Remembering a night of terror
Interviews start in coaching search, USDA makes school meals free for next year, Donna Lampkin Stephens on the local golf scene, plus news and sports headlines
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Elizabeth "Izzy" Hankins, a junior at Maumelle High School, was chosen to participate in this year’s Governor's Young Artist Competition and the exhibit started on April 1 with a reception and awards recognition ceremony this Saturday, April 24, at the governor’s mansion.
At Monday night’s Maumelle City Council meeting, a rezoning request for a parcel of land located on the southwest corner of Maumelle Blvd and Commercial Park Drive was approved.
Read More: Maumelle: City Council report by Chad Gardner
The pool of applicants for the open football coaching job at North Little Rock High School grew to 19, after the deadline to apply passed on Thursday, April 15.
The interview process also started this week but the North Little Rock School District said there's no timeline for a hire.
While a special meeting could be called for the School Board at any time, there's a planning meeting and workshop set for May 6 and the regular Board meeting will be held on May 20.
The district had reopened the search on April 5 after clarifying the job requirements for the position and the job became after J.R. Eldridge resigned mid school year to take a coaching job at Farmington.
After a version of this story was posted last Friday afternoon, rumors swirled that the district was going to interview candidates who didn’t apply and heightening the confusion, an incorrect list of applicants was originally provided.
“Only those who applied will be interviewed,” District spokesman Dustin Barnes said. “Yes, Clint Reed should be on the list. Andrew Bates and George Hill applied the first time but not the second time. All of the candidates who applied the first time were contacted to make them aware that the position reopened.”
Reed is one of three North Little Rock assistant coaches to apply for the job, and the others are Blake Pizan and Randy Sandefur.
Pizan currently serves as offensive coordinator, while Sandefur coaches the defensive line and also serves as head baseball coach.
Pizan was briefly the head coach at Little Rock Central only to return to his previous school in a matter of weeks. He has also served as interim head coach and has applied previously for the job when Eldridge and Mitchell had been hired.
Eldridge had been at North Little Rock for all of one season before leaving. Jamie Mitchell, a Mississippi transplant, was the head coach at North Little Rock before that and spent five seasons at the school before leaving to coach in Alabama. Mitchell has since moved to a second coaching job and also in Alabama.
Among the new names to apply are Steven Hampton, currently the head coach at Nettleton High School and a former assistant coach at the University of Central Arkansas and has also coached at Rogers and Benton high schools.
Two other new applicants are currently head coaches and they are coaching veteran Ron Young of Vilonia and Bruce Munden of Fairland (Oklahoma) High School in the extreme northeast corner of that state.
Of the original 13 applicants, 11 still have their names in the hat and another notable name in the mix is Maurice Moody, currently the head coach at Jacksonville High School and was previously coach at Little Rock McClellan, where he led the Lions to multiple state title game appearances.
Read the list of applicants by clicking here
The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Tuesday that its revised school meal program would be extended to June 30, 2022 to cover the next school year as well.
That decision will have an immediate impact on local schools to the tune of millions of dollars in extra and extended cash benefits for districts with free breakfast and lunch for students.
The decision “to provide safe, healthy meals free of charge to children” was made by President Joe Biden’s administration and it was announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a press release.
In the simplest of terms, all students will continue to receive a free school breakfast and lunch every day if they choose at no cost to the district. The amount each district receives per meal will continue to be reimbursed at a higher rate to account for packaging due to the ongoing pandemic and, for some districts, delivery or pickup for students taking virtual classes.
Through March 30 of this year, 788,000 meals have been served to students in the Pulaski County Special School District, spokeswoman Jessica Duff said in an email and that cost, $5,459,900, was covered by the school meals program.
It would mean that the district, Duff said, could continue feeding “11,803 students per day” next year and entirely at no cost to PCSSD.
“We look forward to providing all students with a free breakfast and lunch next school term,” Duff said. “We hope more families will benefit from this opportunity.”
Duff had previously said that when some schools had pivoted to virtual classes, those schools offered boxed meals for pickup and that not all students participated.
Those curbside pickups were not previously allowed but are now and will continue to be for next year.
“States and districts wanted waivers extended to plan for safe reopening in the fall,” Vilsack said. “USDA answered the call to help America’s schools and childcare institutions serve high quality meals while being responsive to their local needs as children safely return to their regular routines. … It’s a win-win for kids, parents and schools.”
The program will also allow districts like PCSSD to further customize how they handle meal service based on the needs of the individual school.
It isn’t just schools as child and adult care facilities are also included and the program will continue to cover breakfast, lunch and snacks in “flexible meal times.”
The program still needs to stick to nutrition standards and meals must provide, “fruits and vegetables, fluid milk and whole grains” at what the USDA called, “sensible calorie levels” depending on age.
The USDA noted that nationally there’s approximately 12 million children who are considered food insecure and “may not always have enough to eat during the pandemic.”
In addition, the USDA has extended SNAP allotments for an additional $1 billion a month for 25 million Americans, and President Biden’s recently passed American Rescue Plan Act “provides over $12 billion in new nutrition assistance to address hardship caused by the pandemic.”
After the year of the pandemic, the Arkansas State Golf Association is looking for a more normal 2021 season.
“I’d say full speed cautiously ahead,” said Jay Fox, who will retire as executive director in December after his 31st season with the ASGA. “Last year we pretty much just did our majors. I don’t want to call it rag-tag, but we knew early on we weren’t going to have as many events.
“This year, as a staff we’ll still wear masks when we’re around our players on the first tee and what have you. We’re not ‘damn-the-torpedos’ full speed ahead. We’re just being very cautious, very safe and understanding that the pandemic has certainly not gone away.”
The ASGA Men’s Four-Ball will be played this weekend at Hot Springs Country Club.
Fox said among the pandemic accommodations this season would be asking players to wear masks any time they’re inside the scoring area and distancing on the first tee.
“We’ll put hula hoops on the ground at least six feet apart and six feet from the person making the announcements,” he said. “Don’t be hugging up on your buddy. At our Four-ball, we’ll start letting players ride with their partners, or they can request to ride by themselves. Most are riding in the same car (to the event) anyway,”
Despite the limited 2020 schedule, 11 players were honored as Players of the Year:
MacKenzie Lee of North Little Rock, junior girls
Caleb Miller of Cabot, junior boys
Josie Roberson of Maumelle, women’s amateur
Josh McNulty of White Hall, men’s amateur
Trey Schaap of Maumelle, men’s mid-amateur
Brenda Alexander of Bentonville, women’s senior
Gordy McKeown of Little Rock, men’s senior
Pam Evans of Maumelle, women’s super senior
Bob Brooks of Bella Vista, men’s super senior
Pat Elliott of Hot Springs, women’s masters
Bill Wrentz of Cabot, men’s masters.
But another victim of the pandemic was the annual ASGA Hall of Fame banquet, which had been scheduled for October. This year, the 2020 honorees — Tracy Harris, Kim Backus, Stacy Lewis and the late Ernie Breckenridge — will be inducted, and the 2021 Players of the Year will also be recognized at the ASGA event on Sept. 27. Fox said the site was still being finalized.
“It will be similar to what we’re used to, but we’re planning for social distancing because we don’t know where we’re going to be (in the pandemic) by September,” he said.
Bryant Fortin, who started at the ASGA as director of junior golf and is now director of women’s golf, will succeed Fox as executive director. Fox, who joined the ASGA in December 1990 when he replaced the late Charles (Monk) Wade, will stay on staff in an advisory capacity. Tyler Meyl is director of junior golf. Terri Green is director of membership and finance.
On April 27, 2014, an EF4 tornado swept up into central Arkansas and looked to be going straight to Maumelle.
The highest recorded winds were 190 miles per hour and after the storm was done, 16 people had lost their lives and 193 people were injured.
The National Weather Services report from the storm said, “ a weak tornado touched down in extreme western Pulaski County … and tracked north-northeast.”
That storm that crossed Lake Maumelle and was headed towards Maumelle before it crossed the Arkansas River and went slightly west, missing the city but the River Plantation subdivision in Faulkner County and between Maumelle and Mayflower wasn’t so lucky.
“Here, EF4 damage took place with large, two-story homes being leveled with only piles of debris left on their foundations,” the Weather Service report wrote. “On the northeast side of the subdivision, one person was killed after debris struck the door of her storm shelter and opened it, exposing her to the tornado.”
The storm shelter was later found to be “sub-standard construction” and then a power substation was hit and “sustained major damage.”
Among them was: A recreational vehicle dealership, vehicle repair shop, a millwork company, construction company and a church.
“Members of Lifeline Church on Interstate 40 were sifting through the rubble of their church building for salvageable items,” reads the report in the Maumelle Monitor. “A sign hanging on a broken portion of a wall left standing read ‘PRAY’.”
Two were killed in Mayflower and the tornado then crossed Lake Conway. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission later removed 627 tons of storm debris from the water.
The tornado then made its way to Vilonia where “dozens of houses were leveled” then on into western White County with damage there and also in Independence and Jackson counties.
The path of destruction was about 80 miles long.
The storm prompted a presidential visit as President Barack Obama made his first trip to the state while he was in office.
The April 27 tornado occurred two days after the third anniversary of a 2011 tornado that killed four people and leveled parts of Vilonia.
After the storm Bill Lawson wrote in the Monitor that, “14 off-duty Maumelle police officers came to work without being called” while a “dozen Maumelle firefighters went to Mayflower where they searched for victims going door to door, treated injured victims, dug people out of automobiles and structures collapsed on top of them, turned off broken gas lines and removed dangers like fallen power lines and other debris from critical roadways and other areas. … Hundreds of volunteers from Maumelle churches and other organizations also volunteered.”
Neal Moore is taking the week off. This is a portion of his column that ran in the Maumelle Monitor the week after the tornado hit on April 27.
MOORE ON MAUMELLE: After a storm tears us apart, communities pull together
No matter what the circumstances, communities will pull together in the face of adversity and they certainly are doing that now in nearby subdivision Plantation Acres, neighboring city Mayflower and Vilonia, just up the road.
As many Maumellians did on that awful Sunday night, I anxiously wandered around my yard and front porch looking for some clue to the extent of the danger to my family and home. We lost power so we were listening to the maddening drone of the NOAA computerized radio broadcast before I finally found KATV's audio on my radio.
In retrospect, none of us had any idea that lives were being taken, over 300 homes were being destroyed, businesses were being leveled and families were changed forever.
I have not visited any of the areas or even driven the Interstate, but the pictures are everywhere and started coming in just after the deadly twister tore through our peaceful communities.
I'm sure everyone knows someone who was affected. And I know that hundreds of Maumelle citizens, our police and fire departments all went to work doing what they could. They still are. It is my understanding that the greatest need right now is gift cards so people can get what they need. Many times, old clothing is not wanted and will eventually be discarded.
One of the most moving things I saw were photos of the devastation with posted signs stating their resolve to stand strong through this incomprehensible damage with phrases like "Arkansas Strong."
A few people put up signs with the words, "I'll praise You in the storm." That phrase is from a popular song by the Christian group, Casting Crowns. Someone used the song and cobbled together a rough video using photos from the carnage. I'll leave you with the chorus:
And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
No one knows the answers as to why but we do know there can be strength in the storm. Maintaining faith in times like these can be difficult. My prayer is that those who seek refuge will find it.
And I’ll see you all on the Boulevard. Get your shot. Wear your mask. It ain’t over.
More news at www.ArkansasNewsroom.com.
Neal Moore is a public relations consultant and resident of Maumelle. Send your Maumelle news or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, PJ.