Saturday, November 19, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Titans improve defense, can’t hit

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville basketball coach Vic Joyner stressed defense for his team’s rematch of a 78-77 loss at Mills on Nov. 11. His team responded, but the offense was off, resulting in a 54-52 home loss to the Comets last night at JHS.

“I said I wanted to keep them in the low 50s and we did that,” said Joyner. “But we shot the ball worse than I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching at Jacksonville High School. We just couldn’t buy a bucket. None of my guys could. They were better defensively, too. But we had chances. We just couldn’t hit the shots.”

The Titans’ struggles mostly came from the perimeter, but in the first and third quarters, not many shots were falling from anywhere. Jacksonville even missed two dunks in the first quarter.

Even with shots not falling, the defense played well enough to take a 25-23 lead into the locker room, but Mills came out hot in the third quarter, outscoring the Titans 18-8 and taking a 40-33 lead into the fourth period.

Jacksonville battled back in the fourth quarter, holding Mills to just two field goals over the last eight minutes. But the Titans had to foul late, and the Comets made enough free throws down the stretch to maintain its advantage and earn the win.

Mills (3-0) made 16 of 23 free throws, including 9 of 12 in the fourth quarter. Jacksonville was 10 of 15 from the line.

Joyner, who knew coming into the season he had a largely inexperienced team, was pleased to see defensive progress from one game to the next.

“After two games giving up 70, to hold a team as experienced andtalented as Mills to 54, that was impressive to me,” Joyner said. “All we did was play man the whole game, so that got a lot better. They changed to a little matchup zone that we didn’t quite figure out in the first half. When we figured it out, we couldn’t hit shots. He (Mills coach Raymond Cooper) matched up to keep his bigs around the rim and stop our drives. That gave us outside, but we just couldn’t hit.”

For the second time, Mills’ Grehlon Easter and Jacksonville’s Tyree Appleby led their respective teams in scoring. Appleby managed just three points in the first half, but finished with 19. Easter scored 14 for the Comets.

Chris Williams scored 10 for Jacksonville and Jeremiah Toney added 12 for Mills.

Jacksonville (1-2) will play a rematch with Pine Bluff at home on Tuesday. The Titans beat the Zebras 69-64 in the season opener at PBHS on Nov. 8.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills basketball wins a pair

Leader sports editor

The Sylvan Hills boys’ and girls’ basketball teams got wins in their respective tournaments on Thursday. The Lady Bears hammered their hosts 55-26 in the Joe T. Robinson Classic, while the boys skirted past their hosts 63-59 in the Lake Hamilton Invitational.

In the girls’ game in Little Rock, the Lady Bears were hot from outside in the first half. The first quarter saw a good mix of inside-out game by Sylvan Hills. Laine Ballard and Andrea Dolphin each hit 3-pointers while Alana Canady and Diamond Flanders scored inside. Sylvan Hills took an 18-12 lead into the second quarter, and that’s when it took over the game.

Ballard drained three more 3-pointers to spark a run by the Lady Bears. Sylvan Hills outscored Robinson 20-5 in the second period, and took a 38-17 lead into intermission.

Dolphin added another 3-pointer early in the third quarter before the pace slowed. Still, the Lady Bears outscored the Lady Senators 14-5, giving them a 52-22 lead and invoking the mercy rule in the fourth quarter.

Former North Pulaski point guard Aaliyah Bynum scored Sylvan Hills’ only basket in the fourth quarter.

Ballard led all scorers with 15 points, including four 3-pointers. Dolphin added 11 and Canady 10 for the Lady Bears.

The boys’ game was close throughout. Sylvan Hills built its biggest lead of 10 points late in the second quarter, but a series of turnovers just before halftime allowed Lake Hamilton to cut that margin to five by halftime.

“We didn’t finish the half well and that was disappointing and pretty frustrating,” said Bear coach Kevin Davis. “We didn’t play real well in the third quarter either, but we were able to get our heads back and finish it off.”

Jacobe Davis led the Bears with 19 points while Alex Curry scored 11.

The Bears were called for 28 fouls to just 14 on the host etams.

Sylvan Hills will face Class 1A powerhouse Kirby today at Lake Hamilton. Kirby is 9-1 so far this season.

SPORTS STORY >> Like night and ‘Day’ for Cabot

Leader sports editor

Cabot special teams went awry all night and North Little Rock’s quick-strike capability were the two big factors in the Panthers’ 49-19, season-ending loss to the Charging Wildcats on Friday in the quarterfinal round of the Class 7A state playoffs.

The game was two weeks after the No. 1 ranked and undefeated Wildcats barely escaped Week-10 with a 28-27 win over the Panthers.

The big difference between the regular-season finale on Nov. 4 and Friday’s playoff game, was the presence of Division I running back recruit Alex Day, who sat out last game on concussion protocol.

Day carried 21 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns in Friday’s victory.

On special teams, Cabot had a bad snap on an extra point attempt, got another extra point blocked, gave up a 40-yard kickoff return, an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and flubbed a cross-field lateral on one of its own kick returns and had to start the drive from its own 12-yard line.

North Little Rock’s big-play capability showed early, very early. On the first play of the game, quarterback Trey Cox hit receiver Deontae Montgomery on a flag route. Montgomery angled inside the corner and no one was in the middle of the field. The result was an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Charging Wildcats a 7-0 lead just 10 seconds into the game.

After the two teams traded punts, Cabot quarterback Jarrod Barnes found John Wiens for a 74-yard pass from the Cabot 17 to the NLR 9-yard line. On the next play, Barnes kept up the middle, fumbled into the end zone where halfback Adam Flores covered it for the Panther score.

The extra point tied the game with 6:47 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats scored the next 21 points. After a long kickoff return, Day broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, and ran 51 yards on the first-play of the drive. Savana Melton’s extra point made it 14-7 NLR.

Cabot went three and out, and NLR responded with seven-play, 75-yard drive and another touchdown. Day went 17 yards on the first play and 2 yards on the last one to make it 21-7 with 2:38 still left in the first period.

Cabot (7-5) got the NLR 15 on its next drive, but went backwards from there and failed to convert a fourth and 16 from the 21.

NLR then went on a 12-play, 87-yard drive with Day again rumbling in from 7 yards out with 5:47 left in the half.

Cabot then turned in its best drive of the game, going 77 yards in 14 plays. Barnes kept for 16 yards on fourth and 6 from the NLR 31 to keep the drive alive.

Barnes then hit halfback Austin Morse with a 14-yard pass to the 1-yard line. On the next play, Flores split wide right and no one covered him, giving Barnes an easy 1-yard touchdown throw to make it 28-13 with 56 left in the half.

The extra point snap was mishandled, leaving it a 15-point margin at halftime.

Cabot scored first in the second half, but the PAT was blocked, and NLR answered with Wynton Ruth returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to make it 35-19 with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

Cabot’s failed lateral came on the NLR kickoff. The Panthers were driving, but a chop block erased half of its progress, moving the ball from the 39 back to the 24. Two plays later, a fumble was covered by the Wildcats at the Panther 21.

Six plays later, Cox was unable to find an open receiver from the 6-yard line, but was able to trot untouched into the end zone. Melton’s PAT made it 42-19 with 10:58 left in the game.

Cabot got another drive going, moving from the 12 to the NLR 40, but an interception ended that drive, and the Wildcats tacked on one more score with 3:23 to play to set the final margin.

The Charging Wildcats finished with 455 yards of offense, 356 of which came in the first half. Cox completed 10 of 17 pass attempts for 255 yards, and Montgomery caught three passes for 127 yards and one touchdown.

Cabot finished with 332 yards of offense. Fullback Easton Seidl led the way with 23 carries for 111 yards and one touchdown.

North Little Rock (11-0) will host Bryant in the semifinals next week. The Hornets shocked No. 3 Springdale Har-Ber 23-8 in Springdale on Friday. North Little Rock beat Bryant 38-7 on Oct. 28.

EDITORIAL >> Health care cuts coming

The United States is about to become Russia’s best friend and at least a silent ally of Syrian strongman Bashar al Assad, and President-elect Donald Trump plans to build only a little of that wall and over time ship back no more than a couple of million illegal immigrants (the crooks, he says), fewer than President Obama. But none of that is likely to affect little Arkansas very much, but what he does on one of his promises will have huge impact, potentially.

A week after his surprising election, Trump has sent some signals that has to be encouraging to the 400,000 or so Arkansans who will be deeply and very directly affected if he keeps his promise to join Congress in repealing the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The signals ought to provide some relief as well to Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the knowledgeable members of the legislature who will be confronted with insoluble budget problems if Obamacare is scrapped and nothing done to replace it. They have never been able to say that because it would be fatal to say something benign about Barack Obama or the Affordable Care Act.

First, the Trumpian signals. After meeting with President Obama, he said he wanted to retain some key features of Obamacare, especially the mandates that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions without penalty and that allows offspring to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26. Polls show those are universally cheered, unless Obamacare is identified as the source. Forbidding insurance companies from cutting off people when they get acutely sick or refusing to cover them at regular premiums will drive up everyone’s insurance premiums, unless the industry gets to keep some other features of Obamacare to offset the cost of covering people with catastrophic long-term ailments.

You also must consider what Trump said not only before he ran for president but during the campaign, even while he was promising to fulfill Republican hopes of repealing the Obama law, which had been the Republican blueprint for universal coverage.

In his first dalliances with running for president in the 1990s and before he announced in 2015, he had one overriding objective, which was to see to it that every American had medical coverage. Nothing, he said, was more American than to guarantee medical care for everyone, no matter his or her incomes. He admired Medicare and Social Security, which was universal retirement insurance for the aged and infirm, and it seemed those were his blueprints for universal coverage. He disagreed with the House Republican budget plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program and Social Security into a private investment plan.

Does it make sense that a man with those beliefs would sign into law a bill that cancels the insurance for 22 million low-income Americans (some 400,000 in Arkansas alone) and substitutes no remedy? That is what a strong contingent of Republicans in Congress, whether Arkansas’ contingent it is not clear, want to happen, but we don’t think that is what Trump wants his legacy to be. Remember in one debate he said he would not allow anyone to die in the streets when he was president because they could not afford health insurance.

The biggest feature of Obamacare, at least for Arkansas, is government-paid insurance for families under 138 percent of the poverty line through the old Medicaid program. Arkansas developed its own formula for doing it by combining the Medicaid mandate with the other big Obamacare feature, a marketplace of private insurance plans available to everyone and with some government premium support if family incomes were below 400 percent of poverty. It has insured more than 300,000 of Arkansas’s poorest—almost all of them except undocumented immigrants.

Obamacare will be formally repealed—that much is certain because every Republican wants to remove universal health insurance from Obama’s legacy—but it is equally clear that most of Congress and the new president know that something must replace it and it must not appear to be less effective than Obamacare in insuring the country’s neediest.

House Republicans have touted a plan to convert all of Medicaid into block grants for the states—maybe as much total money as the government is spending now—and let the states decide how to spend it among their poor and impose any kind of requirements on poor people who accepted it. It would appear to be Obamacare without the name or the stiff rules states had to follow. But actually it would be a mammoth new burden to states like Arkansas. It would leave the Arkansas legislature and governor gasping at budget time to avoid raising taxes or cutting Medicaid benefits, education or other social programs dramatically. In 2019, probably the first year under the brave new post-Obamacare world, the federal government would be paying 93 percent of the cost of serving the poor under Obamacare but much less under a block-grant system. Arkansas presumably would start paying some 30 percent of expanded Medicaid costs, not the 7 percent under Obamacare.

Where will Gov. Hutchinson find the money for that and for the suddenly huge needs of the state medical institutions and struggling community hospitals like North Metro Medical Center? Stay tuned.

You should know that the one part of Obamacare that is certain to be repealed and not replaced are the higher taxes on the nation’s wealthy to pay for Medicare and the taxes on medical equipment makers and pharmaceutical companies, which are the real reasons Republicans and industry have demanded the repeal of Obamacare. The one certainty is that the repeal of Obamacare, whatever form it takes, will swell the nation’s budget deficits. But in the words of Dick Cheney, “deficits don’t matter.” —Ernie Dumas

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

EDITORIAL >> New street named for firearms plant

In a salute to a large firearms company bringing an ammunition plant to the city, the Jacksonville City Council will vote to rename Commerce Drive to Sig Sauer Drive.

There will be a public hearing at city hall at 7 p.m. Thursday on the renaming decision just before the council votes on the ordinance.

Sig Sauer is remodeling a 50,000-square foot building on 10 acres of land along Swift and Commerce Drives into an ammunition plant that it is moving from Kentucky and will employ about 75 workers to start.

Sig Sauer officials have said that the company plans to invest several million dollars in its Arkansas operation.

Mayor Gary Fletcher likes to call the ammunition plant, Phase One, and hopes because of the strong relationship developing between the company and the city that Sig Sauer will consider expanding soon after it opens.

“They’ll have plenty of room,” said City Engineer Jay Whisker.

Back in April, Dan Powers, the president of the company’s ammunition division, said, “We had been searching for a permanent relocation site for our ammunition division for several years and now, coupled with an excellent physical location and exceptional economic incentives provided by the state of Arkansas, we have found the ideal site.”

“The new location in Jacksonville gives us the room we need to expand as we continue to grow and is also beneficial from a shipping and logistical standpoint,” Powers added.

The mayor said the plant should open sometime in the first quarter of 2017.

The Firearms and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report 2016, produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, counted 2,651 jobs in Arkansas directly attributed to the firearms industry in 2015, with total wages of $115 million.

The new Jacksonville plant near Marshall Road is ripe for further development. Local officials continue to press for new industries, which will find a newly improved Hwy. 67/167, with new overpasses and additional lanes, that will pave the way to large markets.

The road improvements, costing nearly $200 million, will not be completed for several years, but they represent a great investment for the people and businesses of this region.

EDITORIAL >> Making your holidays local

There may be no better time to shop locally than for the upcoming holidays.

Merchants all over our area have been preparing their businesses for the busy shopping days from now until Christmas. Jacksonville and Cabot have already had their annual holiday open houses replete with refreshments, drawings for door prizes and the opportunity to view and choose merchandise before you buy. This is in sharp contrast to Internet shopping, where what you get may not be what you thought you would get, thus unleashing a whirlwind of returns, refunds and perhaps never getting what you hoped for in time for Christmas.

Small Business Saturday is Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The annual nationwide event aims to promote local small businesses during the holiday shopping season.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce regularly participates in Small Business Saturday by asking shoppers to support the many independent shops in town.

Many of these lovely little shops were featured in The Leader’s shopping guides — Jacksonville’s on Nov. 5 and Cabot’s last Sunday. Local merchants went all out preparing for shoppers they welcomed with specials, refreshments, give-away items and door prizes as well as plenty of good cheer in their elaborately decorated shops.

Among them were Sherry Oliver of Oliver’s Antiques in Jacksonville. She features an eclectic selection of vintage and new items. Double R Florist in Jacksonville and Cabot showcased holiday decorations and items to be given as gifts. Grandma’s Collectibles in Cabot offers unique vintage items, such as Depression glass, and many antiques.

These and many more Cabot and Jacksonville merchants will continues to offer shoppers specials until and after the holidays, so consider them first before you hit the Internet.

Lonoke will have its first Christmas parade ever on Sunday, Dec. 4 in conjunction with its annual Merry Thanks and merchant open house and window-decorating competition.

Support your local merchants. Shop until you drop, but do it locally.

TOP STORY >> Seniors learn the art of making ceramics

Leader staff writer

Carolyn Butts’ instinctively moves her fingers gently across the surface of an unfired, unpainted Razorback, while explaining the progress of cleaning the surface of a ceramic piece before firing it.

“Your eyes can deceive you, so look away and feel for the seam with your fingers,” she says. If the area where the seam was is smooth, then it’s ready for the next step in the process. It’s then fired, or baked in a kiln. After which it’s called a ceramic bisque piece and ready for paint or stain.

Butts brings about five decades of experience to the ceramics class at the Cabot Senior Citizens Center at 600 N. Grant St. It’s one of five senior center facilities under the direction of the Lonoke County Council on Aging headquartered in Lonoke.

In addition to Cabot, there are senior centers at England, Des Arc, Carlisle and Lonoke.

The ceramics room is open every day, but classes are held only on Tuesday mornings, starting around 9 a.m. There’s no charge for the class, but there is a small cost for each piece produced.

At one point, Butts ran her own successful ceramics shop in the 1980s in Cabot, and she hasn’t lost her passion for the art form or her enthusiasm for sharing it with others like Gloria and John Baker.

John Baker, who has been doing ceramics for about a year, is modest about his talent but his wife Gloria sings his praises.

“He’s very artistic,” she says, but adds that there are other benefits to attending the Tuesday morning class.

The whole process, he says “has a calming effect,” while Gloria Baker says, “It’s something we can do together.”

Connie Harden, with 20-plus years experience, says, “We always have fun together.”

Others agree that socialization and friendship are a big part of the experience, but in addition to sharing their knowledge, many share baked goods, or like Butts, bring in bounty from their gardens that is free for the taking.

That early Tuesday morning earlier this month, Butts had brought in extra green onions and loofah pods from her Cabot garden.

Normally there are as many as 20 students crammed into the way-too-small ceramics room, along with shelves filled with drying pieces, paints, molds and brushes, and there are tables, a kilm and a slip mixer that looks like an old ringer-type washing machine with a nozzle, much like the ones at the local gas station.

LCCA Executive Director Buster Lackey, who has fond memories of doing ceramics with his family and cousins as a child, recently helped out at Cabot.

After pouring slip, wet mud that is poured into molds, for a morning, Lackey immediately bought an automatic mud mixer with a nozzle.

“It’s a lot easier than lifting heavy slip and pouring it into the mold by hand…It was hard work. I don’t know how they did it,” he says.

“It’s made a big difference,” Butts says about the new machine.

Like John Baker’s comments about the calming effect of the process, Lackey says ceramics offers a number of mental and physical benefits, including developing or maintaining good hand-eye coordination, socialization and it gives participants a place to go and a sense of accomplishment.

Many, like Martha Richey, make gifts for friends and family members. Each piece is unique to the person who makes it, and how it turns out, depends on the technique used, Butts says.

“Handmade gifts are really special,” adds Linda Rogers, who’s currently working on a centerpiece for her own Thanksgiving table.

Although Richey claims, “I’m just learning.” It’s hard to imagine that’s true because her pieces are painted with detail and a flare for color — the class is a high point of her week. That’s true of other participants, too.

Cherry Godwin, the center’s site director, is stepping down from that position and taking over as its creative arts coordinator, which includes overseeing the ceramics program.

She also has ceramics experience and loves working with the inexperienced.

“They often shocked out how well their pieces turn out,” she says. Sometimes, she adds class members accuse her of replacing their piece with one she’s done but she says, “I tell them, ‘No, that’s your handiwork.’”

Moreover, Godwin says the class gives “our seniors a chance to be creative. For others, it reawakes the desire to be creative.”

When it came to renovating the old Cabot library at 909 West Main Street and turning into the new senior center, Lackey insisted on doubling the size of the ceramics’ activity area.

The new senior center will be about 8,000 square feet.

He expects the need for the program to grow along with the senior population in Lonoke County. From 2010 until 2015, the over-65 crowd went from 11.2 percent of the city’s total population, estimated at about 11,500, to about 13 percent.

In order to meet the needs of the growing population, the LCCA is moving into larger quarters in Cabot and building a new senior center in Lonoke.

At Cabot, the 20-year-old ceramics program remains a “popular with our clients,” he says.

Butts has been the ceramics instructor since nearly the beginning of the program in 1996, and it’s success is in large part due to her efforts, he says.

Richey describes Butts as “an excellent teacher,” and Godwin says, “Carolyn’s been a real blessing.”

Ceramics is also proving a favorite of local school kids and their Facebook customers.

Recently, Lackey posted pictures of the eight-inch and six-inch flowerpots produced by the class, and he says the pieces sold out nearly immediately. He could have sold more.

Butts says there’s still time to order a pot or two for Christmas presents but anyone interested in purchasing a custom-designed needs to place their order ASAP. The entire process takes at least four weeks.

He also says, for a price, the senior center will host a ceramics party for kids or adults. Ceramic pieces can also be taken, painted and returned to the senior center for firing, or individuals can paint pieces there.

“Kids love it,” including his own, Lackey says.

Eventually he would like to produce enough pieces that could be featured at a local business and sold. Also, he says the senior center just received its official University of Arkansas certification to create and sell Razorback products.

Without the university’s blessing, it’s illegal.

Already members are painting mugs with the Hawgs’ signature emblem and small razorbacks.

The class also made trophies for LCCA’s annual Grills and Gowns BBQ Contest.

It saves the agency money, Lackey says.

Cabot isn’t the only center to purse interests and take advantage of members’ talent.

The senior center at Carlisle offers painting, Lonoke specializes in sewing and Des Arc is into quilting. Recently, the Des Arc quilters raised about $1,700 by raffling off a handmade quilt.

Like at Cabot, the money is used to purchase equipment or supplies.

The England Senior Center doesn’t have a specialty yet, but Lackey, who has only been on the job for about nine months, says they’re exploring a few options.

As in Cabot, their programs rely heavily on members’ talents and interests, he says, and in the future, he hopes that seniors from the various centers can take fieldtrips to other centers to explore new activities. For example, members at Carlisle could try their hand at ceramics at Cabot or learn to quilt at Des Arc.

“There are so many possibilities,” Lackey says.

All the LCCA centers are open from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. There is no membership fee for people 60 and over. Members can also be younger than 60, if married to a member who is at least 60.

For more information about the Lonoke County Area on Aging, a particular senior center or about the activities or programs offered, go to:

TOP STORY >> Key areas in district in need of improving

Leader senior staff writer

Nobody likes to hear this, but most students in most grades in most schools in the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District don’t perform to grade-level in reading, writing and arithmetic. Nor in science for that matter.

Officials of the new district knew what they were getting into, and it will be a long haul to correct this problem. But as school board president Daniel Gray said, “That’s why we wanted our own school district.”

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Owoh said, “Comparative scores are based on students we inherited from PCSSD.”

“It’s definitely an arduous task for all of us,” Owoh said. He called the initial numbers this year in some areas “fruitful and optimistic.”

“We’ve seen growth compared to last spring, and we’ve collected foundational knowledge about where to go instructionally,” he said.

He said the first priority is to strengthen English language arts K-12. “Data will show we’re not performing well on math because of the literature component on the math,” he said. “In part, that’s what some used to call word problems. ‘If a train traveling 60 miles an hour left a station at...’”

“Improved reading, writing and comprehension will definitely address the deficits and make sure to improve skills to be successful at the next grade level and after high school,” Owoh said.

“We’ve hired reading specialists in all the elementary schools and providing ongoing training. Where judged helpful, the district has purchased programs such as Journeys. We never had it before, and it gives teachers and administrators a framework to guide instruction,” he said.

“They will know exactly what grade level students are performing on, with the ability to monitor individual progress,” Owoh added.

The STAR Math Assessment given at the beginning of October showed about 40 percent for first grade and the lowest was about 14 percent in eighth grade.

Less than half of math students in high school were performing at grade level.

About 75 percent of elementary and middle schools students tested below grade level in literacy. Only a quarter of high schools students tested proficient in literacy.

There will be interventions to address literacy and math. “If it’s not effective, we’ll do something else,” Owoh said.

The district will also use AR Kids Read, Owoh said.

“We want them reading in school and after school,” he said. The district wants to get grants and send books home with kids.

“I think we will see some improvement this year. We saw growth this year with interim assessment,” he said.

All six elementary schools, the middle school and the high school all are accredited.

Total enrollment is at 3,883.

All elementary schools need improvement. Murrell Taylor “needs improvement/met first year.” Jacksonville Middle School and High School are categorized as “need improvement/priority.”

The 2016-17 school year includes the Arkansas Leadership Academy for all principals. Schools will have a student voice initiative, professional development for assistant principals, AR Kids Read, partnerships with colleges, summer learning opportunities and district support of Jacksonville Middle School.


Ongoing professional development for district employees on Plan 2000 includes monitoring of student achievement, discipline and staffing; monthly meetings with Joshua Intervenors/monitors and PCSSD administration.

District-wide progress monitoring is being used for math and literacy, with reports from assessments to include grade equivalence, instructional level and percentile rank.

Last April, 42.4 percent of Jacksonville Middle School sixth graders were proficient in math, but that percentage fell to 25 percent when retested in October.

In seventh grade, math proficiency improved from 19.4 percent to 26 percent from late last year to October. In eighth grade, the percentage proficient in math more than doubled from 13 percent to 29 percent.

The percentage of sixth graders proficient in English, however, fell from 60.9 percent last April to 42 percent this October; from 67.3 last year to 44 percent this year in seventh grade and from 50.7 percent last April to 32 percent in October.

Growth in reading is more hopeful, Owoh said. While only 28.5 percent of the sixth graders last year were reading at grade level, 46 percent were this year. Results were similar for seventh and eighth graders, improving from 20.5 percent to 42 percent for seventh grade and 25.9 percent to 42 percent in eighth grade.

Science testing, while still with the majority of students testing below grade level, showed an encouraging uptick, sixth grade improved from 25.9 to 42 percent; seventh grade, 18.3-45 percent and eighth grade, 17.7—41 percent proficient.

Remediation classes are helping those who weren’t proficient, Owoh said. Science remediation takes place during the enrichment period.

Enrichment opportunities include an orchestra class and a chess club.

At Bayou Meto, which now has students who were either at Bayou Meto or Warren Dupree last year, third- and fourth-grade students were close to proficiency or proficient in reading, English, math, writing and science.

The exception was Warren Dupree third graders, who were in need of support in reading and science, and fourth graders who were in need of support in science.

At Arnold Drive, the overall school letter grade was “C” and the school status was “needs improvement.”

Arnold Drive students surpassed the state English language arts average in three of six subgroups. Overall, 49 percent scored at “achieving” level, higher than the state average of 47.86.

In math, they surpassed the state average in six out of six subgroups by 10 percentage points or more.

Overall, 58.49 percent scored at achieving levels, about 15 percent higher than the state average.

Pinewood received a failing grade for the 2015-16 school year and is classified as a “needs-improvement school.” Approximately 70 percent of the students are one grade level or more behind in one or both core subjects.

Among the goals are to provide intensive interventions for those two or more years behind and to develop a culture of learning and innovation, Owoh said.

“As a team, we believe that strong character and self-regulation are strong components to the learning process. Positive behavior intervention strategies are utilized building wide,” he said.

To help address Pinewood’s deficiencies in literacy, teachers are getting training in guided reading, word study, Journeys and comprehensive literacy. The school is implementing a new reading series, and students are learning to compose essays digitally and with pencil and paper.

The school is using AR Kids Read mentors, incorporating technology and giving students choices in what they read.

To address math deficiencies, the district is hiring a highly qualified paraprofessional to assist with math interventions and also incorporating S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, engineering and math) into the media program.

Three-quarters of Tolleson Elementary School students qualify for free and reduced lunches, which is a good indicator that a lot of the students will need extra help academically.

In literacy, between 47 percent and 82 percent of students in the various grades read below grade level, except in the multi-age third- and fourth-grade classroom, where 100 percent of the students were below proficiency, and first grade, where the students didn’t meet standards to take that version of the test.

In math testing, between 40 and 49 percent were below proficient except fifth grade, where 78 percent were below grade level and the multi-age class where 100 percent are below.

At Murrell Taylor Elementary, 27.27 percent of the students were proficient in English language arts, about 20 percent less than the state average.

In math, 41.83 percent were proficient, close to the state average.

At the start of the year, only about 3 percent of the students in third through fifth grades exceeded state proficiency in reading and an average of another 7 percent were ready. An average of about 70 percent needed support.

One area to improve scores was strengthening school instructional program, small group instruction every day and phonics/foundational skills and guided reading study with specialists.

The school will analyze data and monitor progress monthly.

Overall, 56 percent of students at Warren Dupree Elementary are proficient in English; 31 percent in math; 18 percent in science; 15 percent in reading and 10 percent in writing.

In third-grade English, about 35 percent of students were proficient; fourth grade about 42 percent and fifth grade, 41 percent.

In reading, the proficiency in third grade, 37 percent; fourth grade, 48 percent, and fifth grade, 40 percent.

In science, third, fourth and fifth grades are all about 30 percent.

Math proficiency was third grade, 29 percent; fourth grade, 22 percent, and fifth grade, 24 percent.

Among the programs and initiatives to help are school-wide reading interventions an enrichment; Arkansas Reads and Creation of a S.T.E.A.M. lab to provide opportunities to enrich the K-5 science curriculum.

TOP STORY >> Marijuana is seen as cash crop

Leader staff writer

State officials say about 40 for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries will open around Arkansas after voters last week approved Issue 6, which will allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients to treat 18 different conditions.

Issue 6 passed by 53.2 percent and when it goes into effect next year, physicians can prescribe medical marijuana to their patients for 18 different conditions.

A state commission is expected to issue licenses to as many as eight growing facilities, possibly including farming areas of Lonoke County.

But getting the amendment passed may have been the easy part, as various state agencies are working hard to meet its strict yet short timelines.

In tax revenues alone it may be worth the effort. Pot, which is still illegal, is the biggest cash crop in some Arkansas counties.

Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, and from March 2015 until March 2016, medical marijuana dispensaries in California sold more than $844 million worth of products.

Last week’s election also legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine and Alaska. It was previously fully legalized in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, and medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states including Arkansas.

The booming industry, dubbed the “Green Rush,” created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in taxes for states.

In Arkansas, the state will collect 6.5 percent on every dollar that industry generates.

California’s marijuana tax rate is about 7.5 percent. California predicts marijuana sales to be about $6.6 billion by 2020.

According to a Cannabis Investor Study prepared by Arcview Market Research, “Legal cannabis sales in the United States jumped 17 percent, to $5.4 billion, in 2015.”

That includes adult recreational and medical usages, but by 2020, sales are predicted to hit $21.8 billion.

Rep. David Hillman (D- Almyra), who is a farmer, said limiting the number of growers restricts competition.

“I’m philosophically op-posed to an amendment that favors one group over another,” Hillman said.


Lonoke County Extension Agent Keith Perkins said no one has contacted his office about a license to grow cannabis.

However, he said the area of the state can support a wide variety of crops because of the longer growing season and good soil. It might be the perfect place for marijuana production.

In the future, if a grower calls about a particular insecticide, pest or fertilizer, he said he would have to research the information.

State Rep. Mark McElroy (D-Tillar) is on the Agriculture Committee and is a farmer in Desha County, where marijuana is estimated to be the number one cash crop — even though it’s illegal.

McElroy said he expects a lot of discussion during the next legislative session, especially as a member of the Agriculture Committee.

“I will want to study how it’s being done in other states, and the problems they’ve experienced. Security will be a big concern to me. We have to keep the legal product off the black market,” he said.

Hillman said he believes it will take two months of Arkansas legislators’ time.

“Everyone is going to have a different opinion, but I believe we will enact the most restrictive laws that we can under the amendment people voted for,” he said.

Kelly Carney, owner of North Pulaski Farms, is a certified organic farmer and marijuana isn’t allowed under the organic umbrella because it’s an illegal drug.

Still, Carney said, who worked in security systems before turning to farming said, “Security is going to be a big deal,” and he would like that discussed at the state level.

Hillman agrees and wants to see a grower on the Medical Marijuana Commission.

“Growers need to have input into the process,” he said.

Additionally, McElroy said, “Farming’s all about the profit. If it’s legal to grow medical marijuana, you can’t blame a farmer for giving it a first or second look.”

Hillman said if the country ever legalizes marijuana for recreational use, there are farmers that would be more than happy to grow it for the market.”

It could change Arkansas’ farming landscape, he said.

But for now, Carney said Arkansas growers “are certainly going to be interested in growing marijuana but no one knows enough at this point to even put together a business plan.”

Plus, Carney added, “How will the state determine who can grow the crop, by lottery, limited sourcing? It’s going to be a challenge.”


According to The Huffing-ton Post, marijuana is the “fastest-growing industry” in the U.S., and now more than half the states have some form of legal cannabis.

At one time, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, now, the state’s position on medical marijuana puts him at odds with the federal government.

Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug and those in possession are subject to arrest.

Nonetheless, Hutchinson must fall in line with the new state amendment and is in the process of establishing a Medical Marijuana Commission by Dec. 8. He has allocated $3 million from the state’s rainy day fund to cover the startup costs needed by the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, both charged with critical roles.

While the governor’s office is working hard to meet the deadlines, spokesman J.R. Davis said, “First and foremost, this is going to take time…We need to get the right people, the right processes and the right procedures in place.”

Basically, the state is building a mini FDA from the ground up, he said.

“We have more questions than answers at this point,” but “the reality of the situation is that we will do everything we can to meet the time requirement. That may or may not be possible,” Davis said.

In 2009, new federal guidelines were enacted.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, “It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers” in compliance with state laws.

According to Marisha Dicarlo, director of the Health Department’s office of communications, “We knew it (the passage of Issue 6) was a possibility,” but until it failed or passed, there was nothing to be done.


Now, the department is looking at what has worked in other states, as well as establishing rules for the issuance of registry identification cards, tracking of dispensed marijuana and other operations.

Its responsibilities extend to areas such as “regulating labeling and testing standards, establishing reasonable fees, considering public petitions to add additional medical conditions to the list of qualifying conditions, and submitting annual reports to the Legislature,” Dicarlo said.

They will have to hire a program director at some point.

“It will take time (perhaps months) to set up the infrastructure,” she said.

The Health Department received about $2.5 million from Hutchinson’s office to cover its costs, with the remainder going to the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA).


The DFA’s share of the money is about $500,000 and was allotted to help establish the rules and regulations for the production and sale of cannabis, said Jake Bleed, the department’s director of communication.

“As soon as it passed we moved quickly to but there’s a lot of work to be done, and a lot questions that need to be answered so we’re working with other states (who legalized medical marijuana),” Bleed said.

The department also hopes to determine the impact it will have on the state.

The DFA will be issuing additional guidance in the coming weeks and months regarding the Medical Marijuana Amendment, and the ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control board), under the direction of the DFA, will issue dispensaries licenses.

The department will also hand out licenses to a few growers in the future.

However, the DFA website cautions that “rules on the cultivation, sale and use of medical marijuana are being developed…Use of marijuana under circumstances outside the limits of the amendment is still illegal in Arkansas.”

Bleed said, “This is a big step for the state and it’s something we need to get right.”

SPORTS STORY >> Wolves earn quality win over eStem Mets

Leader sports editor

Jacksonville Light-house split a pair of varsity games with eStem Charter School last Friday at the Arkansas School for the Blind, where eStem plays its home games.

The Lighthouse boys never trailed in a 72-67 victory, while the Lady Wolves were without several players in an 84-16 loss to the Class 4A juggernaut.

In the boys’ game, Lighthouse defense set the tone in the first quarter, holding the Metropolitans to just 11 points and taking a seven-point lead.

“It was probably our best defensive game so far this year,” said Lighthouse coach Kelvin Parker. “That’s something we haven’t been doing the way I believe we’re capable. We did alot better at it this game.”

While the Wolves never trailed, they never could complete the distance themselves from the home team. They managed to add one point to the margin by halftime, taking a 36-28 lead into the locker room. The third quarter was an up-and-down pace, with Lighthouse outscoring the Mets 21-20 for a 57-48 lead at the start of the fourth quarter.

eStem pulled to within three points of the Wolves with two minutes remaining, but could get no closer.

“I called timeout to try to slow down their momentum, and we came out of that break playing well.”

Lighthouse got hot on offense and forced a couple of consecutive turnovers to get back in front by 10 with about a minute to go.

“It was a good game,” Parker said. “They’d make a big shot and we’d come back and answer it. It was another good pressure game that’s going to make us better down the line.”

Freshman Gerald Doakes led the Wolves with 21 points. Senior guard Chris Mims added 19 and senior forward Zack Bobo scored 16.

The 4-1 Wolves and 0-5 Lady Wolves travel to Shirley on Friday. The Class 1A Blue Devils are 8-0 so far this season.

“I don’t know anything about them, but I heard they can play,” Parker said. “Their record sure makes it seem like it. It’s going to be a good test for us.”

The Lady Wolves have been missing players because of injury, but others have missed for different reasons. Two of the injured players return next week, and coach Chris Collier is dealing with the other issues.

“One of them I’m getting back is one of my best players,” Collier said. “I will build this team the right way with girls that work hard on both ends, no exceptions.”

SPORTS STORY >> Chapel spoils Cabot girls’ opener

Leader sports editor

The Cabot girls’ basketball team started the season with a strong first quarter, but defending Class 5A state champion Watson Chapel controlled the second, third and fourth quarters en route to a 51-38 victory over the Lady Panthers in the first round of the Heavenly Hoops Classic at Mount St. Mary Academy on Monday.

Cabot’s best quarter was the first, and its worst was the second. The Lady Panthers were in rhythm offensively, scoring 16 points and taking a 16-11 lead. But that rhythm came to a screeching halt in the second quarter. Watson Chapel began pressuring the ball the length of the court and Cabot’s offense was stymied.

The Lady Panthers also played good defense, holding Chapel to just nine points, but they managed only two, and went into the locker room at halftime trailing 20-18.

Chapel got its halfcourt offense going in the third quarter, feeding the ball inside to four-year starter and leading scorer Peyton Martin, who was the 2015-16 Class 5A Player of the Year and state tournament MVP.

The teams were almost even from the free-throw and 3-point lines. The difference came inside the paint, where Chapel outscored Cabot 26-14.

The Lady Wildcats made 13 of 16 free-throw attempts and were 4 of 14 from the 3-point line. Cabot was just 9 of 15 from the foul line and 5 of 14 from three.

Martin led all players with 18 points and nine rebounds. Timesha Cole scored 14 and Cayla Trotter added 11 for the Lady Wildcats, who outrebounded Cabot 27-13.

Senior Josie VanOss was the only Lady Panther in double figures. She finished with 12 points.

The Lady Panthers fall to the losers’ bracket and will play eStem Charter at 5:30 p.m. today. The Lady Mets lost to North Little Rock in the first round on Monday.

In the top half of the bracket, Mount St. Mary beat Forrest City 48-32, while Conway dominated Star City 70-45. The winners of that game will meet at 8:30 p.m. today, while the losers play at 4 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville splits a pair with Comets

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Titans went to the wire with one of the highest-rated teams in the state on Friday, but ended up one point short in a 78-77 loss at the Galaxy gymnasium at Mills in Little Rock. The Comets feature two potential Division I players. Darius Hall has already signed with the Arkansas Razorbacks, while Jeremiah Toney went the JUCO route and signed with UA-Fort Smith.

But it was Grehlon Easter that led the Comets on Friday, especially in the second half.

Easter had a team-high 20 points, and got half of it in the third quarter when Mills pulled out to a nine-point lead.

Jacksonville rallied from that deficit to pull within one point on three different occasions in the fourth quarter, but could never claim the lead.

“We had some untimely turnovers,” Jacksonville coach Vic Joyner said. “We’d make a run and get close, and then get careless with the basketball. It was just too many mistakes for a team with veteran guards like we have. We can’t be out there throwing the ball away and giving them extra possessions. But that’s what we did.”

Jacksonville was within one point and had the ball when a turnover turned into a transition bucket for the Comets. Another turnover ended with Qwaun Marshall going to the line with time left for just one more possession.

With a three-point lead, he missed the first foul shot, but made the second one to secure the victory. Jacksonville added a 3-pointer at the buzzer to set the final margin.

Neither coach was satisfied with the defense their teams played, especially Joyner.

“We haven’t committed to defense yet,” Joyner said. “We’ve basically given up 70 points twice, and that’s not how I want to play. We want to hold people to high 40s, low 50s, and we’re not doing that. Right now, we’re just not playing team defense very well. We’re not communicating. We’re getting our bodies out of position and taking away our own ability to make a play. We’ve got a lot of ball watchers losing contact with the defensive principles we’re trying to put in place.”

Mills coach Raymond Cooper thought his team’s defense lacked effort, and it showed in the moments when it did increase the intensity and effort.

“I will say this, there were times when they would make their runs, where we showed we could play a little defense,” said Cooper. “But we got way too complacent way too easily when we’d get a little lead. But I also have to give it to Jacksonville. They made our defense look bad. (Tyree) Appleby is tough. He can get in that lane. And they had some shooters I wasn’t really aware of that were knocking down shots when he’d kick it out to them.”

Kavion Waller, Caleb Kendrick and Braylon Hawkins made a pair of 3-pointers each, both of Kendrick’s came in the fourth quarter.

Appleby led all scorers with 29 points while senior DaJuan Ridgeway added 18, including three 3-pointers.

Hall finished with 18 for Mills. Kaevon Jones had 11 and Marshall finished with 10 for the Comets.

The two teams meet up again this Friday at Jacksonville High. Both coaches think it’s likely to be just as exciting, if not as high-scoring.

“We know a little more about them now and we know what we have to do better than we did the first time,” Cooper said.

Joyner expects Mills to be better defensively, and so thinks it’s imperative that his team is as well.

“If we’re not, it’s going to be a butt-kicking,” Joyner said. “We watched the tape. We saw the lack of team defense. So I hope they’ll do something about it. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but that’s one area where I hope we’ll improve.”

The Lady Titans improved to 3-1 in their busy first week of the season, dominating the Mills Lady Comets 58-24. Jacksonville jumped out to a 17-8 lead in the first quarter, and wasn’t able to add to that margin by halftime. But the second half was all Titans.

Jacksonville turned up the defensive pressure and turned a 27-18-halftime lead into a 43-20 lead by the end of the third.

Mills managed just six points the entire second half.

Jacksonville forced 28 turnovers and scored 35 points off those turnovers.

Four Lady Titans finished in double figures scoring. Dayzya Jordan led the way with 16 points. Josie Starr added 13, Shy Christopher 12 and Martina Knight 11.

Senior Taylor Toombs scored three points and had game-high 11 rebounds.

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers’ second shot

Leader sports editor

For the second time in three weeks, the Cabot Panther football team heads to North Little Rock to face the No. 1 team in the state, only this time a lot more is at stake.

In the final game of the regular season, Cabot gave the Charging Wildcats their toughest test of the year, but fell short 28-27.

In that game, North Little Rock had already clinched the 7A-Central championship, a No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Cabot was also almost certain to finish fifth, no matter the outcome.

But the loser on Friday sees its season and championship dreams ended.

Key players from both teams that missed the first matchup will be back this week, none more key than North Little Rock running back Alex Day. He’s a Division I prospect and younger brother of former Razorback Juan Day, whose career was cut short by numerous knee injuries.

NLR coach Jamie Mitchell doesn’t usually like the idea of taking a week off before the playoffs, but said it was good for his team this year.

“Last week helped a whole lot to get some kids another week of therapy and rest,” Mitchell said. “There’s good and bad to not playing, and it worked for us this time. Next time it might not.”

Without Day, who was on concussion protocol in Week 10, North Little Rock’s offense was anemic in the first half, as the Panthers built a 21-3 lead by halftime.

The Charging Wildcats had the ball seven times in the first half and got zero first downs. They punted six times and kicked one field goal after a Cabot turnover deep in Panther territory.

Mitchell is glad to have his star player back, but thinks it’s going to take more than adding him to the lineup to improve his offense’s performance.

“Obviously any time he’s not out there for us, it’s not good,” Mitchell said. “He is our best player and he’s a tremendous player. We’re better with him than without him. But we’ve got to solve Cabot’s defense. They’ve defended us better than really anybody over the last two years. They have a strong defensive line and they execute well. We’re just going to have to play better.”

For Cabot, the issue comes down to mistakes. North Little Rock did get its offense moving a little better in the second half, but still would not have been able to complete the comeback without a series of mistakes, and some bad luck.

“I don’t know what we did wrong, but it seemed like some of those plays they got just came from above,” Cabot coach Mike Malham joked. We had four turnovers and that’s not even counting the blocked punt, which is just like a turnover. They made some adjustments and stopped our offense in the second half, but you still think you should pull that one off if we could’ve just held onto to the ball.”

In Cabot’s first-round playoff game, Bentonville West didn’t slow down Cabot’s offense at all. The Panthers rolled up 534 total yards, including 498 rushing. Quarterback Jarrod Barnes and fullback Eason Seidl rushed for more than 100 yards, and combined for seven touchdowns. Seidl, who started the season at linebacker, and then moved to defensive tackle before taking over at fullback in Week 9, scored five times.

“With him at fullback and Jarrod healthy at quarterback, it’s helped our offense,” Malham said. “His size gives us a little something we didn’t have, maybe keeps all the focus off the outside where Jarrod and our halfbacks can make plays.”

It was a seamless transition for the defense. David Hubanks had started at defensive tackle when Seidl played linebacker, and he fell right back into the spot when Seidl moved over to offense.

The transition has been made easier by the progress of junior Dayonte Roberts at nose guard.

“Dayonte has started playing a lot better than he was earlier in the season,” Malham said. “He finally got in shape after that shoulder injury kept him out, and that’s made a big difference.”

Mitchell thinks the first meeting came down to momentum and catching some breaks. He hopes it doesn’t come down to those things this time around.

“I wish I could tell you we have some magic up our sleeves that’ll help us move the ball on them,” Mitchell said. “I really don’t have a good answer for that, other than we just have to be better. You don’t really start changing things at this point, we just have to be better at what we do. I think last time, when they made some mistakes and we were able to get close, I think momentum kicked in for us and our guys got excited. I hope we can be in a better spot than we were last time.”