A spring break to remember, no doubt, for Little Rock native and 2005 Mount St. Mary Academy graduate Clarice Partee. Currently a student at the University of Colorado, 20-year-old Partee was a passenger on the mega-cruise ship Grand Princess when she and a male companion fell overboard in the middle of the night on March 25.
Reports say the ship was about 125 miles off Galveston, Tex, when Partee and Air Force Academy cadet Ernesto Guzman fell about 80 feet from an exterior balcony into the Gulf of Mexico. According to friends, the pair was attempting to re-enact a scene from “Titanic” at the time.
Partee and Guzman treaded water for around five hours before rescue boats dispatched from the ship and a Coast Guard helicopter finally located them. Partee suffered a broken rib and debarked at the first port stop in Mexico, while Guzman — who was recovered naked, apparently having used his trousers to aid flotation — was treated for jellyfish stings and finished out the cruise.
Clarice Partee is the daughter of Little Rock and Magnolia businessman Cal Partee Jr., and the granddaughter of the late Magnolia oil magnate Cal Partee, whose horse Lil E. Tee won the Kentucky Derby in 1992. Attempts to reach the Partee family for comment were unsuccessful. Other national media have been hot on the trail of the story of the rescue in choppy seas, but have also been unable to run down Partee, said in some news accounts to be a lifeguard.
We mentioned years ago about Hollywood interest in a biopic on Whitewater heroine Susan McDougal, who stood up to Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr at immense personal cost. She tells us that there’s still no firm deal done yet, but plenty of recent action.
Filmmakers Bobby Moresco and Mark Harris, who had producer credits on the hit “Crash,” among other major movie work, were in Arkansas recently to check out the scenery and meet with people with stories to tell. Those who gathered at McDougal friend Claudia Riley’s home in Arkadelpia included McDougal’s lawyer Bobby McDaniel, public defender Jennifer Horan and journalist Gene Lyons.
McDougal said no formal agreement is in place and she’s scheduled to go to California for further talks. Any talk of casting is speculative. She says she hopes for a film “not about politics, but about a person just like you and me who had some decisions to make.” The Bible-thumping vindictive prosecutor; the simple small-town people treated abusively; the forlorn prisoners McDougal met on her grim cross-country odyssey as Starr’s tool. Yes, it’s a story rich in potential vignettes.
Med school diversity
Word has leaked out of an uncommonly small number of black students in the class accepted to the UA Med School next year — two of 160.
We asked UA Board member Dr. Carl Johnson about the numbers. He’s a black physician and an advocate for better representation of minorities. He said Med School Dean Debbie Fiser had met with representatives of the African-American Arkansas Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association and satisfactorily explained the context of the low number (it’s generally around 10, Johnson said). The pool of black applicants remained about the same — about 30 among 250 — but while grades and medical entrance exam scores increased sharply for the whole pool, they didn’t increase for black applicants. Also, Johnson said, a number of black students are on a wait-list for admission, but priority in that group will go to applicants who have agreed to serve in small communities after receiving degrees.
“The good thing is you have a person who cares, Dr. Fiser. She wants diversity at the school and she wants to figure out how to do that,” Johnson said. He said a review of the admission process, adequate minority representation on the admissions committee, a strong recruiting program and summer programs targeting potential students are among the issues that will be studied.
Cycle Breakers, the probationer self-help and rehabilitation group run out of the courtroom of Judge Willard Proctor, is trying again at having the old Carver Elementary in East Little Rock rezoned for its use.
Cycle Breakers bought the 37,400-square-foot building at 800 Apperson St. from the Little Rock School District, and had planned to turn it into a central meeting point for its education and rehabilitation programs. The group currently oversees around 1,200 probationers, requiring them to attend monthly, weekly or sometimes daily meetings on themes like drug abuse and anger management.
In February, after parents of students at nearby Carver Magnet School expressed concerns about the comings and goings of those sentenced to treatment at the proposed center, the Little Rock Board of Directors took the rare step of rescinding approval of zoning for the property, effectively prohibiting Cycle Breakers from using the building.
On the latest rezoning application for the Apperson Street building, Cycle Breakers requests the property be rezoned “O-2,” with the proposed use listed as “Office, School (classes and training —educational, technical and vocational).”
Dana Carney, zoning and subdivision manager for the Little Rock Planning Commission, said O-2 zoning allows a structure to be used for a hospital or medical clinic, or for the offices of a religious, charitable or philanthropic organization. Carney said O-2 zoning also allows the structure to be used as a “business school,” but not for the teaching of vocational or trade skills.
“They might have classes for something like secretarial work,” Carney said, “but not a trade, commercial or craft school.”
Judge Proctor said it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to talk about details of the application before the Planning Commission has a chance to decide on the matter, which continues to spur concern at the nearby school. The application will be considered by the Planning Commission during their meeting on April 26.