Cool relations between the state Education Department and state historians turned openly hostile Monday, when a representative of the historians waited from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to make a scheduled presentation to the Board of Education, then was told she wouldn't be allowed to speak. The would-be spokesperson, Sondra Gordy, a history professor at the University of Central Arkansas, said she was offended not just as a historian and an Arkansas taxpayer, but as a woman. “Ken James wouldn't treat a man like that,” she said of the state education commissioner.
History professors and others have formed a group called the Arkansas History Education Coalition in opposition to the Education Department's proposed new guidelines for teaching social studies in the public schools. The group says the guidelines are “a dramatic and disastrous step backward in the attempt to foster a deep and well-founded understanding of Arkansas's history, geography, and culture.” The group had appealed to Governor Beebe to block the imposition of the guidelines in the 2007-08 school year, but he declined. The coalition then sought another hearing before the Board of Education, and was granted three minutes on the agenda for Monday's meeting. Tom DeBlack, a history professor at Arkansas Tech, was scheduled to speak, but DeBlack couldn't appear and asked Gordy to take his place. She said she signed in at 8:45 a.m., identifying herself as a spokesperson for the coalition. When she finally stood up to speak at 2:30, a male Education Department employee told her that Dr. James said she wouldn't be allowed to speak, because DeBlack's name was on the agenda. Gordy was accompanied by Martha Grimes, a teacher at a Conway middle school. Both Gordy and Grimes complained that they'd wasted a day because of the board's action.
Julie Thompson, director of communications for the Education Department, said it was Education Board chairman Diane Tatum of Pine Bluff who decided that Gordy couldn't speak because she wasn't the person on the agenda. Thompson said that when Gordy signed in, she didn't say that she would be speaking in place of DeBlack.
A supporter of Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign said the former governor's second-place finish in last weekend's Iowa straw poll brought tangible benefits as well as a bumper crop of media exposure. “His campaign manager told me they'd raised more money on-line in 12 hours Monday than they had the entire campaign.”
He made it
An update on Kenderick Scorza, the North Little Rock teen featured in last week's Times for his appearance on “Let's Just Play Go Healthy Challenge,” Nickelodeon's reality-based heath show: Under a scorching sun this past Saturday, Kenderick competed in the Conway Kids' Triathlon. According to David Bazzel, who has been training with Kenderick since March for the race, Kenderick was nervous before he jumped in the pool for the first leg -- perhaps the most difficult of the three for a boy who didn't know how to swim a year ago. His goal was to finish, and he did it without stopping, polishing off the 100-yard swim, four-mile bike ride, and one-mile run in a combined time of 43:43. A pre-race letter from Bill Clinton, with whom Kenderick appeared on the Rachel Ray Show in April and whose foundation sponsors the Nickelodeon program, gave him an added boost. Nickelodeon will air the event in late-September.
Dr. Gary Purnell, who is on Best Doctors' Inc. list as one of the state's best nuclear medicine doctors and whose name appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of the Times, is no longer affiliated with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He is with Nuclear Consulting in Little Rock.