Friday, June 24, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Sherwood, Cabot win league meets

Leader sports editor

The Sherwood Sharks and Cabot Piranhas each won their second meets of the season last Saturday, continuing a crash course for each other in July, when the two largest teams in the Central Arkansas Swim League will face one another in the regular-season finale.

The Sherwood Sharks went into Bryant for their second swim meet of the season last Saturday and won in dominant fashion, 1,034 to 432. It was the Sharks’ second win of the season, and continues their win streak that is now in season 12.

In the 6 and under boys’ division, Malik Hatcher won every event he swam.

Jacob Dunn, Doug Gaylor, Russell Lipsey and Noah Keen dominated the boys’ 7-8-year old division, trading wins amongst each other in each event. In the 9-10 age division, Meredith Lipsey continued her domination of the age group, recording a win in every performance. In the 11-12 year old age division, Ashley Jackson made a splash in her first year in the age group, winning the 100-yard individual medley.

In the 13-14 year old division Betsie Ponder made her season debut, sharing wins with Shelby Stanley.

In the 15-18 year old division, team veteran Ian Heye also made his season debut, recording two wins over older competitors.

“Despite having our normal practice schedule disrupted this week with the Harmon Center pool maintenance issues, the kids took advantage of the pool time we had available and are still improving despite the obstacles.” Coach Mary Jo Heye said.

The next swim for the sharks is June 25 against Conway in Sherwood, where they will have their first home meet of the season, looking to set new pool records in front of a friendly home crowd.

The Piranhas were in a much closer battle with Conway at the Lakewood pool in North Little Rock. Conway won most of the upper-level events in the younger age groups, while Cabot’s older swimmers made up the difference to lead the Piranhas to a 505-389 win. Lakewood finished with 285 points.

Kolton Fulcher recorded a platinum level time in winning the gold level 50-yard breaststroke in the boys’ 12-under division. In the same age group, Piranha Brock Godbee recorded a platinum level 34.61 in the 50-yard backstroke while Fulcher was second with a gold level 39.44.

Piranha veteran Abigail Breedlove won the platinum division 50-yard freestyle in the girls’ 18-under group.

Cabot will host Otter Creek on Saturday.

Thomas Heye contributed to this story

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney falters late at home

Leader sports editor

Since making a strong run to the championship game of the Wood Bat Classic last week, the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team ran its losing streak to three with an 8-4 loss to White Hall-Relyance Bank on Thursday in the first round of the FDH Investments American Legion Classic at Dupree Park.

Jacksonville led at the end of the first four innings, but failed to capitalize on some prime scoring opportunities that would’ve given it more of a cushion.

Starting pitcher Mike Havard began to struggle finding the strike zone in the fourth inning, walking three of the first four batters, but was able to minimize the damage.

With one out, White Hall nine-hole hitter Remington Curtis singled to right field to drive in one run. Cade Canada rounded third as well, trying to score from second base, but Javan Wakefield’s throw beat him to the plate, and catcher Peyton Traywick applied the tag for the second out of the inning.

Havard then jammed leadoff hitter Chase Bryan with a curveball. Bryan’s check swing produced a weak grounder back to the mound where Havard fielded it and threw to first for the third out.

Leading 3-2, Havard got the first batter out in the top of the fifth, but the Relyance bats came to life after that. Caleb Carr and Lane Hartsfield hit back-to-back doubles to right field to tie the game.

Hartsfield then scored on an error in left field that left Zachary Harrison safe at second base. Bryce Kincaid singled to right to put runners on the corners.

Canada then hit a home run over the wall in left field that scored three, gave Relyance a 7-3 lead and ended Havard’s night on the mound.

Brandon Hawkins took the hill for Jacksonville and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

The Chevy Boys (9-8) were setting up for a big inning in the bottom of the sixth when Caden Sample led off with a single to right and stole second base. But he was picked off by Carr for the first out.

It proved an important out because Traywick and Caleb Smith each walked and Tyson Flowers singled to right to drive in a run and leave the bases loaded with the meat of the lineup coming to the plate.

But Carr overcame the stumble. He struck out Havard and Caleb McMunn to get out of the jam.

Relyance added its last run in the bottom of the sixth with a walk and two errors, one each by Hawkins and Flowers.

Hawkins and Carr both struck out the side without a hit in the seventh inning.

Jacksonville grabbed the early lead with two runs in the bottom of the first inning on two walks, an error and an RBI base hit by McMunn.

By the time McMunn got back to the plate in the second inning, the bases were loaded with two outs. He hit a hard shot to right field, but right to the fielder for the third out.

Caleb Smith scored Jacksonville’s third run after drawing a one-out walk in the fourth inning. He later scored on an error at first base.

Havard went 4 1/3 innings on the mound. He gave up eight hits and six earned runs, while striking out three and walking four. Hawkins threw 2 2/3 with no hits and no earned runs while striking out six and walking no one.

Carr went the distance for White Hall. In his seven innings of work, he gave up five hits and three earned runs while striking out 10 and walking seven.

SPORTS STORY >> Old Shark makes trials

Leader sports editor

Dramatic improvement since becoming a college swimmer culminated in Sherwood’s Christopher Heye qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the 200-meter breaststroke. Heye will be in Omaha, Neb., next week, competing for a spot on the United States Olympic team in the 200-meter breaststroke.

Heye met the qualifying standard just two weeks before the trials at the Columbia Swim Club Invitational at the University of Missouri. The Missouri State sophomore set the goal at the beginning of his college season. At the CSC meet, he beat the standard of 2:18.39 by eight one-hundredths of a second.

“It had been my goal all season,” said Heye, who started competitive swimming at 4-years old for the Sherwood Sharks. “My coaches and I talked about it. We knew that it was an attainable thing for me to do. We spent all year training for it, and I thought I had a pretty good chance.”

Not much was expected of Heye early in his career at MSU, but since getting to college, he has shaved five seconds off his time in the 200-yard breaststroke and seven seconds off his 400-yard individual medley.

He finished third in the Mid-American Conference meet in the 200 breast, and second in the 400 IM this year.

“I came in as someone who was expected to be a step swimmer, a kind of a role guy,” Heye said. “After two years I’ve improved to the point where I’m one of the key guys on the team. Typically when you get to college you don’t see huge improvements. I think they’re a little surprised at how well I did.”

Heye got to train alongside an Olympian all season, and says that helped tremendously. His MSU Bear teammate Uvis Kalnins competed for the Latvian national team in 2012.

Heye is a long shot to become an Olympian. The nation’s fastest swimmers are a few seconds faster than Heye’s personal best, but he’s going to soak in the experience.

“”It’s just an experience thing for me,” Heye said. “I’ll probably have to go around 2:09 to make the Olympic team. You have to finish in the top two in your event to make it. My goal is to go there, try to go up in places, swim a personal best, maybe win my heat and represent my club and my university the best I can.”

Trials will be a fun and invaluable experience, but Heye is looking forward to another, even better experience at the start of the next college season.

That’s when little brother Thomas will join him on the Bears’ swim team as a freshman.

“Him coming up there is going to be so nice,” Christopher Heye said. “I love having him around. We grew up swimming together all the time and training with him at this level him is going to be a lot of fun.”

Heye is a chemistry major at MSU. He holds a 3.7 GPA and was named an NCAA scholar athlete this past season. He is currently training with the Arkansas Dolphins swim team in Little Rock.

The Olympic trials begin on Sunday. Heye’s event will be on Wednesday.

All prelims and finals will be broadcast online at, and available on the NBC Sports app.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot run rules Searcy

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team has been a team of streaks this season, and it’s currently on a winning streak. The Cabot squad won its second-straight game on Thursday, hammering Searcy 8-0 in the opening round of the FDH Investments American Legion Classic at Jacksonville’s Dupree Park.

Before this week, Cabot was mired in a six-game losing streak, but beat Jacksonville at home on Monday before the big win on Thursday.

Cabot coach Casey Vaughan says the turnaround has been mostly about attitude.

“Our work ethic changed is the main thing,” Vaughan said. “We weren’t playing or acting like a team. We had some attitude problems. So we did some things off the field. We took them swimming and spent the day together like that. We started coming together, attitudes changed and we started working.”

Playing games three days apart allowed Cabot to put 6-foot-4 southpaw Gavin Tillery on the mound for the second time this week, which also helps.

“He’s our ace for sure,” Vaughan said. “We feel like we have a chance against anybody with him out there. But we’re hitting the ball a lot better than we were, too. Offense is coming around as well and that’s been a big part of it.”

Cabot’s first two batters reached base in the top of the first inning. Brian Tillery walked and Gino Germer singled to drive him home. Dillon Thomas then grounded to second base where the ball was mishandled, allowing Germer to give Cabot a quick 2-0 lead.

Logan Edmondson led off the second inning with a double to the wall in center field. He was still standing on second with two outs when Brian Tillery walked and Germer came through with his second RBI base hit to left field. Brian Tillery also scored on the play when the Searcy left fielder let the hop get past him and roll almost to the wall.

Searcy got two hits in the bottom of the second and one in the third, but was unable to produce any runs.

Searcy pitcher Mickey Ivey sat Centennial Bank down in order in the third and fourth innings, but the bats came alive in the fifth for Cabot. The four-run rally started with Brian Tillery taking a pitch to the hip. His stat line for the night was 0 for 0, a 1.000 on-base percentage and three runs scored.

Germer followed with his third single that put runners at first and second. Thomas hit an infield single that was fielded deep in the gap between shortstop and third base. With the bases loaded, Easton Seidl drew an RBI walk that made the score 5-0. Gavin Tillery then singled to right to score Germer. With one out, Edmondson singled to right field to drive in Thomas. Caleb Wilson also singled to right field to score Seidl to set the final margin.

Searcy got out of the jam when Nick Belden hit into a 4-3 double play.

Searcy needed one run to keep the game from ending on the eight-run-after-five-innings sportsmanship rule. It had an opportunity when Garrett St. Clair reached base on an error at second.

But Gavin Tillery coaxed him into leaving for second base too soon, and he became a 1-3-4 second out. Leadoff hitter Aaron Decker then hit a fly ball to right field to end the game after just an hour and seven minutes.

Cabot (4-6) got eight base hits and Germer led the way, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Edmondson went 2 for 3 with a double and scored one run.

Gavin Tillery threw all five innings, giving up four hits while striking out four. For the second-straight outing, he walked zero.

EDITORIAL >> Our election and Brexit

The reaction, in America and around the world, to British voters’ narrow decision Thursday to depart the European Union befits the England of Shakespeare "this sceptered isle, this earth of majesty, this happy breed of men, this blessed plot, this realm, this England!", not the diminished power that is Great Britain today.

But the pound and the European currency instantly collapsed and the Dow, which had soared above 18,000 Thursday on the prospect the Brits would vote to stay in the union, fell 610 points when the returns came in. Fears of deep recessions and worse spread across Europe, the USA and Asia. Had the ugly nationalism creeping over continental Europe crossed the channel to merry England? Would it ford the Atlantic, too? All this over little Great Britain?

Only Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were thrilled. Russia sees Brexit as a hopeful sign that the western alliance is weakening. Putin’s mutual admirer Trump has not been a fan of the Atlantic alliance either. Let Europe, he says, as well as Korea, Japan and rest of the phalanx against China and Russia, defend themselves, with their own nuclear weapons if they like, but don’t keep running to us.

We frankly don’t have a clue whether the market turmoil and instant gloom that followed the vote will have a grave long-term impact on the U.S. economy or our strategic global interests, and we don’t believe anyone else does. The immediate impact is obvious, from the exchange problem if nothing else. Weak European currencies and the robust dollar will hurt U.S. exports and jobs, but the pound and Euro collapse may be very short-lived. The Federal Reserve now clearly will stay with cheap money for a while to counter the jittery investor mood. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must worry now that they will take office with a crumbling global economy, as Barack Obama did in January 2009. But even without Brexit, the candidates, especially Trump, need to find a way to talk sensibly and rationally about how to maintain our strength in an inevitably globalizing economy. Roaring about getting in everybody’s face except Putin’s won’t do it.

We do recognize and fear the dark omens in the British vote, the similarities of the anger quotient in Britain, the continent and, yes, the United States—wherever people are voting. When Trump landed in Scotland to gloat about the ritzy hotel and golf course at Turnberry that are now emblazoned with his name, he claimed he had encouraged and predicted the vote to dismember united Europe. People are angry in the isles just as his primary victories in the United States demonstrated a giant reservoir of anger in the United States against foreigners and the establishment. He twittered that the Scots, like him, were jubilant over the vote. Actually, the Scots voted against Brexit and now, owing to it, are likely to demand independence from Britain and fortify their union with the rest of Europe.

But Trump was not far off the mark. The polls showed a great divide among the voters. Young people—those between 18 and 35—heavily and passionately favored the union while older voters favored exit. Trump’s votes reflect the same cleavage—young voters, along with minorities and women, don’t like him but he is simpatico with older white men. Immigration is a big part of the anger in both countries, although in England it is not blacks, Hispanics or the swarthy Middle Easterners. There, the anger is with Europeans—principally, Romanians, Poles and southern Europeans, usually people with skills, who have swarmed into England and garnered jobs that Brit tradesmen thought were rightfully theirs. They resent the wage competition. Under Euro rules, there are no national boundaries for Europeans and England cannot keep them out. In the United States—well, you know, Trump will build a giant wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico and round up and deport 13 million aliens. He has flip-flopped on everything else, but not on getting rid of all the Latinos who don’t have papers.

President Trump will not build the wall, because the president does not have the power, and only a few Republican congressmen would ever vote to give him the money and authority to do it. He won’t deport 13 million aliens, most of whom have lived and worked here for many years. Nearly everyone knows that, but millions admire him for expressing it and so rudely, noisily and uncompromisingly. They like the bluster when every other politician they know pussyfoots around delicate matters. And then they like it that he treats every other question and everyone of a different mind with contempt and insults. They are crooks, liars, weaklings, weenies. Someone is finally telling it like it is.

According to the prints, many Brits who voted their frustration Thursday regretted it when they actually won and now must face the country’s uncertain future. It is equally clear that for millions of Americans, the presidential election, like the Brits’ Brexit vote, is a chance just to register a protest, long held inchoate in their breasts, against the world as it exists. While the electoral map makes a President Trump look nigh impossible, it does not consider the irrational—that millions may vote their frustrations rather than their knowledge of what the sane course ought to be. It is something that ought to weigh heavily on the Republican delegates who gather in Cleveland as well as on the Democratic nominee for president, who still relies on old political instincts that have not proved too reliable for her in the past.

TOP STORY >> JNPSD continues its hiring spree

Leader senior staff writer

The Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board will meet in special session at 6 p.m. Monday to consider more of Superintendent Tony Wood’s hiring recommendations as the district’s first-ever school year speeds closer.

Wood has recommended 31 more teachers for hire, most of them elementary school teachers, as well as a number of school bus drivers, cafeteria workers and people to fill other vacancies.

The elementary school teachers Wood will recommend are: Kayla Bar, Bruinna Bedford, Amanda Chapin (media specialist), Pam Childress, Angela Cooley;

Marissa Hawkins, Whitney Hillman, Kayla Jackson, Alicia Ketron and Belinda Lawrence (special education);

Amanda Lercher, Billie Molly Looney, Ashleigh Moore, Jana McWilliams and Alicia Williams (vocal music).

Wood will also recommend Paula Mannis, special education coordinator; Ron Atkinson, middle school math/science; Michael Boyd, middle school instructional facilitator; Paula Gentry, special education and Rodney Gilmore, alternative learning teacher;

Deborah Lutz, middle school English/math; Macy Pleis, middle school business education and Monica Ring, math instructional facilitator.

Recommended for secondary teaching positions: Rachael Beene, family consumer science; Melba Bartlett, special education; Michael Dean, social studies; Brandon Fenwick, math; Sheila Gilmore, math; Erica Harrod, marketing; Justin Huckaby, special education, and Amanda Mason, science.

Among recommended classified employees are a dozen bus drivers, 10 custodians and 27 cafeteria workers.

Recommended for bus driver jobs are Selena Adams, Shamika Boxley, Deeadria Cobbs, Glenda Fletcher, Johnny Hasan and Alfreda King, Jacoby Roark, Freddie Taylor, Junitha West, Bobbi Willhite, Robert Willhite and Travis Wright.

Custodians recommended are Rose Alvarado, Vanessa Austin, Jason Evans, Elizabeth Fowler and Larry Hamsher, Joyce Harris, Darrell Joes, Marilyn Jones, Doris Steele and Terry Waggoner.

Cafeteria workers recommended for hire are:

Yolanda Bell, Treva Bradley, Wilda Britt, Sherri Brown and Barbara Bures, Hermethia Eubanks, Rowena Gray, Kimberly Grimes, Heather Hambrick and Starla Henry, Michelle Holder, Jennifer Johnson, Guillermina Johnston, Better Meneses and Brenda Oginski, Valerie Pickens, Marilyn Seigrist, Robin Simmons, Yon Simmons, Katrina Simpson and Maria Slutts, Margaret Smith, Terry Strohm, Jacqueline Wallace, Heather Woodall, Ann Wudkewych and Amy Yagel.

Recommended for skilled maintenance jobs are David Buchart, Sean Calhoun and Lawrence Hendrix.

Six recommended for jobs as registered school nurses are Amber Abbott, Leslie Eagle, Rowena Lowe, Meredith McGinty, Adam Sodosky and Chastity Stephens.

Wood also recommended Lana Brooks, technology support specialist; Venisha Brown, attendance clerk; Karen Carney, counselor secretary; Tami Caswell, paraprofessional (special education); Scott Coleman, alternative-learning para-professional; Sharon Cousins, special education paraprofessional; Karen Gentry, school secretary and Thedra Hall, paraprofessional (special education), Carrie Helsley, paraprofessional (special education); Karrie Jarrett, para-professional (special education); Kristi Linkwiler, attendance clerk; Ebony McKinzy, attendance clerk; Dorothy Nunis, paraprofessional (special education) and Sharon Rodgers, school secretary; Tandrea Rogers, paraprofessional (special education); Amanda Self, secretary to the asstistant superintendent; Josalyn Tillman, paraprofessional (special education); Stephanie Whitfield, counselors’ secretary; Stephanie Wilkins, attendance clerk; Samantha Williams, school secretary and Elizabeth Beattie, bookkeeper/free and reduced lunch.

The board is expected to accept 16 resignations from former hires, including five elementary school teachers, Tiffany Brandon, Jonathan Gunsolus, LaSonya Hillard, Erica Mack, Rhiannon Sniffin and Richard Wrightner.

Other resignations include: Kaela Ake, special education; Morgan Collins, middle school social studies; Warren Max Hatfield, special education; NaToya Norwood, middle level; Jennifer Oakley, secondary English; Lamont Page, middle school social studies; Karen Ratliff, special education; Jeffrey Rion, secondary social studies; Derek Shaw, science/ninth-grade head boys basketball coach, and Jennifer Tauton, gifted and talented.

TOP STORY >> Thurman at leadership seminar

Ryane Thurman of Cabot recently attended the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

The program, held June 17-19, is known as HOBY and has a curriculum that draws inspiration from the social change model of personal, group and societal leadership.

She is the daughter of Cabot School Superintendent Tony Thurman and his wife, Tara.

Thurman represented Cabot High School, where she’ll be a junior next year, and joined 54 other high school sophomores from the southern Arkansas region who became HOBY Ambassadors at the seminar.

“Every year, I am amazed at how quickly these students form friendships with one another and the quality of the ideas that come from focused group discussions,” seminar chairman Justin Buck said.

The students learn through a personality assessment, hands-on group projects and a global-community perspectives exercise, which are designed to introduce them to the idea of leadership for social change.

They also take part in hands-on activities, meet state leaders, and explore their personal leadership skills while learning how to lead others and make a positive impact in their community.

This year, the southern Arkansas region HOBY Ambassadors dedicated more than 150 hours of community service at the Magale Library at SAU, the Columbia County Library and the Boys and Girls Club in Magnolia.

At the end of their seminars, HOBY Ambassadors are challenged to give back by serving at least 100 volunteer hours in their communities. Students who do so within a year are eligible for the HOBY L4S Challenge Award and the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

Those who log 4,000 hours of service receive the President’s Call to Service Award from HOBY. To date, HOBY Ambassadors have performed more than three million volunteer hours in their communities.

The Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program began when the Hollywood actor, for whom the program is named, heard theologian and philosopher Albert Schweitzer speak during a trip to Africa in 1958.

Explaining why he was inspired to begin the program, O’Brian said, “One of the things Dr. Schweitzer said to me was that the most important thing in education was to teach young people to think for themselves. From that inspiration, and with the support of others who believe in youth and the American dream, I started HOBY to seek out, recognize and develop outstanding leadership potential among our nation’s youth.”

For 58 years, the program has helped cultivate leaders by inspiring a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation.

There are 70 leadership seminars across the country every year for more than 10,000 students.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Let’s save that brain

A new summer series, “Brain Dead,” is being advertised on television about the brains of our Washington politicians being devoured by bugs.

As far as politicians go, that may not be far- fetched, but more importantly, there is some similar — brain drain — that affects nearly all students during the summer.


Because reading, math and science tend to disappear from their universe during the summer, replaced by sleeping until the crack of noon, staying up as late as possible and reaching new high scores on a variety of video games.

Nothing wrong with some of that, but a summer of that, and, oh my, it causes trouble when school starts up again.

According to a study by Dr. Harris Cooper, professor of psychology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, young brains often shift into reverse during the non-school months. The study found that when students return to school after the summer break, they’ve lost one to three months worth of learning.

That means if students leave school in early June “on-grade level,” they will start up in August “below-grade level.” For students who were promoted, but substantially behind...well, it sets them up for failure.

The decline is more detrimental for math than it is for reading. “All students lose math skills,” says Cooper.

Low-income children, by the end of fifth grade, are about 2-and-a-half years behind their more affluent peers, primarily from doing “nothing” during the summer.

Does that mean students have to be home-schooled five days a week through June, July and August? No, but they can’t sit, twiddle and eat bag after bag of chips during that time either.

Studies show that teachers spend an average of four to six weeks re-teaching material that students have lost during the summer. That’s more than a month of “new” material that won’t get covered, putting students even further behind.

Parents need to step up and make sure there is a balance. “Parents can help their kids retain educational skills,” says Cooper.

The library has hundreds of activities during the summer that are fun and educational, like Cabot’s reading to shelter animals program or the martial arts or anime groups at the Jacksonville and Sherwood libraries.

Plus, read at home. Parents need to read, the kids need to read. Everyone needs to read and discuss what they are reading. Reading just four to five books during the summer can prevent a decline in a child’s fall reading scores.

So instead of spending hours watching that latest Zombie show, take time to read about Zombies.

Just from reading a few pages of Max Brooks’ “Zombie Survival Guide” one will learn that humans turn into zombies from the Solanum virus, which travels through the bloodstream, from the initial point of entry to the brain. The virus causes all bodily functions to cease and mutates the brain into an organ that does not need oxygen. Thus, the essentially deceased person will become the living dead, with an insatiable drive to consume human flesh.

Wow, fun stuff.

Madden football video fans can read about the history of the sport. There was a time when there were no helmets and no forward passes.

“Call to Duty” fanatics can read about the Navy Seals or the Green Berets. There are books out there about the military at all reading levels.

Include learning into any family vacation. Test estimation skills. “How long before we get there? When might we run out of gas?” Then there’s the license plate game, naming and listing vehicles, and even identifying road kill.

On the way to the amusement park, stop at a battlefield site. And while at the amusement park, talk about what it takes for that rollercoaster to flip, twist and turn like that without sending riders to the moon.

Keep math in mind. Since kids lose more math skills than anything else over the summer, try to do some special planning to find math-related activities. For math, take kids shopping and have them calculate the cost of the groceries. Stop in front of the five different size cans of green beans and determine which one is the better deal.

Play board games, like Monopoly, Life or Payday in the evenings and let the child be the banker.

Everyone needs to enjoy the summer. It’s all right to let students sleep in some, stay up late a few times, but always look for the learning aspect.

Remember to keep it fun! You don’t want to sour your kids on learning during the summer break.

TOP STORY >> Several schools beat state averages

Leader staff writer

Beebe first and second graders, along with those from Jacksonville’s Arnold Drive Elementary and four Cabot schools beat the state averages across the board on the just-released state-mandated Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook said, “We are still looking at the scores and analyzing them, but at a first glance, we were very happy with the progress we made this past year.”

The state Department of Education released the scoring information earlier this week. Four types of scores are released: Raw scores, scales scores, national percentile rankings and normal curve equivalent scores.

Out of those four, the easiest to understand is the national percentile rankings (NPR). For example, first graders at Cabot’s Magness Creek had an NPR of 70 on the English-Language Arts portion of the exam.

A score of 70 means the Magness Creek students beat 70 percent of all the first graders across the country who took the test. Inversely, 30 percent beat Magness Creek.

On the other hand, Harris Elementary first graders scored in the 12th percentile in literacy, meaning almost 90 percent of U.S. first graders beat them. That score of 12 was 37 percentage points below the state average.

Magness Creek’s 70 percent score was 21 percentage points above the state average of 49. The first-grade average on the math portion was 52 percent, meaning about half the Arkansas students scored better than others across the country and about half scored worse.

Among second graders the state NPR average on the English-Language Arts section (which includes reading) was 54 and in math it was 62.

The Cabot schools beating both the first grader and second NPR averages were Magness Creek, Mountain Springs, Northside and Eastside elementary schools.

“We are pleased with our growth on the ITBS and especially in math,” said Dr. Tony Thurman, head of the Cabot School District, adding, “We use the data to determine programming that is specific to each child during the upcoming year. ITBS scores, along with other data from the previous year, is crucial in providing teachers with an understanding of where kids are when they arrive at school on August 15th.”

Beebe’s superintendent said, “We have spent the last year trying to get better aligned to standards and I believe it is paying off. The school board developed a strategic plan that centers around raising student achievement. Last year, we created a pre-K-6 Reading Leadership Committee to study data and make curriculum decisions about our reading program.”

Shook continued, “We are restructuring much of what we are doing next year based on the recommendations from the committee. The first- and second-grade Iowa scores show an increase in every sub test, with as much as 13 and 14 points in some areas. We expect, and hope, with the emphasis on reading, the training our teachers are going through this summer, and curriculum alignment, we will continue to see our student achievements increase.”

About 3 million students, from first grade through 12th grade, take the annual test.

Here is a breakdown of the first and second grade NPR scores in English-language Arts (literacy) and math from area schools.

Scores from the ACT Aspire test, which third through eighth grade took in April, are set to be released in mid-July.


Out of Cabot’s nine elementary schools, only Ward Central and Stagecoach failed to beat the state averages

Ward Central first graders had an NPR of 31 in literacy (18 points off the state average) and 38 in math (12 points below the state. Second graders were at 46 in literacy, six points off the state pace and a 49 in math, 13 points under the state average.

Stagecoach first graders scored in the 45th percentile in literacy and 50th in math. Seconds graders were at the 48 percentile in literacy and the 58th in math.

Beating the state averages were Eastside, Northside, Magness Creek and Mountain Springs. Eastside first graders hit the 54th percentile in literacy and 57th in math. The second graders were in the 64th and 66th percentiles, respectively.

Northside first graders hit 60 in ELA and 58 in math. The second graders were in the 64th percentile in both literacy and math.

Magness Creek first graders had the top literacy score in the newspaper’s coverage area. The second graders tied with Carlisle for the best literacy scores.

Magness Creek first grades were in the 70th percentile in literacy and 65th in math. The second graders scored in 73rd percentile in literacy and 79 percentile in math. Carlisle was top in the area, hitting the 89th percentile.

Mountain Springs first graders had the best score in math in the area, scoring in the 70th percentile. It had a 63 in literacy The second graders were at the 60th percentile in literacy and 63rd in math.

In other Cabot schools, Westside first graders beat the state, but the second graders didn’t. Westside first graders score in the 51st percentile in literacy and the 60th in math. Second graders were at 41 in literacy and 50 in math.

Central first graders were in the 32nd percentile in literacy and 34th in math. The second graders beat the state scoring in the 62nd percent in literacy and 65th in math. Southside first graders hit the 55th percentile in literacy and 49th in math.

Second graders scored in the 47th percentile in literacy and the 56th in math.


Arnold Drive posted the best scores among the elementary schools that are part of the new Jacksonville North Pulaski School District. Arnold Drive beat the state, both at the first grade and second grade level. First graders scored in the 50th percentile in literacy and 57th in math. The second graders jumped to the 71st percentile in literacy and 79th percentile in math.

Bayou Meto second graders outscored the state with a score of 64 in literacy and 69 in math, The first graders were at the 40th percentile in literacy and 51st percentile in math. Tolleson second graders also bested the state averages.

The second graders were in the 64th percentile in literacy and the 65th in math. First graders hit scores of 47 in literacy and 46 in math.

Pinewood first graders scored in the 35 percentile in literacy and 47th percentile in math.

The second graders were in the 32nd percentile in literacy and 51st in math.

Warren Dupree first graders landed in the 25th percentile in literacy and 26th in math. Second graders did better, hitting the 40th percentile in literacy and the 47th percentile in math.

Murrell Taylor first graders hit the 22nd percentile in literacy and 28th in math. The second graders had an NPR score of 23 in literacy and 40 in math.


Out of the remaining PCSSD schools, Oakbrooke Elementary turned in the best results, beating or tying the state in three-of-four categories. The first graders in literacy came close scoring in the 47th percentile, two points shy of the state. In math they tied with the sate average with a score in the 52nd percentile second graders hit the 57th percentile in literacy and the 62nd in math.

Cato Elementary first graders scored in the 30th percentile in literacy and the 39th in math.

The second graders didn’t do quite as well, scoring in the 43rd percentile in literacy and the 55th in math.

Sylvan Hills first graders hit the 37th percentile in literacy and 4oth in math. The second graders were in the 43rd percentile for literacy and the 52nd percentile in math.

Harris Elementary first graders scored at the 12th percentile in literacy and 19th percentile in math. The second graders were at the 17th percentile in literacy and 30th percentile in math.


Second graders at the Jacksonville Lighthouse Academy beat the state average in math, hitting the 63rd percentile.

Those same second graders scored in the 47th percentile in literacy. First graders hit 24th in literacy and 37th percentile in math.

The Lisa Academy North first graders did well in math besting the state average by 14 points, hitting the 66th percentile. In literacy, the first graders were in the 48th percentile. Second graders scored in the 47th percentile in literacy and 58th in math.


Beebe first and second graders bested the state averages. In literacy the first graders were in the 53rd percentile and the second graders were at 58.

In math, the first graders were in the 62nd percentile and the second graders were in the 67th.

Carlisle second graders had the top math percentage in the area and tied for the top literacy score.

In first grade, the students were at the 38th percentile in literacy and 45th in math, while the second graders hit 73 in literacy and 89 in math.

England first grades were in the 32nd percentile in literacy and 41st in math. The second graders were in the 47th percentile in literacy, but skyrocketed to the 74th percentile in math.

Lonoke first graders were in the 36 percentile in literacy and hit the 40th in math. Second graders reached the 37th percentile in both literacy and math.

TOP STORY >> C-130J lands in good hands on base

Leader senior staff writer

Nearly a quarter century after Carlton D. Everhart II left Little Rock Air Force Base as a captain, he returned again Monday as general and commander of Air Mobility Com-mand, delivering the 28th and last scheduled C-130J from Lockheed Martin in Atlanta to the 19th Airlift Wing.

The base price for a C-130J, without options, is about $80 million, the general said.

While two more C-130Js are slated for the base’s 314th Air Education and Training Command on the base —that’s known as the C-130 school house — the arrival of tail number 45795 completes the transition of the 19th Air Mobility Wing to “all C-130J all the time.”

“This rounds us out as a C-130J wing,” said Col. Charles Brown, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing and of Little Rock Air Force Base.

Many of the other planes stationed at LRAFB are the older-model C-130H aircraft.


Everhart said that after more than a decade, the Air Force will re-launch a program to retrofit those legacy airframes with Avionics Modernization Program kits.

The upgrade will allow them to continue flying after 2020 in domestic and foreign air space from which they would be otherwise barred.

The general said the money and the plans were on order.

Everhart said the number of C-130Hs still commissioned is about 300.

The AMP program was suspended in 2012 after the upgrade of five C-130Hs, which, after testing, have sat unflown on the LRAFB tarmac.

The AMP is “coming right now,” Everhart said, “part of my rapid global mobility initiative.”

He said the Air Force would meet the FAA mandate to update communications, navigation, surveillance and air-traffic management by Jan. 1, 2020.

Phase II would upgrade the cockpit from analog to digital, with heads up displays on transparent screens, making it nearly indistinguishable from the cockpit of the C-130J. It would begin after the completion of Phase I.


The Air Force is currently short about 500 fighter pilots and 4,000 maintainers, and Everhart said it was trying to convince pilots leaving the active duty Air Force to sign on with the Air National Guard and the reserves.

“We are sitting down with industry partners, and spreading word to pilots,” Everhart said.

The decline has been variously blamed on budget restrictions, the economy and the retirement of a wave of Vietnam-era pilots and maintainers who are now retiring from the commercial airline industry and opening more lucrative positions that may lure Air Force personnel.

Everhart called it the perfect storm.

The Air Force has said that it has enough pilots and maintainers for current taskings and responsibility, but that it could be difficult if the Air Force had to fight on a second front.


Everhart thanked the base’s total force partners, which include not only the active duty host 19th Airlift Wing and 314th Air Education and Training Wing, but also the 189th National Guard and the 913th Airlift Group of the Reserves.

“There is no better team than Team Little Rock,” he said.

“Thank you total force partners, you rock,” he said.

Everhart noted that the 19th’s Airlift Wing’s 61st Airlift Squadron was honored last year as the Gen. Joseph E. Smith tactical airlift unit of the year.

Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher presented the general the key to the city.

Among those in attendance were Fletcher, Cabot Mayor Bill Cypert, Sherwood Mayor Virginia Young, state Sen. Jane English of North Little Rock and state Rep. Joe Farrer of Austin.

Also on hand were representatives of the state’s congressional delegation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville strong until last game of Wood Bat tourney

Leader sports editor

A fantastic tournament run ended with an equally abysmal finale for the Gwatney Chevrolet Senior American Legion team Sunday at the People’s Bank Wood Bat Classic in Sheridan.

The Jacksonville squad went undefeated in its pool, beating Monticello, Bryant AA and White Hall, to advance in the semifinals on Sunday.

They beat Magnet Cove 3-2 with a walk-off double by Caleb McMunn, but fell apart in the championship game, getting run ruled 9-1 by tournament host Sheridan in six innings.

“Just too many errors,” said Jacksonville coach Bob Hickingbotham of the championship game. “We didn’t do that most of the tournament. We got pretty good pitching the whole tournament. We didn’t hit it extremely well but we did all right. We played good defense up until the last one and that’s what got us here. Overall it was a pretty good run.”

The Gwatney squad committed five errors total. Sheridan’s leadoff hitter reached base on errors in three separate innings, and another Yellowjacket leadoff reached on a 0-2 hit-by-pitch.

Earlier on Sunday, Jacksonville held a 2-1 lead until the Black Cats’ Korey Wasson of Hot Springs High School, single-handedly got his team back into a tie.

Wasson took the mound in the fifth inning, retiring Jacksonville’s 2-3-4 hitters in order with two groundouts to third and a strikeout. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Wasson struck out the side in order.

In the top of the seventh, he hit a one-out single to center field. Moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then stole third base and home plate on consecutive pitches to make the score 2-2.

But he couldn’t maintain the momentum in Gwatney’s final turn at bat. Jacksonville eight-hole hitter Jordan Wickersham hit a leadoff single to center field before catcher Randy Traywick struck out. During that at-bat, Wickersham moved to second base on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch.

At the top of the lineup, Tyson Flowers battled to a nine-pitch walk to put runners on the corners. Mike Havard, who has the team’s highest batting average, was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a force at home plate or a double-play ball.

The outfield moved in close for the chance to make a play at home in case of a base hit, but McMunn launched a hard line drive over the right fielder to give Jacksonville the win and berth in the championship game.

The Chevy Boys scored their first two runs in the bottom of the first inning, and did it without a base hit. Flowers drew a leadoff walk, and Havard laid down a sacrifice bunt that was thrown into foul territory down the right-field line. The ball rolled far enough for Flowers to score all the way from first base on the play while Havard stopped at third base.

McMunn grounded out to shortstop, where Havard was forced to hold his spot, but he scored on a groundout to first base by Brandon Hickingbotham. The next three Gwatney Chevrolet batters walked, but Wickersham struck out with the bases loaded.

Wasson also scored Magnet Cove’s first run. He led off the top of the second inning with a base hit to left field and stole second base. He later scored on a 4-6 groundout by Hunter Bolin.

The Jacksonville Senior team hosts its annual mid-season tournament on Thursday, beginning with Cabot vs. Searcy at 5:45. That game is followed by Jacksonville taking on White Hall.

On Friday, Jacksonville plays Conway at 5:45 while Magnet Cove faces Cabot afterwards. On Saturday, Searcy plays Magnet Cove at 4 p.m. and Conway plays White Hall at 7 p.m. The two third-place pool teams face each other in the final round at noon on Sunday, with second-place teams following and the tournament championship scheduled for approximately 5:30 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Eller glad to be in Bluefield

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills High School and Ouachita Baptist University graduate Connor Eller had a whirlwind first week of professional baseball after being drafted in the 22nd round of the Major League Baseball Draft June 11 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

After a week of minicamp games in Dunedin, Fla., Eller flew to Bluefield, WV on Monday where he will play for the Bluefield Blue Jays in the Advanced Rookie Appalachian League. The season begins on Thursday.

“It’s just so exciting,” Eller told The Leader on Tuesday from Bluefield. “It’s a lot of work but it’s every little kid’s dream to play professional baseball. It’s a 5:45a.m. wakeup call and you get back to your room about 4 o’clock completely exhausted, but I’m still excited.”

Eller knows very little about how or as what he projects in the Blue Jays organization. He was a durable starting pitcher for the Tigers the last two seasons. He even had a complete-game, 10-inning win last season. But he’s uncertain whether the organization is looking at him as a starting pitcher, or a relief pitcher. He only threw one inning during minicamp. It was, despite its brevity, a successful outing.

Eller faced three batters and recorded two strikeouts. Sandwiched between the fannings was a broken-bat groundout to second base.

“It was fun and I felt really good about it,” Eller said. “I was a little nervous because it was my first time pitching live in about a month, but it all came back to me pretty quick and I think I pitched pretty well.”

Eller has five pitches in his reportoire, of which three he uses frequently. His favorite is a powerful fastball that averages between 89-93 miles per hour. He occasionally touched 94 throughout his senior season at OBU, and has topped out about a half-dozen times this season at 95 mph.

He says his second-favorite pitch is a cutter that only loses about 5 mph from his fastball.

“That’s my next-best pitch,” Eller said. “It’s a pitch I can throw into the zone and still throw pretty hard. I’m comfortable with it and I can use it as a wipe-out pitch.”

He also throws a hard slider, and breaks it up occasionally with a change-up or a sinker.

“I’m comfortable with the slider, and I’ll throw the other two every now and then,” Eller said. “Throwing the change-up and sinker, it really depends on the situation and who is at the plate. The other three I’m really comfortable with and I can command pretty well.”

Early indications are that almost all the Bluefield pitchers will work about the same amount. That gives the organization a chance to see who projects as a starter, who projects as a reliever and who, if any, fail to advance their careers further.

“Right now it looks like they’re going to go with about a 5-4 split for pitchers,” Eller said of innings for pitchers. “They have two lined up for each game, and that depends on how they do once they’re on the mound. It could be shorter, but it looks like two for each outing to start out with.”

The Bluefield season begins at 6:05 p.m. with a home game against Bristol, Conn. Interested fans can listen to Bluefield Blue Jays games by visiting, and clicking on the audio link provided inside the schedule.

SPORTS STORY >> Gwatney ties at Centennial

Leader sports editor

The Cabot-Centennial Bank Junior American Legion team avoided defeat for the second time this season, though it didn’t get its second win. Adhering to a strict time limit, the umpires called its home game with Jacksonville-Gwatney Chevrolet off after the sixth inning with the score tied at 5-5.

Despite the disappointing and surprise ending, Cabot coach David Smith was pleased with his very inexperienced team’s performance. It was the first game this season that his squad committed no errors.

“I think the improvement is showing,” said Smith. “We knew from day one we were going to have to do a lot of teaching, but they’re catching on. We’ve had a few games here and there when we’ve played pretty good, but we haven’t put any together so far. Hopefully we build on this game this week. No errors is big for this team. Jacksonville put the ball in play a lot.”

Cabot pitcher Austin Calhoon worked his way out of several jams during the game. Jacksonville’s first four batters in the top of the first inning reached base. Four-hole hitter Peyton Williams hit a two-RBI single to center field that left runners on first and second. Calhoon then got Quentin Stallard to hit into a 6-4-3 double play, and Joe Cummings grounded out to shortstop to end the threat.

Gwatney Chevrolet held that lead until the third inning, and failed to add to it in the top of the third when it loaded the bases with no outs.

With the bases loaded, Calhoon got Williams and Stallard to pop up in the infield, and struck out Cummings to escape the threat.

Gwatney starting pitcher Foster Rash threw two innings of no-hit ball, and had two strikeouts and one walk in the third inning when Centennial Bank rallied for all five of its runs.

Jack Broyles doubled to center field to put two runners in scoring position. Caleb Wilson walked to load the bases and Gino Germer doubled to center field to drive in Cabot’s first two runs.

Michael Crumbly got a base hit to center field, where Caden Sample misplayed the hop, allowing the ball to roll to the fence. Germer also scored on the play and Crumbly made it all the way to third base. Gage Morrow then reached on an error at third base that also allowed Crumbly to score Cabot’s fifth and final run of the inning.

Jacksonville tied the game in the top of the fifth inning. Robert Johnson was hit by Calhoon and Isaiah Cain walked to put two runners on with one out. Leadoff hitter Jonathan Smith struck out, but Jayden Loving hit a two-RBI double down the right-field line, and Sample followed with a triple to almost the same spot that tied the game.

Williams hit a fly ball to center field off reliever Jacob Caswell to end the inning.

Cabot then failed to capitalize on prime scoring opportunities in the final two innings. It loaded the bases with one out when Wilson flew out to center field. Randy Couch tried to score after tagging up. Stallard faked cutting off Sample’s throw, and let it roll under his glove. Loving stopped it right in front of the plate in time to tag Couch for the 8-2 double play.

Centennial Bank loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Cain struck out the next batter, Couch hit a hard grounder to first base. Stallard made the stop and threw home to get the force out. Loving then relayed back to first where second baseman Caleb Anderson was covering for the rare 3-2-4 double play.

Jacksonville’s Junior team (9-7-1) played at Heber Springs last night after Leader deadlines, and is off the rest of the week as the Senior team hosts its annual mid-season tournament. Cabot (1-10-1) hosted CAC last night and next plays at home against Maumelle next Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot hurler quiets GC

Leader sports editor

The Centennial Bank Senior American Legion team got just two base hits, but it was enough for its third win of the season. Cabot got an outstanding performance on the mound in snapping a six-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Gwatney Chevrolet on Monday at the Cabot City Park. Pitcher Gavin Tillery shut down the CCB rival for a complete-game three-hitter.

Tillery had a no-hitter going through four innings. Gwatney’s only two base runners in the first four innings were due to fielding errors, and so was its only run. Jacksonville catcher Kameron Whitmore led off the fifth inning with a grounder to third base. The throw was off target and pulled Brandon Jones off the bag.

Whitmore stole second base, and scored two batters later on an RBI base hit to right field by Caden Sample. The run tied the game, but Sample was doubled up at first base after a hard line drive back to the mound was caught by Tillery at his shoestrings. His relay to first base ended the threat.

Despite not giving up a hit, Tillery worked out of a jam in the third inning as well. Sample hit a line drive to right to start the inning. Right fielder Easton Seidl ran to his right, but overran the ball, letting it fly behind him and roll to the wall and leaving Sample safe at third with no outs.

The umpires would meet and rule Sample had to go back to second base because the ball rolled under the fence.

Tillery then got two pop-ups to second base and struck out Tyson Flowers to stand Sample.

Flowers applied a bit of pressure to Tillery in the next inning when he led off with an infield single to shortstop. Mike Havard’s sacrifice bunt moved him to second base. Caleb McMunn hit a line drive to right field where Seidl made up for his previous mistake.

After making the catch, Seidl fired a strike to third base to get Flowers on a 9-5 double play.

It was a Jacksonville error in right field that led to the game-winning run for Cabot (3-6).

Logan Edmondson walked with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jaylin Crumbly then hit a fly ball to right, where Javan Wakefield misplayed the ball, letting it roll to the fence and allowing Edmondson to score from first base. It was also the last play of the inning, as Crumbly was caught in a rundown trying to reach third base, and was thrown out in a 9-3-6 play when Flowers chased him down for the tag.

Cabot’s first run came in the bottom of the second inning on a double by Edmondson was followed by a Crumbly RBI single.

Tillery threw seven innings, giving up three hits and no earned runs. He finished with four strikeouts and no walks.

Brandon Hawkins started on the mound for Jacksonville (7-5) and threw four innings. He gave up just the two hits in the second inning, striking out five and walking three. Peyton Traywick threw the final two innings for Gwatney. He gave up no hits with no strikeouts and two walks.

Cabot and Jacksonville take part in the Jacksonville mid-season tournament that begins Thursday. Cabot opens play at 5:45 Thursday against Searcy. Jacksonville follows that game against White Hall.

Jacksonville plays Conway at 5:45 Friday and Cabot follows with a matchup against Magnet Cove.