| Pitch-ing In
| Roofers Ricky Packett (left) and Daniel Owens work on a new home in the Wildwood subdivision east of Batesville. An air ambulance service wants to establish a base across the highway from Wildwood.
| Male body found near Curtis Road
Missing man may have been found in ditch
| By Jason C. Mattox
Panola County investigators would neither confirm nor deny that a body found Wednesday afternoon near Curtis Road was that of a local young man who has been missing for nearly a month.
The body of a black male was discovered in a drainage ditch by stranded motorists on Curtis Road about one mile west of Old Panola Road, according to Investigator Mark Whitten of the Panola County Sheriff’s Department.
"We received a call that a body had been found Wednesday at approximately 3 p.m.," Whitten said.
When asked if the body was that of 18-year-old Emmanuel Morris, who has been missing since January 16, Whitten said there was no way of knowing for sure at this time.
The body is being transported to Jackson where an autopsy will be performed, according to Whitten.
"I can say there was no visible trauma, but we will know more when the autopsy results come back," he said.
Until the identity of the body can be confirmed, the Sheriff’s Department and Batesville Police Department are continuing the search for Morris.
Morris was last seen wearing white Dickies work pants and white Phat Farm shoes.
Whitten said anyone with information about Morris should call the Sheriff’s Department at 563-6230 or the Batesville Police Department at 563-5653.
| SP joining few in state with pre-k program
| By Billy Davis
Establishing a pre-kindergarten program within the South Panola School District has long been a goal of Superintendent Dr. C.L. Stevenson.
This fall, Stevenson gets his wish.
A pilot pre-k program will begin with the new school year, accepting a total of 30 underprivileged children into two classes of 15 students each.
When the pilot program kicks off, South Panola will join a quarter of the state’s public school districts that offer pre-k classes.
South Panola parents can begin registering their children on Friday, February 25. Registration will continue on Monday, February 28 through March 11.
Children must be four years old by September 1, 2005.
The registration will take place at Batesville Elementary School, where principal Carolyn Graham will oversee the pilot program.
The goal of the pre-k program is to "prime" the children for learning, Graham said.
"When the students are finished for the year, we want them at a ‘readiness stage’ for kindergarten," Graham said. "Our goal is to get them into a mood of exploring and discovering things on their own."
Graham said a typical week of pre-k classes includes a rotation of "centers" for learning – a reading center, for example, – and additional centers for writing, art, theatre, improving listening skills, and developing social skills.
Each pre-k classroom will include a teacher and an assistant teacher, the principal said.
When South Panola begins its pre-k program, it will be the 37th public school district in the state to do so, said Robin Miles, a childhood specialist with the Miss. Department of Education. There are 149 public school districts in the state.
Public school districts across the state taught 1,879 pre-k students last year, according to Miles.
The state of Mississippi does not fund pre-k programs, Miles said, so individual districts must be "creative" if they want to fund and develop their own programs.
"Pre-k programs do work, and you do see a difference (in the students), so we’re always looking for school districts to use money creatively to fund a program," Miles said.
"It says a lot about your school district and your superintendent that you’re moving ahead with a pre-k program," Miles added.
According to Stevenson, most of South Panola’s pre-k funding will come from Title 1, the federal program for underprivileged children.
The school district will spend about $100,000 of its own funds next year as well, the superintendent said.
"For a long time we’ve felt the need for a pre-k program, but we’ve backed off because of finances," Stevenson said. "We’re still not where we want to be, but we decided to prioritize it. It’s past time to do it."
With an overflow of registered children expected, Stevenson said family income and economic status will factor into the final selection of students.
"The criteria for choosing students for the pre-k program will be similar to those for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches," Stevenson said.
According to Graham, 75 students will first be chosen from those who are registered. A one-on-one assessment of each child will follow, and the final 30 children will then be selected.
The pre-k program will operate from the present Child Development Center at 209 Boothe Street. The center is located behind Batesville Intermediate School.
Child Development is moving into the "red brick building" at Batesville Elementary School, where a renovation project is under way.
| Frequently Asked Questions
| What is South Panola doing?
||The school district is starting a pilot pre-k program. The first classes will begin in the fall of ’05.
| Who is eligible?
|| Underprivileged students who are four years old by September 1, 2005.
| How many will be chosen?
|| Seventy-five children will be evaluated for the program. Thirty children will be accepted.
| When and where can I register my child?
|| Registration begins February 28 and will continue until March 11 at Batesville Elementary School.
| What do I need to bring to registration?
||Bring the following:
1. A certified birth certificate
2. Two proofs of residence with
3. Immunization card
4. Social Security card.
| Steak & Steak time
| Tickets are plentiful for the March 31 Boys and Girls Club "Steak and Steak" dinner. Helping out with the fund-raiser will be (from left) Marquis Oliver, board member Mary Murphy, Sha’ Tiffany Flowers, Boys and Girls Club director Dennis Hoskins, and Laundarius Fondren. To order tickets, call 578-7309 or 578-2930.
| Bikes and bull riding next events at BCC
|By Jason C. Mattox
A dirt bike competition will be the next event at the Batesville Civic Center when the new facility hosts the Extreme World Arena Cross February 18-19.
Both shows start at 7:30 p.m. and will feature a variety of stunt riders and freestyle competitions, according to Civic Center Director Roy Hyde.
Tickets are $12 for adults, and $10 for children 11 and under.
The arena cross follows the civic center’s inaugural events, two recent livestock shows.
"We got nothing but positive feedback from the local and district livestock shows," he said. "Everyone was happy with the way the shows went off.
"You could tell the people were really impressed with the facility," he said. "Just being there and seeing some of those kids’ faces when they walked in made the whole thing worth it for me."
Hyde said while it is nice to have the first events over and done, he is looking forward to the events that are scheduled in the future.
"We have drawn a lot of interest from a variety of show promoters," he said. "We know there is still a lot of work to be done, but we are going to do our best to bring in shows that will appeal to a broad spectrum of people."
Hyde said since the arena cross will be the first spectator-driven event held at the center, he is anxious to see the turnout.
"From what I have been told, this same group had to turn people away at shows in Jackson," he said. "It is hard to speculate what our crowd will be, but we have been getting a lot of phone calls about the event."
Just a few weeks after the Arena Cross, on March 4 and 5, the Civic Center will host the Lone Star Rodeo.
This rodeo will feature bull riding, barrel racing, bronc riding, roping competitions and several other events.
"This will be a full-scale rodeo," he said.
Other events tentatively scheduled include a monster truck rally for March 18-19, and a gun and knife show April 9-10.
"We really do want to offer something that everyone in the community and the surrounding area will have an interest in," he said.
Once the proper infrastructure is in place, he said, concerts, circuses and other types of events can be accommodated.
"We are waiting to get some infrastructure issues, like minor electrical work, resolved," he said. "Once we do, we can start marketing the facility to other shows."
One aspect Hyde said he believes is going to help with marketing the facilities is getting the food service contract in place.
"The selection of Boston Culinary Group to handle our concessions will be a big plus for the facility," he said. "The depth of their organization will help us market our catering and banquet facilities."
Hyde said one of the biggest reasons the city felt like Boston Culinary was the best group for the concessions was their willingness to allow local clubs to assist them.
"Community involvement is a big selling point," he said. "I am really excited about our partnership with Boston Culinary Group."
Hyde said while a menu and price structure have not be set, they will be prior to the first event.
"I can say this much," he said. "With this group’s list of third party operators like Corky’s and Pizza Hut, it won’t just be hamburgers and hot dogs."
| Planning Commission to hear from air ambulance service
|By Billy Davis
The Panola County Land Development Commission is expecting a busy evening when it meets next week, and a proposed air ambulance service tops its agenda.
Air Evac LifeTeam, Inc. of Missouri wants to put a helicopter and crew on one of two proposed sites east of Batesville.
The two sites are located on the south side of Hwy. 6. One site is located about a quarter mile east of Lawrence Bros. Road and the second about a mile farther west.
Fred A. Womble of Batesville owns the land where both sites are located. The land would be re-zoned from agricultural property to commercial if the county commission agrees to Air Evac’s plans.
The eastern-most site, the one near Lawrence Bros. Road, is also situated across the highway from Wildwood, a high-end residential development.
"We’ve heard from some residents from Wildwood, and they say they’re concerned about the (helicopter) noise," said Diane Stewart, coordinator for the land commission.
Stewart said Wildwood residents will likely show up for the commission’s meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday night at the Panola County Courthouse in Sardis.
Air Evac representative Harold Newton said the company prefers the property nearest Wildwood.
Newton said he, too, will attend the land commission’s meeting.
"I’ll be there to answer questions about what we provide and why we want to come to Panola County," Newton said. "We’re a community-based air ambulance service, and we look for places where we can save lives and make a difference."
With an Air Evac base now in Marianna, Ark., and others in Tennessee, Panola County is a logical choice for the company as it expands across the Mid-South, Newton said.
"We have 45 bases nationwide, and we ‘interlock’ them so they can help each other," Newton explained.
If Air Evac is allowed to come to Panola County, a base in Corinth would come next, he said.
Air Evac spokesman Julie Heavrin said the company would serve Panola County and surrounding counties with a Bell 206 Long Ranger and a dozen personnel.
The air ambulance would be staffed around the clock with a pilot, a paramedic and a nurse, Heavrin said. Those personnel would be hired locally.
The three-acre site would house a helicopter pad, aircraft hangar and quarters for the Air Evac personnel.
Air Evac also sells a yearly "membership" to its service – $40 for a single, $45 for a couple, and $50 for a household of three or more.
Without the membership, a flight from Panola County to The Med in Memphis would cost about $6,000, Heavrin said.
Regarding the apparent noise of the helicopter, Heavrin said the Air Evac pilots try to avoid flying over neighborhoods during takeoff and landing – but only to a point.
"We always try to go around neighborhood areas, but getting to the patient is our first concern," Heavrin told The Panolian. "When people hear the helicopter, we hope they realize it’s going to help someone who’s been injured."
Also on the land commission’s agenda Monday is a continuance of Martin Bros. Scrap Metal.
Last month, the long-time Sardis business announced its desire to relocate to land south of Como, where it hopes to develop an industrial park.