Saturday, August 06, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Hogs missing some players from 105-man roster

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Arkansas starting defensive end Tevin Beanum of Forrest City was among some notable Razorbacks not included on the 105-man preseason roster that reported Wednesday to coach Bret Bielema at the Fred Smith Football Center and began practicing Thursday.

Beanum, a two-year letterman and returning starter, was excused from spring practice last April to tend to issues at his Forrest City home.

Apparently some of those and other personal issues remain unresolved, so Beanum remains not reporting but still could join the team when UA classes begin Aug. 22, and the roster expands with time for him to practice before the Sept. 3 season-opener against Louisiana Tech at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

“It’s nothing negative. I mean that in the most sincere way,” Bielema said. “Tevin has got a situation that he just needs to get control of. It’s something that’s a very unique and individual thing with him. If he ever wants to share it, he will.

“There’s just a million things going on right now. He’d had a really good summer. And then had a slight setback about two, three weeks ago. He’s in summer classes right now. Did a really nice job this last week. He will finish classes on Friday. Then he’s going to go through a time frame where we’ve got some stuff set up with him, trying to make him get better over the next week.”

Is this related to the issues besetting him last spring?

“It’s all related, yeah,” Bielema replied. “It’s kind of an evolution as well, but again, it’s nothing negative. There’s no shenanigans involved. As coaches, we deeply love and care about him. Unfortunately, he’s got a little scenario that he has to deal with on a daily basis. It’s something that’s never gonna probably truly ever go away, but it’s something that I think he’s tried to handle the best he can. We just want to give him the support to do it.”

Recently signed junior college transfer defensive end Michael Taylor still has to have his eligibility paperwork cleared and likely won’t report until fall semester classes start, Bielema said.
Some who are on scholarship or have played in games for the Razorbacks that are not in the reporting 105 include fullback Chris Jones, running back Juan Day and incoming freshman scholarship linebacker Giovanni LaFrance, among others.
LaFrance is unable to practice because of an injured hand, Bielema reported Thursday after his 12:30 p.m. press conference.

The others were weighed on merits for the 105 allowed before fall classes begin.

“We are very excited that we have enough talent that we have to make some difficult decisions that are hard to make,” Bielema said. “I think it’s a sign of the depth of your roster. I have never been a guy that just automatically invites your 85 scholarship players.”

Among those transferring elsewhere from the UA, Bielema mentioned linebacker Derrick Graham and possibly defensive tackle K’Tyrus Marks, exploring graduate transfer possibilities and previously announced departing players Eric Hawkins, Denzell Evans and Willie Sykes.

Bielema wished them all well.

“It’s nothing that they did,” Bielema said. “Nothing that violated any policies with the program. Just a better opportunity for them and I understand transition happens.”

Bielema was asked about the practice availability of third-year sophomore backup quarterback Rafe Peavey coming off what Bielema has called minor back surgery earlier this summer.

“Rafe is throwing,” Bielema said. “I’m not saying he’s going to be able to throw the whole practice, but he threw with the trainers and the other guys. He’s cleared to go. It just depends on how much he’s able to tolerate during the course of the day.”

Bielema also said incoming freshman quarterback Cole Kelley strained his back in the weight room two weeks ago, but is cleared to practice.

Several Razorbacks coming off injuries, including receivers Keon Hatcher and Cody Hollister, running back Kody Walker, cornerback DJ Dean, tight end Jack Kraus and defensive end Brandon Lewis, will be monitored closely and likely only practice once a day during the five allowed two-a-day practices that begin next week.

Also monitored and heartily welcomed back after infections following a leg injury threatened his football career two years ago, senior linebacker Josh Williams, is on the 105-man roster.

Since Williams has only this active eligibility season remaining after missing last year, Bielema said he will be given a shot at fullback if playing time doesn’t develop quickly at linebacker.

Thursday night’s practice was briefly opened to media, revealing that redshirt freshman Zach Rogers opened first-team at right offensive guard, also contested by third-year sophomore Brian Wallace.

Reserve linebacker Randy Ramsey has moved to defensive end with Beanum’s absence.

Five-star freshman McTelvin “Sosa” Agim of Hope and junior Karl Roesler compete at a defensive end spot with preseason All-SEC senior Deatrich Wise starting at the opposite defensive end.

The Hogs practiced Thursday and Friday, and will practice again today in half pads. They’ll be off Sunday, other than their annual Media Day responsibilities, and will practice Monday in half pads before Tuesday’s first contact practice in full pads.

SPORTS STORY >> CHS volleyball set for big year

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School volleyball team got back in the gym on a routine basis last month and the Lady Panthers have stayed busy since in preparation for the upcoming season, which will begin later this month.

Even though the Lady Panthers have only been practicing as a team for a few weeks since summer break, many of the players played club volleyball over the summer, so school practice sessions haven’t been near as rusty as they could be otherwise.

“We started back a few weeks ago,” said Cabot coach Kham Chanthaphasouk. “A lot of them played club volleyball. A couple of our girls actually went to nationals, so they played all the way up to the end of June. So they only had a very short break before they came back the end of July.”

One of the first things the Lady Panthers did in July was host a skills youth camp. The camp took place at CHS from July 18-22. Every Cabot high school player worked as camp instructors, and the participants were students entering grades 1-9.

The following week, July 28-30, the Lady Panthers participated in a team camp at Arkansas State University and after taking part in those team camp activities, they’d close the day with their own practice sessions.

Cabot has been practicing regularly since, and on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Lady Panthers participated in another team camp at Benton.

“They were so tired we gave them a day off today,” Chanthaphasouk said on Thursday.

The head coach is expecting good things from his now veteran team, led by five seniors: hitters Maddie Brown and Taylor Bell, setter Regan Campbell, libero Kaelee Simmons and defensive specialist Krystal Harden.

“We have a very solid group of seniors this year,” Chanthaphasouk said. “We can clearly see their progression, from year to year. They’re even stronger this year. So I believe this is going to be a very competitive team.

“This year they understand my expectations more than any other group, and I think they’re going to be a strong group of leaders. I’m pretty pleased overall with their level of maturity and their leadership so far with what I’ve seen on the court and off the court.”

Those seniors have been big-time contributors for the program since they were underclassmen. Harden suffered a torn ACL late in the spring and is in the final stages of rehabbing that knee, but is expected to be back playing no later than early September.

“She really blossomed toward the end of (last) season and during the spring,” Chanthaphasouk said of Harden. “She played club volleyball. I would expect she will be a strong contributor to the success of the team once she comes back as a defensive player.”

Chanthaphasouk, who is entering his third season as the head coach at Cabot, knows the production he’s going to get from his experienced seniors, and also said he likes the way his newcomers have progressed this summer as well.

“We have a very talented 10th grade group of players,” Chanthaphasouk said, “and I’ve had them for two years. I have the luxury of going to Junior High North or South every morning, so I’ve been working with these 10th graders also the last two years.”

All in all, it’s been a productive summer for the Lady Panthers, who Chanthaphasouk said are driven to get better, and they very much look forward to getting the season underway.

“They’re very, very driven,” Chanthaphasouk said. “They’re all excited to be here. I like to focus right now on conditioning and individual skills, because we were able to work on a lot of teamwork at the team camps we went to. So after this week, we’ll probably shift the focus a little more on team drills and things like that.”

The very first game action the Lady Panthers will compete in will be Aug. 18 at Conway High School in a benefit jamboree that’ll feature several teams. Cabot’s first regular season match will be Aug. 23 at home against Benton.

SPORTS STORY >> Local track club racking up wins, personal bests

Leader sportswriter

From upperclassmen to 11 and 12-year-olds, it’s been an outstanding and productive summer for several local track and field athletes, as those athletes have continued to set personal records, rack up wins in various events and continue to improve as the school year approaches.

Cabot High School senior to-be Britton Alley, who won the Class 7A state championship in the 200-meter dash in May, represented Arkansas at the Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., during the first week of June.

The Great Southwest Classic was an invite-only meet and consisted of athletes from across North America, and Alley competed in three different events, including setting a personal record in the 200-meter dash with a blistering time of 21.98.

With that finish, Alley became the only returning high school runner in the state to break the 22-second barrier in that event. Also this summer, Alley won the USATF (USA Track and Field) 100- and 200-meter state championships in the 17-18-year-old age group, and he finished second in the 400-meter race.

“The 100 was a tough one, because he had a collegiate athlete in that that was still able to compete in that age group,” said Elite Performance Track Club coach Jason Alley of Britton. “The 200 he won in dominating fashion, but after this Arkansas meet, we decided to shut it down, as far as competing, because he really wanted to get into the offseason work.”

Britton Alley has been working with Arkansas Baptist College track and field coach Cedric Vaughn for about a year and a half. Vaughn ran track for legendary track and field coach John McDonnell at the University of Arkansas from 2001-2005.

After his days of running for the greatest track and field program in collegiate history, Vaughn later joined D1 Sports Training in Little Rock as a speed and conditioning coach.

Then in 2010, Vaughn started the track and field program at Arkansas Baptist College, and in addition to his coaching duties at ABC, Vaughn works individually with upcoming sprinters like Alley and several other elite sprinters in the state. Vaughn says he expects a big senior year from the Class 7A 200-meter state champion.

“Britton is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the 100, 200 and 400,” said Vaughn. “He’s special and he’s going to do some great things. It’s going to be an honor just to coach him.

“I definitely think Britton will knock down some school records – definitely in the 400 and definitely in the 200, and he has the capacity to knock it down in the 100 also. I think he’ll definitely knockdown some school records.”

Another Cabot Panther that Vaughn coaches is junior to-be Conley Hillegas. Hillegas had a good sophomore year at Cabot. He didn’t compete in any summer meets and has only been working with Vaughn for a couple of months, but the head ABC coach says Hillegas is only getting better and better and his confidence continues to grow with the experience he’s gaining.

“It’s hard to explain someone that didn’t know who he was and then all of a sudden he comes out here and just busts tail,” Vaughn said of Hillegas. “He just kicks tail. I’ve got a guy named Kennedy Lightner (a very talented sprinter from North Little Rock), who is pretty much one of the fastest guys in the state.

“He (Hillegas) looked me in the eye and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to beat him just one time,’ and did it. I was like, ‘Well now you’re starting to believe in yourself.’ I think that they would run repeat 300s. So we’re running 300 meters and rest, then 600 and run another 300 meters. And so he came out there and kicked tail and did it. So I’m super proud of him.

“When you get a kid that starts believing in themselves they do amazing things.”

Vaughn expects great things from both Alley and Hillegas next year.

“Both of them are rising stars,” Vaughn said. “They’ve got great potential, very great athletic ability. I definitely think that they will have a great, great year with the way that they’re training.”

Alley and Hillegas aren’t the only two locals that have stood out this summer, though. Junior to-be Stuart Nickell, of Cabot, won the AAU state meet for the 15-16-year-old age group in the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter races in Hot Springs on June 11.

On June 25, Nickell finished third in the 1,500-meter race at the USATF state meet held at UALR, and he finished second in the 3,000-meter race. Although he finished second in that 3,000-meter race, he shattered his previous best time by a whopping 15 seconds.

Nickell competed again at the USATF Region 9 Championships, which was held at Missouri State University on July 10, and finished eighth in the 1,500.

“Man, he is a hard-working kid and he runs and runs and runs,” Jason Alley said of Nickell. “He should have a good year in cross country this year.”

Though it mainly consists of Cabot athletes, the Elite Performance Track Club isn’t reserved only for Cabot athletes. Club participant Dakota Smith of Palestine-Wheatley set a personal record in the 400-meter race this summer and Alyssa Dohm of Des Arc, who was a Class 2A state champion in three events as a sophomore, also competed well this summer for the club.

As far as younger EPTC competitors, Cabot’s Levi Griffin won the 11-12-year-old boys shot put at the USATF state meet this summer, and did so after only two weeks of practice.

“The kid’s a natural,” Jason Alley said of Griffin. “He’s as strong as a bull and has really, really good feet. Moves well and is explosive, tons of potential. Levi should be a force. The week after the Arkansas meet, we were practicing and he improved his distance by six feet.”

Jacobi Briggs won the 11-12-year-old girls 100-meter race at the USATF state meet and finished second in the 200-meter race. Riley Eckert finished fourth in the 100-meter race, fifth in the 200-meter race and second in the shot put in the same age group at the state meet. It’s her first year competing with the team.

“She’s a good athlete,” Alley said of Eckert.

Jersee Grubb finished third in the 100- and 200-meter races in the 11-12-year-old girls age group at the USATF state meet.

SPORTS STORY >> Books before practice

Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville High School graduate Kinley Burrows played a big role in the success the Lady Red Devil softball team had this past season, its best since 2002, but the four-year starting shortstop’s accomplishments in the classroom are just as impressive as her play on the softball field, if not more so.

Burrows graduated in the spring as the Salutatorian of the 2016 JHS class with over a 4.0 grade point average. Her work in the classroom and on the softball field earned her both academic and athletic scholarships to Central Baptist College in Conway this fall.

At CBC, Burrows plans to major in health science and after she graduates, she wants to pursue a career in physical therapy. She said she wants to keep her GPA high enough while she’s an undergrad so she can eventually get accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at the University of Central Arkansas, which is among the elite physical therapy programs in the nation.

Being an athlete, Burrows was first interested in the athletics side of the physical therapy field, but found another interest when working at an Allied Therapy camp for kids at the Veterans Park Community Center in Cabot a couple of summers ago.

“At first I wanted to do that just because I kind of wanted to stay in the sports area,” said Burrows, “and I figured that’d be a good thing to do, but then I kind of changed tracks after I job shadowed this lady that did physical therapy for special needs kids.”

Burrows said she loved the experience of working with the kids there, and is what led to her interests in wanting to pursue a career in pediatric therapy.

“I just fell in love with the kids there,” Burrows said. “I just thought it’d be really cool to help them out and spend my time with kids.”

Playing a collegiate sport takes the same time and dedication as a full-time job, but keeping a high GPA can be just as challenging. It will be a challenge to excel at both, but it’s something Burrows has done throughout her time in Jacksonville, and from an early age, she learned at home that academics came before extracurricular activities.

“My parents kind of always pushed academics before athletics,” Burrows said. “If I missed school I couldn’t go to practice. It (school) always came first, and they always taught me I had to work as hard in the classroom as I do on the field.”

Both of Burrows’ parents are teachers in Jacksonville. Her mother, Stephanie, is a fourth grade teacher and her father, Larry, teaches geometry and is also the head baseball coach at the high school, and his influence and teachings played a big role in Kinley’s development and progression on the field, according to her.

“When I was younger, we’d go and hit on Sundays and get (field) groundballs whenever I wanted, which was all the time, basically,” Kinley Burrows said. “But really as I got older, he would teach me the little things in the game to get perfect, and how you can never be perfect, so you’ve always got to work.”

This past season the Lady Red Devils were perfect in 5A-Central Conference play (12-0) en route to their first conference championship in softball since 2004, and the team advanced to the semifinals of the Class 5A state tournament for the first time since 2002, finishing the season with an impressive 26-5 overall record.

“It was awesome,” Kinley Burrows said of the 2016 season. “It was like a really big payoff year for us. It was kind of frustrating the previous years, because we worked just as hard every year, and it just didn’t really work out those years.”

The JHS softball team was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the spring sports merger between Jacksonville and North Pulaski. The merging of those two programs only made the softball team better, and coming together as a team wasn’t a problem since most of the players from the two schools played summer ball together.

“We got some new people from North Pulaski and we just clicked,” Burrows said. “We played summer ball with each other, so we kind of already knew each other and stuff like that. So we just all clicked together and became a family. It was awesome.”

As for Burrows’ impact on the team, Jacksonville softball coach Hank Hawk said she definitely did her part and brought an intensity and energy to the game that the rest of the team took notice of. Burrows was also her biggest critic, because she expected excellence out of herself, even on the tough plays, according to Hawk.

“She would get down on herself by not making tough plays,” Hawk said. “Routine plays were routine for her, but when she didn’t make a tough play she’d get down on herself, because she expected to make those plays. She expected excellence out of herself, and that bleeds over to everyone else on the team.

“I can remember her junior year about halfway through the season, she started sliding head first. Sliding is an art, but going in head first to me is aggression, and she started doing that and other girls followed suit, and that’s kind of when we turned the corner as a program – getting dirty, not worrying about the bows in their hair but getting their jerseys dirty.

“One time I came home and sent her a YouTube (video) of Pete Rose, and she couldn’t believe (the effort of) Charlie Hustle. I said that’s what you remind me of.”

At CBC, Burrows will be one of two Mustang freshmen softball players that were on the JHS conference championship softball team this year. She and fellow JHS graduate and teammate, pitcher Kym House, will carry the success they had at Jacksonville to Conway this fall, and look to build on their accomplishments with the Mustangs.

EDITORIAL >> Pruitt should leave council

Beebe Alderman David Lee Pruitt, 57, this week pleaded guilty to election fraud, a misdemeanor, after he was caught voting twice in the March primary. He voted early at Beebe City Hall, where he returned on Election Day to cast another ballot.

Pruitt was fined $750 but insisted he had made an honest mistake when he voted in town and at the White County Courthouse.

Leader reporter Jeffrey Smith wrote the story here first in April: White County sheriff’s deputies arrested Pruitt on April 15 for violating state election law. White County Circuit Judge Robert Edwards signed the arrest warrant charging him with a class D felony.

Pruitt was accused of voting on Feb. 26 and on March 1. White County Election Commission chairman Lester Allen filed a complaint with the prosecutor’s office after a review of the ballots indicated Pruitt voted twice.

Prosecutor Rebecca Reed-McCoy notified the Beebe police chief on March 14 about the suspected violation. Ballew informed Mayor Mike Robertson and ordered an investigation.

Pruitt was released on a $2,500 bond. Pruitt, who is in his first term, was elected alderman in Ward 1 in 2014.

This was the kind of election fraud that’s supposed to happen elsewhere. Pruitt has brought embarrassment on himself and his city and should resign. Mayor Mike Robertson should call for a new election so the city can go about its business and file this episode as a civic lesson against voter fraud.

Voter fraud is rare. No one should try it because the stakes are too high. Just ask Alderman Pruitt, who should have known better.

EDITORIAL >> How to right bad writing

Remember when Typing 101 was offered in junior high and high school?

Somehow we’ve gotten away from keyboarding in the last decade or so and that lack of “QWERTY” knowledge has affected this year’s writing scores.

At least we hope that is part of the problem otherwise more than 90 percent of students in some area schools and classes truly cannot write on grade level.

That’s a scary thought for the future of our area, the state and nation.

According to the recently released state test, nearly all the fifth graders in Searcy cannot write, neither can third graders at Bayou Meto nor Carlisle Elementary and neither can fourth graders at Bayou Meto, Clinton, Harris, Sylvan Hills, Pinewood, Arnold Drive or Carlisle elementaries.

And if lack of keyboarding practice is not one of the causes for low scores, then 98 percent of Cato Elementary fourth graders (incoming fifth graders) cannot function at grade level because their writing scores are so low.

Dr. Belinda Shook, Beebe School District superintendent, said lack of keyboarding skills was certainly a factor, but will improve now that teachers and students have a better idea of the test.

This was the first year for the online ACT Aspire test, and even though students did well in English, they got off to a rocky start in writing.

Dr. John Tackett, deputy superintendent, said part of the problem had to do with the complexity of the questions. He said all test questions have a depth of knowledge or complexity of 1, 2 or 3. A DOK-1 question is simple recall, a DOK-2 question requires some thinking and a DOK-3 requires analysis, inferences, the connecting of dots when most of the dots are missing.

The English section of the state test, which most students scored average to excellent on, had just 25 questions at the DOK-3 or hardest level. Tackett said in writing, 100 percent of the questions were of the toughest variety.

He added that if one looks at the poor writing scores using percentile ranking, which shows how Arkansas compared to the rest of the nation, local students were in the top half of the country in writing.

That sounds good, but that’s a scary narrative for the nation as a whole.

Bottom line, even after keyboarding issues, we are still not near where we need to be.

So the fault really lies with the students, teachers, administrations, district and yes, parents. If we don’t want this generation to be witless writers, we must all join in together in the arena of writing.

Or else wee wil sea a lot of tis inn thhe futire.

TOP STORY >> Arrest in Ward murder

Leader staff writer

A Ward man was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly killing his wife.

Steven Watters, 51, of 20 Moss Drive is charged with first-degree murder. He is being held at the Lonoke County Detention Center on a $1 million bond. Watters is also being held for violating parole. He was issued a no-contact order with family members of the victim. Watters’ next court date is 9 a.m. Sept. 15.

Ward police responded to the home at 9:38 a.m. July 28 in the death of a woman.

Ward police, along with the State Police, conducted an investigation into the death of 35-year-old Catherine Watters.

According to court records, in November 2015 Watters pleaded guilty to possession of firearms by a felon in Lonoke County Circuit Court. He had four or more felony convictions.

Lonoke County sheriff’s deputies went to the address in April 2014 for a woman wanted on felony warrants.

While at the residence, deputies spoke with Watters. He signed a consent form allowing law enforcement to search his property.

During the search, deputies found a shotgun on a shelf inside a shed.

TOP STORY >> Lighthouse eyes microscope

Leader staff writer

Ten years ago, if a teacher needed a new microscope or a coach needed new uniforms for his players, and with no money in the budget for extras, the employee might turn to the school’s PTO or the Booster Club.

Once again, the Internet is changing everything.

But charter school supporter Mike Wilson says this is no different than raising money the old-fashioned way—by selling candy or a hosting a pie supper.

When Laundon Tucker, a life sciences teacher at Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School Preparatory Academy, wanted to buy a microscope, camera and tissue slides for use in her science classroom, the school said the money wasn’t in the budget.

So she turned to, the website that helps teachers raise the money they need for equipment or special projects.

According to the website, Charles Best, a teacher at a Bronx, N.Y., public high school, wanted his students to read “Little House on the Prairie.” As he was making photocopies of the one book, he thought about all the money he and his colleagues were spending on books, art supplies and other materials.

Best believed there were people who want to help cover the costs, if they knew where their money was going.

He set up the website about 10 years ago and word began to spread.

Lighthouse Principal William Felton says he hated to turn down Tucker’s request but the money wasn’t in the seven-year-old school’s budget. He was pleased with her ingenuity.

While the charter school receives about $6,000 in federal funding per student annually, as well as free and reduced lunch money, Felton says his school doesn’t receive the same amount of funding as public schools.

Wilson says charter schools do not receive any property-tax money designated for traditional public schools. Public schools could receive as much as $2,000 more per student per year.

Felton says, “Public schools get considerably more money per student,” and he goes on to say, “I support (Tucker’s) efforts and the efforts of any teacher who is working for the betterment of their students.”

Wilson also urges residents to help the local students out.

“We need to support teachers’ programs that go above and beyond. Our schools, even public schools, have to watch their budgets and need help,” Wilson says.

The school has been open since 2009 and is governed by a local independent board of trustees.

Tucker isn’t greedy and would be happy with just one college-level microscope, tissue slides and a camera that she could connect to a projector that she could point to different parts of interest on the tissue slide.

The slides would allow students to study various systems of the body, and she says the equipment she hopes to purchase is important for her students’ education. She understands the importance first hand.

When first arriving at Hendrix College in Conway, she struggled to catch up because she didn’t have access to a college-grade microscope while in high school.

Now, she sees her students having little experience in microscopy work.

“Learning how to use a microscope is tough without the proper supplies to enhance the experience,” she says.

The equipment would be used by her 10th through 12th grade human anatomy and physiology, biology and advanced placement biology classes.

“This would put them ahead of the game and they would get the best experience I could give them,” she explains.

Her students also support her cause.

Jaylen Manuel says, “I like using microscopes because I like to be able to use my hands with the stuff we’re learning.”

Another student, Kristen Haynes also absorbs more knowledge with hands-on experience. “Labs were my favorite part of biology and I learn better by seeing actual examples,” she says.

Tucker says she heard from school officials that her request, sent by email, is circulating throughout the community.

Of course, she appreciates that teachers like her have a new way to raise money and it gives her more funding options.

“I feel like I’m starting to get support from the community,” she says.

So far, she has raised about $100 of the $1,210 she needs to buy the microscope. The website, linked to her Facebook page, will allow her to continue raising funds until October.

“I’m really happy with the donations so far,” she says.

TOP STORY >> Test shows strengths, pitfalls

Leader staff writer

Editor’s note: This is the third and final part of a series highlighting recently released test scores. The first focused on Cabot, the second on the Pulaski County Special School District and this one covers all other schools in the area.

Back in April, students in third through 10th grades took the annual state assessment measuring their skills in English, math, science, reading and writing.

Beebe, Lonoke and the other schools followed the same pattern as Cabot and PCSSD, which showed students stronger in English than math and generally weakest in writing.

The state expects all students to score in the top two of the four scoring categories: Meeting expectations or exceeding expectations, meaning students are working at grade level or above.

About 65 percent of students across the state made the cut in English, but it dropped to about 40 percent in math and 30 percent in writing.

“Looking at our scores, we definitely can see room for improvement,” said Dr. Belinda Shook, superintendent of Beebe schools. “However, one thing we do in our analysis is to compare our scores to the state scores. In many, but not all, we are above the state average.”

It was the first year for the state to give the computerized ACT Aspire assessment to students. It was the PRACC online test the previous year and then the pencil-and-paper benchmark exams before that.

“Anytime a new test is given it’s a learning experience,” Shook said.

She added, “We look at our results and ask questions such as how closely are we aligned to the standards, and are we teaching the standards to the level, with the rigor, they need to be taught? The test is a measurement of those two questions.”

Shook went on, “Since this was a brand-new test, I believe the writing scores, as well as the rest of the tested areas, were affected by the technology students were required to use. Young students who were not taught, or who did not practice writing with word processing, would not be able to do as well. I imagine some of the students were spending more effort figuring out how to take the test, than figuring out correct answers. As we progress, the students will become more familiar with the format and the scores will improve.”

Lonoke Superintendent Suzanne Bailey said, “The Lonoke School District has and is still reviewing all ACT Aspire data with our own administrative teams and will be continuing this process with building level professional learning community teams that consist of teachers, support staff, and principals. This will be occurring throughout the entire school year.”

“Upon our initial review,” Bailey said, “We have recognized that our student performance reflects improvement in literacy from the PARCC assessment, but our writing scores from the ACT Aspire do not reflect the scores that we are satisfied with currently and thus, we will continue to have discussions and implement teaching and learning strategies across the district to provide support in the area of writing.”

The superintendent added, “Working with our students to help them become more familiar with computerized testing should also assist in improving our student performance overall.”

Here are area schools and districts and the percentage of students who did well in the five areas tested:


At the third-grade level, 70.6 percent of the students met or exceeded expectations, 53.9 percent in math, 34.9 percent in science, 28.6 percent in reading and 32.1 percent made the cut in writing.

Among fourth graders, 64.6 percent did well in English, 52 percent in math, 35.4 percent in science, 37.6 percent in reading and 18.5 made the cut in writing.

Beebe’s fifth grade had 75.7 percent of its student body meet or exceed expectations in English, 47.5 percent in math, 41.3 percent in science, 28.2 percent in reading and 17.2 percent in writing.

At the sixth-grade level, 67.8 percent made the cut in English, 49.6 percent in math, 47 percent in math, 38.3 percent in reading and 36.4 percent did well in writing.

For seventh grade, 74.9 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 57.4 percent in math, 39.9 percent in science, 36.5 percent in reading and 26.2 percent in writing.

Eighth grade had 73 percent of its students make the cut in English, 51.2 percent in math, 39.5 percent in science, 52.6 percent in reading and 16.7 percent did well in writing.

At the freshman level, 57.8 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 32.4 percent in math, 31.3 percent in science, 32.5 percent in reading and 49.1 percent in writing.

Sophomores had 62.7 of its class make the cut in English, 22.1 percent in math, 28 percent in science, 32.7 percent in reading and 60 percent did well in writing.


At the third-grade level, 76.9 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 67.7 percent in math, 40 percent in science, 43.1 percent in reading and 14.3 percent in writing.

Among fourth graders, 79.5 made the cut in English, 67.1 percent in math, 45.2 percent in science, 49.3 percent in reading and just 13.9 percent in writing.

For fifth grade, 72.4 percent did well in English, 46.1 percent in math, 32.9 percent in science, 40.8 in reading and only 13.3 percent in writing.

At the sixth-grade level, 79.5 percent made the cut in English, 64.2 percent in math, 61.3 percent in science, 55.8 percent in reading and 47.9 percent in writing.


Among third graders, 61.1 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 44.4 percent in math, 25.9 percent in science, 27.8 in reading and just 7.5 percent did well in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, 53.7 percent made the cut in English, 38.9 percent in math, 22.2 percent in science, 27.8 percent in reading and 14.8 percent in writing.

For fifth grade, 72.5 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 34.3 percent in math, 28.4 percent in science, 29.4 percent in reading and 17.6 percent did well in writing.

At the sixth-grade level, 63.2 percent made the cut in English, 41.9 percent in math, 41.5 percent in science, 34 percent in reading and 33.3 percent in writing.


Third grade had 57.2 percent of its students meet or exceed expectations in English, 37.9 percent in math, 25.5 percent in science, 22.1 percent in reading and just 6.6 percent did well in writing.

At the fourth-grade level, 70.9 percent made the cut in English, 44.9 percent in math, 36.2 percent in science, 37 percent in reading and only 10.6 percent did well in writing.

Lonoke had 65.6 percent of its fifth graders meet or exceed expectations in English, 37.5 percent in math, 30.5 percent in science, 23.4 percent in reading and just 3.1 percent made the cut in writing.

Among sixth graders, 70.3 percent scored well in English, 49.2 percent in math, 53.1 percent in science, 45.3 percent in reading and 30.4 percent in writing.

At the seventh-grade level, 78.6 made the cut in English, followed by 30.5 percent in math, 32.5 percent in science, 36.4 percent in reading and 19.5 percent met or exceeded expectations in writing.

Among eighth graders, 64.6 did well in English, 29.1 percent in math, 229.9 percent in science, 45.7 percent made the cut in reading and only 6.3 percent did the same in writing.

For freshmen, 52.9 percent met or exceeded expectation in English, 23 percent in math, 25.9 percent in science, 36.3 percent in reading and 40.7 percent made the cut in writing.

Among Lonoke sophomores, 56.7 did well in English, 16.8 percent in math, 32.8 percent in science, 37.8 percent in reading and 51.2 percent made the cut in writing.

The district had 60.5 percent of its third graders meet or exceed expectations in English, 44.2 percent in math, 34.9 percent in science, 27.9 percent in reading and just 4.7 percent in writing.

Among fourth graders, 61.1 percent made the cut in English, 44.4 percent in math, 27.8 percent in science, 27.8 percent in reading and only 3.8 percent did well in writing.

At the fifth grade level, 69.2 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 38.5 percent in math, 30.8 percent in science, 30.8 percent in reading and 34.6 percent in writing.

For sixth grade, 76.1 percent made the cut in English, 67.4 percent in math, 54.3 percent in science, 50 percent in reading and 41.3 percent did well in writing.

Among seventh graders 78.8 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 51.9 percent in math, 36.5 percent in science, 44.2 percent in reading and 34.6 percent in writing.

At the eighth-grade level, 60.8 percent did well in English, 33.3 percent in math, 33.3 percent in science, 37.3 percent in reading and only 10 percent made the cut in writing.

For freshmen, 34.5 percent did well in English, 12.7 percent in math, just 9.1 percent in science, 40 percent in reading and 23.6 percent in writing.

Among sophomores, 60.4 percent met or exceeded expectations in English, 16.7 percent in math, 29.2 percent in science, 35.4 percent in reading and 57.4 percent did well in writing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot native establishes fishing record


Ross Martin, of Cabot, may have established a state record for river carp sucker, but he doesn’t expect it to stand long. He’s pretty sure he has caught bigger examples of the species before he pulled in a river carp sucker out of the Maumelle Pool of the Arkansas River late on July 11 with his bowfishing rig.

“Nobody knew if there was a state record,” said Martin, who was fishing with his ex-brother-in-law, Steven Ruple. “We didn’t know what they were at first. We caught some that were bigger than that, some other times we went. I figured out too late what they were, and that there wasn’t a record established, so I went back and got another one.”

This river carp sucker measured 2 pounds, 7.4 ounces at the Little Rock Fisheries Headquarters. The total length from tip to tail was 18 inches; fork length, which is from the tip of the nose to the “V” in the tail, was 16¾ inches. The fish’s girth, measured in front of the dorsal fin, was 11½ inches.

Martin, who works in an oil field, says he bowfishes about two nights per week. He and Ruple look mainly for other rough fish like buffalo or gar, which is what led to finding the river carp sucker. He said carp suckers are “almost impossible” to take by other means.

Specifically, the carp suckers were found in Murray Lake, upriver from the Murray Lock and Dam. “At night, they come up in the shallow water,” he said. “I haven’t seen a whole bunch of them.”

Martin, who is 35, says he’s hunted game and fish with bows since he was 14. He plans to return regularly to beat his established mark, but figures his friend, Ruple, will be trying to best the record, too. They may be exchanging existing records for a while, Martin said with a chuckle. In the meantime, they’ll still focus on the fish they prefer to eat: the buffalo, the gar, and the catfish in season.

“Buffalo are good, and gar actually are good if you cook it right,” Martin said.

SPORTS STORY >> Titans have young team, new staff

Leader sports editor

The first official day of football practice for the new Jacksonville Titans saw fewer players than the total number of athletes participating in summer workouts. Between 50-55 had been reporting for summer workouts, but only 38 were on hand for practice on Monday.

Head coach Barry Hickingbotham wasn’t surprised by the turnout, and is eager to get started developing what will be a very young team in 2016.

“Most of the ones here have been the core group that’s been committed all summer,” said Hickingbotham. “Overall, we’ve had anywhere from 50 to 55, 56 guys here. But we’ve had about 40 that have been committed to being here consistently. Those core kids we have, I’d go to battle with them any time.”

Of the total number of players, almost half are sophomores, to go along with 13 seniors and 14 juniors.

“We probably have 25 to 28 sophomores, something like that,” Hickingbotham said. “When your that young, you have to do some things outside of the box. Moving up to 6A, we’re going to be younger and smaller than just about everybody we play, so we’re working on some things to try to offset some of the advantages other teams are going to have.”

The team is going into the first year as the new JNP school district with an almost entirely revamped coaching staff. Gone is assistant Jerry Wilson, who took over as the new district athletic director. Former offensive coordinator Jim Stanley surprised the staff when he left after spring practice to take over the ninth-grade team at Sylvan Hills, shortly after Hickingbotham worked through administrative red tape to secure Stanley a P.E. teaching job in the new district.

Former offensive line and weight-lifting coach Brian McDermott was not retained by the district and took a job at Sheridan. Assistant Tirrell Brown was also not retained, and moved on to take a job at Camden Fairview.

The new staff members include defensive coordinator Bryan Eagle, who was recently an assistant coach at Warren, and a graduate of Cabot High School.

Correy Muldrew joins the staff from Watson Chapel. He was a wide receiver for Houston Nutt at the University of Arkansas, and will coach receivers this year.

Bobby Evins is the new offensive line coach. He was most recently at Camden Fairview. He started his career as a graduate assistant for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, and was the tight ends coach for Bill Keopple at Southern Arkansas University.

Zach Sloan is coaching the defensive line. He helped Hendrix College get its football program started and has been at the Conway Division III school the last three years.

Matt Boeving moves into Brown’s old spot as primarily an assistant for Donny Lantrip and the freshmen squad.

Larry Burrows is still coaching defensive backs, and Hickingbotham is taking over offensive coordinator duties.

Practice in shorts and helmets continue this week, and full-pad, full contact work begins next week.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot wins AA American Legion title

Leader sports editor

It’s all about how you finish. That axiom was proven last weekend by the Cabot American Legion baseball team. The Centennial Bank squad beat the Magnet Cove Black Cats twice on Sunday in Sheridan to overcome a terrible start to the season and earn the American Legion AA state championship. Scores were 3-2 and 4-3.

Making it more impressive, the team did it without its head coach, Chris Gross, who missed the final weekend of the tournament due to a death in the family. That left his assistant, Casey Vaughan, to lead the team through a loss to Magnet Cove in the final of the winners’ bracket, and three-straight wins, one over Morrilton and the two in the championship series.

The season was off to a rough start when tryouts were held in May and almost none of the main high school players came out for American Legion. That left coaches with a mishmash of JV players and others who had not played at all in at least a year.

“I’m going to be honest with you, I knew our guys started off rough,” said Vaughan. “I didn’t know what was ahead of us, but I knew they weren’t going to quit. They’ve always had fight in them, so I’m not surprised.”

The deciding game went into the bottom of the ninth when the Tillery brothers teamed up for the game-winning run. Gavin Tillery hit a one-out single to right field before Easton Seidl popped up into foul territory near first base for the second out.

Brian Tillery drilled a double to the wall in center field for the game-winning RBI.

“Brian is a junior player that we played on both teams,” Vaughan said. “He struggled a little bit in this tournament, but he got the biggest hit of the tournament when we needed it most.”

It was Cabot’s only extra-base hit of the game that only saw seven base hits total. Defense was sloppy on both sides and neither team did a very good job of scoring when opportunities were presented.

Magnet Cove finished with 10 base hits to go along with one hit batter and six Cabot errors, but only managed three runs. Cabot drew two free bases and reached five times on Black Cat errors.

“It was a brutal game. I’m not going to lie,” Vaughan said. “It wasn’t clean at all. But you know what, that’s how this team should’ve won the state championship. It was ugly. We should’ve won the game a long time ago. We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of. But what else we didn’t do, we didn’t lay over and die when we lost those opportunities. So I’m proud of them for that.”

Magnet Cove grabbed the lead in the top of the first inning after leadoff hitter Ben Slate reached on the first error of the game. Josh Smeltzer drove him in with an RBI single to left field two batters later.

Cabot pitcher Caleb Wilson held the Black Cats scoreless the next two innings and Cabot scored two in the bottom of the third to take the lead. They were also unearned runs. Logan Edmondson, the tournament MVP, and Koleton Eastham reached on back-to-back infield errors. Brandon Jones then sacrificed one run in and Jack Broyles singled to score Eastham for the 2-1 Cabot lead.

Magnet Cove’s Korey Wasson tied the game in the top of the fifth when he hit a two-out triple to the wall in center field. He scored on the play when the throw to third base went out of the field of play.

Magnet Cove took the lead in the sixth when two throwing errors left a runner in scoring position before Brandon Stovall doubled to left field.

Cabot missed a prime opportunity to score when it loaded the bases with no outs. Gavin Tillery hit a comebacker to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play, and Seidl grounded out to second base to end the threat.

But the Black Cats repaid the favor while just one out away from the championship. With two outs and two base runners from HBPs, Brian Tillery’s grounder to second base was booted into right field by Ethan Bates, allowing Dillon Thomas to score the game-tying run all the way from second base.

Wilson reached his pitch limit in the eighth with the game tied. He scattered nine hits over eight innings, giving up only one hit per inning except for the sixth. He struck out three and walked no one.

Eastham, who had caught 13 innings, took the mound in the ninth and got the win.

The two teams started the championship series on Saturday, but lightning forced it to be postponed with one out in the top of the third, and play resumed Sunday.

Cabot held a 2-1 lead when play resumed after scoring two runs in the bottom of the first. Caleb Harpole started the game with a double, and scored on a sacrifice grounder by Thomas. Edmondson later singled to score Gavin Tillery, who had walked.

It became a 3-1 advantage in the sixth when Seidl hit a one-out triple to right-center field, and scored on a wild pitch.

Magnet Cove scored on an error in the top of the seventh, but Michael Shepherd shut them down to force the “if” game.

Shepherd gave up six hits in earning the win, but none over the last four innings. He struck out four total, and they were all in order from the last out of the third to striking out the side in the fourth.

Cabot beat Morrilton 5-2 on Saturday to advance out of the losers’ bracket and into the championship series. Left-hander Geno Germer threw a complete-game, six hitter in that win.

Cabot scored four runs in the top of the second inning to take a 4-0 lead. Seidl, Tillery, Edmondson and Jones hit four-straight singles, with Jones recording two RBIs with his base hit. Eastham sacrificed another run in and Broyles got an RBI base hit.

Morrilton cut it to 4-2 with one run in the bottom of the second and another in the third. Cabot set the final margin in the top of the seventh. Edmondson singled to center field and advanced to third on an error in the same spot.

He later scored on another RBI base hit by Broyles.

The Centennial Bank team, which started the season with six-straight losses in July, finishes with a record of 17-12.

Edmondson received the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award for hitting .381 in the tournament, including going 6 for 10 with a double, three runs scored and three stolen bases in the final three games.

EDITORIAL >> Sales tax holiday

Editor’s note: State Sen. Eddie Joe Williams (R-Cabot) reminds residents of the annual Back to School sales tax holiday this weekend, when many items will be more affordable than usual.

Arkansas will hold its annual sales-tax holiday on Saturday and Sunday.

The legislature created the sales-tax holiday in 2011 to help families with children in school.

It’s commonly known as the Back to School sales tax holiday, but everyone benefits from the holiday, whether or not they have children of school age.

Clothing and footwear less than $100 per item will qualify for the exemption. Keep in mind that if you buy an item that costs more than $100 you must pay the state and local sales taxes on the entire amount.

Here’s an example provided by the Department of Finance and Administration: A person buys two shirts for $50 each, a pair of jeans for $75 and a pair of shoes for $125. The sales tax will only be collected on the shoes. Even though the total price of the shirts and the jeans added up to $175, no sales tax will be collected because each item cost less than $100.

Accessories less than $50 qualify for the exemption. Examples include wallets, watches, jewelry, sunglasses, handbags, cosmetics, briefcases, hair notions, wigs and hairpieces.

School supplies also qualify: Binders, book bags, calculators, tape, paper, pencils, scissors, notebooks, folders, glue, textbooks, reference books, maps, globes and workbooks and art supplies.

Bathing suits and beachwear will be exempt as long as they cost less than $100 each.

Diapers will not be taxed, nor will boots, steel-toed boots, slippers, sneakers and sandals.

Not exempt from the sales tax are sporting goods, such as cleats and spikes worn by baseball, soccer and football players. Recreational items such as skates, shoulder pads, shin guards and ski boots will be taxed.

Computers, software and computer equipment are also not exempt, and you will have to pay sales taxes if you purchase those items on the holiday.

The sales-tax holiday is always on the first weekend of August every year. All retail stores are required to participate and may not legally collect any state or local sales taxes on qualified items during the tax holiday.

EDITORIAL >> GOP dumps its nominee

“There’s only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honor and respect. Capt. Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family.” — Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich

“Every American (should) speak to Gold Star families tenderly and with respect and even love.” — Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

“All Gold Star parents deserve our respect and care, and both major candidates for President would do well to honor the service of our fallen heroes, apologize to their families, and pray for their comfort and peace.”

— Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)

When presidential campaigns go bad, they fall apart quickly: Michael Dukakis in his goofy helmet looking out of a tank. President George H.W. Bush checking his watch during a debate with Bill Clinton. John Kerry windsurfing.

There have been so many low points in Donald Trump’s campaign in the last two weeks, you wonder how low he’ll sink: Melania Trump plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s eight-year-old speech, his assault on a Muslim Gold Star family, his continued defense of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, his attack on a retired general, a former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who spoke at the Democratic convention, but there’s so much more.

On Friday, Trump was rescued from a stuck elevator in Colorado Springs, Colo., where firefighters cut open the top so Trump could climb up a ladder to the next floor. What an appropriate symbol for a floundering campaign. He later accused the fire chief of keeping his supporters out of an overfilled auditorium.

On Monday, Trump suggested women who are harassed at work should switch jobs. On Tuesday, Trump asked a young mother whose baby was crying to leave his rally in Virginia. At first he said he didn’t mind the baby crying, but then changed his mind. “Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here,” he shouted as the audience applauded.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) is the first Republican member of Congress to endorse Clinton for president. He said Trump was “unfit to serve” after he attacked Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, immigrants from Pakistan, whose son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq when he stopped a vehicle packed with explosives outside a military compound.

“I was stunned by the callousness of his comments,” Hanna said. “I think Trump is a national embarrassment. Is he really the guy you want to have the nuclear codes?”

A dramatic drop in the polls comes after several Republicans, from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), denounced Trump for his callousness toward the Khans. Sally Bradshaw, a former senior adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.), said she has quit the Republican Party and will vote for Hillary Clinton.

Expect more Republicans to jump ship in the runup to November, unless Trump gets a medical discharge and quits before then.

TOP STORY >> Eagle Scout in Beebe honored

Leader staff writer

Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin was on hand for the Eagle Scout ceremony of Kyle Roberts held on Saturday at Beebe First United Methodist Church. It was Griffin’s first time attending an Eagle Scout ceremony.

Roberts is a Beebe High School senior. For his Eagle Scout service project, he repainted the Beebe Badger paw prints leading to the football field at the campus and painted paw prints along Opportunity Drive.

Roberts recruited 20 people, including friends, families and scouts from Troop 362 to help with the project.

Griffin said he talks and writes a lot with Eagle Scouts and explained what reaching the achievement means to the community and society.

“It strikes me that it takes a lot of accomplishment to get to Eagle Scout. It is based on past activities, a ton of work. We value this so much for the hope that it gives us in the future. No one is celebrating because this is the end of all the good stuff Kyle will do. It is the expectation that someone at a young age will achieve throughout their life as a great member of our community and maybe a leader of the state or country,” Griffin said.

“Boys grow up to be something else. They grow to be men. If they are on the right track when they are boys, they are more likely to be on the right track when they are men. When you look at an individual like Kyle, who is involved with scouting, you see the traits we look for in successful, productive members of society,” he said.

Griffin was in the Army for 20 years. He said the values looked for in soldiers are the same values celebrated in the Eagle Scout ceremony of Roberts: Hard work, dedication, integrity, respect, manners, enthusiasm and positivity.

“It is just not the activities that accumulate and lead to this status. It is what they represent. Kyle was able to do that because of positive virtues that are instilled in him,” he said.

Griffin said reaching the level of Eagle Scout needs to be celebrated to demonstrate to kids who are watching that this is what is valued in society.

“If we celebrate everything equally, the great and not-so-great, what message does that send. In these days there is a lot of celebration of nonsense.

“A lot of people are celebrated because their name and face is known, yet they have done nothing to deserve our praise. They couldn’t even start to do what Kyle has done. He may not be known around the world for it yet, but he’s actually done it. It is our obligation as part of our relationship with him to praise him publicly and say this is worthy of doing,” Griffin said.

“This is what we want people to do. Not because boys will be boys, but boys will be men. By the time they are men, it’s never too late but harder to change the trajectory,” he said.

Roberts has been in scouting since 2010. Over the past six years he has earned 47 merit badges.

TOP STORY >> Reform efforts focus of NAACP

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville NAACP held a seminar Saturday at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church on criminal justice reform, where more than 40 people heard community leaders, lawyers and advocates talk about legal procedures, parole problems and programs designed to motivate and keep kids on the right path.

A few people spoke about their personal experiences of being in prison and their interactions with the police. Sometimes laughter filled the room, and at other times the audience was deadly silent.

One of the event’s organizers, Jacksonville NAACP’s first vice president Reginald Ford, said the event was held in conjunction with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law’s Racial Disparities in the Arkansas Criminal Justice System Research Project.

Gwendolyn Harper, Jacksonville NAACP president, welcomed guests, and Malik Sharif, who is a consultant for the Racial Disparities Project, talked about the reasons behind for his work.

He is collecting the stories of individuals who have been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime in Arkansas.

The long-term goal is to bring about “legislative, policy and community-based reforms to create a fair and just criminal justice system in Arkansas,” Sharif said.

There were a number of stories, including one that involved an altercation with a Jacksonville police officer; another concerning a false accusation involving a minor; and a violent felony.

The stories are authenticated, Shari said.

Communication is the key.

Most of the stories were submitted anonymously, but Robert Combs, who served time as a convicted sex offender, talks openly about his experiences.

At one time, Combs had a comfortable job as a professor and museum director in Asia but his next stop was prison. He was released—basically, dumped in Little Rock where he had no family or friends—and ended up sleeping under the Broadway Bridge until he managed to put his life back together, with the help of his parole officer, he said.

These days, he is an advocate for social justice.

Ford said the event was designed to try to address some of the systemic problems that are currently harming relations between police officers and African Americans.

As a result, the number of dead on both sides is growing, he said. In part, he said, because of how society views black men.

For instance, if Ford accidentally locked himself out of his house, he said he worries about climbing over the fence of his own home in an upper middle-class neighborhood.

It might be difficult to convince the police that he had a right to be there, he said.

Another example, he said is one of the event’s speakers, Omavi Shukur, who looked more like a young artist or student than a lawyer.

Shukur is a lawyer in downtown Little Rock and was at the Saturday event for a lecture called “Know the Law, Know Your Rights.”

Former UALR and Philander Smith College professor Diane Chase of North Little Rock said she worries when her grandsons, now preteens, who are well over 6 feet tall, leave the house.

She said they’re never allowed out alone, even to play basketball.

It was one of the reasons she attended the event.

During a conversation around the lunch table, she and others discussed the importance of talking with kids about how to deal with law enforcement.

The recent deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers and the mass shooting of officers in Dallas, Texas; Baton Rouge, La., and now San Diego, Calif., are also troubling, Chase said.

Following a 30-minute story-sharing session, John W. Miller, Ph.D. talked about the 100 Black Men of Little Rock. He is president of the organization that is designed as a mentoring program for boys between the ages of 13 and 17.

“It strives to improve self-esteem and self-efficacy,” Miller said.

He said they normally work with about five Jacksonville boys every fall.

There are more than 100 chapters around the country.

“The only way to make a difference is to get kids while they are young,” he said.

Miller, who is a professor at UALR, said, “We need to push them toward the education pipeline instead of to the prison pipeline.”

He was referring to the school-to-prison pipeline phase that references practices and policies that make it difficult for many urban, at-risk and poor young black men and women, as well as other minorities, to succeed.

During his session Shukur said, “I see injustice in the system, and I think our system is designed by and for the elite.”

During the question-and-answer portion of his session, Gwen Porter-Cole asked, “What can we do Monday?”

Shukur suggested getting involved, “Call your state senator…Learn as much as possible about how power operates.”

Circuit Judge Wendell L. Griffen, Sixth Judicial District, Fifth Division, also attended the event, and said he is “very concerned about the violence” that’s happening around the country.

“We need to have an honest conversation. We cannot accept a culture where the police mindset and misconduct are tolerated. A culture that is disrespectful is dangerous,” he said.

Ivory Tillman, a Jacksonville NAACP founding member, said the group has been talking with Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher and the Jacksonville Police Department about ways to keep the city’s black youth and its officers safe.

He said he feels good about race relations in Jacksonville.

All news has a local impact, Tillman said, “But still there’s a lot more work to be done.”

Ford agreed that the nation needs to talk about race, and people need to understand and respect cultural differences and help close the racial gap.

Sharif grew up in Little Rock—sometimes near the projects and in high crime areas—and these days he blames the news media for much of the racial tension.

“If it bleeds, it leads,” and while sensationalizing the news, it also drives much of the country’s racial fears and tensions, he said.

Whether in schools, prisons or courtrooms, Sharif wants institutions to work toward equity in their practices. He also advocates personal responsibility.

“We talk about communities doing the right thing, but communities are made up of persons. Personal responsibility is a good place to start. We all share common ground. We’re all struggling. We all want a good quality of life.”

Taylor Ford, who at 19 is the Jacksonville NAACP’s youngest member, said the information presented at the event was “informative and very interesting…We all need to get involved.”

TOP STORY >> Districts join to fight transfers

Leader senior staff writer

The Pulaski County Special School District on Sunday joined the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District in its motion to have a federal court order the state Board of Education to rescind its July 12 vote to allow a school choice transfer out of JNPSD and to order the state board “to recognize exemptions declared by any party to the 2014 settlement agreement for so long as it remains in effect.”

Participation in school choice will harm JNPSD’s efforts to attain unitary status, it says.

PCSSD’s brief notes that both those districts are listed on the Arkansas Department of Education’s website as claiming a conflict with participating in school choice. Both districts claim an exemption from school choice participation.

The state Board of Education exceeded its authority in overturning the JNPSD’s denial of a student transfer to the Cabot district, the JNPSD lawyers argued in a motion that will be heard Monday by U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr.

Marshall, who is the judge in the sprawling desegregation case, agreed to the expedited hearing because school starts Aug. 15, and the student—child of Nacesha Dulaney—and the two districts need to know where she will attend. If the state Board of Education is upheld she’s headed to Cabot.

JNPSD attorneys Scott Richardson and Patrick Wilson filed a motion to enforce the 2014 desegregation settlement agreement July 28. Richardson said that agreement, approved in January 2014 by the judge, included language that exempted school districts under court supervision for desegregation purposes from the School Choice Transfer Act of 2013.

That included PCSSD, and when JNPSD detached from PCSSD, desegregation requirements transferred.

The JNPSD brief read in part: “During the five-year period, the districts agree to abide by the terms of Act 1227 of 2013, the Arkansas Public school choice act of 2013, including the exemption provisions. When JNPSD was created it became ‘a party to and bound by’ the 2014 settlement agreement.”

On March 17, JNPSD notified the state Department of Education that it would be exempt from school choice transfers for 2016-2017.

A number of students living in the JNPSD attendance area filed for school choice transfers to other districts including Cabot. All were denied.

The state board, by split vote, upheld the district’s denial of the transfers of eight students who appealed to the board, except the one currently in question.

In prior appeals, the state board recognized the authority of the settlement agreement and each was denied, according to the brief.

“But the state board (which now includes two new members) ruled in July that it was not bound by this court’s consent judgment and the 2014 settlement agreement and that it could grant the transfer despite this court’s consent judgment.

“Accordingly, the state board of education has breached the 2014 settlement agreement and violated this Court’s Consent Judgment,” according to the brief.

JNPSD requested an order enforcing the consent judgment preserving JNPSD’s exemption, and “for court costs and attorney fees.”

In the brief, the district claims, “Federal Law Prohibits the State Board of Education from Nullifying JNPSD’s Compliance with Its Desegregation Obligations. And the court retains jurisdiction.”

Marshall may rule from the bench or he may take the matter under advisement, Richardson said.