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Smart Talk

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Fixing up Argenta

Twelve homeowners in North Little Rock’s downtown Argenta neighborhood have received grants up to $1,000 — for a total of $10,000 — from the North Little Rock Historic District Commission. The money, part of a pilot program by the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, will repair exteriors of owner-occupied homes in the historic district. The state originally gave the money to the Historic District Commission for renovation of the Argenta Drug Co. building on Main Street, but when a deal to purchase and rehabilitate that building fell through, the North Little Rock Historic District Commission came up with the plan to transfer the money to residential rehab.

Homeowners submitted proposals to use the money and preference was given to those who could match it. The proposed repairs must be completed by Dec. 31, and the funds will be disbursed to the homeowners after the Historic District Commission has approved the work.

91 tears

What happened to the 91 children, mostly infants, who were removed from their homes from May 2005 to June 2006 thanks to Garrett’s Law? All found foster care homes and nearly half have since been returned to their mothers, said Billye Burke, assistant director in the Division of Children and Family Services of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Garrett’s Law, enacted in April 2005, allows DHHS to place mothers whose infants test positive for drugs on the state’s Child Maltreatment Central Registry and remove the babies from the home. A group analyzing the new law is recommending that more emphasis be placed on prevention and treatment than punishment.

Forty-one babies have been returned to their families. Burke said babies would have been returned to mothers who satisfied court orders to get into therapy for substance abuse. She said that action on 33 of the infants triggered the removal of siblings as well.

Garrett’s Law did not provide for funding to handle the new cases, which account 1.8 percent of referrals over all. DHHS oversees some 4,000 children in foster care.

Good writers

One of the most rigorous national competitions for high school students is the annual writing competition by the National Council of Teachers of English. The 2006 winners have been announced and they include eight from Arkansas, four from a single high school.

They are: Jazsmine Armstrong of Little Rock Hall; Samuel Baxter, Diana Leon, Michael McBroom and Megan Strickland of Little Rock Centr; Rachael Small of Little Rock Christian Academy; Kayla Pelt of Mountain Home High, and Jung Kim of Little Rock Parkview.

There were 606 winners nationally, judged on samples of students’ prose or verse and on impromptu themes written under supervision. English teachers judge the submissions on effective and imaginative language.

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