Saturday, November 07, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Bruins breeze through Sylvan Hills

Leader sportswriter

Sylvan Hills’ offense struggled to get things going in Thursday night’s regular-season finale against top-ranked Pulaski Academy, as the Bruins held the Bears’ offense to its lowest point total of the season on the way to a 36-14 win at Bill Blackwood Field.

Pulaski Academy, who finished the regular season 10-0 with the win, scored the first 36 points of the game to invoke the sportsmanship rule early in the second half.

“They played great on defense,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow of PA’s defense. “That’s one thing, nobody talks about their defense. Their defense is phenomenal.

“They play really good defense and, you know, you got to make plays when you get chances. We just didn’t get it done. We didn’t get it done, offensively. We played well all year, we just didn’t get it done right then.”

The Bruins’ first score came on a 51-yard run by running back Jaren Watkins with 9:16 to play in the first quarter. Tre Bruce added the two-point conversion to give the visitors an early 8-0 lead.

Sylvan Hills, who finished the regular season 6-3, turned it over on downs on its first offensive series, but PA’s next drive ended with quarterback Layne Hatcher being intercepted by Sylvan Hills’ Cameron Flippo. It was one of three interceptions by Flippo on Thursday.

Pulaski Academy didn’t score again until the 6:56 mark of the second quarter. That touchdown came on a 19-yard Hatcher pass to receiver Sam Starkey. The PAT was no good, making it 14-0 Bruins.

The Bruins then covered the onside kick that followed, and scored on the next offensive play, which was a 55-yard run by Bruce. Trey Adams added the two-point conversion to give PA a 22-0 cushion. That was the score at halftime.

The visitors covered another onside kick to start the second half, and capitalized with a 5-play scoring drive. That touchdown came on a 16-yard pass from Hatcher to Bruce a minute and 30 seconds into the third quarter. The extra point made it 29-0 PA.

Sylvan Hills turned it over on downs on the following drive, and PA added its final score on another Hatcher pass, this one a 50-yarder with 7:45 left in the third. The extra point was good, and the clock ran continuously the rest of the way because of the 35-point sportsmanship rule.

Flippo’s third pick of the game was in the end zone on a Corbin Witham pass, which set the Bears’ offense up at their own 20 with just over nine minutes to play. On the next snap, Sylvan Hills found the end zone with an 80-yard run by Ty Compton.

Tito Mendoza’s extra point made it 36-7, and the final score was set on the fourth play of the Bruins’ ensuing drive.

The backup quarterback took a big hit from the Bears’ defense, causing a fumble, and Tyler Yeoman scooped it up and scored from about 20 yards out. The PAT set the final score.

Sylvan Hills finished the night with 180 yards of offense. PA had 541 yards of offense. Quarterback Jordan Washington led the Bears with 13 carries for 85 yards. Compton added 81 yards and a touchdown on three carries.

The Bears started the year 6-0, but finished the regular season having lost their last three games – albeit against the top three teams in the 5A-Central (PA, McClellan and Beebe). Considering that, Withrow isn’t worried as his team now gears up for the Class 5A playoffs, which begin next week.

“We’re fine,” Withrow said. “We’re a young football team. Other than Fair, we’re probably the youngest football team in the conference. We’ll bounce back and we’ll get after it.”

The Bears enter next week’s playoffs as the No. 4 seed from the 5A-Central. They’ll travel to undefeated Little Rock Christian, the top seed from the 5A-West, for next Friday’s first round. Kickoff next Friday is set for 7 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits climb back

Special to The Leader

SEARCY – The Lonoke Jackrabbits completed a remarkable turnaround to a dismal start to conference play on Thursday, beating the Riverview Raiders 38-21 and qualifying for the five seed in the playoffs from the 4A-2 Conference. In the win-or-go-home matchup, Lonoke came through with several big plays to keep its season alive.

They will travel to Gosnell next Friday for its first-round playoff game.

With the threat of severe weather moving in and penalty flags flying everywhere, it was Lonoke who scored first and last in the game. The Jackrabbits won three of their last four games, finishing the regular season with an overall record of 5-5 and a conference record of 3-4.

“We’ve had our backs against the wall the last few weeks,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost. “We said, ‘hey, we got to win this one, we got to win this one, we got to get some help from some other teams that have got to get beat. And we got to keep winning,’ and they were able to do that and were able to get themselves in the playoffs. I’m proud of their effort, just real proud of them.

“It was a struggle early. We turned the ball over on offense more than we needed to. I thought the defense played good. In the first half, they kept us in there. But then we got a little of a rhythm in the second with our offense able to sustain some drives and run the ball right at them and able to hit a big touchdown right there from Will (Miller) to Justin (Meadows), which was real big. That really opened it up for us.”

Riverview had the first possession of the game, and the Raiders went three-and-out.

Lonoke turned the ball over by way of a fumble on the 10th play of its first drive, but Riverview fumbled it right back. The Raider fumble was picked up by Juwaun Bryant, who eluded tacklers and took the ball 41 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was no good, but the Jackrabbits had the 6-0 lead with 6:35 remaining in the opening quarter.

Riverview’s next possession ended on an interception by Deondray Joyner, who returned the ball 45 yards to the 25-yard line of the Raiders. Lonoke could not convert, but pinned Riverview on the 6-yard line with a punt. After a 4-yard gain on first down, quarterback David Lee connected with Kirby Keeney for a 90-yard touchdown. The extra point gave the Raiders a 7-6 advantage.

After Casey Martin returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, the Jackrabbits moved down the field largely on runs by Xavier Hodge, who finished the drive with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone, and Lonoke regained the lead, 12-7, with 11:56 to go in the second period.

The Raiders took the lead back with 19 seconds remaining in the half, but then gave the ball to Lonoke on its own 43-yard line on the kickoff. One play was all it took for Justin Meadows to move the 57 yards into the end zone. The two-point conversion was good by Hodge for a 20-14 Jackrabbit lead at the half.

That lead grew quickly in the second half when Meadows returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for another touchdown to put Lonoke ahead 26-14.

Riverview responded, though, moving 71 yards to score with 6:52 remaining in the third to cut the lead to 26-21. The Raiders then recovered an onside kick, but the Lonoke defense forced a punt.

The Jackrabbits’ next score came with 8:55 remaining in the final quarter. Quarterback Will Miller found Meadows for a 52-yard touchdown pass to expand the lead to 32-21. The two-point conversion again was no good.

After turning the ball over on downs, Riverview forced a punt by Lonoke. The punt was partially blocked by the Raiders, but was recovered by Lonoke in first-down territory.

That led to another Jackrabbit score, this time a 43-yard drive, capped by a 3-yard run by Josh Coleman. Again the two-point conversion was unsuccessful, setting the final score at 38-21 with 1:33 remaining on the clock.

Lonoke finished the game with 268 rushing yards and 52 yards passing, while the Raiders finished with 347 total yards.

Hodge led the Jackrabbits in rushing with 94 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown. Meadows rushed for 69 yards and one touchdown, plus the 52-yard touchdown reception and the 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Coleman added 63 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown.

SPORTS STORY >> McClellan pummels Red Devils

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville didn’t get to end its season on a high note Friday night at Jan Crow Stadium, as visiting McClellan shut out the Red Devils in the second half on its way to a dominant 60-18 win.

The game began on Thursday, but a power outage in that part of the city caused the game to be pushed back to Friday. The score was tied at 6-6 when the game was called Thursday, and on Friday, play resumed with 1:54 left in the first quarter and the score tied at 6-6.

Jacksonville (2-7, 2-4) and McClellan (7-2, 5-1) both scored on their first two offensive possessions Friday, but the Red Devils turned it over on downs on their third drive Friday, and the Crimson Lions added a touchdown and two-point conversion before halftime to lead 28-18 at the break.

The second half was all McClellan, as the Lions found the end zone on their first three drives of the second half, and on defense, they forced two safeties and returned a fumble for a touchdown late, which led to the 42-point win.

“McClellan’s got a good football team,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “They’ve got some good running backs. Number five (Pierre Strong), he’s just a great player.

“We had some kids sitting out tonight because they couldn’t get to practice on time and things like that. We knew this was our last game. We wanted to keep it close. We had a lot of kids out there that still fought and played hard till the last whistle.

“It’s just a tough deal, man. We had kids play tonight that got some exposure that hadn’t played all year, which is good for those kids because they stepped out here and they practiced and played as hard as they could. It was just a tough year – just a tough year.”

Jacksonville struck first Thursday, scoring on a 1-yard run by Shawn Ellis with 3:27 to go in the first quarter. Strong matched the score on the Lions’ next drive with a 3-yard run with 1:54 left in the first. That was when the game was called because of the power outage.

The Red Devils struck first Friday on the first drive, scoring on a 23-yard run by Robbie Knowlin with 15 seconds left in the first quarter. McClellan answered with a 7-play drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown run by quarterback Dalvion Childs with 8:16 to go in the second quarter. That tied the game at 12-12.

Jacksonville quarterback HarDerrious Martin answered with a 2-yard score at the 5:41 mark of the second quarter, giving Jacksonville an 18-12 lead. McClellan took the lead for good with 3:54 left in the half on a 10-yard scoring run by Childs. Strong added the two-point conversion to give the Lions a 20-18 lead.

A fake punt by Jacksonville was stopped inches shy of a first down on the Devils’ next possession. That set the Lions up at the JHS 17. A delay of game followed, but Strong scored on the next play and the two-point conversion made it 28-18 at halftime.

The first half was marred with penalties. The two teams combined for 20 first-half penalties for a total of 130 yards – 75 by McClellan and 55 by Jacksonville. The Red Devils also had two players ejected by halftime – one for a late hit and the other for a thrown punch on the last play of the first half.

Trenton Lewis scored McClellan’s first three touchdowns of the second half, and the Lions converted 2 of 3 two-point conversion attempts. Before Lewis’ third score, McClellan’s defense got its first safety on a high snap that was booted out of the back of the end zone by the JHS punter with 5:18 left in the third.

The next safety was a dropped punt snap that was stuffed in the back of the end zone with 5:23 to play. That invoked the mercy rule, with the score 54-18, and the final score was set on McClellan’s 60-plus yard fumble return for a touchdown.

McClellan finished with 388 yards of offense. Strong led the way with 18 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Jacksonville had 140 yards, with Knowlin leading with 10 carries for 71 yards and a score.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers 10-0 East champs

Leader sports editor

SEARCY – An extremely efficient offense and a vastly improved defensive performance led to a 41-10 Cabot victory Friday over the Searcy Lions. The Cabot offense scored on each of its first six possessions while the defense overcame a slow start to dominate the last three quarters of play, leading to the Panthers’ 10th-straight victory, a perfect regular season and an outright 7A/6A-East Conference championship.

“That was one of the goals, to finish 10-0,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “Now we can take a deep breath, rest a little bit and hopefully get a few people well.”

The Panthers, who earned a bye next week in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs, won Friday’s game without two starting defensive linemen, a starting linebacker and a starting offensive lineman.

Cabot’s banged up defense gave up 540 yards and 53 points in last week’s wild, nine-point win over Jonesboro. It looked like Friday’s game might shake out the same way early on. Searcy took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards in 12 plays, overcoming a personal foul penalty and executing four plays of 12 yards or more.

Cabot almost stopped the drive when it forced quarterback Andrew Neaville to scramble to his right. He found no one open in that direction, but threw across the field to Luke Dixon for the score.

After that, Searcy (6-4, 3-4) managed just 115 yards and three points the rest of the half, and just 35 total yards in the second half.

“Searcy moved the ball on us in that first half,” Malham said. “The second half we came out and did a lot better job. Obviously, if you want to win a championship you have to play good defense. You can’t outscore everybody.

“We did a good job tonight. We got a conference championship, a perfect regular season. Now we see if we can look to bigger and better things.”

Cabot’s first possession started on its own 38. On third and 3 from the 45, Panther quarterback Jarrod Barnes broke loose for 45 yards to the Searcy 10. Three plays gained 9 yards, and fullback Kolton Eads punched it in on fourth down to tie the game with 4:18 left in the first quarter.

The Lions converted on third and 6 and fourth and 3 on their next drive. But on the third set of downs, a holding penalty moved them back 13 yards on first down. Three incomplete passes followed, and Searcy punted from midfield.

Cabot started on its own 15, and went 85 yards in 15 plays for the score. The drive started with a minute left in the first quarter, and Eads again scored from 1 yard out with 6:43 remaining in the half.

Camron Washington returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the Searcy 45. Dixon then took the handoff 46 yards up the middle to the Cabot 9-yard line. The Panther defense stiffened up, pushing Searcy back 2 yards and forcing a 28-yard field goal by Kolton Howe to make it 14-10 with 5:10 left in the half.

The Lions tried an onside kick and got a perfect high bounce over Cabot’s initial fielder, but Colin Thompson secured the loose ball for the Panthers at the Cabot 47.

On the second play, sophomore John Weins took an end around handoff 21 yards to the Searcy 30. Runs by Barnes and fullback Alex Roberts set up first down at the 16.

Facing fourth and 6 from the 12, Cabot scored much like Searcy did in the first quarter. Barnes scrambled right after a high snap, and then found Weins back across the field for the 12-yard touchdown pass. Caleb Shulte’s extra point made it 21-10 with 1:46 left in the half.

Searcy drove to the Cabot 25 on the next possession, but Howe’s 42-yard field goal attempt at the buzzer sailed left.

Cabot took the opening possession of the second half 65 yards in 10 plays. Halfback Jess Reed had a 15-yard gain on third and 4, and halfback Austin Morse got the last 22 on a counter with 7:37 on the clock. Shulte missed the extra point.

Cabot senior Drew Stout sacked Neaville for an 11-yard loss on second and 8 of the next possession. After an incomplete pass, Searcy went for it on fourth and 19 from its own 26. Neaville found Dixon 13 yards downfield, but safety Holdyn Barnes stopped him right there, giving Cabot the ball at the Searcy 39.

After one first down, halfback Adam Flores carried 20 yards to the 8-yard line. Barnes got the rest on an option keep left for a 34-10 lead with 2:43 left in the third.

Searcy lost a yard and went three-and-out on its possession, punting from its own 9-yard line and giving Cabot excellent field position at the Lion 36.

Eads carried for 11 yards on the last play of the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth period, Roberts got the final 10, dragging two Searcy defenders the last 5 yards into the end zone. Shulte’s PAT set the final margin with 11:15 remaining in the game.

Friday, November 06, 2015

TOP STORY >> United marching band thriving

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School Band finish their final practice of marching season on Tuesday. It was the first year for both high school bands to be combined into one. North Pulaski students will attend Jacksonville High School next year, when NPHS will become a middle school.

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski Band’s first marching competition season has been quite a success.

Members brought home first division ratings in class 5A for the band, drum major Khagji Warren, color guard and drum line after competing in the Showcase of Bands held Oct. 10 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Members competed again on Oct. 17 at The Forrest City Marching Invitational. They received first division ratings for the band, drum major, color guard and drum line there, too.

The band can also tout having the class B first place soloists (the Cieariah Reese and Jamal Gulley trombone duet), taking first place in class B and fourth place overall.

The band also earned a first division rating in the Region 1 Marching Assessment at North Little Rock High School, which was held Oct. 20.

This year, the Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School marching bands were consolidated, as part of the developing new school district.

The result was a mashup of North Pulaski’s structured corps style and Jacksonville’s high-stepping, energetic show style.

This was evident in the combined ensemble’s presentation of a competitive show called iBand, which was technologically themed to be performed like a live concert with current pop music.

North Pulaski High School 11th grader Sarah Walker said, “Combining the bands was perfection. Without combining, North Pulaski would be competing in a 2A class instead of 5A.”

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski band has 50 students.

North Pulaski had 75 band students last year but lost students to Sylvan Hills High School when attendance zone boundaries were re-drawn.

Jacksonville High School has 10 members in the band.

People were afraid of change, Walker explained, so both schools saw declines. She said some students didn’t want to learn a new style.

But, Walker continued, “We made new friends. Some of the juniors will be going to Jacksonville and some to Sylvan Hills. I will know people there at Jacksonville.”

Jacksonville High School 10th grader Brendon Crow said, “This was the best year for the first time. Last year, Jacksonville did not compete in the marching competition.”

Walker added, “I’m glad Jacksonville (students) made and accepted the challenge. They were motivated, even through the hard times of practice. Concert season is going to go just as well. It is a little different. We are seated, but it will still be fun.”

TOP STORY >> Vet records memories of Second World War

Leader staff writer

Retired Lt. Col. Wilmer Plate of Jacksonville, a Second World War veteran, recorded on Tuesday his memories of war for future generations.

Retired Col. Anita Deason, military and veterans affairs liaison for U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), interviewed Plate at his Jacksonville home. The 90-minute recording is for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

Plate, 96, was a B-24 bomber pilot. He flew 31 missions with the 489th Bomber Group. The crew of 10 men flew over Germany and France from May 30 to Sept. 27, 1944. Plate was awarded many service medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart.

Plate described one of his missions by asking viewers to imagine they were behind the pilot’s seat as he narrated. The mission was a July 31, 1944 flight to Ludwigshafen, Germany, to bomb a railroad complex. It was a seven-hour job, and Plate recalled the end of the bombing run.

“You look out the front and in the sky. Those black puffs, that is flak going off in the target area. We’ll be going through that. Look off to the left, you see the airplane. He took a shot in the wing and he blew up. Did you see any parachutes? I didn’t see any parachutes,” Plate said.

“Over here on the right, this guy took a shot in the right engine. Look at the fire,” the bombardier said.

He continued, “Bombs away! The airplane jumps up 3 to 5 feet. You feel the jump? BOOM!

“That flak went off right belowour bomb bay. If we had not jumped up, we’d be right in it,” Plate continued.

“The plane shutters from one end to the other. There is something wrong with the number three engine. I tell the co-pilot to shut that engine down. I check to see if all the crew is still alive. In the meantime, I adjust the power to the other engines,” he said.

“We are stable for the moment. The plane has a lot of holes. I know the bomb bay is hit. The engineer tells me the bomb bay is a mess. There are hydraulic lines, oxygen lines and fuel lines all leaking. There is a hole in the wing tank the size of a baseball. Fuel is flowing out like crazy,” Plate recalled.

“Engine two is now overheating. I have to reduce the power on that engine. I can’t stay in the formation anymore. We fall out and make a turn. I tell the navigator set us up for a course to England,” he continued.

“We set up for a three-hour flight home. We are on oxygen bottles. I don’t think we can make it. If we lose another engine, we are going to go in. If we have a spark, we’ll blow up. Now would be a good time if you want to bail out,” Plate told his invisible audience.

But, he said, the whole crew stayed with the airplane.

“We go on for two hours. We can see the land,” Plate recalled.

The engineer started to crank down the landing gear.

“We are now over the English Channel and lining up to the runway. I slow down the airplane and tell the tower to bring the fire trucks and ambulance because we’re going to do a crash landing,” Plate said.

“We’re coming in and boom! The tire held and we’re holding the nose off and then it drops down. Boom! It crashes and we skid down the runway on our nose in the grass and stop. We bail out,” the veteran remembered.

He said the doctor checked the crew out and they debriefed. Twelve hours later, they’re back in the bomber.

Deason said Boozman supports the work of the Veterans History Project because his father was a World War II veteran who died at age 69.

“(Boozman) was not able to ask these questions and collect and capture the story,” Deason said.

“I lost my father as a teenager. He was 65 and a WWII vet. This is a chance to honor and respect all our veterans. It gives them an opportunity to share their story and preserve it for their family and future generations,” she continued.

Deason said the Veterans History Project also has workshops to train volunteers on interviewing veterans of all wars and civilians who worked in the war industry. Locally, they have trained 115 people. Her work involves doing outreach with veterans service agencies.

Deason said veterans are interviewed when the project hears of them. She said there are 250,000 veterans of all wars in the state and 1,200 from Arkansas have been interviewed for the project since it was approved by Congress 15 years ago.

TOP STORY >> Election papers pour in

Leader staff writer

Candidates have until Monday to file for office. The deadline for all but those seeking judicial seats is noon, and the latter have until 3 p.m.

The primary election is March 1. Early voting starts Feb. 15.

One highlight of the filings is that Joseph (Joe) O’Bryan is running for re-election in the Lonoke County District Judge-Northern Division race, after being arrested in August for third-degree domestic battery.

His case was dismissed this week, when special, appointed Faulkner County District Court Judge David Reynolds signed an order Thursday, according to a Lonoke District Court clerk.

Cabot attorney John Flynn, Ward City Attorney Clint McGue and Judge Teresa Hallum Smith are opposing O’Bryan for the Cabot court position.


Democrat Conner Eldridge of Lonoke, a former U.S. attorney, and Libertarian Frank Gilbert have filed for Sen. John Boozman’s seat. Boozman (R-Ark.) had announced previously that he intended to seek re-election. But his name was not on the list yet, as of Friday evening.


For District 1, the only candidate who had filed was Mark West, a Libertarian. In District 2, Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.) is seeking re-election. He has an opponent, Libertarian Frank Gilbert.


Dist. 34 Sen. Jan English (R-North Little Rock) will face two challengers, a Republican and a Democrat, if no one else files by the Monday deadline. They are Rep. Donnie Copeland (R-Little Rock) and Joe Woodson.

Dist. 29 Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) and Lonoke County Justice of the Peace R.D. Hopper, also a Republican, have filed for Williams’ seat.

Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R-Beebe) is unopposed so far.


Three have filed for Copeland’s Dist. 38 seat. District 38 includes some of Sherwood.

The candidates so far are Kent Walker, Victoria Leigh — both Democrats — and Carlton Wing, a Republican.

Dist. 14 Rep. Camille Bennett (D-Lonoke) and Roger D. Lynch, a Republican, have filed for her seat.

Dist. 44 Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin) also has an opponent, Garry Baker, a Libertarian.

So far, Dist. 40 Rep. Douglas House (R-North Little Rock), Dist. 41 Rep. Karilyn Brown (R-Sherwood), Dist. 42 Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville), Dist. 43 Rep. Tim Lemons (R-Cabot) and Dist. 45 Rep. Jeremy Gillam (R-Judsonia) are unopposed.


State Sen. David Johnson (D-Little Rock) was the only candidate who had filed by Friday evening to preside over both the Jacksonville and Maumelle district courts.

The two courts will soon share a judge and have countywide jurisdiction because of a 2011 law aimed at lightening the caseload of circuit courts across the state.

Wrightsville District Court Judge Rita Bailey hadn’t filed for the position yet, but she has announced plans to run for the Jacksonville-Maumelle seat.

Judge Milas “Butch” Hale III was unopposed on Friday evening for judge of the Sherwood district court.

Most candidates were unopposed, according to the filing list as of Friday evening.

Sheriff Doc Holladay, a Democrat, has a Libertarian opponent in Patrick Mulligan.

Dist. 3 Justice of the Peace Kathy S. Lewison, a Democrat, has an opponent, Republican Lynn Jacuzzi.

Judge Barry Hyde, a Democrat, is seeking re-election, as is Democrat Larry Crane for circuit/county clerk.

Democrats Janet Troutman Ward and Debra Buckner are doing the same for assessor and treasurer, respectively.

For the quorum court, the following have filed: JP Doug Reed (Republican, Dist. 1), Lynn Jacuzzi (Republican, Dist. 3), JP Julie Blackwood (Deomcrat, Dist. 4), JP Donna Massey (Democrat, Dist. 6), Teresa Coney (Democrat, Dist. 7), JP Curtis Keith (Democrat, Dist. 8), JP R. Green (Democrat, Dist. 10), JP Aaron Robinson (Dist. 11), JP Luke McCoy (Republican, Dist. 12), JP Phil Stowers (Republican, Dist. 13), JP Paul Elliott (Republican, Dist. 14). and Staci Medlock (Democrat, Dist. 15)


County Judge Doug Erwin, a Republican, is facing off against two Republicans, Richard Kyzer and Fred D. (Skipper) Clement Jr.

County Clerk Dawn Porterfield and Circuit Clerk Deborah Oglesby are unopposed so far, as is Treasurer Patti Weathers, Assessor Jerrel Maxwell and Sheriff John Staley. Therese L. O’Donnell was the only one to file for the collector position as of Friday evening.

Three Republicans have filed for coroner; Carla Horton, Kenny Fraley and Karl E. (Eddie) Pennington.

There are also three Republicans seeking J.D. Hopper’s Justice of the Peace Dist. 1 seat. He’s running for Eddie Joe Williams’ state Senate seat. The three who filed are also Republicans.

The Dist. 1 JP candidates are Brent Canon, Jesse Bear and Kevin Livengood.

Two Republicans, John D. Howard and Claud E. Irvin, have filed for the Dist. 4 JP seat.

Dist. 5 JP Adam Justice, a Republican, has a Republican opponent, Robert (Bobby) Gilliam.

Dist. 7 JP Ralph Brown, a Republican, is being challenged in his re-election bid by Democrat Dan F. Stowers.

For Dist. 9, as of Friday evening, Republicans Linda Waddell and Les Carpenter had filed.

Republicans Daniel Hayes, Kenny Ridgeway and Bob Morris are seeking the Dist. 13 JP seat.

But JPs Barry (B.J) Weathers (Dist. 2), Henry Lang (Dist. 3), Jerry E. Cole (Dist. 6), Tate House (Dist. 8), Bill Ryker (Dist. 10) and Mike Dolan (Dist. 11) are unopposed so far. Patty Knox is unopposed for Dist. 12, but isn’t a current JP.


Cabot has one city council race because Alderman Dallan Buchanan resigned Oct. 1 from representing Ward 2 in Position 1 to pursue a job in another city.

Damon Bivins has filed for that seat.

All of the Lonoke City Council races are unopposed by current aldermen seeking re-election. Those who have filed are Jane Derning (Dist. 1), Woody Evans (Dist. 2), Pat Howell (Dist. 3), Wendell Walker (Dist. 4), Efrem Z. Jones (Dist. 5) and Raymond Hatton (Dist. 6).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Local teams’ postseason set

Leader sports editor

A lot of football playoff positions are still yet to be settled around the state, but most of the local teams already know where they will be when the postseason begins Friday, Nov. 13. Only Lonoke’s fate hasn’t been settled, and the Jackrabbits play a win-and-your-in game this Thursday at Riverview.

The winner of that game will get the five seed from the 4A-2 Conference and will travel to Gosnell in the first round of the playoffs. The loser’s season is over.


Jacksonville and Cabot will be sitting at home when the playoffs begin, but not for the same reason. The Red Devils can’t make the playoffs even with a win over McClellan on Friday, while the undefeated Panthers have already clinched a one seed and a first-round bye in the Class 7A playoffs.

Cabot travels to Searcy on Friday to play another meaningless conference game against a 6A opponent, but it will be important for the Panthers to shore up a defense that was torched for 540 yards and 53 points at Jonesboro last week.

The Panthers’ offense continued to produce, piling up 512 total yards, and the team continued to find other ways to score. Cabot looked good on special teams when Jonesboro kicked deep, but was poor at covering onside kicks.

Jonesboro scored three quick touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, aided by two successful onside kicks. That’s how the Hurricanes turned a game on the verge of a blowout into a nail-biter. Cabot led 55-31 at the end of the third, but that lead was down to two points with seven minutes remaining.

Cabot senior Holdyn Barnes got his third kickoff return for a touchdown at Jonesboro, and also returned a recovered fumble for a score. He has scored six non-offensive touchdowns this season.

Searcy has also shown a knack for scoring points this year, though not at the same rate as Jonesboro. The Lions’ lowest point total of the year was 14 against Little Rock Central in the conference opener. They have scored at least four touchdowns in every other game. Last week, Searcy (6-3, 3-3) plowed through Mountain Home 61-26 and has scored 49 points or more two other times this year.

Regardless of Friday’s outcome, Cabot will wait for Friday’s outcomes to see whom it might play in the second round of the playoffs in two weeks. The Panthers are set to play the winner between the West four seed and the Central three seed.

Both of those spots will be determined in head-to-head matchups this Friday. Catholic faces Van Buren for the Central three seed, while Fort Smith Northside’s rivalry game with Fort Smith Southside is for the West four seed.


Carlisle’s game against McCrory this Thursday will probably not affect the 2A-6 playoff picture. McCrory is the No. 1 seed win or lose. The only way the Bison can jump from the five seed they already have locked up to a four seed is for two upsets to occur. Carlisle must beat the undefeated Jaguars, and the winless Marvell Mustangs must defeat Brinkley. Most likely, the Bison are headed for Hackett, the 2A-4 runner-up, in the first round of the playoffs.


In an unusual turn of events, the 5A-Central Conference playoffs slots are completely set with a game left to play. Pulaski Academy is the one seed; McClellan, Beebe and Sylvan Hills follow in that order, no matter what happens Friday.

Beebe is off this week due to its scheduled game against North Pulaski. Even if Sylvan Hills beats PA and/or Jacksonville beats McClellan, every tiebreaker scenario still comes out to the same order of placement. The only thing that could change is that McClellan could share the conference championship if it wins and PA loses.

The 5A-Central is matched up with the West in the first round of the playoffs, and almost nothing is set there. Little Rock Christian Academy is the one seed and will host Sylvan Hills in the first round of the playoffs.

Morrilton is in as the two or the three seed. Everything else will be settled this week. If Greenbrier beats Vilonia, the Panthers are the two seed, Morrilton is the three and Harrison is the four.

If Vilonia wins, Greenbrier is most likely out. Morrilton is the two seed, Vilonia the three and Harrison four.

If Farmington upsets Harrison or Clarksville upsets Morrilton, then deep tiebreaker scenarios come into play.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe’s historic season

Leader sports editor

The Beebe volleyball team’s historic season came to an end last week with a quarterfinal round loss to Batesville in the Class 5A state tournament, but it was still a historic season for the Lady Badgers and the seven seniors that led the way.

Beebe was still a fledgling program when those players started playing in the seventh grade, and is now one of the best programs in central Arkansas. That fact was evidenced by the team’s opening win of the season when it beat Little Rock Christian Academy. The Warriors had played in two state championship games in recent years and had never lost to Beebe until this year.

“To go five and beat them in one of our first matches, I think that helped set the tone for the whole season,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp.

In addition to beating LRCA for the first time in school history, the Lady Badgers also won the team’s first-ever outright conference championship, completed the team’s first undefeated league record and earned the first volleyball playoff win in school history.

Beebe did not lose a non-tournament match all season, and didn’t lose to anyone in Class 5A or below until falling to Batesville last week. All but one of the losses in those tournaments were to 7A teams, but even those losses were good for the team, according to the head coach.

“It just showed us that even though we might not win 7A, even taking a set off them and staying with them gave the girls some encouragement that they were good enough to play with the best the state has to offer.”

The Lady Badgers rolled through the 5A-Central Con-ference undefeated, sweeping perennial contender Pulaski Academy twice, and not losing a set in league play until the finale against North Pulaski.

The match against NP came on the heels of the team’s lowest point. Beebe went to a late-season tournament in Conway and performed badly, but took that tournament as a wake-up call and responded well.

“Every team hits that burnout stage,” Camp said. “I don’t know if we were burned out or just tired. We had been going twice a week and sometimes three. Of course, I tell them there’s no excuses, but I think that was part of it. It was a learning experience. We had a team meeting about it and the experienced ones stepped up. They worked through it and we were able to bounce back from it.”

After losing game two to North Pulaski, Beebe routed Harding Academy in the regular-season finale and performed as well as it has all season in the state tournament.

“I think the Harding Academy game and the first two matches of state was our peaking point,” Camp said. “I’ve never seen them play so hard. They were loud. Communication was great. They were so focused on everything that was going on.”

Beebe lost 3-1 to the Pioneers, but it was nothing like its first-round loss to the same team in the first round of state the year before. In that game, Beebe was routed 3-0 and was not very competitive after the midway point of game one.

“When you take into consideration the year before when we were like deer in headlights, we were a totally different team this time around,” Camp said. “There was no loss of focus, no poor me going on. Even when they had 24 in game four, the girls were still fighting. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

Five of the seven seniors started and all seven played considerable minutes and were key clogs in the team’s success. Camp is confident in the talent that’s returning, but says leadership will be a question mark entering next season.

“Sarah Clark and Paige Smith were big vocal leaders for us on the floor,” Camp said of her senior setter and libero. “Jerra Malone was a valuable quiet leader. She led by example on the floor. Shayla Devore gave a lot of encouragement, always up and always positive. We’ll definitely be looking for people to fill those roles.”

SPORTS STORY >> Pressure off when SH Bears meet PA

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills is mired in a two-game losing streak and nothing gets easier for the Bears in the regular-season finale. Sylvan Hills hosts Pulaski Academy for a 7 p.m. kickoff. The Bruins are the undefeated, No. 1 ranked defending state champions. They are currently riding a 22-game win streak and have not lost since week one of the 2014 season.

Sylvan Hills won its first six games of the year, but have lost its last two to McClellan and Beebe.

Sylvan Hills experienced a similar drought last season when it lost the last three games of the year after starting 8-0. There is one difference to this year’s drought. The Bears have nothing on the line in this week’s game. No matter the outcome, Sylvan Hills is the four seed from the 5A-Central in the playoffs. So there should be no pressure, unlike last year’s game when the Bears took a new quarterback into a road game with a conference championship on the line.

Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow likes the way his team has responded in practices since last week’s loss to Beebe. There are no signs that the team has lost any motivation after two disappointing weeks.

“They were mad,” said Withrow of his team’s attitude at the first practice after the Beebe game. “They were upset and they were wanting to fix it and move on. You’d rather have that than a bunch of guys that act like they don’t care.”

Sylvan Hills’ offense is still as potent as ever. After five games, the Bears led the state in scoring offense. They suffered a six-turnover, 17-penalty game and still beat Jacksonville 29-14 on Oct. 9. After that was an open date, and Sylvan Hills has not won since.

PA presents a completely different challenge than McClellan and Beebe, and even though the Bruins beat both of those teams, the Bears believe it could be a better matchup for them.

“I can tell you this, there’s no sign of fear in them,” Withrow said of his players. “They believe they can win this game. I believe we can score on anybody. We just have to cut out the mistakes. You hate to put yourself in bad situations, but I feel like both games (the two losses) came down to one drive.”

Sylvan Hills fell behind by three scores to McClellan and Beebe. Both times, the Bears got back to their explosive playmaking. They pulled to within one score in both games, and both times got a turnover to take possession with a chance to take the lead. And both times penalties bogged down the progress and the Bears were forced to punt.

“You really think that if we just keep it clicking, keep executing, they can’t stop us,” Withrow said. “We shot ourselves in the foot in both games. It’s frustrating.”

Beebe and McClellan are both big teams that run the ball 90 percent of the time. Pulaski Academy passes on almost every play, which also sets up big runs when they call the draw to super-quick tailback Jaren Watkins.

Tre Bruce is another big-time threat that will line up at quarterback, running back and receiver.

“You pretty much have to outscore PA,” Withrow said. “Again, I think we can score on anybody, but we have to eliminate the mistakes. You can’t afford to give them too many opportunities because you’ll be down in a hurry. But the pressure is off. We know where we stand, so hopefully we’ll have some fun and get us a win.”

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Playoffs hang in balance for Rabs, Raiders

Leader sports editor

The Lonoke Jackrabbits are on the cusp of turning around a season that at one point looked like it was turning into a disaster. After losing their first three conference games, the Jackrabbits have won two of their last three, and can make the playoffs with a win this Thursday at Riverview. Lonoke coach Doug Bost is expecting a tough game from the Raiders, who are also one win away from making the playoffs for the first time as a member of the 4A classification.

“The winner plays Gosnell in the first round of the state tournament,” said Bost. “The loser is finished for the year. Both teams have a lot to play for, so it’s going to be a tough one.”

An already small team suffered six significant injuries that started piling up in week three. Lonoke started the season with a bang, beating Class 4A’s third-ranked team Star City on the road, then beating Class 5A’s third-ranked Beebe Badgers at home.

Next up was McClellan, and the first and perhaps most damaging injury of the season took place in the first quarter when senior Justin Meadows suffered a shoulder injury on defense.

Since then, two-way starter Logan Dozier has missed five games and starting quarterback Savonte Rountree’s season ended with an injury against CAC in week seven. Lonoke has also lost a starting linebacker and two starting linemen.

After a 32-16 loss to McClellan, Lonoke opened conference play with losses to Heber Springs, Newport and Southside-Batesville.

“It’s been up and down,” Bost said. “We feel like with Meadows in there we beat Heber Springs, but we lost by one. Then we turn it over four times against Southside and lose that one. Then we protect the ball and get a win at Helena, and the defense just played lights out against Stuttgart and we got us a win there. Hopefully we can continue to piece it together and play well.”

Meadows played his first complete game since week two in last Friday’s win over Stuttgart. Dozier will be back for the first time in six weeks on Thursday. Will Miller played quarterback in last week’s win, and he and Dozier have taken snaps in preparation for the regular-season finale.

Senior Josh Coleman started the year at fullback but has moved to the slot, and sophomore Xavier Hodge has had four-straight 100-yard rushing games since taking over for Coleman at fullback. Casey Martin moved from receiver to slot when Meadows was hurt, and has since moved back to his original position.

“We’ve had running backs moving to slot, slots moving to receiver and receivers moving to slot,” Bost said. “We’ve just had to piece things together and the kids have done a great job of doing whatever we ask of them.

“Xavier Hodge has been a great spark plug for us. He was nowhere on the radar at the start of the season. We felt like we had a bunch of good skill guys and that’s why we went to this offense, to get all those guys out there. But you lose a guy here, you move your back to slot, then his backup gets hurt; you just have to keep going down the list. And he’s stepped in and done a great job.”

Riverview moved up from Class 3A last year and was not very competitive. It’s a tradition-rich basketball school, but many of those athletes that had before specialized in basketball, came out for football this season, and the Raiders have improved dramatically.

“Riverview is not the same team as last year,” Bost said. “They have a lot of speed. Their offense is about 70 percent pass and they really sling it around out there. Our defense played great last week and it’s going to take another great effort this week.”

EDITORIAL >> Good choice for school site

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School board on Monday went along with Mayor Gary Fletcher’s proposal to build a new high school on the site of the old middle schools near Hwy. 67/167, which the mayor endorsed Saturday in The Leader. The board also authorized a 7.6-mill property tax increase to help pay for the new district’s building program, calling for a Feb. 9 special election on that increase, approved the proposed long-range facilities plan and will apply for state financial help through the facilities building partnership program.

The increase would raise the millage to 48.3, about like North Little Rock’s millage, and would raise about $45 million with a 25-year payoff, according to Superintendent Tony Wood. It would cost property owners an additional $152 a year on a $100,000 home.

We appreciate the mayor following our series on reviving downtown Jacksonville and pushing for the new high school on the decrepit old middle school site. It will make a good first impression when motorists drive up on the newly widened Hwy. 67/167.

After attending a three-day workshop in Fayetteville on reviving the state’s languishing downtown, Fletcher told our reporter Rick Kron last weekend that bulldozing the Middle School South and Middle School North Junior High schools and building a new high school there would help energize the new district and also revive the city’s fortunes.

Fletcher said the meeting in Fayetteville included planners from eight areas across the country, and they all said the middle school spot would be the prime area for the new high school. The mayor sees the new high school as “a shining light on the hillside” and “the crown jewel” in his efforts to revive downtown.

School board member Ron McDaniel was among the first to propose the middle school site for a new high school, but the mayor at first didn’t like the idea and supported building the new school near the air base, which had planned to donate land for a new high school and elementary school. It appears now that only the elementary school will be built near the periphery of the base, provided voters approve the millage increase.

“I owe school board member Ron McDaniel an apology,” the mayor told The Leader. Fletcher had first scoffed at him, but Fletcher now says, “I was wrong.”

The high school should only be the district’s and city’s start at bringing Jacksonville up to its full potential.

Next should come a new elementary school on the site of the old Jacksonville Elementary School, and call it that, the Jacksonville Elementary. A new school on that site would serve as the other anchor to downtown and would bring Sunnyside physically and mentally back into the city.

That side of Jacksonville got shortchanged with the overpass to nowhere and the closing of the elementary school. In the process of building a top-notch district, let’s also reconnect those fragmented portions of Jacksonville.

There is other good news that comes from the meeting. Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Owoh is working toward bringing advanced enrichment programs to the district. Many parents have been concerned because their children will have to leave such magnet programs they’ve attended in the Pulaski County Special School District.

The new district won’t be able to replicate those PCSSD magnet programs, but it is working toward solutions it can afford.

Bad, but not terrible, news is that the combined enrollments of both Jacksonville High School and North Pulaski High School are roughly 300 students fewer than they were a year ago.

That means the district will have to build a new high school to accommodate about 5 percent fewer students than the 1,700 it had expected to build for.

We are encouraged by the time, effort and concern the school board seems to be devoting to moving the new district forward in a timely manner and by the knowledge and expertise of the professionals helping it along.

As superintendent, Tony Wood knows exactly what needs to be done. He’s aided by chief of staff Phyllis Stewart, and everyone on board is moving forward in a timely manner.

Former director of the state public school transportation and facilities Fred Stein, Architect Eldon Bock of WER, public-finance consultant Scott Beardsley, attorneys Scott Richardson and Patrick Wilson and others are able and knowing guides.

Now, if we can just get district patrons to turn out and vote for the millage increase on Feb. 9, the Jacksonville area will finally get its own schools.

TOP STORY >> Odom, JP and farmer, dies at 71

Leader staff writer

Larry Odom, 71, who had served as a justice of the peace in Lonoke County for more than 20 years, passed away Tuesday after a several months’ fight against a cancerous brain tumor.

A visitation and funeral will be held Saturday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. The visitation will be from noon-2 p.m.

The funeral will follow at 2 p.m.

The family has asked that the remaining 12 members of the quorum court serve as honorary pallbearers.

Larry’s wife of 29 years, Sandy Odom, said he grew up in Cabot and loved his community.

“He was a loving and generous man,” she continued.

Odom was also a well-known farmer. He ran the family-owned Holland Bottom Farm on Hwy. 321.

Sandy Odom said her husband was passionate about both farming, which was in his heart and soul, and his work in the political sphere.

“He enjoyed serving the people. He enjoyed talking and visiting all his customers,” she said, adding that Larry knew all their names and faces. “He felt like he was living the American dream out here.”

Sandy Odom also said Larry was a math teacher and enjoyed quizzing kids to see if they were studying hard enough.

The widow also, lovingly, called him a “workaholic.” She said he was very intelligent, always knew what he was talking about and tried to be a mentor who steered people right.

Sandy Odom and Lonoke County Judge Doug Erwin said Larry would be greatly missed.

“The thing about Larry was he was a very strong-willed person who stood up for what he thought was right,” he continued.

Erwin added that Larry had contributed a lot of input throughout his years on the quorum court and brought a lot of knowledge to it.

JP Bill Ryker agreed, adding that Larry “was a numbers man” who spoke his mind and had been involved in every committee and chaired several, including the building committee when it undertook the construction of the new detention facility.

Ryker also said Larry meant a lot to both the county and the Cabot community.

Maggie Valley Berry Patch and Gardens posted on its Facebook page, “Larry was a premier strawberry grower in Arkansas. He was a wonderful mentor who shared his knowledgeable expertise with us. It was a thrill to have him visit us in the spring of this year.”

Larry was also featured on the P. Allen Smith show in 2012.

Another friend posted on Facebook, “He was a good man...He was so kind. He has blessed me with a lifetime of memories and lessons of life.”

Someone else thanked him, posthumously, for helping feed the county’s shut-ins and homeless by providing produce.

TOP STORY >> Community mourns fatalities

Leader staff writer

More than 1,000 people crowded into Cabot High School’s auditorium Monday night to come together in grief over two students and two graduates killed Halloween night in a tragic one-vehicle accident.

Adults and kids alike shed tears and formed prayer huddles to mourn Alexandria Simpkins, 20; Codi Rice, 19; Brooke Butler, 15, and Sydney Shumate, 16.

According to a State Police report, at 10:40 p.m. Saturday, Simpkins was driving a 2012 Jeep south on Gravel Hill Road a half-mile north of Hwy. 31 in White County.

She ran off the edge of the road and overcorrected. The Jeep turned counter-clockwise in the road and hit a guardrail. It left the road, overturned and hit a tree.

The weather was foggy and the road was wet.

Assistant Principal Alana Graham said she knew Codi and Sydney well.

She told The Leader, “Codi was full of life. She enjoyed everything that she could get her hands in...She loved every kid on this campus. You could see the joy and love in her eyes everyday.”

Codi loved the theater and dance, Graham said. She added that the young woman tried hard in class, too.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook also spoke to The Leader about Codi because she worked with that district’s pre-K kids.

Shook said Codi’s supervisor told her the children loved Codi, who was a great employee and got along with the other staff. The supervisor also told the superintendent Codi was “an all-around sweet kid.”

Shook said the Beebe School District was going to miss her and had heavy hearts for the families of all the girls. She said that community would be praying and thinking of them.

Graham called Sydney a beautiful young lady and said she always wore bright colors. “She stood out in a crowd,” the assistant principal continued. “She always made people feel like they matter who they were.”

Although Graham said she saw this week how much the other students missed Brook’s presence. “She was always positive, smiling. She made the classroom a fun atmosphere.”

The assistant principal said she didn’t know Alexandria (Lexy) well enough to tell The Leader about her. But a comment posted yesterday on the young woman’s Facebook page is revealing.

One friend wrote, “Can hear your little giggle right now. You were such a sweet girl...My heart hurts for all of the lives that were touched by this tragic accident, but may your sweet spirit live on Lexy.”

Terena Woodruff, director of counseling for Cabot High School, added that all of the young ladies were “known for being outgoing. Everyone was drawn to them.”

She also offered some advice to those who are grieving now.

Woodruff said parents should listen to their children, answer questions as best they can, acknowledge grief and realize that everyone handles a tragic loss like this differently.

One of the questions the counselor has heard from students is why did this happen. It’s a question no one can answer, Woodruff said.

They should do all they can to make sure they, along with their children, don’t get stuck in one stage of grieving either, the counselor continued.

Adults should model how to grieve in healthy ways, Woodruff noted.

She also suggests they help the teens focus on their own life goals and watch for changes in behavior that could indicate their child needs additional help with coping.

Woodruff said those who are mourning the girls should focus on happy memories and how they can live their lives in a way that honor Lexy, Codi, Brooke and Sydney.

Asst. Principal Graham added, “As a school district, we have really pulled together.”

She said there were counselors and administrators in the classes each of the two girls who were students attended.

There were also counselors in the library, available for those who needed them.

“I really feel like the students felt the love and support from us,” Graham said, noting that Monday was a somber day, as was Tuesday, but “we got through it.”

The school is trying to get the kids back into their routines moving forward, she noted. Graham also said, “It’s so important that our community and school district pulls together.”

She called Monday night’s service, hosted by New Life Church, a “moving tribute” that showed this had happened, that students, faculty, staff, parents and community members have come together to help each other through this difficult time.

Part of the official statement posted on the school district’s website Sunday and signed by Superintendent Tony Thurman reads, “This is a difficult time for our district and it will be an extremely emotional week for our students. We will be providing support and extra counselors will be available as long as needed. Please keep the families involved, students, staff, and the Cabot community in your thoughts and prayers.”

The community is not only received support from each other, but sympathy from outside its limits as well.

Codi was a freshman liberal arts major at Arkansas State University-Beebe and Lexy had recently transferred from there to a four-year college, according to Nancy Meador, director of publications and marketing.

ASU-Beebe’s statement reads, “Our hearts go out to the families, friends and classmates of these students. On behalf of the entire ASU-Beebe campus community, we extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Codi and Lexy. We also extend our condolences to our friends at Cabot High School, where all four students were current or former students.

“Counseling services are available to anyone touched by this tragedy. Please contact the Student Success Center at 501-882-8906 or stop by the offices located on the second floor of the student center.”

Meador knew Codi because her son went to school with the young lady.

The marketing director added that Codi was “very vibrant and bright” young lady, who would be noticed in a room and was “pretty inside and outside.”

The Batesville School District also extended its sympathies to Cabot, sending flowers to the high school on Monday.

Two high school football players from there died in an Oct. 26 car crash.

Also, notes that the young ladies’ families are in prayers and thoughts have been posted to the district’s Facebook page by individuals who say they’re from all over the state, country and world.

TOP STORY >> Downtown site chosen

Leader senior staff writer

The new Jacksonville-North Pulaski High School will be built at the prominent downtown site of the old middle school, the JNP Board voted Monday night. But, based on an enrollment decline, it will not be quite as large as originally envisioned.

The Oct. 1 high school enrollment figures for Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools are down 291 students from a year ago, according to Superintendent Tony Wood.

Based on the actual high school enrollment and allowing for a 15 percent anticipated growth over 10 years, the school will be sized for 1,400 students — 300 less than the previous estimate of 1,700, Wood said.

That’s a decrease of about 5.5 percent.

The decrease in enrollment means the new building will be smaller to accommodate both state standards and the state’s willingness to partner with the district, according to Fred Levy, facilities and state partnership consultant.

Levy said architects will adjust the building design to include fewer classrooms and possibly fewer science labs, and that the kitchen/cafeteria and auditorium would be smaller as well.

Levy said the school could still be built larger, but that the state partnership program, which is expected to pay about 45 percent of the cost of qualifying academic space, would not be available for those extra spaces.


The board also voted to set a 7.6-mill tax increase election for Feb. 9, for a total property-tax millage of 48.3.

The tax would raise $46 million to be repaid over 25 years, according to Scott Beardsley, the district’s public finance consultant.

The board also adopted a local support resolution for its 2016 six-year facilities master plan and academic facilities partnership program.

It consists of a new elementary school on Air Base property, a new high school at the old middle school site and building multipurpose buildings for all other elementary schools.


While school board members Carol Miles and LaConda Watson said their constituents preferred to build at the site of the current high school, the vote for the middle school site was unanimous, contingent upon the city’s willingness to close Sharp Drive, which runs through the property.

Mayor Gary Fletcher assured the board that the city council would agree to close the drive, but that a public hearing must be held first.

At least two council members on hand, Reedie Ray and James Bolden, said they didn’t anticipate a problem.

Fletcher said closing Sharp Drive from Main to School streets would create some inconvenience, but “the return outweighs the inconvenience.”

He said traffic would adapt to the change, much of it using Hospital Street.

He said that the decision would probably be finalized in December and that the drive would remain open until construction begins.

He said city planners he met with recently advised that the middle school site would be best for future development of downtown Jacksonville.


The city of Jacksonville has agreed to lease the old police station to the district for use as an administration building. The amount of the lease will be negligible, but the cost of reconfiguring and dealing with structural issues could be high, according to JNP Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart.

Throwing out a number, she suggested that even if renovation costs $300,000, that’s $30,000 a year, less than rent on a suitable administration building.

Stewart said she hopes the administration will move into that building by March 1.

Wood presented the board with 189 pages of proposed policies concerned with certified and classified personnel, including hiring. He said the board needs to adopt those personnel policies at the next meeting so they could begin advertising, reviewing, interviewing and hiring personnel, particularly principals and central office staff.

You have your homework, he told them.


He reminded the board that the new district is bound by the Plan 2000 desegregation agreement and that included establishing a biracial interview committee and the responsibility of reaching out to minority candidates.

He said the district would go online late this month and in early December, advertising for administrative positions, and he hopes to have the board policy in place.

“I hope to come back in February with recommendations for principals and begin the interviews in early December,” he said. “It’s essential that building principals have a strong voice in hiring the assistants.”

He hopes to have recommendations for some certified positions in March.

Wood reported that the state would help pay for high speed Internet.


He announced that the district has launched its website, with the support of the Jacksonville Education Foundation. While it’s pretty limited right now, the address is

After satisfying the concerns of Watson and Miles, the board unanimously accepted Wood’s recommendation that it use a consent agenda format for its monthly board meetings.

That format groups uncontroversial things that can been approved in one vote, but any board member may request that specific items be removed.

Among the arguments in favor of the middle school site was the relative proximity of a large portion of the residences. That’s easier on families and satisfies the Joshua Intervenors as being accessible to minority students.

Also, it is seen as a statement about the town — a shiny new high school in the downtown area and visible from Hwy. 67/167.

Col. William Brooks, an ex officio board member, spoke passionately about dreaming big and looking further down the road, suggesting that the land the Defense Department would make available met those criteria and also helped further cement the base and the community’s relationship.