Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Red Ribbon Week unites district on 'critical message'

Peake Elementary Students gather on the playground to display their support of Red Ribbon Week.

Red Ribbon Week unites district on 'critical message'

Crazy socks, drug walks and blackout days were just a few of the various activities that occurred throughout the Arkadelphia Public School District as part of an eventful 2012 Red Ribbon Week. Red Ribbon Week occurs annually and is the week when school-communities across the nation present a unified and visible commitment toward the creation of a drug-free America, and although it is over for this year, the message of living a healthy, drug-free life will continue on every campus throughout the school year.

The national movement of Red Ribbon Week brings community focus on the importance of a drug-free life and the dangers of substance abuse by involving the students in activities while at school; however, for the message to truly be effective, it must be reinforced at home as well. According to, children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don't, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.

District Health and Wellness Coordinator Virginia Anderson also sees Red Ribbon Week as a time to not only focus on how drugs negatively impact lives and communities, but also how a drug-free life helps secure the foundation of a healthy lifestyle.

“Red Ribbon Week, and its message of living drug-free, is part of the big picture,” Anderson said. “Avoiding substance abuse goes along with eating a healthy diet and exercising, all of which is necessary to properly care for our minds and bodies.”

In their “Choose to Refuse” week, Arkadelphia High School students and staff held “Drive Away from Drugs” daily drawings where a $10 gas card was given away, a Red Ribbon Week slogan contest, a “Blackout Drugs” day where everyone was encouraged to wear black, and then ended the week by wearing red shirts on “United Against Drugs” and “Badgers Just Say No” day.

Goza Middle School hosted several activities that promoted student involvement such as camouflage day, “nerdy” day and “pairs” day, where students picked a friend and dressed alike. Goza kicked off their Red Ribbon Week on the previous Friday with pajama day and a school dance that evening.

Peake Elementary School welcomed several guest speakers including Head Badger Coach J.R. Eldridge and three members of his squad, Jake Knight, Jaron Dixon and James Howard, who spoke in an assembly about the importance of staying drug free. Goza Middle School’s Jazzlers also performed in the assembly. Students also participated in themed-days such as “crazy” socks day.

“The Jazzlers, Coach Eldridge and his players were all a big hit at the assembly,” Sandra Capps, Peake’s Red Ribbon Week Coordinator, said. “The students listened and were hanging on their every word. Peake students want to grow up and play for the Badgers and perform in the spirit groups. These students are their heroes and having them come to Peake and give a message about being drug-free is very important. It was great that the Peake students heard it from other students who are their role models.”

In addition, Peake, Perritt and Central held canned-food drives and spirit days where students and staff wore red. Central and Perritt students also decorated posters with anti-drug slogans, and Central students displayed theirs on a walk to the Henderson State University campus where members of the Reddie spirit squads joined them and held a “Say No to Drugs” rally.
Above, Central Primary students display drug-free posters they made for their school's walk to HSU where members of the Reddie spirit squads joined them for a Red Ribbon Week rally. Below, Central students release balloons during the rally on HSU's Quad.

courtesy photo, (c) Henderson State University
All of the events combined made for an eventful week throughout the district and a unified voice raised awareness of substance abuse and the benefits of living drug free.

“The teachers and coordinators responsible for planning activities and speakers during our Red Ribbon Week did a great job,” Superintendent Donnie Whitten said. “Our district stands behind the message of Red Ribbon Week and I hope that our families continue to support this critical message at home, as well.”

For more information about the national campaign, visit, where you can participate by signing up for the “The Best Me is Drug Free” pledge and find additional information about the history of Red Ribbon Week and the National Family Partnership.

By Sean Ruggles, APSD Communications Director


1.  As parents and citizens, we will talk to our children and the children in our lives about the dangers of drug abuse.
2. We will set clear rules for our children about not using drugs.
3. We will set a good example for our children by not using illegal drugs or medicine without a prescription.
4. We will monitor our children's behavior and enforce appropriate consequences, so that our rules are respected.
5. We will encourage family and friends to follow the same guidelines to keep children safe from substance abuse.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Teachers of the Year recognized

Kelly Bell, Amanda Harris, Tori Rocole, Kaki Forthman and Ashley Keener  display their awards at the October Board of Education meeting where they were recognized as the Teachers of the Year.

Teachers of the Year recognized 

Ashley Keener, Kaki Forthman, Tori Rocole, Amanda Harris, and Kelly Bell were recently recognized as the Arkadelphia Public Schools Teachers of the Year for the 2011-12 school year. Bell, who won Teacher of the Year for Perritt Primary, also won District Teacher of the Year. A reception was held in their honor on Tuesday afternoon at Central Primary School prior to their awards being presented at October’s Board of Education meeting.

“This group of dedicated educators represents the excellence that is present at each of our campuses in the Arkadelphia Public Schools,” Superintendent Donnie Whitten said. “Their relentless pursuit of what is best for our students and schools deserves this recognition and I congratulate each of them.”

Bell has taught music at Perritt since January 2008. Prior to coming to Arkadelphia, she taught music and choir in Malvern. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Henderson State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree from HSU as well. She has served as a cooperating teacher for music students from HSU and Ouachita Baptist University.

Keener was awarded Teacher of the Year for Arkadelphia High School where she teaches computer applications and desktop publishing. This is her sixth year as a teacher with the APSD. Keener earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at HSU. Keener also serves as the advisor for The Ark, which is the AHS yearbook. While under her leadership, The Ark has received several awards from the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association.

Forthman was awarded Teacher of the Year for Goza Middle School where she began her career in 2009 teaching seventh grade social studies. She is currently teaching eighth grade literacy. Forthman earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from HSU. She currently is a member of the Arkansas State Teachers Association and is a past Ross grant recipient.

Rocole was awarded Teacher of the Year for Peake Elementary School where she teaches fifth grade math and science. Prior to coming to Arkadelphia in 2006, she taught math in Hooks, TX for three years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from South Arkansas University and her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from HSU. Rocole is currently pursuing an Ed. Specialist degree from HSU.

Harris was awarded Teacher of the Year for Central Primary School where she has taught second grade for the past seven years. Harris holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from HSU. She also has earned certifications as an ESL instructor and a K-12 reading specialist. She is currently a member of the Arkansas Reading Association and the Arkadelphia Area Reading Association. Harris has served as a mentor to new teachers and as an after school tutor.

Faculty from each campus within the APSD votes for the Teacher of the Year at the school-level. Each campus’s winner fills out a detailed application, which excludes any identifying information, and is submitted to an outside judging panel that selects the Teacher of the Year for the district.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Badger Pride Marching Band steals show at War Memorial

Badger Pride Marching Band Director Jim Lloyd, accompanied by several senior members of the band, display the band’s recent awards won at the Showcase of Bands at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.  Arkadelphia earned 11 of the 13 available awards, including the prestigious Brandon Award, while competing against many of the largest schools in the state. (photo/Gary Gerber)

Badger Pride Marching Band steals show at War Memorial

Arkadelphia High School’s Badger Pride Marching Band recently took 11 top honors, including Arkansas’s most prestigious marching band award, the “Brandon Award,” at the Showcase of Bands, Arkansas’s largest marching competition. The event was held at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on October 13.

Based on the Arkansas School Band and Orchestra Association’s classification system, Arkadelphia is a class 3A size program which should have 50-60 members in its marching program; however, with 131 members and four class 3A titles since 2005, Arkadelphia now enters as a class 5A band, which is the largest classification in Arkansas and puts them up against programs including Conway, Bryant, Benton, El Dorado, Cabot and Little Rock Central.

“Our band is twice the size of other 3A schools,” Director Jim Lloyd said. “But for us to go up against the big 5A programs in the state is a real David and Goliath situation.”

At the end of the day, Arkadelphia emerged with 11 of 13 available awards. In addition to earning the highest rating of “superior” in every category including drum major, percussion, color guard and band, Arkadelphia also won awards for Outstanding Band in class 5A, Outstanding Percussion, Outstanding Color Guard, Outstanding Drum Major, Outstanding Marching Performance, Outstanding Musical Performance. Theoretically, since the ratings are based on standards, every band at the show could receive a superior rating, but only one band comes away with the “outstanding” awards.

The most coveted award earned at the competition for Arkadelphia was the prestigious “Brandon Award,” which is named for long-time president and executive secretary of the ASBOA, the late Raymond Brandon, and is given to the top performance of the day.

The 5A section of the competition also draws a crowd of more than 6,000 spectators to War Memorial Stadium, providing a rare opportunity for the students performing to be seen by a large crowd.

“The home side of the bleachers, 25 yard line to 25 yard line, was packed,” Assistant Director Aaron Seel said. “How many opportunities do these kids have to receive a standing ovation from a crowd that size?”

Though many in the crowd were present to support other schools, competitiveness was put aside for the sake of showing appreciation of Arkadelphia’s performance.

“Seeing the audience reaction was moving for all of us,” Lloyd said.

photo/Gary Gerber

photo/Gary Gerber
Arkadelphia’s show, Serengeti Sketches, is built upon African folk rhythms and is comprised of four movements: Serengeti sunrise, wildlife, cool shade, and brush fire and rain. Andrew Yozviak originally composed all of the music.

“It is fitting for emphasizing our large percussion section we have this year,” Lloyd said.

When the Badgers visit the Ashdown Panthers on October 19, the 2012 Brandon Award winner for class 1, 2, and 3A, Ashdown, will face off with the 4 and 5A Brandon Award winner, Arkadelphia, during the halftime performances. Arkadelphia will travel to Lakeside High School on October 23 for the regional competition before facing their biggest challenge of the marching season, the Memphis Bandmasters Championship, at the Liberty Bowl on October 27.

Participation in the band program in Arkadelphia continues to grow. This year, 86 students are in the beginner band, up from 47 last year. In 2002, 72 students were in the high school band, which now includes 131 students. Overall, more than 300 students, 6-12th grade, participate in the band program. Lloyd, Seel and Whitney Smith, color guard coordinator and beginner band director, make up the team of band leaders. They attribute the success and growth of the program to an uncompromising drive for excellence and instilling that pride in all of the students.

“We set our own standards,” Seel said. “Our goal for every performance is that it be better than our last.”

“We continue to raise our own bar,” Lloyd added. “Every decision we make is centered on what is best for our kids.”

By Sean Ruggles, APSD Communications Director

Click here to watch the award winning performance.