,” meaning they are in the bottom 10 percent. Cabot’s Academic Center of Excellence is also ranked in the bottom 10 percent.

Three of the schools — Jacksonville High, Jacksonville Middle and Murrell Taylor — will be part of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District when it is entirely on its own beginning next July.

This leaves another huge challenge for both districts.

The new JNP salary schedule, based on a conservative guestimate of the amount of minimum foundation aid the district will receive from the state, is pretty frugal, except for competitive starting salaries to attract good young teachers.

We think the new JNP school board, which will be elected Sept. 15, may need to add an additional position or two to perform the duties now being performed by PCSSD administrators.

Starting last week, PCSSD reassigned three central office administrators to help guide teachers and principals in correcting problems that led to poor student outcomes, and collectively, to the bottom-of-the-barrel ratings of “priority” and “focus.”

PCSSD Deputy Superintendent John Tackett is assisting at Jacksonville Middle School three days a week, with another PCSSD staffer there a fourth day, according to JNP Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart.

Pam Black, director of career technology education, will be at Jacksonville High School four days a week, working with the principal and school leadership.

Susan Fletcher, an administrator for instructional technology, will work with the principal and the school leadership team at Murrel Taylor. Those are the three troubled Jacksonville schools in the group.

That’s great, and we appreciate the help, but those folks won’t be available to us next year.

Three of the 10 schools that will be in JNPSD next year are either focus or priority schools.

The fine people of Jacksonville and their neighbors did not work this hard for this long to have a district comprised of failing schools in substandard buildings.

That’s why district patrons will have to find more money for teachers and pass a millage increase to fix or replace nearly all buildings.

A few people have suggested that local residents could chip in $10 a month to pay advanced teachers what they are really worth and to build new schools.

We encourage local donations to the new district, but we’re not talking about taking a collect ion and holding bake sales for new band uniforms here.

Even with help from the Defense Department in constructing a new building to replace Arnold Elementary School, it’s likely going to cost $55 million to build a new high school, and — even with state matching money — that’s more than $25 million for the district’s share.

Like every other aspect of the fiscal distress and desegregation problems facing PCSSD and JNPSD, Superintendent Jerry Guess has grabbed this latest bull by the horns, sending top administrators to “drill down,” as they like to say, and find solutions to the problems confounding under-achieving students.

Tackett did that as a principal and a superintendent at the Lonoke School District, and, if anyone can use data to get a handle on this, he can.

As big the problems facing the startup of the JNP district, PCSSD will be going through changes of its own next school year.

It is widely assumed that, after five years of state control following the 2011 takeover by the state for reasons of fiscal distress, PCSSD will again have control of its own district for the 2016-17 school year. By law, the state can only run a district for five years, and this is the fifth. Thanks to aggressive changes at Guess’ hands, including decertification of PCSSD unions and changes to the salary schedule, it’s nearly certain the state Board of Education will find the district no longer in fiscal distress. That presumably means school board elections and the hiring of either Guess or another superintendent. He is currently an appointed superintendent. We wish him the best.

TOP STORY >> Hunter vs. Moore for Lonoke Zone 2, Pos. 1 seat

Leader staff writer

Newcomers Charles Hunter and Ross Moore are vying for the Zone 2, Position 1 seat on the Lonoke School Board.

Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Monday, Sept. 14. Election Day is Tuesday, Sept. 15, with polls set to be open from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Lonoke County Courthouse Annex, 210 N. Center St.

Hunter, 41, has lived in the district for 25 years. He is a senior claims adjuster with Farm Bureau Insurance Company. He has worked for the company for 16 years.

Hunter and his wife, Tiffany, have been married for 11 years. They have two sons.

Charles, 9, is a fourth grader at Lonoke Elementary School. Chase, 5, is a kindergartner at Lonoke Primary School.

Moore, 61, is a lifelong Lonoke resident. He and his wife, Brenda, are both retired educators. They have two married sons, Josh and Jordan. They attended Lonoke Public Schools from kindergarten through graduation.

Moore retired two years ago after 37 years of working in the Lonoke School District.

Moore received his bachelor’s degree from University of Central Arkansas in Conway and his master’s degree in administration from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

What do you think the job of the school board is and are they doing that?

Hunter: I think that the school board’s job is to implement school policy and procedures, ensure that the district’s financials are in line with current policy, review the superintendent’s job performance and to be a voice for the community.

I believe that the current school board has been effective with keeping our school district headed in the right direction.

Moore: The job of any school board is to ensure a quality education for the students who live in the district, to hire and retain quality staff, to be a check and balance on the spending of funds received by the district to run the schools, and ensure policies and procedures are in place to make the district run smoothly.

What do you bring to the school board and to the district?

Hunter: I will bring a willingness to face tough decisions head on and the ability to resolve any issues at hand in a professional and courteous manner.

If elected to the school board, I feel that it will be important for me to go into our schools and get to know the staff and students who ultimately will be affected by the decisions that I help make.

I have a sincere concern for all of the students in our district, and my No. 1 goal will always be to put our children and their education first.

Moore: I bring 37 years of experience as an educator. Thirty-one of those years were spent as a principal in the Lonoke School District. I have worked with principals at each of the schools in our district, with seven superintendents, have made presentations to school boards and attended school board meetings.

I have worked with primary school students, middle school students and high school students. I know and have successfully worked with many of the students, parents and staff members in the Lonoke School District.

These experiences have made me aware of the types of things that must be considered when making decisions that affect students, parents and staff members.

My heart is in Lonoke Public Schools. I would like to be able to contribute more to make our school system the best that it can be and hope the people in Zone 2 will give me the opportunity to do just that.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the district?

Hunter: The Lonoke School District is making advances in our student’s education by increasing technology in the classroom, providing more choices in educational offerings at the secondary level and making student safety a top concern.

Lonoke has the advantage over larger districts by being community centered, but, in saying that, the district seems to struggle in getting the support from parents of children who are the most at risk.

Moore: The strengths of Lonoke School District are staffs that care about kids, our facilities, our students, good parental/community support and virtual technology.

The weaknesses of Lonoke School District are salaries for classified and certified need to be increased, no one-to-one technology and having to share staff between schools.

On a larger scale, what is right and/or wrong with education today?

Hunter: State testing requirements and uncertainty with how our state will test Common Core has caused a lot of stress on our teachers and administrators. Over-testing as a tool for effective teaching appears to have created what I would call a “gotcha mentality” for both teachers and students instead of improving teaching and thereby improving student success.

Moore: Education presents a myriad of challenges for schools today.

In the Primary School grades, the core areas of reading, writing and math must be stressed. Curriculums for these grades are including science and social studies. This has taken time that teachers need to ensure that students have the reading, writing and math skills necessary to be successful throughout life.

Keeping up with technology is of the utmost importance. This is a challenge for smaller school districts.

Schools must be willing to try new approaches and must constantly look for ways to meet the needs of students. What works well for our students might not work well in another school district.

What are your thoughts on Common Core?

Hunter: When looking at Common Core compared to the old Arkansas state standards, I think that Common Core is the best opportunity our kids have of learning the skills they need to move to the next level, whether that’s the workforce, technical schools or universities.

Common Core will keep our students aligned and competitive with the rest of the country so our children aren’t falling behind and can remain competitive when vying for scholarship and job opportunities.

Moore: Common Core was meant to provide curriculum which would be “common” to all public schools. The math part of Common Core was not ready for implementation.

Too much supplemental material has to be added to ensure the necessary student learning is occurring. Gaps in the math had to be supplemented by teachers we knew were familiar with best practices.

Common Core in the lower grades takes too much time away from reading, writing and math. These three areas must be the main part of the curriculum in the lower grades.

TOP STORY >> Q&A with Lonoke School Board candidates

Leader staff writer

Ahead of the Lonoke School Board election, The Leader asked the candidates about their goals and vision for the school district.

Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Monday, Sept. 14. Election Day is Tuesday, Sept. 15, with polls set to be open from 7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Lonoke County Courthouse Annex, 210 N. Center St.

Candidates for Zone 4, Position 5 are Melissa Swint and Matt Boyles. He now represents Zone 2, Position 7, but is running for a new seat because he and his family recently moved.

Boyles, 36, is a lifelong resident of the Lonoke School District.

Boyles was elected to the school board in 2011. He is a GenWealth financial advisor with offices in Lonoke and Stuttgart. Boyles has been in the finance and accounting field for 14 years.

Boyles and his wife, Janette, have been married 13 years. They have three children, Matthew, 9, a third grader at Lonoke Elementary School; Caroline, 6, a first grader at Lonoke Primary School; and Andrew, a 3-year-old.

Swint is 38 and has lived in Zone 4 of the Lonoke School District for more than nine years. She is a stay-at-home mom but works part-time at M and M Florist in Lonoke.

Swint earned an education degree in 2001 from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. After graduation, she began working at Marvell Public Schools (Phillips County) as a librarian and teacher. She then began working as a family support specialist for the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

What do you think the job of the school board is, and are they doing that?

Boyles: The job of the Lonoke School District school board, in my eyes, is to review the financials of the district to the best of the board’s ability to make sure they are in line with current policy, review the policies of the school district to make sure they are being followed and in line with current laws, review and monitor the strategic plan of the school district to make sure the district is going in the right direction for the education of our community’s children and review the superintendent’s job performance on an annual basis.

Swint: I believe the job of the school board is to use available public funds to ensure that the best public education possible is being provided to all of its students, regardless of their ability or socioeconomic background.

As elected representatives of the community, the school board members should always be accessible and accountable to the public.

What do you bring to the school board and to the district?

Boyles: I believe I bring a passion to the school board for the community of Lonoke. I want to see the children of Lonoke School District strive to be the very best that they can be. I don’t want to ever see them settle for less than their dreams and goals.

I want to equip the students with the resources that they need to have the opportunity to succeed on the highest level. I also believe that, with my education and work background, I bring experience in finance and accounting to the board. This helps bring insight to the board meetings when discussing the monthly financials, future plans, legislative audit, etc.

Swint: I bring a unique point of view. It was developed through interaction with students, parents and school administration during my time as a public school educator, while working with Lonoke County families from all backgrounds during my time at DHS and as I’ve raised my daughter.

Special education is very important to my family and me. Raising a special needs child presents its own challenges. Navigating our district’s special education department shouldn’t be one of them.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the district?

Boyles: I feel that we have a dedicated and determined administrative team at Lonoke School District to take us to places of the highest achievement with our students in all areas of the district.

I have personally seen the current administration team begin to bond together better than I have in the last four years I have been on the board. I see a desire to educate our children so that they can compete in college or the workplace, whichever they chose upon graduation.

I also believe that we as a board and a community have built the infrastructure of a school that we can be proud of and call a great strength of our community.

I believe our weakness could be that sometimes we don’t communicate with the public as best as we could. I want to encourage the parents and community members of our district to attend the town hall meetings that we will continue to have over this school year and the coming years.

Come out to these meetings and meet your school district’s administration team and get the right information so that you can help inform.

Swint: One of the strengths of our district is our size. We are small enough that students in our classrooms aren’t just a number, but big enough to offer a variety of educational opportunities for our children. Another strength is the district’s strong presence in our community.

However, both of these strengths can present challenges, especially for new or less well-known families in our district. I would like to see these families actively recruited to become involved in our district community.

Our school district needs to focus on what’s best for our students — not the bottom line. Children first!

On a larger scale, what is right and/or wrong with education today?

I believe that there is a disconnect with the communities and the local school boards on what can and can’t be done by the school board. I have so often had people comment to me “you can fix that” when the answer is “no, I cannot.” I am no one without the other six members of the board, and, even then, the school board is limited to (its) functions.

Beyond the disconnect between the school board and the community is the disconnect between the federal and state government in what is actually needed in the local school districts to help kids with their education. I believe this to be a major problem with public education today.

Swint: Education standards and practices change frequently. While not always a negative thing, parents and families can sometimes feel lost because they aren’t educated on the changes.

What do you think about Common Core?

Boyles: Common Core in itself is just a way to teach our children. I don’t think there has been enough time to say if it’s wrong or if it’s right, but I can tell you a story about doing homework with my third grader.

Matthew came home with math problems and I expected to go over in repetition with him and get him through his math facts the way I learned it.

He proceeded to tell me that, “Dad, we don’t do it that way.” I thought OK, I have a degree in finance in accounting and you’re telling me I don’t know how to teach you math. The real deal is that they are teaching them to be critical thinkers, not regurgitators. He got the right answer, but he had to reason out how he got the answer.

This is just one example of how Common Core is a little different than the old style of teaching. The real issue seems to be in how we test the kids at the end of the year. If we are teaching critical thinking and the students are behind in factoids, then maybe our test scores suffer.

Again, there is a disconnect with the government on how they decide that we should teach and test. This is where the local school board can inform the public and be their voice.

Swint: I believe it is a good thing to have a set of standards for our educational system to follow.

However, I also believe parts of Common Core need to be re-addressed and better explained in order to be more effective and beneficial to students, teachers and parents.

TOP STORY >> Moore, Reichenbach, Roper for Zone 3

Leader senior staff writer

Three men, none on the appointed board, have filed for the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District Zone 3 seat. One — Barry Roper — is a write-in whose name will not actually appear on the Sept. 15 ballot. Early voting is Tuesday through Monday, Sept. 14.

Jim Moore, 68, has worked as a human resource manager for 26 years in the Air Force, then, after retirement, for two companies, he said. He is currently director of Christian education, including children and youth ministries, for his church.

“I also taught at Beebe in the in-school suspension program,” Moore said. “I made sure they got their lessons and homework.”

Moore said he earned a bachelor’s degree in social psychology at Park University at the Base Joint Education University and also an Air Force degree in human resources management.

He has also served as president of the Stonewall Subdivision Homeowners’ Association since 1995.

Jerry Reichenbach, 72, said he worked in the Title I and Title II programs for the Pulaski County Special School District for 10 years and put all five of his kids through that school system.

Reichenbach retired after 26 years in the Air Force. He has some technical college credits and graduated from Air Force leadership schools.

“I was an aircraft welder and civil engineer,” he said, and performed flight-simulator maintenance with the C-130 School House at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Roper, 57, the write-in, is in his fourth year of substitute teaching. Last year, that took him to seven different high schools and five middle schools in four different school districts.

“I’ve taught everything,” Roper said, including band, choir and AP chemistry.

Roper has a bachelor’s in marketing from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.


Moore said he’s running because he has two grandchildren in the system, one in middle school and one in elementary school.

“I want to ensure that our children receive a world-class education, which they really need in today’s environment,” Moore said. “I want to make sure we have quality facilities for them to obtain a great education.”

He noted that Pinewood Elementary still had open classrooms, which provide too many distractions for students.He also wants to improve playgrounds by making them safer.

Moore is chairman of the Jacksonville Planning Commission, too.

He continued, “I want to make sure we have quality teachers and that they are paid very well, whether they have five years or 20 years experience.

“I want to work as a team player with the rest of the board members to make sure we do have world-class education and facilities.”

As for the board/superintendent balance, he said the board doesn’t run schools; the superintendent runs schools.

Moore also said he had applied for appointment to the interim board currently making decisions for the district.

Reichenbach says he’s running because “It’s time for new people.”

“Even though I’m past having kids in the system, it’s just time for new blood.” He said he wants to make a difference from the old standbys. “I had experience on how the Title I program worked. None of the others running have that.”

As a board member, Reichenbach said he’d “ensure that we have a quality teaching force” and do not let children fall behind no matter what grade they were in.

He said he worked in the petition drive to get the new district on the ballot and voted for it.


Roper said he had not only worked in several districts over the past four years, but he graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1976 and his wife and children also graduated from PCSSD schools.

“I’ve seen strong points and areas we need to improve upon,” he said. “I’d like for us to be a competitive school district and to help us get stronger where we are weak.”

As a board member, Roper said he’d help the district become more competitive and would encourage buy-in from the community.

He’d like to see speakers in district schools from within the community — successful business people, people from the air base. He’d have them available for all grade levels. “There are positive things in the community,” he said, “We need to publicize good things.”

Roper said it was important for Jacksonville to have its own district. In the past, “We were tied by county regulations and guidelines, everything from teaching math and English to internal rules,” he said. “We’ve been handcuffed. We need to adopt our policies to our community.”

Roper said it was imperative to bring schools up to standards and, “the community needs to understand and buy in. Our facilities are poor in some cases, non existent in others...We need to get them to understand how new and improved schools benefit community in the long run.”


Roper said he thought salary should be increased for more experienced teachers as money becomes available. The salary schedule that goes into effect next school year tops out at about $55,000 — as much as $20,000 less than the most experienced, educated PCSSD teachers earn.

“We don’t have a lot of the facilities others do,” he said. “All we have to offer is money, but don’t have the resources. Initially, we may not be able to match what they are used to.”

Reichenbach said the Jacksonville area needs its own district and that the proof is in the history — things were done south of the river, new schools and new systems “while Jacksonville continued the old grind.”

He said he’d prefer not to have to pass a property tax increase but “I think it’s going to be needed. Money only goes so far.”

He said he favors the millage increase even though he doesn’t have children in the system.

As for the salary schedule, which shorts the most experienced teachers compared to what they do or would earn at PCSSD, Reichenbach said, “There’s only so much money to pay so many people. The pay is equitable, given the money available.”


Moore said that, as a former Air Force recruiter dealing with various high schools, he found that the smaller school districts could create a better education for the students, which helps grow the community.

“People have told me that once we get our (district) up and running, they are going to bring their children back to Jacksonville,” Moore said. That will bring in economic and population growth, he noted.

He said, if the board voted to support a millage increase, he wouldn’t have a problem with that. “We’d have to do that to fund schools properly,” he said. “You can’t do it with fundraisers.” He said a property tax increase is the best way to raise the needed money, along with grants.


Moore said the new board would have to revisit the salary schedule after the election, and consider the number of students who would be enrolled in the district and the amount of money from the state.

“If you want quality education, you have to hire and pay teachers. They’ve gone through a lot to get degrees and continuing education. Come February or March, we’ll have a better idea.”

Moore said his experience in various areas, including human resources, makes him the best candidate for the job.

He said there are certain procedures for dealing with “people problems and human resources.” He said his years in the Air Force, dealing with Social Security and working with children, youth and adults at his church, made him best qualified.

He said, as a board member, it would be his responsibility to support the superintendent and assistant superintendent.


Reichenbach said he’d be an interested board member. “The board is the advisor to the superintendent,” he said. “He’s the CEO, the man at the top. He makes decisions depending on input from his board.”

Roper said he liked the way the board is set up now, with five zones and two at-large positions. “It needs to be fluid,” he said. “Reviewed every year.”

“Nobody on the board now has been in as many classrooms, schools and districts as I,” said Roper. “I see what’s important and what’s window dressing,” he said, adding that he had worked in sales for 31 years and understood setting, planning and attaining goals.

He said he was “Very comfortable with (Tony Wood) the superintendent we hired. He’s more than competent, his heart’s in the right place, and he has the best interest in the school and the schools’ place in the community.”

As the write-in candidate, “My name will not appear in the ballot,” Roper said. “It will be listed among candidates on the information page.”

That’s because he didn’t decide to run until the last minute. “I haven’t run for anything since high school,” he said, but “It’s important enough to try anyway.”

TOP STORY >> Lucille: mystery woman solved

Leader editor-in-chief

A marker at the Twist Plantation in Cross County commemorates a fire that broke out during a fight at a dance hall where B.B. King was playing with his band.

The fire started when two men fought over a woman and knocked over a barrel filled with kerosene that was used to heat the club.

The marker says King played there in the mid-1950s, but blues historians agree he was there several years earlier, before King became a star and still played in tiny juke joints not far from his home base in Memphis.

Now a Jacksonville woman confirms the incident occurred in December 1949, and it involved her in-laws — a jealous husband and his wife, Lucille, who was dancing with another man while her husband was gambling in the back of the club.

Maye Alice Banks, who recently moved to Jacksonville, says she’s sure Lucille Banks, her late mother-in-law from Helena, is the real Lucille.

Maye has the details on how the fight broke out between Lucille’s husband and the man who had asked her to dance with him.

“She was a beautiful lady,” her daughter-in-law recalled. “A mix of Indian and black.”

“I married her son, James, in 1974,” says Maye, who lives a few blocks from The Leader. “She told me the story when I married into the family.”

King, who died last May in Las Vegas at the age of 89, told the story many times in his long career of how he saved his guitar from the burning club in Twist and named it after Lucille.

He was never certain about Lucille’s last name, although several women over the years claimed they were Lucille.

Maye shows me a picture of her young mother-in-law, who was born in 1911 in Fordyce in south Arkansas: Lucille is well-dressed, with a hint of a Mona Lisa smile. She was more than a mix of black and Indian: She also had European features that would attract the attention of a lot of men out in the desolate Arkansas Delta.

Lucille was a light-skinned woman who looked a lot like Lena Horne, the singer and actress. Lucille could have been an actress or a black model if she had ever moved to the big city, but she never did.

“She was a homemaker and worked on the farm. She was also a midwife,” Maye says. “She worked hard to support her family.”

The Banks were living in Helena, but Henry was from Palestine in St. Francis County, which is the next county over from Twist. If the Banks were visiting his folks in Palestine that December, it would have been a short trip to Twist.

Lucille was 37 when the fight broke out. She and her husband went to Twist to hear good music, but it was also a chance for Henry to do a little gambling.

You could always gamble in juke joints like the one in Twist, and Lucille’s husband liked to gamble.

“Henry was gambling in the back,” Maye says, “when a man asked her to dance.”

Trouble started when someone told Henry that Lucille was on the dance floor with another man.

People out in the country liked to have a good time on Saturday night, and an innocent dance with a man maybe wasn’t a big deal to Lucille while her husband was shooting craps away from the ladies.

But it was a big deal to Henry. You could see why two men — a jealous husband and a fellow who was struck by her beauty — fought for her affections that night while B.B. King, all of 24, was working on becoming the greatest blues star in history.

Henry lunged at the other guy and they knocked over the barrel of burning kerosene.

Here’s King telling the story of that fight on his CD called “Lucille,” which he recorded in December 1967. It’s a 10-minute monologue as he gently plays his wailing guitar. You can almost see darkness fall on Twist as he tells the story of the fight.

“A lot of you want to know why I call my guitar Lucille,” King says. “Lucille practically saved my life two or three times. No kidding, it really has.

“The way I came by the name of Lucille, I was over in Twist, Arkansas,” King continues. “I know you never heard of that. And one night, the guys started brawling, you know what I mean. The guy that was mad at his old lady fell over on this gas tank that was burning for heat and the gas ran all over the floor, and when the gas ran all over the floor, the building caught on fire, and it almost burned me up trying to save Lucille,” King says.

“Oh, I imagine you’re still wondering why I call it Lucille. The lady that started the brawl that night was named Lucille. That’s been Lucille ever since to me,” says King and asks the studio engineer to let him play his beloved Lucille for another minute, which he does beautifully.

“Everyone dashed out of the burning building,” the marker at Twist says, “but King returned to find his guitar, narrowly escaping the flames. He later learned the fight resulted from a dispute over a woman named Lucille. Ever since, each of his Gibson guitars has been named Lucille as a reminder that he should never fight over a woman.”

And never go back inside a burning building, King said later. He was lucky to get out alive after he retrieved his $30 Gibson acoustic guitar before the place burned down. Two people may have died in the conflagration.

All that remains of the club is a concrete foundation where farm workers danced to the music of the future blues star, who traveled with his beloved Lucille for the next 65 years.

Lucille Banks passed away in February 2004 in Decatur, Ill., at the age of 92. She’s buried in Lexa near Helena.

She gets my vote as the Lucille who inspired B.B. King’s music and changed history forever.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Hogs shuffle linebackers before UTEP

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – One surprise emerged from the Arkansas Razorbacks’ closed practices last week, unveiled on the depth chart released Monday for Saturday’s season opener against the Texas-El Paso Miners.

Junior Josh Williams, previously listed as the starting strongside Sam linebacker, a position in coordinator Robb Smith’s Arkansas defense often swapped for an extra defensive back against Spread offenses, will start at Mike middle linebacker in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. ESPNU televised nonconference game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema explained the move Monday noting that Khalia Hackett, the sophomore moved from Sam to first-team Mike last spring but falling behind sophomore Josh Harris at Mike during the August preseason, moves to first-team Sam while Harris backs up Williams in the middle.

Junior Brooks Ellis, the starting middle linebacker the last two years, remains the starting weak side Will linebacker, the spot from which Martrell Spaight, the 2014 Arkansas senior and current Washington Redskins linebacker, led the SEC in tackles last season.
True freshman Dre Greenlaw backs up fellow Fayetteville High grad Ellis at Will while sophomore Dwayne Eugene backs up Hackett at Sam.

Williams was the too large backup middle linebacker to Ellis last year upon transferring as a sophomore from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College.

“I had kind of pigeon holed Josh Williams into the LB that we got when we had signed him originally as a kid that had put on 35 pounds in his freshman year at JC came in and moved OK but didn’t move great, was really bulky and needed some flexibility,” Bielema said. “Now he is a guy who is really explosive, I think if you remember back to that first scrimmage he made a play down on the goal line that was pretty impressive kind of opened our eyes again as how much progress he’s made as an athlete.”

Defensive coordinator Smith was asked about that goal-line play.

“There was a play on the goal line where we actually lined him up at Mike linebacker,” Smith said. “He did a great job of keying and diagnosing what was going on. The ball broke out to the perimeter and it was … he looked like he was shot out of a cannon.”

UTEP, led by 1,321-yards rushing running back Aaron Jones, is a physical running team making Williams’ 6-1, 237 physicality “a great fit in the middle,” Smith said, and should require much Sam ‘backer time for Hackett.

A high school safety two years ago in Douglasville, Ga., Hackett apprenticed at outside linebacker last season while lettering on special teams. He was moved to the middle last spring.

Bielema said Hackett’s move to the middle was to capitalize on his athleticism. He’ll still be used in the middle at times but that “as we began to see it unfold he was a lot more comfortable outside,” Bielema said.

At only 5-10, 220, Josh Harris’ lack of height defending passes in the middle concerns Bielema, Smith and linebackers coach Willie Hargreaves, but there’s no denying that the second-team walk-on redshirt freshman from Watson Chapel either led or was among the leaders in tackles every spring scrimmage and the spring game and the two August scrimmages.

Harris has not been lost in the linebacker shuffle, Smith said.

“Josh Harris is going to play some Mike linebacker for us this Saturday,” Smith said. “He does an excellent job in a two-back setting. He’s smart and very instinctive. As coaches it is our job to put guys in the best position to be successful and we are certainly going to try to do that with Josh this weekend.”

In part of earning his way back on the team after being suspended by Bielema last spring and not reinstated until into the summer, redshirt freshman receiver Jojo Robinson will miss the first half of Saturday’s game against UTEP, Bielema said Monday.

Bielema said that penalty was decided before and kept intact even with Robinson posting an impressive August preseason.

Offensive coordinator Dan Enos on Monday replied “hopefully very hungry” regarding a question on Robinson’s hunger to play in Saturday’s second half.

“To lose some opportunities based off of poor decisions, I mean you really have no one but yourself to blame for that,” Enos said. “Really, if I was him I would be chomping at the bit to get out there just to play and starting to put some plays together and starting to earn more time and earn more opportunities.”

Because of “pretty boneheaded mistakes,” Bielema said, leading alcohol related arrests last weekend, freshman tight end C.J. O’Grady and freshman punter Blake Johnson are “removed from our program until we kind of set some things in motion for them to take part with the things the University does and the things I’ll mandate them to do as well.”

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Devil volleyball gets sweep of Patriots

Leader sportswriter

After a fairly close first game, the Jacksonville High School volleyball team went on to comfortably sweep Little Rock Parkview in Monday’s nonconference match at the Devils’ Den by scores of 25-20, 25-8 and 25-15.

The final score of game one ended up being closer than the game itself actually was. Jacksonville jumped out to a 13-6 lead to start. Parkview closed the gap to 15-12 at one point, but that was as close as the Lady Patriots would get the rest of the way.

Jacksonville hit the 20-point mark in the first game on a well-placed tip by Emily Lovercheck, which made the score 20-13. The Lady Patriots made it to 20 points just before the Lady Red Devils got to 25, with the score 24-20, but the hosts ended the game the next volley on a kill by Alana Harris.

In game two, Jacksonville got off to an even better start. Lovercheck served the team to a 6-1 lead, and the Lady Devils pushed their lead to double digits for the first time at 15-5 on a kill by Terionna Stewart.

From there, Jacksonville coasted to victory by outscoring Parkview 10-3 down the stretch, which set the final score of game two and allowed the Lady Red Devils to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

“It took the girls a while to warm up,” said Jacksonville coach Whitney Abdullah. “That’s been our problem lately. They have to kind of get acclimated to the game, but once they wake up and concentrate, they really can do anything. They’ve worked hard all summer and they showed it tonight.”

Lovercheck started game three at the serving line, and she served consecutive aces before Parkview broke serve. The Lady Red Devils led 4-1, but the Lady Pats scored the next three points to tie the game at 4-4.

Jacksonville responded with a 9-1 run to gain a 13-5 advantage, forcing Parkview coach Lahoma Howard to call timeout. In that 9-1 run, Jacksonville had three ace serves by Kym House and two by Rebecca Brown.

The Lady Red Devils took a nine-point lead, 18-9, on an ace by Lovercheck, and shortly after, the hosts took a double-digit lead at 20-10. Parkview scored the next point, but Jacksonville scored again to push its lead back to 10.

Jacksonville’s lead grew to 11 on a corner kill by Brown. Lovercheck picked up an assist on that volley, which made the score 23-12. Brown set up game point with an ace on the next serve, but Parkview scored the next three points to make it a 24-15 game.

Stewart, though, ended the game and the match on the next volley with a kill at the middle of the net, set up by Lovercheck, who earned another assist. Making the right set and attacking at the net is something Jacksonville did well Monday, and it’s something the team’s been working hard on since summer.

“That’s something we hit hard this summer,” Abdullah said. “We broke down everything and really started from scratch. The girls have really stepped up to the plate and have really put the groundwork in and have really worked hard.”

Stewart and Brown led all players Monday with six kills. Brown also had a match-high five aces. Lovercheck had a match-high eight assists to go with her four aces. House also had four aces.

With Monday’s win, Jacksonville improved its record to 2-5 this season.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot plays best match at Spikefest

Leader sports editor

The Cabot Lady Panthers and the Beebe Lady Badgers played well enough in pool play of Saturday’s Spikefest Volleyball Classic to advance to the Gold level bracket, but both lost their first-round matches in the highest of the four eight-team tournaments.

The Lady Panthers played their pool at the Little Rock Christian auxiliary gym with Springdale and KIPP Delta. Little Rock McClellan was supposed to be in the pool but failed to show up. That meant each team got a forfeit win, and the other games were changed to three sets instead of the pre-established two, primarily to make up for the loss of games for the other three members of the pool.

Cabot opened against 7A-West Springdale and lost 2-1 to the Lady Bulldogs. Springdale won a competitive opening game 25-19 before Cabot rallied from a 19-10 deficit to win game two 25-22.

Things went poorly from that point for Cabot, as Springdale raced out to a 10-1 lead en route to an easy 25-12 deciding set.

Cabot beat Class 2A KIPP Delta, a charter school in Helena-West Helena, in three uncompetitive games. But the win wasn’t all good news. Junior outside hitter Maddie Brown tore her shoulder during the match and will likely be out until at least the middle of next week.

Cabot drew Conway, winner of its pool, in the opening round of the gold bracket, and lost 25-22 and 25-23.

“We didn’t beat Conway, but I thought that was the best volleyball we’ve played so far this year,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “Considering we didn’t have one of our returning starters, I was pretty pleased with how we finished. We battled with them the whole way.”

The second-year Cabot coach was trying to win, but also using the tournament to get an idea about the best lineups to use for conference play, which began this week.

“We were trying to get some stats compiled on everyone and giving everyone plenty of time to see who was going to be the most consistent while they’re out there,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We got to play six games in pool play and were able to go over some things. We stuck with a lineup most of the way against Conway and I think we found a group that did pretty well. We established our starting lineup today (Monday) and that’s what we’ll go with. Hopefully everyone will accept their roles and we’ll continue to get better as a team and individually.”

The Lady Badgers, playing in LRCA’s main gym, lost their first match to 7A North Little Rock 2-0. Beebe led until late in game one before falling 25-22. The Charging Lady Wildcats won game two a bit more easily 25-19. Beebe then hammered 5A-South Magnolia 25-16 and 25-8, then beat 5A-West Greenbrier in straight sets.

That advanced Beebe to face pool winner Bryant. Beebe won game one 25-19, but lost game two 25-22 and the deciding game three 25-19 to end its day.

Bryant went on to the semifinals, where it lost to the Little Rock Homeschool Flames. The other semifinal saw Valley View roll past Little Rock Christian Academy. The Lady Blazers then went on to beat the Homeschool team 2-0 to earn their second-consecutive Spikefest championship.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears put offensive doubts to rest

Leader sports editor

Preseason concerns about a brand new offensive line were emphatically put to rest for Sylvan Hills on Monday. The Bears racked up a school record 657 yards of offense en route to a 62-28 blowout of Vilonia in the 103.7 The Buzz Kickoff Classic at War Memorial Stadium.

The Bears scored the first six times they had the ball, moving the football effortlessly against the Eagles’ defense. And they did it on the ground and through the air. Sylvan Hills provided a minor surprise by lining up with an empty backfield and five wide on the first play.

Quarterback Jordan Washington stood firm in the pocket in the face of an unblocked blitzer to deliver a 16-yard strike to Cameron Sharp for a first down.

Two plays later he kept for a 22-yard gain up the middle to set up first down at the Vilonia 27. After another first down, Sylvan Hills went backwards with a 3-yard loss and two incomplete passes. On fourth and 13, another pass play broke down, but Washington scrambled for the necessary yardage to set up first and goal at the 2.

Sophomore Ty Compton plunged it in from there, becoming the first of four sophomores to score touchdowns for the Bears in the first half.

“I told you early this summer that I liked our skill guys,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “We’ve got some playmakers. The offensive line was a concern, but I think it’s a matter of these guys staying with the program and getting better every year. We’re not young up front, but we’re inexperienced. Those guys did a great job tonight.”

Vilonia managed two first downs before failing on fourth and 7 to give the Bears possession on their own 20. On third and 6, Washington hit sophomore receiver Ryan Lumpkin streaking down the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown connection with 6:03 left in the first quarter. Tito Mendoza’s second extra point attempt was good, giving the Bears a 13-0 lead. Vilonia started at its own 24 and ran 12 plays down to the Bears’ 23, but another failed fourth-down conversion turned the ball over there.

Sylvan Hills sophomore Dion Youngblood busted loose up the middle for 51 yards on the first play of the drive, and got 11 more on the second play. Compton picked up 8 before Washington kept for the last 10 and another touchdown that made it 20-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

The Eagles once again ran 10 plays to within the Sylvan Hills 30, but again turned the ball over on downs when quarterback Ty Gordon’s shotgun keeper picked up 2 yards on fourth and 3.

On the very next play, Washington connected with senior Brandon Bracely for 68 yards to the Vilonia 7-yard line. Two plays later, Youngblood bulled his way 5 yards into the end zone for a 27-0 lead with 9:33 remaining in the first half.

Vilonia went three and out on its next possession and punted. Sylvan Hills then went 63 yards in seven plays, highlighted by a 20-yard run by Youngblood to set up first and goal at the 1. Sophomore Daelyn Fairrow did the rest and a successful two-point conversion made it a mercy-rule margin of 35-0 with 5:33 left in the half.

But the mercy rule would never happen.

Vilonia faced third and 12 when Gordon found receiver Josh Greer well behind his man for a 52-yard touchdown pass with 3:21 left in the half.

Despite the time left, each team would get two more possessions as those final three minutes took 33 minutes to play.

Sylvan Hills went for it on fourth and 1 from its own 34 and lost a yard, but Vilonia also went four and out, giving it back to the Bears at the 34. After an illegal procedure penalty, Sylvan Hills caught a huge break.

Washington hit Lumpkin over the middle. He gained about 10 more yards after the catch before fumbling at the Vilonia 35-yard line. But the ball bounced straight to Bracely, who scooped it up and ran the rest of the way for the score. Mendoza’s extra point made it 42-7 with 47 seconds remaining in the first half.

But there would still be no mercy rule, thanks mostly to Sylvan Hills penalties. Vilonia went 70 yards in 10 plays, but 40 of those yards were the result of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and one pass interference against the Bears. Vilonia scored on the last play of the half to keep the mercy rule clock from running to start the second half.

“There are going to be things, when we watch film, that we should have done better,” Withrow said. “And that’s something right there. When you have a team mercy ruled, you need to go ahead and mercy rule them. They came real close to getting right back in it in the second half.”

Defenses dominated the third quarter as the first four possessions of the second half produced no points. Vilonia finally scored with 1:23 left in the third period, again thanks largely to Sylvan Hills penalties. A pass interference penalty gave Vilonia a first down on the Bears’ 15. After two plays gained just 2 yards and set up third and 8, back-to-back offsides penalties gave Vilonia first and goal at the 3. Wade Richards scored the touchdown and added the two-point conversion to make it 42-22.

Sylvan Hills went 28 yards in just three plays, but Washington fumbled after a 15-yard gain and Vilonia’s Jacob Otto picked it up and returned to the Sylvan Hills 37, but the Bears’ defense came up big.

Vilonia gained nothing in three plays. On fourth and 10, a counter run fooled most of the defense and initially looked like it would pick up the first down. Vilonia’s Nick Howard took the handoff with three blockers in front of him and only one Sylvan Hills defender in sight. But all three blockers ran inside of Payton Terry, who made a huge open-field tackle after just a 4-yard gain to save what would’ve been a big gain.

Washington went 0 for 3 through the air on the next three plays, but Vilonia fumbled the punt and Cameron Flippo covered it for the Bears at the Vilonia 30.

Bracely dragged defenders for the last 10 of a 26-yard gain on first down, and Washington kept for the last 4. Mendoza’s PAT made it 49-22 with 11:36 remaining.

Flippo intercepted Gordon on the third play of the ensuing drive, setting the Bears up at the Vilonia 19.

Sylvan Hills’ second-team offense took over with 10:07 remaining in the game and scored in four plays. Jamar Porter carried up the middle for the final 8 yards and the extra point made it 56-22 with 8:32 left.

After a 55-yard kickoff return set Vilonia up on the Bears’ 29, Vilonia scored in six plays against Sylvan Hills’ second-team defense.

The extra point was no good, leaving it 56-28 with 6:15 left.

Sylvan Hills’ last touchdown came on a 44-yard run by Fairrow with 3:57 remaining in the game, but Mendoza missed the extra point to keep the mercy rule clock from running.

Washington ran 11 times for 105 yards while Bracely carried eight times for 91 and Youngblood seven times for 75 yards. Washington only completed 6 of 14 pass attempts, but four of the eight incompletions were drops.

“We can catch the ball better than we did tonight,” Withrow said. “That’s another thing. But heck, you can’t complain when you score 62 points.”

Lumpkin had 112 yards receiving while Bracely had 104.

Vilonia’s rapid offense snapped the ball 81 times for 372 yards and 23 first downs. But the Eagles were just 3 for 16 on third down and 3 for 8 on fourth down tries.

EDITORIAL >> A good choice for high court

You expect governors to make political appointments whenever there is a vacancy in the electoral establishment, even when the vacancy is in the judicial branch, where independence from politics is a foundational principle. Just like his predecessors, Gov. Asa Hutchinson took the political route in his first six months in office, but not last week when he was faced with the task of replacing the venerable Chief Justice Jim Hannah, whose grave health problems forced his resignation.

Hutchinson appointed Howard Brill, a distinguished professor of law at the University of Arkansas who is this state’s and perhaps the nation’s leading authority on ethics in the courts and in the legal profession. Even his title at the university informs his credentials for being chief of the state’s highest court for the next 16 months: Vincent Foster Professor of Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

Lots of lawyers and judges have the requisite experience and wisdom to be the chief justice, including many with deep political connections, but none fits the Supreme Court’s and the entire judiciary’s peculiar needs at this moment as well as Howard Brill. His book “Arkansas Professional and Judicial Ethics” is the bible that guides the Arkansas ethics commissions in enforcing the state rules for the conduct of judges and lawyers.

We like to think that the governor, who has spent his professional life working in the federal and state courts, recognized the desperate need for a chief judge who would bring a gold standard for independence and probity to the Supreme Court at this suddenly critical stage. Justice Hannah brought that standard to the court but found himself last year embroiled in internal strife over the court’s role and direction.

Can we refresh your memory? After several controversial decisions in the last decade, including two that declared provisions of the state’s “tort reform” law unconstitutional, a movement began to put up money to elect appellate judges who would make “better” political decisions — decisions more favorable to corporate interests. A huge pile of money from the owner of the state’s largest chain of nursing homes dumped into the campaign treasury of one Supreme Court candidate in 2014 drove away opposition, and she was elected without opposition. One candidate for the Court of Appeals in the same election, a friend and political ally of the new justice, dropped out of his race and pleaded guilty to taking a bribe after it was disclosed that he sharply reduced a jury verdict against the same nursing home owner when he dropped tens of thousands of dollars into the judge’s campaign.

Another candidate for the Supreme Court won last year after a Washington, D.C., front group with anonymous donors spent $400,000 in the closing days of the campaign attacking his opponent as a defender of sex perverts.

Then there was the same-sex marriage case, where the members of the Supreme Court dithered for almost a year to avoid making a decision that would anger thousands of people on one side or the other of the issue. This spring, Justice Hannah and another aging justice recused in a procedural part of the case to protest the machinations of three or four justices who wanted to dodge making a decision that would anger political supporters and voters.

Last fall, three justices voted in the court’s conference — decisions are made secretly until the decision is released — to uphold Pulaski Judge Chris Piazza’s order striking down the state law forbidding same-sex marriages, obviously so that they could control the case. They never released the decision. When two justices were replaced on Jan. 1, the three justices switched their votes, again in the closed conference, to reverse Judge Piazza rather than uphold him, but then never released that decision either.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this June that such state laws were unconstitutional, the new majority on the Arkansas court simply declared the Arkansas case moot so that no one would ever know how they voted.

Judges everywhere are appointed or elected to make decisions in the lawsuits before them without regard to whether the decisions will be popular. The founding fathers crafted the Constitution with a view toward making the judiciary the one independent and nonpolitical branch. Public confidence in the courts’ independence and integrity — fearlessness, if you will — was essential to a democratic system of governance that was beholden to the rule of law.

We don’t want to put words into Gov.Hutchinson’s mouth, but we hope and believe that this was uppermost in his mind when he appointed a chief justice who had no known connection to his own campaigns for political office or his party.

He deserves everyone’s thanks.

TOP STORY >> New Cabot library doing well

Leader staff writer

The new $2.6 million Cabot Public Library that opened two weeks ago continues to attract visitors.

“It’s been great and very busy,” branch manager Tammie Evans told The Leader on Monday.

She was astonished by the number of patrons and the amount of positive support the community is giving to the branch.

The library at 909 W. Main St. was once a vacant Knight’s grocery store. Now, it has been turned into a showplace of books and technology.

The library saw 2,065 people come through its doors the first week the new building opened, compared to 1,496 people that same week in 2014 at the old location, 506 N. Grant St.

“The children’s department’s first storytime had 68 children, almost double the most we had in the past. We had to move it into the community room,” Evans said.

In the first 14 days of being open, a total of 6,917 items were checked out, compared to 3,592 items checked out during the same time last year.

The library issued 298 library cards in the first two weeks, compared to 67 cards issued during that time in 2014.

“We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback from the patrons that came in,” Evans continued.

“We believe that people are proud of our new library. It has a modern feel. A lot of people are impressed with the technology and services we are offering in here.

“Many are glad to know that we’ve partnered with ASU-Beebe in holding day classes,” she noted.

Three college classes are being held at the library. Evans said the program should grow next semester.

Twelve groups have signed up to reserve the community room in the past two weeks. On Monday, the senior center was using it for line dancing classes.

The coffee kiosk has also been a hit.

“We make a gallon of coffee a day,” Evans said.

She said the library is looking at starting a “Mug Club,” a coffee social where people can have their own cup when they are at the library.

The outdoor green space will be finished in October. Evans hopes to use the space before it gets too cold.

TOP STORY >> Marker honors Civil War duel

A marker commemorating the Marmaduke-Walker Civil War duel was recently placed at Reed’s Bridge Battlefield in Jacksonville.

Although the duel was fought at the Godfrey LeFevre plantation in North Little Rock, not being supported in the 1863 battle that took place at Reed’s Bridge was the last straw for Confederate Gen. John Sappington Marmaduke, according to community outreach director Mark Christ of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.

Marmaduke also felt he didn’t receive support from his commanding officer, Gen. Lucius Marshall (Marsh) Walker, during battles at Helena and Brownsville earlier that year, Christ said.

According to an Encyclopedia of Arkansas article on the duel, Walker didn’t implement the planned operations and left Marmaduke and his troop unprotected.

After the Reed’s Bridge battle, Marmaduke asked to be removed from under Walker’s command, Christ said.

The article states Marmaduke attempted to meet with Walker to discuss battle strategy but that Walker wouldn’t leave his post.

Marmaduke threatened to retire from the military if he were not granted the requested transfer, it continues.

The transfer was approved, but the feud didn’t end because Marmaduke responded by letter to rumors that Walker had questioned his courage.

Christ said the staff working for both generals instigated the back-and-forth that ensued.

The article states that Walker’s friend and letter carrier, Col. Robert H. Crockett, challenged Marmaduke to the duel without consulting Walker.

Marmaduke’s friend and letter carrier was Capt. John C. Moore.

He and Crockett arranged terms of the duel and scheduled it without the generals present, the Encyclopedia of Arkansas article claims.

The marker reads that the generals met at dawn Sept. 6, 1863, armed with Navy Colts.

Both fired and missed, and then Marmaduke fatally wounded Walker.

Walker died the next day, after forgiving the other general for shooting him, the marker states.

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas article, a third general ordered the two men to stay at their posts in order to stop the duel, but Walker didn’t receive the order and Marmaduke ignored it.

The third general arrested Marmaduke after it because of an 1820 Arkansas law prohibiting duels. But he was released to keep the troops from becoming hostile or resentful, the article claims. Marmaduke was later appointed to major general and was elected as governor of Missouri in 1884. He died three years later.

According to the encyclopedia of Arkansas article, Marmaduke was from Missouri and a former governor’s son.

Walker was from Kentucky, and President James K. Polk was his uncle.

Both men graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Walker was transferred to Arkansas, where Marmaduke was stationed, after having trouble with his superiors.

The Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission paid half the purchase price for the marker. It cost $2,040, Christ said.

He added that Dennis and Marsha Ward donated the rest.

The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, the Arkansas Humanities Council’s Department of Arkansas Heritage and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program also sponsored the marker.

TOP STORY >> Districts to tackle rankings

Leader senior staff writer

Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Middle School, Murrell Taylor Elementary and five other Pulaski County Special School District schools are among 151 Arkansas schools cited for chronically poor performance this week by the state Education Department.

Harris and Daisy Bates elementaries, Fuller and Maumelle middle schools and Wilbur D. Mills High School were also singled out for special attention due to poor test results in 2012 through 2014.

Cabot’s Academic Center of Excellence was also listed in the bottom 10 percent of schools.

The two Jacksonville secondary schools and Harris and Mills were determined to be among 46 priority schools in the bottom 5 percent of the schools in the state, while the others, using a different measure, were among the 105 “focus schools,” in the bottom 10 percent, cited for failure to meet the annual student achievement requirements.

These are problems the new Jacksonville school district and the state Education Department plan to address.


The state Education Department “will provide support and assistance to the focus and priority schools in accordance with the Arkansas (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Flexibility request,” said state Education Commissioner Johnny Key.

Student performance on Benchmark exams for math and literacy in grades three through eight, Algebra I, geometry and grade 11 literacy from 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 were used to determine the newly identified priority and focus schools.

Although Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville Middle School and Merrill Taylor will be part of the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District next year, currently they remain part of PCSSD, which is making changes on the fly to address the problems.


“We’re trying to make certain we’re looking at each student to see what true deficit they may have and give the assistance needed,” said Laura Bednar, PCSSD deputy superintendent. She said the biggest problem area was mathematics.

She said the remedies for priority schools and focus schools are pretty much the same. “The last three years are data rich,” Bednar said. “We’ve repurposed the learning services division, putting all we can in the priority schools to lend support.”

Bednar said about 10 central office personnel had been reassigned four days a week to teachers and administrators at those eight schools.

Jeremy Owoh, Jacksonville-North Pulaski Assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, has been meeting with Bednar, according to Phyllis Stewart, JNP chief of staff.


Owoh has been going out into those Jacksonville-area schools, trying to see what’s working and what needs help, she said.

This year, PCSSD Deputy Superintendent John Tackett will be assisting at Jacksonville Middle School three days a week, with another PCSSD staffer there a fourth day, according to Stewart.

Pam Black, director of career technology education, will be at Jacksonville High School four days a week, working with the principal and other school leadership, Stewart said.

Susan Fletcher, an administrator for instructional technology, will work with the principal and the school leadership team at Murrell Taylor.

“They are there to help meet the mandates from the Department of Education,” Stewart said.

“They will provide ongoing support to administrators and teachers at the building level on the use of data to inform instructional practices to meet the needs of all students and to assist the school in disaggregation of student achievement data generated from formative and summative assessments to impact instruction,” she said.

Monday, August 31, 2015

TOP STORY >> Therapy dog is a banned breed

Ahmeah Simmons, who has Asperger’s syndrome, with her pit bull dog Edith, which is a banned breed in Jacksonville. Ahmeah’s mother ignored the city’s request to remove the dog from city limits, and said that the dog serves a therapeutic purpose to Ahmeah, helping her live a better life and communicate more.
Leader staff writer

A Jacksonville mom says she did not move her pit bull outside Jacksonville city limits — after learning the breed was banned — because an Americans with Disabilities Act representative advised her not to. The dog was seized for the second time this month, is being held at the city’s animal shelter and may be sent to an out-of-state rescue group.

Amanda Simmons, a single mother of three, also said she’s locked into a lease until November and doesn’t have the money to move. She shared that she is on a limited income and doesn’t receive child support or any governmental assistance, aside from SNAP (food stamps).

Simmons explained that the dog, Edith, is her daughter Ahmeah’s only friend. The 11-year-old has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and had been prescribed the therapy dog by her doctor.

The mom wants Edith back before there is any “bad blood” because, she says, she understands the city’s animal control workers are just doing their jobs. “There shouldn’t be a reason why I can’t get her back.”

At the same time, Simmons claims she didn’t know a warrant was needed and that others with pit bulls in Jacksonville had told her requesting those is how they’ve kept their dogs from being seized.

She also said she wasn’t advised to obtain a lawyer during her January court case, the first time Edith was seized.

The Lancaster Law Firm has set up a page at to collect donations that will “cover legal fees, fines, and whatever is needed to protect Edith from the ban.”

The dog, about 15 months old, is being held at the Jacksonville Animal Shelter pending the outcome of a trial, the page states.

City officials would not comment on the case because Simmons had hired an attorney, but the mayor’s office emailed several public documents to The Leader.

Simmons said she moved to Jacksonville from Minnesota in November and that the breed isn’t banned in the North.

The first time Edith was taken, she paid hundreds in fines to get the dog back and signed a form stating the pit bull would be sent outside city limits to 8407 Easy St. in North Little Rock, a city where that breed is also banned. The Easy Street address is actually in Sherwood. Pit bulls aren’t allowed there.

As for the ADA representative’s advice, according to, the law covers service dogs. “A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability,” the website reads. It states, “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

Edith was registered through as an emotional support animal (ESA) in July 2014, Simmons said.

The site’s frequently-asked questions note that an ESA “is not required to go through any specific training but they must have the same training that a typical pet would have to get along in society and not cause danger or harm to others.”

A letter of prescription is required from the handler’s physician. The website also offers “if you do not have your doctor’s letter yet, you can get one from our mental health professional” and a link to an evaluation form.

An ESA can accompany the handler on a plane or live in housing that would otherwise not allow pets, according to the FAQs.

There are exceptions to Jacksonville’s ban, but ESAs are not one of them. The city’s 2007 ordinance states “any animal used for law enforcement or other governmental purposes by the police department, military personnel, or other local, state or federal agency(ies) are exempt.” To own a service dog, one must qualify as disabled under the federal ADA.
Still, Simmons says, her daughter needs Edith.

“Ahmeah doesn’t make friends at school…She’s just quiet. She just doesn’t talk. You literally have to pull conversation out of her…Edith is like her sister,” the mom said.

“She really talks to her like she’s a person. She paints her toenails. She puts bows in her hair…This dog has literally slept with her every night.”

When the 11-year-old becomes upset, she’ll run to her room, cry and get under the covers, Simmons continued. “Edith will lean over her and protect her.”

The family is also worried about Edith’s health because she is on special food and her breed is “prone to getting Parvo,” a potentially fatal virus.

Simmons said, during her dog’s first week-and-a-half stint at the city shelter in January, “she wouldn’t eat, and she was choking up foam and had yellow diarrhea. When I got her back, her whole bottom was stained yellow.

“She was sick and shaken, and the pink of her skin, that’s supposed to be like a really pastel pink underneath her gray coat, was bright red. Her eyes were bloodshot. Her mouth was red…It killed me to see her like that.”

That is why the shelter released Edith even before Simmons’ January court date, the mom said.

Both times the dog was seized, she had not bitten, attacked anyone or caused any other problems, Simmons pointed out. People called on animal control to pick her up after they saw her in a yard.

This month, “the only reason she was outside (in a friend’s yard) is because we were getting our house sprayed, pest control, so she couldn’t be in the house…didn’t want to get her sick,” Simmons said. The friend tried to take the blame by saying Edith had been sold to her.

Then, the mom said, an animal control officer told her in front of her children — ages 7 to 11 — Edith would be put down in three days, which is what the ordinance says will happen on a second offense. “My kids all hit the floor.”

Simmons also told The Leader that city officials called her later in the week to say the dog would be sent to an out-of-state rescue group because she was not aggressive, after the mom had spoken with a local television station.

Simmons questioned, too, why Edith couldn’t go to nearby rescues or shelters, like those in Cabot or Sherwood. They can adopt her out to someone who lives in the county. Several groups across the state have offered to take Edith so she doesn’t have to be at the shelter until the case is resolved — a process that could take up to a year — Simmons noted. Then the family might be able to get their dog back, she said.

Simmons doesn’t agree with the Jacksonville ordinance, but commented that the shelter’s director is innocent in this. “If anything, you know, I disobeyed the law, quote, unquote. I should be punished, and I’m willing to accept that, not that I believe it’s right.

“But, in the meantime, (there are) criminals out here, there’s pedophiles and there’s rapists and there’s murderers that get a bond. When they get taken to jail, they can bond out for money. My dog didn’t even do anything, and she’s sitting in jail.”

Simmons called breed-specific bans “stupid” and a legal way to be “racist” that wouldn’t be acceptable if applied to people.

TOP STORY >> District hopefuls give credentials in school voting

Leader staff writer

Richard Moss and Marcia Dornblaser are facing off in the race for the Zone 1 seat on the first elected Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board.

One of them will be chosen Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Early voting is Tuesday, Sept. 8-Monday, Sept. 14.

Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 8-11 at the Jacksonville Community Center, 5 Municipal Drive, and William F. Laman Library, 2801 Orange St. in North Little Rock. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays at the Pulaski County Regional Building, 501 W. Markham St. in Little Rock.

Both candidates told The Leader that students would come first if they were elected.
Moss, a native of Arkadelphia, has lived in Jacksonville since 2005 – a year after his career in higher education began — and is a member of the interim, appointed JNP board. He is a student-success coach at Pulaski Technical College and hopes to be awarded a PhD in public education policy from the University of Arkansas this December.

Moss was a member of the Education Corps, the group that pushed for the area’s split from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Dornblaser has lived in Jacksonville since she was an elementary school student, about 49 years, and raised three children here. Her dad is a World War II and Korean War veteran who retired from a 27-year military career in 1966.

She has a degree in dental hygiene from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and has worked for 35 years in the office of Drs. Rodriquez and Pinney on Marshall Road.

Dornblaser says she has stayed informed, spoken with teachers, attended public meetings with her adult children during the breakaway efforts and applied to serve on the interim board.

Moss said he’s running to do what’s right by the kids. “I think it’s time for Jacksonville students to have all the rights and benefits that other students have. Students (come) first. We also must be able to provide them with top-notch educators” and “bridge the technology gap.”

He emphasized, “I want to make sure all our decisions are student-based...If we do what’s in the best interest of the students, then we’ll be OK.”

Dornblaser said, “No. 1, I think every decision that we make has got to be made on what’s best for the kids in the education system. There are going to be hard decisions, give-and-take in every situation. What it’s going to boil down to is doing what is best for kids.”

She remembers growing up when Jacksonville was a big player in the high school scene and people had pride in the education system here.

Asked why having an independent school district is important for the city, Moss responded, “It brings the community together. Not being spread out gives a sense of pride to the community and the students as well. It’s a rallying point for the community.”

Dornblaser said having a good education system attracts young families and keeps them here, raises property values and brings in new businesses. She believes the standalone district is the best chance to have good schools. “Failure is not an option.”

She added, “It’s very obvious Jacksonville schools have always been left out of any improvements” as part of PCSSD. “We’ve been neglected, and they’ve looked the other way with our schools for years.”

While Dornblaser said she would support a millage increase to build new campuses and there is “no way around it,” Moss said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it…I will fully support it if that’s the route the board chooses.”

Moss also said he was the only “no” vote when the interim board approved a controversial salary schedule designed to attract new and innovative teachers. It gave big pay cuts to experienced teachers.

He would like to see a balance of new and older teachers, to continue increasing transparency and to build partnerships with colleges that would offer credits to students.
Dornblaser said the board did a lot of research on the salaries. “If anyone looks realistically at the situation, it has to happen…You can’t compare us to that huge district (PCSSD)…It’s impossible to meet the salary of experienced teachers there” because JNP is going to have around 4,000 kids. PCSSD has about 27,000.

“We would go bankrupt before we got started. We can’t pay what we don’ t have,” she continued. At the same time, the candidate hopes the board will increase pay for more experienced teachers when money becomes available.

Moss believes he should be elected because “I care about the students. I care about the teachers, and I care about the community. I would like to continue (the board’s) work. There are still things left undone.”

Dornblaser says residents should vote for her because no one is more passionate about Jacksonville. “I know what it used to be. I’ve been here through it all, and I want to give it my best, to give it positive change.”

The candidate added that she was on the parks and recreation commission for two terms, served as chairwoman for one, “planted the seed” for Splash Zone and worked on the funding campaign for the public safety building.

Both Moss and Dornblaser supported the 5-2 school board configuration that has been the topic of heated debate in desegregation hearings. Opponents believe the at-large zones disenfranchise minority voters.

The candidates also agreed the board’s job is to set policy while the superintendent handles day-to-day operations.