Friday, December 11, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Learning curve for new district

Jacksonville’s new school district is moving forward with plans to be totally independent come this July.

Because this is a one-of-a-kind process, the district has to re-invent the wheel, in many cases, as it goes along. It has and will make mistakes. As parents, we call them growing pains. And there are sure to be more of them.

Some of the mistakes are minor, such as a short off-the-record meeting with several school board members before the actual board meeting Monday night.

One individual asked the board to let the public know what was discussed, but no answer came forward. That short meeting, if anyone presses the attorney general’s office, was most likely a violation of the Freedom of Information Act, but, more importantly, it gives the appearance of secret dealings.

Remember, one of the reasons why 95 percent of Jacksonville voters said yes to a new district was because of that veiled curtain the Pulaski County Special School District put between itself and Jacksonville, leaving local residents out of planning, money and opportunity for input.

The law does allow the board to meet behind closed doors, but only on personnel issues, and they did that Monday night, too. Board members followed the law in that meeting by coming out and acknowledging that they had a discussion and no action was taken.

It would have been nice to know the topic, sure, but the law requires no further information, unless action is decided and then that action takes place in the public forum.

Let’s hope that early closed-door meeting was just a blip and not a sign of problems to come. Board president Daniel Gray is making real efforts to be as transparent as possible, and patrons appreciate that, but off-the-record meetings are inappropriate as the district moves toward independence.

All in all, keep up the good work.

TOP STORY >> Judge rules candidates go on ballot

Leader staff writer

A Pulaski County circuit judge ruled Friday that the Lonoke County clerk’s opponent and a constable candidate should be placed on the primary election ballot even though the clerk declared their paperwork deficient.

County clerk candidate Courtney Ruble and unopposed Magness Township constable candidate Nathanael House will appear on the ballot. The latter is the son of Rep. Douglas House (R-North Little Rock), and Ruble worked in the clerk’s office until early December. But she wasn’t in the department that deals with election paperwork, Ruble testified.

The decision does not apply to two others — Dist. 4 Justice of the Peace candidate Gregory Gibson and Gumwood Township constable candidate Stephen Wright. They were excluded from the ballot for the same reason, but won’t be on it now because they didn’t join the lawsuit, according to Judge Mackie Pierce.

At Friday’s hearing, he said he didn’t blame County Clerk Dawn Porterfield for hesitating to certify the names. He noted that the issue coming before him “insulates” her from criminal liability.

Pierce added, addressing Porterfield, “I don’t think there’s anything here even remotely of a criminal nature, but I don’t think you’re being unreasonable” by saying a circuit court ruling was needed.

The judge also repeated one of her attorney’s points that the Faulkner County clerk had been charged for altering documents after the filing deadline.

Pierce said, “I am not faulting Miss Porterfield here because I am familiar with the clerk’s situation in Faulkner County,” noting that he thought that situation was different.

Porterfield has said no one she asked could give her the legal authority to change documents after the 12 p.m. Nov. 9 filing deadline.

Although the constable candidate filed for office Nov. 3, the clerk’s opponent filed around 10:40 a.m. Nov. 9.

At issue for both were blank “receipts” at the bottom of their affidavits of eligibility that Porterfield said should have been completed by the Lonoke County Republican Party.

The judge agreed the “receipts” should have been filled out for the sake of clarity, but said the law does not state they had to be. He also said the forms were “completed poorly” by party officials, who could have objected, but Porterfield had no standing to do so.

In addition, Ruble didn’t write her name in a space on her political practice pledge that instructs, “Print your name as it is to appear on the ballot. (See Below, Ark Code Ann. 7-7-305(c)).” Porterfield testified that the name written in that blank is what she is supposed to certify, even though Ruble’s name is elsewhere on the same document.

On another form, Ruble wrote her name in a blank where the office she was running for should have gone.

The judge directed that Porterfield let Ruble fix the mistakes.

He also allowed Lonoke County Election Commission Chairman Chuck Eick to hold a ballot draw after the hearing. Ruble drew the first position, meaning her name will appear above Porterfield’s on the ballot.

While announcing his decision, Pierce chastised, “I’ve been a candidate five times now in my lifetime. I assure you I went over every form I ever had filed with a fine-toothed comb.”

The judge, addressing Ruble, said, “You didn’t print your name as it should appear on the ballot, and, believe me, with a first name like Mackie, I’m going to make sure I get my name right (on the ballot)...I understand that it’s a hectic deal and you were on the last week, but the office is not Courtney Ruble.”

But, Pierce continued, “I don’t think, when you take all of the documents as a whole, I don’t think that the statute has provided such that you’re not an eligible candidate.”

The judge noted that there were no objections from any party to his declaring that both are eligible candidates.

After the hearing, Ruble told The Leader, “I’m very pleased with the outcome. I’m excited to get started with my campaign.”

House said, “I feel relieved. I’m glad that it’s the outcome that we wanted. I’m just anxious to get to serving the people of Lonoke County now.”

Eick commented, “It’s a shame that eligible candidates have to go and take their candidacy to a circuit court judge to be placed on a ballot so that the citizens of Lonoke County can decide who they want in office.”

TOP STORY >> Last story time in Ward

Leader staff writer

The final chapter of the Ward Public Library is rapidly approaching. The library will permanently close on Dec. 31.

Its books and materials will be absorbed into the other libraries of the Lonoke County Regional Library System. The Ward Library opened in 1999.

The last children’s story time will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22.

A trio of 12th-grade Cabot High School band musicians — Haley Lawrence, Brianna Watson and Justin Pouge —will play a woodwind arrangement of Christmas songs. After a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” cookies and hot chocolate will be served. All ages are welcomed.

The Lonoke/Prairie County Regional Library System lost $35,000 this year when legislators balanced the state budget by cutting $1 million in aid to Arkansas libraries. The regional system has operated on the same $1 million budget for 20 years, even as costs have increased.

“People are really shocked. There is still no justification for closing the library,” Ward Library director Venessa Ford said.

The Ward Library has stopped interloan checkouts with other libraries. But its patrons can go to another library in the Lonoke County Library System to check out items.

“It’s sad that Ann Watson (library assistant) and I are losing our jobs. But it is more sad that people around here won’t have a local library to come to. The kids at Ward Central Elementary are going to lose out. Not everybody has the luxury to pack up their vehicle and drive to the library. Some people walk to the library from the apartments, the trailer park and the nearby subdivision,” Ford said.

Lonoke County Regional Library board president Adam Simon told The Leader on Tuesday that there was not enough assistance monetarily to save the Ward Library.

“It was not cost effective for the taxpayers of Lonoke County to keep it open. It costs around $100,000 annually for the staff, services and resources needed. With no personnel, it would cost $50,000,” Simon said.

Simon said the Lonoke County Regional Library System has found since the $2.6 million Cabot Public Library opened in August, more patrons from Ward are using the Cabot library than the Ward library. Closing the library it not a big burden.

“The Cabot branch can handle the circulation of the Ward library,” Simon said.

On the Ward Public Library’s Facebook page Courtney Barnes wrote, “Sad it had to close. Shame it couldn’t have been saved.”

Julie Tolman posted, “I am upset that it is closing. We have special memories there.”

Ward City Mayor Art Brooke said previously he was told that it costs $62,000 a year to run the Ward Library with $17,000 of that coming from the city’s budget.

The city maintains the building, covers the insurance premiums and pays the utility bills.

The Cabot Public Library holds an after school program for children from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and story times at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The Goff Public Library in Beebe holds children’s programs on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Afterschool programs are held Wednesdays at 3:45 p.m.

TOP STORY >> O’Bryan can stay on bench

Leader staff writer

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission filed a motion on Friday to the Arkansas Supreme Court to reinstate Lonoke County District Court Judge Joseph O’Bryan to the bench.

The JDDC Investigation Panel met on Thursday and unanimously voted to dismiss the complaint.

JDDC director David Sachar told The Leader on Friday, “The Supreme Court usually releases cases on Thursday. I am uncertain on when they may act on the petition.”

Lonoke District Court dismissed a misdemeanor third-degree domestic battery charge against O’Bryan on Nov. 5 when special appointed Faulkner County District Court Judge David Reynolds signed an order. O’Bryan’s girlfriend, Robin Richards of Lonoke dropped charges against him.

O’Bryan was suspended with pay by JDDC in August soon after the charges were filed. Lonoke County Circuit Court Judges Barbara Elmore, Ashley Parker and Sandy Huckabee were appointed by the state Supreme Court to fill in for O’Bryan during his suspension. O’Bryan presides over cases in Cabot, Austin and Ward District Courts.

O’Bryan is running for re-election in the Lonoke County District Judge-Northern Division. He has been elected to the nonpartisan position of District Court of Lonoke County, Northern Division for 24 years since 1991.

Opposing O’Bryan are Cabot attorney John Flynn, Ward City Attorney Clint McGue and Judge Teresa Hallum Smith.

District courts hear misdemeanor cases, city ordinances violations, traffic violations and civil matters with not more than $5,000 in controversy. A small-claims division of the district court allows for citizens to represent themselves in civil-claims cases.

O’Bryan graduated from Cabot High School in 1967 and from Baylor Law School in 1973. He has been an attorney in the Cabot area for 33 years.

SPORTS >> Late mistakes cost Red Devils victory

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville played its second-straight overtime game on Thursday, but wasn’t able to make it two wins in a row.

After beating Hot Springs in overtime at home on Monday, the Red Devils lost 75-71 to Lee’s Summit West in the first round of the Bulldog Holiday Invitational at Fayetteville High School.

Titan post players Aaron Stepanek and Grant Bishop proved too much inside for the much smaller Red Devils.

“They’re a veteran team with a lot of seniors,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “They had that big boy inside (Stepanek) and we couldn’t do anything with him. We got him in foul trouble early and were able to control most of the game. But he came back late and made a difference.”

Stepanek’s biggest basket was the last one in regulation. Jacksonville led 71-69 when the Titans missed a shot from outside. Stepanek came down with the rebound, but Jacksonville’s Tyree Appleby knocked the ball loose. LSW came up with the loose ball and fed Stepanek inside for the game-tying basket just before the buzzer.

“They beat us for the 50-50 ball and threw it in to the big boy,” Joyner said. “Of course he just went up over all of us and laid it in there.

“We didn’t make good decisions in overtime. We took some bad shots and had some unforced errors.”

The Red Devils jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter and settled for a 20-13 advantage by the start of the second period. The Titans closed to within 32-29 by halftime. They briefly took the lead early in the third quarter, but Jacksonville regained a 46-45 advantage by the start of the fourth period.

LaQuawn Smith led Jacksonville with 29 points while Appleby finished with 11 and Braylin James 10.

Jacksonville played a rematch with Hot Springs last night after Leader deadlines. The Trojans took tournament host Fayetteville to four overtimes on Thursday before falling 76-70.

The winner of that game will play last night’s winner between Harrison and Springfield Hillcrest at 11:30 a.m. today. The losers of those two games play at 10 a.m. today. Hillcrest lost to Springdale High while Harrison fell 74-59 to North Little Rock.

SPORTS >> SH ladies rebound from bad first half

Leader sportswriter

A big third quarter helped lift the Sylvan Hills girls to a 53-42 win at Maumelle on Tuesday.

The Lady Bears (3-2) didn’t play up to their capabilities in the first half, according to their head coach, and as a result, they trailed by three points at halftime. The Lady Bears came out in the second half and played with more urgency, and also did a much better job on the boards.

“I was so mad, I almost felt like I couldn’t make it to the locker room quick enough,” said Sylvan Hills coach Shelley Davis of the first half. “I didn’t even recognize the team out there. We just totally were out of control, playing hot potato, and I can’t stand that kind of basketball.

“The third quarter, we kind of settled back down and got into some things. But Maumelle did a great job, because they were totally disrupting anything we were trying to do.”

Maumelle (4-4), who didn’t win a game a season ago, led 24-21 at the break. But Sylvan Hills outscored the Lady Hornets 22-4 in the third quarter to take a 43-28 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

The Lady Bears took the lead within the first 30 seconds of the second half. Jayla Bell scored on the first possession of the half and Raigen Thomas got a steal and layup on the ensuing possession, which gave the Lady Bears a 25-24 lead and forced a Maumelle timeout with 7:33 left in the quarter.

The timeout didn’t slow the Lady Bears’ momentum. They made their first four shots of the third quarter, and took their first double-digit lead at 36-26 with 3:49 left in the period. That margin was set on two free throws by Diamond Flanders.

Sylvan Hills’ lead grew to 15 by quarter’s end, with the last points of the period coming on a 3-pointer from the corner by Da’bria Thompson with 40 seconds left.

Both teams made eight field goals apiece in the first half, but Maumelle made five threes to Sylvan Hills’ one. Maumelle also outrebounded the Lady Bears 23-21 in the first half.

In the second half, Sylvan Hills outrebounded the Lady Hornets 25-16, and in the third quarter alone, the Lady Bears made nine field goals, including a 3-pointer, while Maumelle was held to just one field goal in that period.

In addition, the Lady Bears only committed two turnovers in the third quarter, while Maumelle had six.

“That helped, too,” Davis said of the third-quarter turnovers, or lack thereof. “They did turn it around in the third quarter.”

The fourth quarter was more balanced, scoring-wise. Both teams made five field goals in the period. Sylvan Hills maintained their 15-point lead late at 53-38. Maumelle added the final four points to set the final score.

Sylvan Hills went 22-68 from the floor Tuesday for 32 percent. Maumelle went 14-57 from the floor for 25 percent. Both teams made seven free throws in the game, but from 3-point range, the Lady Bears went 2 for 7, while the Lady Hornets went 7 for 31.

Four Lady Bears scored in double figures Tuesday and three finished with a double-double. Thompson had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Thomas had 11 points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Bell had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Flanders had 11 points, seven rebounds and five steals.

Kamri Summons led Maumelle with 12 points and five steals. Kayla Woods-Gray was one of four Lady Hornets with at least eight points, but the 5-foot-6 senior guard had a game-high 14 rebounds.

SPORTS >> Cabot overcomes droughts

Leader sports editor

The Cabot boys’ basketball team found itself in a battle at home Tuesday night with a team it beat easily on the road a few weeks ago. Coming off its first loss of the season last Friday to Springdale, Cabot continued to struggle, especially offensively, but managed to score the game’s last six points and win 37-31 over Catholic High.

The game was Cabot’s opening one in the Pre-Holiday Classic that’s been taking place this week at Panther Arena, and finishes today, but it was nothing like the 57-27 whipping the Panthers gave the Rockets in Little Rock to open the season.

Cabot coach Jerry Bridges was not pleased after the game, despite the victory.

“We didn’t play very good,” said Bridges. “We didn’t play anywhere near the level I think we’re capable of, and that’s why I’m so disappointed. If it weren’t for Bobby Joe (Duncan) having a good night and playing really well for us, we probably lose this game.”

Cabot did appear to take control early, and built a 21-12 lead about halfway through the second quarter, and that’s when the offensive struggles began.

Catholic pulled to within 21-18 with just seconds left in the half. Phillip Wynne hit a 3-pointer for Cabot with about five seconds remaining. He then got a steal and flung up a 30-footer that went in, but was ruled to have been released after the buzzer, leaving the score 24-18 at halftime.

Wynne’s 3-pointer was Cabot’s only basket from the midway point of the second quarter to the 1:15 mark of the third. Halfway through the third quarter, Cabot had taken only two shot attempts. But Catholic also struggled offensively, and was only able to score six points during the Panthers’ third-quarter drought, tying the game at 24-24 with 2:39 remaining on two free throws by Noah Bashan.

Duncan scored Cabot’s first basket of the third quarter with 1:15 left to give the Panthers a 26-24 lead, but Catholic point guard Chad Wharton took the inbound pass and went the distance of the court before dishing to 6-foot-8 post player Brian Beckwith for an easy layup.

Duncan then hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in the third to send the Panthers into the final period with a 29-26 lead.

Catholic missed both ends of a two-shot trip to the free-throw line, and the front end of a one-and-one to start the fourth quarter. Duncan hit a running 12-footer to put the Panthers up by five with 6:30 left in the game. That was Cabot’s last goal before another four-minute scoring drought saw the Rockets come back and tie the game. Wharton’s 3-pointer with 3:40 left made the score 31-31, and Catholic failed to score again the rest of the game.

With 2:40 left, Duncan penetrated and dished to Hunter Southerland for an easy layup that made it 33-31. Jalen Brown then got a steal for Cabot, but the Wharton drew a five-second violation on Duncan. Bridges vehemently protested to the call, and to some avail. Catholic got its own five-second violation just 10 seconds later, giving the Panthers the ball back with one minute remaining.

Cabot held the ball until Duncan was fouled with 12 seconds left. He hit both ends of a one-and-one trip to the line, and then got a steal and layup to set the final margin.

Duncan led all players with 15 points. He also had three steals and three assists. Southerland scored 10 for the Panthers while Beckwith led Catholic with 12 points.

Cabot went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line while Catholic hit just 2 of 7. Cabot hit 14 of 41 shots from the floor, including 5 of 19 3-point attempts. Catholic was 13 of 32 overall and 2 of 8 from outside. The Rockets outrebounded the Panthers 18-16.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

TOP STORY >> Ward and Cabot parades this weekend

Ward and Cabot will hold their annual Christmas parades this weekend.

• The Ward Christmas Parade will be held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The entry fee is $5. Applications must be turned in by 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 at the Ward Municipal Complex receptionist office.

The parade will line up along Front Street and travel up Markham Street from Front Street to Hwy. 367, then turn left past the Dollar General store and up to Hickory Street, ending in front of City Hall along Fourth Street.

The parade’s grand marshal will be state Rep. Joe Farrer (R-Austin).

For more information, call the Ward reception office at 501-843-7686 or Jamee Moore at 501-743-2710.

• Cabot’s annual Christmas parade will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday. The theme is “Christmas Around The World.”

Participants are asked to select an idea or image that represents their favorite memory or interpretation of the theme and use it to design their float. There will be several marching bands, clowns, veterans groups and Santa Claus.

Organizers encourage businesses and civic and church groups to participate by placing some type of entry in the parade.

Trophies will be awarded in the five categories: best school or civic group, best church float, business and one for best animal/equestrian or general/personal entry.

Parade rules and route maps are available at the Veterans Park Community Center, the Cabot Chamber of Commerce office and online at

The parade will travel South Pine Street/Hwy. 89, beginning at Panther Trail, and, continuing north past the Knights Shopping Center, make a left turn onto Pond Street and end at Central Elementary School.

It is the same route of the Cabot Homecoming Parade.

For more information, call 501-920-2122 or email

TOP STORY >> District readies to push millage

Leader senior staff writer

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Jacksonville-North Pulaski high school should be ready later this month or in early January for the school board and for use in the campaign to pass a 7.6-mill property tax increase in a Feb. 9 special election, according to Eldon Bock, principal architect for WER Architects.

The money would be used to build the new high school, to contribute toward a new elementary school and to build multi-purpose rooms for the other elementary schools —all improvements now officially sanctioned by the state Education Department and state Partnership Program.

At a board workshop last week, members told Bock they preferred a traditional/contemporary design in the vein of the Esther D. Nixon Library, just down Main Street from the old middle school property upon which the high school will be built.

Based on projected enrollment and conforming to state guidelines, the new school will be about 230,000 square feet and cost roughly $200 a square foot, he said Tuesday. Using those figures, the school could cost about $46 million, including site preparation.

He said the artist’s rendering would probably be a front-door vignette, off Main Street, and would include a rough early site plan.

Bock said he had received a topographical map from Bond Engineers with which planning could continue, but that most planning was on hold until after the election, so the district would know how much money it can spend on the new school.

Including site work, phase one of construction will be for 1,700 students, with some areas such as the kitchen and mechanicals built to later accommodate additions of more classrooms for more students.

He said his shop would get real busy after the millage increase election, regardless of whether it passes or fails.

While high school construction and architecture were discussed at great length at the workshop on Dec. 1, it wasn’t on the agenda for the regular board meeting held Monday night.

Robin Wakefield, representing the Jacksonville NAACP, asked why she and Gwendolyn Harper hadn’t received answers to items they had asked for under the Freedom of

Information Act about licensed personnel hiring practices. Board President Daniel Gray said he thought that had been taken care of and offered to visit with Wakefield and go over her issues and concerns.

Myeisha Haywood, principal of Murrell Taylor Elementary School, gave a video presentation with her leadership of tools they use to help students improve academically in math and literacy, including classes or exercises before and after school.

Jeremy Owoh, assistant superintendent for instruction and curriculum is now Dr. Jeremy Owoh, Rick Kron noted during his comments about the district’s salary schedule, which is competitive for less experienced teachers, but not for those with advanced degrees and many years of experience. Kron asked to discuss the salary issue at the next meeting.

Kron is a teacher and, by way of full disclosure, also a reporter for The Leader.

In the consent agenda, a first reading was held to adopt JNP School Board Policies on Governance and Operations and also on Administration. The proposed policies, based on state requirements and the Arkansas School Board Association, were discussed previously. Three readings are required for the measure to be passed.

Superintendent Tony Wood praised the board for taking their duties seriously and reviewing the policies as their homework.

One proposed change would prohibit bus drivers from performing “safety-sensitive functions within eight hours after using alcohol.” The previous language was four hours.

The board also considered licensed personnel policies and classified personnel policies, with proposed changes by consultant Beverly Williams.

The school calendar has not been set yet, according to Wood. He said he’s trying to coordinate with the Pulaski County Special School District, Little Rock and North Little Rock schools. Someone suggested trying to include Cabot in the discussion.

The board approved a social media policy that insists, whether in-person or over electronic media, any interactions with a student must be professional and appropriate, even discouraging “likes” and comments on Facebook or elsewhere because they could be widely disseminated.

Employees can’t use social media accounts in class and are discouraged from using even their own devices during work hours, except during breaks or preparation periods.

An employee doesn’t have to give administrators access to their accounts and passwords or to include them as a friend on those accounts, unless the employee’s social media account activity “is reasonably believed to be relevant to the investigation of an allegation of an employee violating district policy or state, federal or local laws or regulations.”

Refusal under those circumstances may precipitate disciplinary action that could include termination or non-renewal of the employee’s contract.

EDITORIAL >> Let's not cut local funding

If we can’t keep our bridges and tunnels open and roads in good repair, the prospects for this state and nation stagnate.

The same is true of the rest of our infrastructure. We’re sitting, sleeping, educating, driving, playing and praying over an aging tangle of gas, oil, water and electric lines, with even more electric lines overhead, awaiting the next ice storm and week-long blackout.

Many need replacement before it’s too late—reference the Exxon oil pipeline leak at Mayflower and the pipe that burst under the Arkansas River, resulting in a towering geyser in downtown Little Rock.

Security of our military, our banking, Wall Street, our electric generation and the routing of our planes and trains may already have been hacked and compromised by foreign nations and other groups.

Now there’s not much we can do about most of that here in the Natural State. But we can and must tend to our roads and highways, and fix or replace substandard bridges.

For a variety of reasons, we don’t have the money we need to do this, and after years of study, Gov. Asa Hutchinson convened the Governor’s Task Force on Highway Funding, packed with “stakeholders” — that’s legislators, road construction and trucking-industry lobbyists, financial people and others who seemed to have looked at the problem through their own eyes.

The Working Group is due to submit a menu of strategies to Hutchinson by Tuesday, according to Duncan Baird, chairman and director of the state Department of Finance and Administration.

The governor is expected to choose from that menu, although most or all changes will require legislative action, and, barring a special session, they will not be considered until the January 2017 General Assembly convenes.

While long term, the state Highway Department needs billions of dollars, the working group focused on short-term funding.

The Highway Department needs enough money to unlock matching funds from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

While working group members may not agree on the remedy, they do agree on the goals.
In the short-term, the working group wants to raise $110 million a year for the AHTD, with $45 million of that for federal matching funds annually and $65 million for overlays, sealing projects and other projects.

They want to raise another $140 million a year for the ADH three to five years in the future, for a total of $250 million of additional revenue for enhanced maintenance, including overlaying, sealing or rehabilitating about half of the highway system every 15 to 20 years and increasing the frequency of sign replacement and upgrades to rest areas.

The goal would add another $150 million a year beginning years six through nine to Highway Department funds, raising the annual increase over current funding to $400 million a year.

Currently, road and highway revenues from taxes and turnback are split between the state Highway and Transportation Department, 70 percent, and the cities and counties, which each received 15 percent.

That split appears safe for now, at least for current revenue streams.

Legislators and local officials have watched warily, concerned that the state might redraw that formula to, say, 90 percent to the state and 5 percent each to the cities and counties.

State Rep. Andy Davis (R-Little Rock), has suggested that money transferred from the state’s General Fund to its Highway Fund would remain 100 percent state money. Legislators, county judges and mayors are concerned about that.

But what also concerns us is that money would be coming from state funding of education—probably against past court decisions like the Lake View case—and from other social programs that affect families, children and health.

It’s not clear how — or if — the $125 million a year or more taken from education and those programs could or would be replaced.

If the governor and the legislature want to rejigger fuel and sales tax rates, charge higher registration fees on electric, compressed natural gas or hybrid cars to help make up for the fuel taxes they don’t pay, well, we can live with that.

But we are flat against any reduction of revenues to city and county road departments and totally against moving revenues from the General Fund to the Highway Fund unless there’s a surefire way to offset them.

Sixty-five percent of the General Fund goes, in one form or another, to education.

TOP STORY >> Apocalypse in an age of daily terror

Leader executive editor

 It didn’t take long for another ISIS sympathizer to infiltrate the U.S. by way of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and an online engagement arranged in terrorist heaven.

You can get a bride’s visa at U.S. consulates in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, almost at any time or anyplace where the Islamic Caliphate rules.

Tashfeen Malik, 29, left Pakistan in July 2014 to start a new life in California with Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, a U.S. citizen whose parents immigrated from Pakistan in the 1970s.

The two ISIS sympathizers had a baby last summer but found time for target practice whenever the grandparents took care of the baby. People ignored them, like the Saudis who took flying lessons around the U.S. before 9/11.

No one noticed the couple’s arsenal of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition stored in their small apartment near San Bernardino until last Wednesday, when they shot up an employee party in a building where Farook was employed as a county health inspector.

Jobs may be scarce, but an ambitious ISIS sympathizer can find government work if he tries hard enough. Farook must have hated working with Christians and Jews, especially those who expressed sympathy for Israel.

Nicholas Thalasinos, who was one of the 14 people killed by the terrorists, was a Christian who identified so strongly with Israel that he wore Jewish religious garments, such as prayer shawls and skull caps. He and his wife repeated their marriage vows under a canopy used at Jewish weddings.

Thalisanos and Farook may have argued at work. Farook left the party and returned with his wife and their weapons, leaving a blood bath at the Inland Regional Center.

The FBI is looking for accomplices and people who may have inspired them to kill. From 9/11 to Ft. Hood, Islamic terror threatens Americans across the land.

Often overlooked is the shooting at the Army recruiting station in Little Rock in 2009. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 24, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, wasn’t tried as a terrorist, but the result was deadly: He killed Pvt. William Long, 23, of Conway and injured Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 18, of Jacksonville.

They were eventually awarded the Purple Heart, Long posthumously.

Pulaski County prosecutors didn’t want to try Muhammad as a terrorist — they said he was just a copycat — but the results were just as deadly. He shot several rounds from the back of his vehicle and took off.

Muhammad said he would have shot more soldiers if they’d gone outside with the others. Muhammad didn’t dare leave his truck and storm the recruiting office, where he could have killed many other soldiers and he, too, would have died in a hail of gunfire.

Instead, Muhammad fled, but he was soon arrested at the I-630 and I-30 interchange near downtown Little Rock.

He pleaded not guilty to capital murder. He said he was a devout Muslim who hated the military for what it was doing to Muslims overseas.

He remained defiant until his trial, and then he pleaded guilty. Little Rock should place a marker at the recruiting station honoring the victims.

President Obama told the nation Sunday night there will be no ceasefire in the war on terror. But there’s still no new strategy against the Islamic Caliphate, which will require a worldwide effort on the scale of the Manhattan Project.

The caliphate is no superpower like Germany and Japanese and is much more backward but just as fanatical.

Gun-control advocates won a victory this week when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of an Illinois law banning assault weapons and large magazines like the ones used in the terrorist attack in San Bernadino.

But that will not stop other Muhammads, Farooks and Maliks. We could then wind up with security measures similar to those recommended by Donald Trump this week.

SPORTS >> Lonoke teams lose in St. Joseph finals

Leader sportswriter

CONWAY – The Lonoke boys’ and girls’ basketball teams advanced to the finals of the 21st annual St. Joseph Classic, but both came up short in Saturday’s finals.

The Lonoke girls held a five-point lead over England after a quarter of play in the girls’ final, but the Class 2A Lady Lions took the lead in the second quarter and maintained it the rest of the game and won 52-41.

The boys’ game wasn’t as close. The Jackrabbits ran into a talented and undefeated Guy-Perkins team that won the boys’ final 67-41.

In the girls’ game, Lonoke (5-2, 1-1) jumped out to a 10-4 lead to start and the Lady Rabbits held their largest lead at 12-5. England (7-1) scored the final points of the opening quarter, which cut Lonoke’s lead to 12-7 at the start of the second.

England turned up the pressure in the second quarter, and Lonoke struggled against that pressure. As a result, the Lady Lions were able to force turnovers and open the second quarter with a 10-0 run and take the lead at 17-12.

That run ended with back-to-back 3-pointers by England guard Amber Martin, prompting Lonoke coach Nathan Morris to call timeout with 5:11 left in the half.

Lonoke fought back and tied the game at 18-18 on a fast-break basket by Ashlyn Allen, but England retook the lead shortly after and ended the half with a 7-2 run to take a 25-20 lead into halftime.

It didn’t help Lonoke that leading scorer Keiunna Walker sat the second quarter because of foul trouble. She picked up three fouls in the first quarter.

“We got a little bit shell-shocked there in the second quarter,” said Morris. “We got in a little bit of foul trouble. We had to put our leading scorer on the bench with a little bit of foul trouble and I think that hurt us. That hurt us rhythm-wise, where we would’ve liked to have had her on the floor.” 

Martin opened the second half with another three to give England an eight-point cushion. Near the five-minute mark, Lonoke closed the gap to 30-26 on a Walker 2-pointer off a Jarrelyn McCall inbound lob underneath the basket.

Foul trouble continued to hinder Lonoke in the second half, but some of those fouls against Lonoke were ticky-tacky calls, and the officials missed some blatant ones that should’ve been called on England.

England had eight foul shots in the third quarter to Lonoke’s zero, but the Lady Lions only made one of those foul shots. What really benefitted England in the third and fourth quarters were its second- and third-chance points because Lonoke struggled to rebound against the more aggressive Lady Lions.

“Probably the most disappointing thing was second-chance effort,” Morris said. “We gave up way too many second-chance opportunities for them – second and third. It got us that game. It got us against Heber Springs. It about tossed us in another game, and we have got to commit to being better block-out rebounders.

“We can’t take the kind of charges that we take and play defense the way we play – play tough, aggressive defense and then not block somebody out. That’s on me and it’s something we’ve got to improve.”

Toward the end of the quarter, England’s lead grew to nine, but Walker added a putback with three seconds remaining to make it a 37-30 game at the start of the fourth.

The Lady Lions scored the first two points of the fourth, but around the halfway point, Lonoke made it a four-point game, with the score 42-38, on consecutive buckets by Walker and McCall.

That was as close as Lonoke would get the rest of the way, though, and England all but sealed the game with 2:14 remaining on a corner three by Tatayana Pennister that pushed the Lady Lion lead to 47-38.

England held the ball with 1:30 remaining, forcing Lonoke to foul the rest of the way. In the final seconds, England’s Julia Bryant set the final score by making 1 of 2 free throws.

Neither team shot well from the free-throw line, but England had double the attempts. Lonoke made 6 of 19 shots from the line for 32 percent. England made 17 of 40 free throws for 43 percent.

England outrebounded Lonoke 25-19 in the second half, but the Lady Lions had several offensive rebounds that led to their second- and third-chance opportunities.

Walker led Lonoke with 19 points. Allen had 11. For England, Pennister led the way with 17 points. Bryant scored 12 points and Martin added 10.

In the boys’ game, Guy-Perkins (16-0) jumped out to an 11-1 lead and led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the Thunderbirds pushed their lead to 38-18. The lead grew to 27 by the end of the third quarter, with the score 57-30.

Near the five-minute mark of the fourth, GP pushed its lead to 65-35, which invoked the sportsmanship rule.

Kylan Branscomb led Lonoke (5-2, 1-1) with nine points Saturday. Haven Hunter scored eight points. For GP, senior point guard Tim Campbell, who was nearly in range once he crossed half court, led all scorers with 25 points. Tre Minton scored 16 points, Joshua Ballard had 12 and Coree Ealy added 10.

SPORTS >> JHS girl's offensive struggles continue

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils were shorthanded in Monday’s game against Hot Springs, and lost 46-29 to the Lady Trojans at JHS. It was Jacksonville’s second-straight 17-point loss, following a 51-34 defeat at the hands of Vilonia on Friday, also at JHS.

In Monday’s game, the Lady Devils were without junior point guard Alexis James, who was ejected, along with a Lady Eagle, from Friday’s game for a physical altercation.

The Lady Trojans’ inside-outside game of point guard Ariana Guinn and post player Keynoso Hunter was too much for Jacksonville on Monday.

Jacksonville also suffered a terrible shooting night, hitting just 10 of 46 shot attempts and 6 of 14 free throws.

Jacksonville was solid on defense most of the night, but could never get the offense on track. The struggles started immediately when Hot Springs opened the game in a 3-2 zone and Jacksonville got little movement on offense. After watching her team pass the ball around the perimeter for nearly a minute, Jacksonville coach Crystal Scott called timeout with 6:20 on the clock of a scoreless game.

Three minutes into the game, Jacksonville had three possessions, three turnovers and no shot attempts, but only trailed 2-0.

The Trojans began switching defenses with each possession, going from the 3-2 to a 2-3 and then to a man defense. Jacksonville’s Asiah Williams finally scored with 4:10 left in the first quarter to tie the game at 2-2.

Things began to open up over the last three minutes of the opening period, and the Lady Trojans took an 11-7 lead into the second quarter. Offenses bogged down again in the second quarter, especially for Jacksonville.

The Lady Devils did not score at all in the second period, going 0 for 7 from the floor, 0 for 4 at the free-throw line and committing nine turnovers. But Jacksonville’s defense stayed strong. With 1:43 left in the half, Hot Springs’ lead was only 15-7, but Hunter scored twice before halftime to give her team a 19-7 lead at the break.

Guinn became a factor in the second half. She scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the final two quarters as the Lady Trojans began to pull away.

Without its point guard and most experienced ball handler, Jacksonville’s offense continued to struggle.

Guinn scored two quick buckets to start the third quarter to give her team a 23-7 lead. The Lady Devils didn’t score a bucket from the 30-second mark of the first quarter until 4:10 remained in the third. After three free throws earlier in the period, Jacksonville finally scored from the floor when Payton Matheny got to the rim to make it 26-12.

Jacksonville trailed 33-18 at the end of the third and 36-18 seconds into the fourth. The Lady Devils made some defensive adjustments and climbed back to within nine with 90 seconds remaining in the game. But Hot Springs, which had made just 3 of its first 14 free-throw attempts, hit 5 of 6 down the stretch, and added a 3-pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Guinn led all scorers with 17 points while Hunter added 13. Hot Springs dominated the glass 36-25. Desiree Williams and Asiah Williams each scored nine for Jacksonville.

In Friday’s game, Jacksonville held a 22-21 lead at halftime, but was outscored 21-6 in the third quarter. Lady Eagle Alexis Burnham came off the bench and hit three 3-pointers to spark the Vilonia run. Sydney Wader and Sarah Brantley also hit long-range shots in the third as Vilonia scored 15 of its 21 from outside.

The Lady Eagles only scored two field goals in the fourth quarter, but hit enough free throws to hold off Jacksonville.

Wader led all scorers with 22 points while Aaiiyah Cash added 10 for Vilonia. Lacy led Jacksonville with 12 points and Desiree Williams scored 11.

The Lady Devils (4-7) played at Mount St. Mary Academy on Tuesday. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

SPORTS >> Devils win with dazzling play

Leader sports editor

A largely uneventful overtime period ended in dramatic fashion Monday at the Devils’ Den. Jacksonville junior Tyree Appleby penetrated into the lane and lobbed a perfect alley-oop pass to senior LaQuawn Smith, who slammed it home for the game-winner in a 57-54 victory over highly-ranked Hot Springs.

Smith’s dunk ended a two-and-a-half minute possession in which Hot Springs chose to sit back in a 1-3-1 and not matchup, allowing Appleby and Dajuan Ridgeway to pass the ball back and forth near half court. Smith scored with 24 seconds left and Hot Springs called timeout with 15 seconds left to set up the last play.

The Trojans spread out to let 6-foot-4 point guard Trey Lenox drive to the hoop, but Appleby stripped him as he went up for a shot from the middle of the lane. He was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws with .8 seconds left to set the final margin.

“Appleby’s just a baller,” said Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner. “He made the plays at the end. I don’t know why they sat back and let us rest for two minutes. They have better athletes than us and we were spent. That was just what we needed.”

Hot Springs overcame a 15-point second half deficit to send the game to overtime.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Appleby and Smith gave Jacksonville a 40-25 lead with 4:55 left in the third quarter. The Trojans had played man defense the whole game, but after a timeout switched to the 1-3-1.

The change badly disrupted Jacksonville’s rhythm. The Red Devils didn’t get another shot attempt up for almost two minutes, but the Trojans only cut the margin to 40-29 during that span. Hot Springs still trailed 45-34 late in the third quarter before Kajuan Christon hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer after two offensive rebounds that made it 45-37 heading into the fourth.

The Trojans opened the fourth quarter just like it ended the third, with a 3-pointer that made it 45-40. With 4:50 remaining, Paris Harris hit a layup that tied the game at 46-46. The two teams traded baskets to 50-50. After Appleby missed a pair of free throws, Hot Springs took its first lead at 52-50 with 1:22 left in regulation.

Hot Springs got a stop when Appleby missed a reverse layup, and got a break when, after a missed shot, a scrum for a loose basketball ended with Trojan coach Rodney Echols being awarded a timeout. Joyner argued that no one had possession of the ball in order to call timeout, but Hot Springs took possession with a two-point lead with 16 seconds left.

Inbounding underneath their own basket, the Trojans threw the ball out to the top of the key, where Appleby stole the pass and was fouled at the other end with 10 seconds to go.

This time he made both free throws and Kajuan Christon missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

“Experience is going to make these guys better,” Joyner said. “They switched to the 1-3-1, and it took a little while for us to adjust to it. We have an offense for that, but most of these guys haven’t been in these situations.”

Smith, however, is a three-year starter who finished with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. At 6-3, he was shorter than three of Hot Springs’ starters, but was the game’s top rebounder.

“That’s just playing hard and these kids play hard,” Joyner said. “Quawn can just zone out sometimes. We’ve been working on keeping him focused on what’s going on out on the floor. He was focused tonight.”

“Thirteen rebounds, I like the sound of that,” said Smith. “I just know as a senior I have to show the ones who haven’t played much before what it takes. We don’t have as much size this year so we have to play that much harder. But we’ve had confidence from day one. We don’t see it as a weakness.”

Jacksonville’s tallest player, 6-8 junior Kameron Hamilton, had the best game of his career. He only scored two points, grabbed two rebounds and blocked one shot, but the nature of his play changed the game, according to Joyner.

Hamilton’s one bucket was an emphatic dunk after an offensive rebound, and he threw Hot Springs center Quanteze Smith shot back out near the half-court line.

“The difference in the game was Kameron Hamilton getting in there and being a force on defense,” Joyner said. “He’s coming around. Last year was his first year of organized basketball. He was so soft and so inexperienced, he wasn’t much help. But he’s a different player this year. He’s still got a long way to go, like we all do, but he’s getting better.”

Appleby led all scorers with 30 points. Xavian Christon led Hot Springs with 18 points while Kajuan Christon scored 13. Hot Springs outrebounded Jacksonville 28-27.

On Friday, Jacksonville (5-1) beat Vilonia 84-61 in an up-and-down game. Smith led Jacksonville in that win with 21 points while Appleby had 20 and Ridgeway 12. Josh Greer led Vilonia with 22 points while Austin Newell and C.J. Williford scored 11 apiece.

OBITUARIES >> 12-9-15


Darrell Dwayne Short Sr., 77, of El Paso was born July 28, 1938, in El Paso to Jess and Mattie Osborn Short, and he passed away Dec. 6.

He served as a deacon at El Paso First Baptist Church. Darrell and his wife, Reba, who survives him, were married 50 years, and they enjoyed singing together He also enjoyed fishing and being PaPa to his grandson, Curtis Short, of Austin.

Darrell is also survived by his son, Darrell (Dwayne) Jr. and his wife Glennis of Benton, and his daughter, Diane St. John and her husband Roger of El Paso.

He was preceded in death by his parents, and brothers, Douglas (LD) Short, Donald Short and Lloyd Short.

Special thanks to Dr. Jerry Glasco and the DaVita Home Training Center at North Little Rock.

Memorials may be made to Autism Speaks,

The family will receive friends from 6 until 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9 at Smith-Westbrook Funeral Home in Beebe. A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at El Paso First Baptist Church.


Joseph Michael Grassi, 79, beloved husband and father, passed from this life on Dec. 4.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Lucia and Frank Grassi; his twin sister, Irma Grassi, and his brothers, Adrian, Tulio and Mario.  Joe is survived by a host of brothers and sisters in Christ, including his wife, Mary, of 53 years; their daughter, Maggie, and her husband, Jon; two grandchildren, Joseph and Hannah, many brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe served his country for 20 years in the Air Force, retiring to the Cabot area. He had a second 20-year career with the Postal Service.

Joe enjoyed volunteering and was active in local Kiwanis.

Before his death, Joe specified that no memorial service be held. In lieu of flowers, charitable donations are encouraged.

Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Billie Jean Renner Hendrickson, 84, of Sherwood was born to William and Stella Hughes on Oct. 3, 1931, in Aylesworth, Okla. She received her wings on Dec. 5.

She was preceded in death by two sisters, Virginia and Kathryn, and she is survived by two sisters, Margarette and Betty.

She had two daughters with her husband Robert Renner, Kim King and Cindy Koplen; two granddaughters, Jennifer Young and Amy Waymack, and three great-grandchildren, Abbigail Triplett, Grace Young and Brantley Waymack.

She was a member of Sylvan Hills Church of Christ in Sherwood. You could always hear her humming church hymns from her childhood.

A graveside service will be held at noon Wednesday, Dec. 9 at Little Rock National Cemetery.

Arrangements by Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.


Gail Randall Holland, 63, of Cabot died Dec. 3.

She was born Sept. 9, 1952, in Olean, N.Y., to Frank Randall and Beverly Gould Randall.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul Holland.

Gail is survived by her mother, Beverly Randall; her sons, Jason Holland and Greg Holland; a sister, Paula Randall; a brother, Mark Randall, and a granddaughter, Claire Randall. 

Arrangements are by Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.


Johnny Marvin Kuske, 65, of Austin passed away Dec. 5. He was born to the late Robert J. Kuske and Violet M. (Shockey) Kuske in Denver, Colo., on Jan. 12, 1950.
Johnny loved his family and was a fulltime PaPa to his grandchildren. He enjoyed everything outdoors, but especially hunting, fishing and camping. He also enjoyed dancing and making crafts.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Ricky Kuske, and sister, Marty Tew.

Johnny is survived by his wife, Linda C. (Duncan) Kuske of the home; five children, Harry Brown of Bismark, Danny Brown and his wife Melissa of Lonoke, Chris Johnson of Malvern, Angel Clinton and his favorite son-in-law, Joey, of Austin, and Johnny Kuske, Jr. of Cabot; 10 grandchildren, and four siblings, Rosie Bettger, Penny Henderson, Patricia Andrews and Vick Kuske.

Cremation arrangements by A Natural State Funeral Service of Jacksonville.


Elton James (Jay) Johnson, 79, of Cabot died on Dec. 2.

He was born in McLeans-boro, Ill., on Feb. 26, 1936, to the late William Elton Johnson and Martha Middlekauf Johnson, who preceded him in death.

Jay is survived by his wife of 60 years, Jo Ann Johnson; his children, Jay Johnson, Cynthia Wood and April Phillips; a sister, Cynthia Vernon, and grandchildren, Jordan Richardson, Daryl Johnson, Sarah Grace Phillips, Lane Phillips and Cole Wood.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at Moore’s Cabot Funeral Home.

Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, 322 Eighth Ave., 7th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001.


Edward John Flemings, 33, of Jacksonville went to be with his Lord on Dec. 6 in Little Rock. Edward was born to the late Billy W. and Bobbye Ann (Kimble) Flemings on May 19, 1982, in Little Rock. He was preceded in death by his two sisters, Natalie Flemings and Stacie Wyatt.

Edward loved spending time with his family as well as playing video games. He was a member of the Faith Christian Church in Jacksonville.

He is survived by his adoptive parents, Robert and Early Felder; four sisters, Nichole Flemings and her husband Carlos, Carmen Kendle, Monique Felder-Alexander and her husband Andrew and Whitney Starks; numerous aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12 at A Natural State Funeral Service Chapel in Jacksonville. A memorial service will follow at 3 p.m. at Faith Christian Center, 6706 T.P. White Drive, Jacksonville.


Scott Anthony Mason, 58, of Bald Knob passed from this life on Dec. 6.

He was born in Kokomo, Ind., on Sept. 2, 1957, to Ralph Mason and the late Betty Jean (Austin) Mason.

Scott is survived by his two sons, Michael McAnnally and Cas Mason; four brothers, Steve, Mark and Jeff Mason and Joel Holt of Gravel Ridge; two sisters, Pam (Mason) Kirksey and Judy Sansoucie.

Cremation arrangements by A Natural State Funeral Service.

EVENTS >> 12-9-15


The Bethlehem United Methodist Church’s “Road to Bethlehem” display is now open and will remain open through Jan. 1.

The annual event includes approximately 30 scenes and scriptures placed along Bethlehem Road, off Hwy. 31 North just outside Lonoke, which tell the story of Christ’s birth.

“Since it began in 1987, the exhibit has been a popular destination for visitors from all over central Arkansas. The memories are often shared about families driving down Bethlehem Road and enjoying the Christmas story together. The true meaning of Christmas comes to life,” a news release from the church said.

“The lighted displays are wonderful to see at night, but the scenes are also enjoyed on daytime drives. We invite you and friends, large groups, church buses and senior groups to enjoy the ‘Road to Bethlehem’ this season,” it continued.

Bethlehem United Methodist Church will also hold musical programs and open houses with refreshments at 7 p.m. Dec. 17-19.

• The Finest Forte Chorale from Carlisle, an award-winning youth vocal ensemble, performs on Thursday, Dec. 17.

• Bethlehem UMC musicians will perform Friday, Dec. 18.

• Hallelujah Harmony will perform Saturday, Dec. 19.

The church is at 2540 Bethlehem Road.


The newly formed Community Theater of Jacksonville canceled its first two performances of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” which were set for Friday and Saturday. Shows are still scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18 and Saturday, Dec. 19 at the Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School, 251 N. First St.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets, which will be for sale at the door, are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and military and $10 for students. Seating is first come, first served.

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is based on the children’s book by Barbara Robinson and features a lively cast of children and adults. It will be directed by Shann Nobles, who spearheaded the start of the community theater.

The Community Theater of Jacksonville plans to have four productions a year. To reserve seats if needed, or for more information, email or call 501-743-2985.


A Christmas crafts fair will be held from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday at the Beebe National Guard Armory on Center Street.

The event is a fundraiser for Beebe High School’s Project Graduation, an all-night, chaperoned, drug- and alcohol-free celebration for the class of 2016.

Organizers are seeking artists, vendors and craftsmen to participate. To reserve a booth, call Kelly Woods at 501-882-9221 or Kim Pruitt at 501-288-2096.

Project Graduation takes place after graduation on the high school campus. There are games and free food, and every senior gets a gift. The event is fully paid for with fundraising by parents and students.


The Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP will hold its monthly meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday in Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church’s Johnson Education Center at 1013 Ray Road.

For more information, call 501-982-7752.


The Arkansas Constitutional Tea Party will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Papa’s Place, 2798 S. Second St. in Cabot in the South Fork Shopping Center.

The group meets on the second Thursday of the month.

For more information, call 501-813-6980. The meetings are open to the public.


The Jacksonville Garden Club will meet at noon Monday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 2413 Northeastern Ave. in Jacksonville. For more information, call 501-533-7708.


Keep Sherwood Beautiful will be taking nominations for its Christ-mas decoration contest through Monday, Dec. 14. Winners will be announced Dec. 15. To nominate a home for the award, call 501-835-4966 or email


Jacksonville First United Methodist Church’s children’s choir will present a program called “Christmas in Black and White” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday during a unity worship service. It will be followed by a Christmas potluck lunch.

The church’s chancel choir will present its Christmas program, “Let Us Be Joy,” at the 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 20.

For more information, call 501-982-8176.


Jacksonville First Assembly of God will host a performance at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20 by “One Heart,” who will minister with bluegrass Christmas music. The event will also include a children’s drama presentation of the Christmas story and a Christmas reception in the fellowship hall.

Everyone is invited to attend, Rev. Royce L. Lowe said.

The church is at 221 N. Elm St.