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28 and rising

“Wordplay,” the documentary on crossword puzzles, is now No. 28 on the all-time documentary film rankings list and No. 2 on the 2006 list, behind “An Inconvenient Truth.”

This has become something of a local story because 1) President Clinton, an inveterate crossword fan, is featured prominently and 2) Little Rock Traffic Judge Vic Fleming, a crossword creator, wrote a song that’s used in the movie.

Skip Rutherford, the Clinton School dean who’s served as something of an ad hoc tub-thumper for the movie, says it’s within a few hundred thousand dollars of catching the box office totals of the highly acclaimed documentary “Capturing the Friedmans.”

His and hers

Gov. Mike Huckabee already has his very own state nature center, down Pine Bluff way. Now his wife Janet is about to get hers.

The state Game and Fish Commission will hold a formal dedication of the Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center at 10 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 31, at the center on Well’s Lake Road near Fort Smith. She and the governor will be there.

You can check out a Game and
Fish Commission aquarium; watch quail dog, K-9 and retriever demonstrations; see a dutch oven cooking demonstration and partici-pate in a “critter crunch (animal feeding),” as well as tour the center. Events continue through the weekend, including sessions on snakes, bears and birds of prey, a fishing clinic and even a photo contest for those who prefer to get their trophies through the lens rather than through a gunsight.

More likely to be punished

The federal court’s Office of Desegregation Monitoring, which assesses progress by the three public school districts in Pulaski County toward meeting court orders in the desegregation case, issued a report last week on progress in the Pulaski County Special School District.

It found much to praise — particularly rising participation by black students in advanced placement, honors and gifted and talented programs. But the district, like most in state and country, still exhibits a gap between black and white students on standardized tests. And, the office noted, the county district continues to punish black students at a rate disproportionate to their numbers.

Specifically, in a district with a total enrollment 41 percent black, 58 percent of those suspnded; 71 percent of those expelled; 55 percent of those made to attend Saturday school; and 61 percent of those receiving bus suspensions were black. Said the report:

“While the PCSSD has been dragging its feet in tackling the discipline disparity issue, African-American students, particularly black males, are suffering the consequences by losing precious class time through suspensions and expulsions thereby falling behind academically. Unfortunately, too many of them don’t return to school at all.”

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