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Smart Talk, Oct. 29



Change Halloween? Boo.


Some Fayetteville residents lobbied City Hall, unsuccessfully, to decree that Halloween be held on Friday, Oct. 30, rather than Oct. 31 so trick-or-treating wouldn't conflict with Razorback football (it's homecoming, with Eastern Michigan the expected treat for the Hogs). A local blog, the Fayettevillage Voice, commented sharply:

“ … Instead, these citizens want the local government to meddle in something that is none of government's business on the claim of necessity or convenience. They want the mayor to order people to take their kids out to extort candy on Friday instead of Saturday and require everyone else to be home with a large supply of candy corn to appease the little masked terrorists. Big government as Big Brother. It is laughable that anyone would even think to make such a request.”


Wagons ho


The good news is you'll be able to take your kid in his little red wagon to the Crater of Diamonds State Park under a park directive that is likely to take effect Feb. 1. The bad news is that people who like to dig really deep for their gems are going to have to build earthen steps to get in and out, rather than use a ladder.

The state Department of Parks and Tourism announced the directive in a legal notice. Park Superintendent Justin Dorsey said the changes were being proposed to comply with federal mining regulations for digging holes in public areas. The directive also requires all holes be sloped to the angle of repose or no less than 1 ½ to 1 horizontal to vertical.

Dorsey said visitors to the park had asked for the change to allow wheeled devices in the park; currently, none are allowed and all tools must be hauled in by hand. The directive would allow a wheelbarrow or cart that will hold no more than 6 cubic feet, baby carriages and Red Flyers. The latter two are for children.The rules also prohibit diggers from staking claims over their holes.

The agency is holding a public hearing on the new rules at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, in Paragould, to coincide with its commission meeting there.

To date, 805 diamonds have been found at the Murfreesboro park.


Episcopal catch-up


The Arkansas Times published an article Oct. 8 about how some public school officials believe that private schools have an unfair advantage in athletic competition, and that this advantage is based at least in part on the financial assistance the private schools can give. (Though the financial assistance is supposed to be based entirely on need. Athletic scholarships are banned by the Arkansas Activities Association.)

A table published with the article showed the total financial aid given by each private school in the 2008-09 school year, and the number of students receiving aid at each school who were designated as potential participants in sports. Some readers noticed that Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock awarded far more financial aid ($420,588) and had far more aid recipients who were potential sports participants (52) than any other school. Yet there was no discussion of Episcopal in the main article. Inquiring minds wondered why.

Partly, it was because the article concentrated on private schools that have been unusually successful in athletics, including Shiloh Christian in Springdale, which has won a number of state championships. Episcopal is a comparatively new school that has not known great athletic success. According to head of school Steve Hickman, Episcopal has won eight football games in the last three years. As to why Episcopal's financial-aid numbers seem out of line with those of other schools, Hickman said that Episcopal tried to make  the school as accessible as possible, and that 20 to 25 percent of the students received financial assistance. Eighty to 85 percent of all students participate in at least one sport, and many participate in more than one, Hickman said. Participation in sports is not required, but “we strive to offer our young people a well-rounded education.” Episcopal's comparatively high tuition might make a difference too. It's about $9,300 a year. Shiloh's is about $7,000.

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