| Seniors walk at SP, NP
| South Panola High School teacher Ernestine Burnett adjusts the collar on the graduation gown of Lasheena Killebrew during a robing ceremony for seniors Tuesday night in the SPHS gym. Each senior had the opportunity to select a favorite teacher to present his or her robe.
| By Billy Davis
More than 350 Panola County high school seniors will receive diplomas this weekend, beginning with a North Panola graduation ceremony tonight.
About 75 North Panola seniors will receive diplomas tonight on the campus of Northwest Community College in Senatobia, said North Panola High counselor Wanda McKinney.
The graduation ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Northwest coliseum.
On Sunday in Oxford on the Ole Miss campus, 273 South Panola High seniors will walk across a stage at Tad Smith Coliseum and receive their diplomas.
The South Panola graduation ceremony begins at
"This is the biggest graduating class we’ve had in several years," said school counselor Tommy Darby, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Darby said about three quarters of graduating seniors plan to continue their education at a four-year university or at the community college level.
Four South Panola seniors received Foundation scholarships from Ole Miss that totalled about $68,000 in scholarship money, said South Panola counselor Shauna Myers.
"Of the 15 foundation scholarships presented by the University of Mississippi, four were presented at South Panola High School," said Myers. "This is a first for both schools."
The Foundation scholarship winners are Cole Fowler, Thomas Wilkie, Garret Stone and LaRico Treadwell.
At Wednesday’s awards day at at SPHS, South Panola seniors received about $600,000 in scholarship money, said school counselor Martha Lynn Johnson.
At North Panola, the 2006 valedictorian is April Quezette Smith. She plans to attend Ole Miss in the fall as a member of the Barksdale Honors College.
The 2006 South Panola valedictorian is Drew Wilkinson. He also plans to attend Ole Miss in the fall.
(See accompanying stories about the high school valedictorians, page A12).
The salutatorian and historian at North Panola High are Jessica Latrice Lane and Shakita Vonya Bagwell, respectively.
The salutatorian and historian at South Panola High are Holly Henning and Addison Brewer, respectively.
Following tradition, the top scholars from each school will address their respective student bodies during the graduation ceremonies.
North Delta School’s commencement ceremony was held Friday, May 12, when 34 seniors received their diplomas.
| Lunacy, lots more on county agenda
| By Billy Davis
Panola County supervisors will continue discussion of costly lunacy cases and tackle economic development issues during a busy end-of-the-month meeting scheduled for next Monday.
Still another issue that could possibly arise is a litter ordinance that was proposed earlier in the month.
On the supervisors’ agenda for Monday are appearances from industrial prospect Rolando Foods and commercial developer Alvan Kelly, said District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, who serves as president of the Panola County Board of Supervisors.
Rolando Foods is seeking to move its food production operation from Maryland to Crenshaw, but the company wants possession of the former Dana plant in Crenshaw as collateral for a bank loan.
The county is the current owner of the former Dana plant.
"I understand that the people from Rolando are arranging a flight down here so they can meet with us Monday," Avant told The Panolian Friday.
Kelly is overseeing his east Batesville commercial development, Covenant Crossing, and will discuss the TIF (tax increment financing) program with the board of supervisors.
The DeSoto County developer has approached the City of Batesville about TIF, which was used in recent years to lure the Lowe’s store that is adjacent to Covenant Crossing.
The lunacy discussion will continue an issue first raised by Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock, who informed supervisors at their May 1 meeting that costs for that service are spiralling.
A mentally ill patient’s $25,000 bill from Tri-Lakes Medical Center, which was sent to Pitcock, jumpstarted the discussion.
Avant said supervisors "might" discuss the proposed litter ordinance, a controversial 13-page ordinance that addresses junky property and illegal littering and dumping.
Panola County employee Dean Joiner passed out copies of the proposed ordinance at the supervisors’ May 1 meeting, later telling The Panolian he was unaware that his bosses had received an earlier copy last year and never acted on it.
Panola County sheriff’s deputy Bobby Walton handed out a similar proposal to supervisors last spring after receiving it at a similar event attended by Joiner earlier this year.
Joiner, who oversees the county’s solid waste department, asked supervisors to enact the litter rules at a meeting later in the month after tweaking it to suit their wishes.
The proposed ordinance does bring with it some controversy: if passed in complete form by supervisors, the proposal would have affected private property by fining landowners who dot their property with junk cars, old appliances and other large items. The ordinance would declare such items an "unauthorized dump."
Asked for his thoughts about a ban on junk cars in the county, Avant said he’s hesitant to support such a rule.
"What’s junk to you might not be junk to me," Avant said. "How do you determine that?"
The City of Batesville defines "junk cars" as automobiles without current license plates and inspection stickers that are parked or stored outside an enclosed building, a copy of the city’s zoning ordinance states.
| Football camp is Saturday
| By Myra Bean
Excitement is in the air as the day draws nearer for the Pay It Forward annual football camp hosted by Pittsburgh Steeler Deshea Townsend.
Over 300 children are signed up to participate in the camp which will be conducted by Townsend and some of his Super Bowl teammates including Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward, Joey Porter, Casey Hampton, Chris Hope and more.
The camp will be held in the newly renamed
R.H. Dunlap Stadium on Tiger Field from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 20.
Parents should bring children to the stadium to check-in beginning at 8:30 a.m. so they can be in position no later than 9:15 in order for the camp to start on time.
There is no charge for the camp. Townsend pays for the camp and also provides t-shirts and lunch for the participants. Also providing water and athletic services for the participants are Jason Cooper and Scott Heath of Cornerstone Rehabilitation.
The participants will be separated by grades and taken through a series of drills by the professional players, along with South Panola coaches, and former and current football players.
For more information on the camp call Myra Bean at 609-6906.
| Music history short, rich at SpringFest
| By Billy Davis
Despite its relatively short tenure and the annual return of spring showers, Batesville’s SpringFest has created some great music in Downtown Batesville.
Country music artist David Lee Murphy will follow in the footsteps of The Coasters, Steve Azar and dozens of other musical acts when he takes the SpringFest stage Saturday night.
Murphy is scheduled to perform at 9:15. He follows 2005 headliner Chely Wright, who crooned radio hits such as "Jezebel" and "Single White Female" to a crowd of several thousand last year.
Murphy’s "Out With a Bang" album, which came out in 1995, produced his first Top 10 single, "Party Crowd," and his first No.1, "Dust on the Bottle."
The country crooner’s follow-up album, "Gettin’ Out the Good Stuff," contained two more Top 10 singles, "Every Time I Get Around You" and "The Road You Leave Behind."
Album sales later declined, however, and Murphy has been working his way back up while penning songs for country artists such as Aarron Tippin ("People Like Us") and Trick Pony ("On a Mission.")
Music artists who play at SpringFest are sometimes at the beginning of a big break in the music industry, said longtime SpringFest volunteer Adam Pittman.
"Think about Little Big Town. That was a great band," said Pittman, referring to the foursome music group that preceded Wright on stage last year.
By the end of the summer Little Big Town had rocketed to star status with its radio hit, "Boondocks."
Pittman credits Rodney Holley, who books SpringFest’s musicians, for "tapping into talent that’s on its way up."
"When Little Big Town left Batesville last year, they were getting on their bus and heading straight to (Las) Vegas for the Country Music Awards," Pittman said.
Past attendees interviewed by The Panolian cited The Coasters, The Byrds and The Bouffants as past favorites, and more than a few named country music artist and Mississippi native Steve Azar as a top performer.
"I think Steve Azar was great. He put on a good show," said Susan Wingert, who once helped work the event as an employee of the Panola Partnership.
Batesville Main Street manager Colleen Clark recalled when Azar performed his hit song, "Waitin’ on Joe," for the SpringFest crowd.
"I think that was a big moment," Clark said. "The crowd really responded. They loved it."
A special SpringFest section highlighting the 2006 lineup is included in this issue of The Panolian.
| End coming May 31, business owner told
| By Jason C. Mattox
A Batesville business was ordered closed for violating terms of a conditional use permit, but its owner was given a second chance of sorts when the board motion was changed to set the closing date as May 31.
Jimmy Bishop, who operates an auto repair business at 350 Highway 51 North, has come under fire in recent months by the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen. After attending meetings in the past, he was again present Tuesday to find out his fate.
Bishop was given until the end of the month to finish up existing business before the business will be shut down.
The first person to speak up at the board meeting was Doyle Collier, whose daughter owns Bishop’s building.
"When you limit the number of cars, you are killing a man’s business and making it impossible for them to pay the rent," Collier told city leaders.
Code enforcement officer John McCollum said the problem was Bishop’s violation of the original February 4, 2003, permit which allowed the business in a C2 Zone with the following conditions:
– No more than six cars on the lot at one time.
– No automotive work outside the building
at any time.
"He agreed to the permit and has not been following the conditions," McCollum told the mayor and board of aldermen.
Collier said Bishop was not going to continue working on cars outside of the business but did need more of a parking allowance.
"We bent over backwards to make this happen for Mr. Bishop," replied Ward 1 Alderman Bill Dugger, "but we cannot afford to have someone bird dogging the business all the time to make sure he is following the conditions he agreed to."
A lot near the business owned by Miles Mitchell came into question when Collier asked how many cars could be parked on that lot.
"That parking area was not a part of the permit," code enforcement office administrator Pam Comer said. "But the biggest problem is not the number of cars ? it’s the work being done outside of the building."
Dugger reminded Collier that Bishop was given a chance to apply for a new conditional use permit one month ago, and he declined to do so.
"When that [Feb. 4, 2003] permit was granted, we gave Jimmy what he asked for," Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley replied. "And I personally asked him if they were conditions he could live with."
Collier asked if it was too late for Bishop to apply for the new permit.
"He can apply for it whenever he wants, but it would take about six weeks for the permit to go into effect," Comer told Collier.
"You won’t be closed down for the full six weeks while you wait on the new permit," Comer said. "But you will be shut down at midnight on May 31."
| Bowl winner brings back more than a ring
to ‘University of SP’
| Commentary By
Very seldom does someone have an opportunity to gain the attention of a community, especially of children, adolescents and teenagers who are still forming habits and skills that will follow them throughout their lives.
Deshea Townsend of the world champion Pittsburgh Steelers football team has taken advantage of the celebrity status afforded him through his athletic and life skills to "Pay it Forward" so that others from his community can benefit.
Judging from the number of applications for his annual "Pay it Forward" Football Camp being held tomorrow, Townsend has the attention of a wide spectrum of youngsters.
Townsend didn’t wait until his status reached a pinnacle this year as world champion team member. His generosity began soon after he joined the National Football League along with South Panola and Alabama teammate Dwayne Rudd six years ago.
Often in small communities, avenues to greatness are limited. Every youngster has a dream to excel in some area, and Townsend’s dream came true in last February’s Super Bowl.
As the local folk watched his dream unfold, we knew that it was the result of years of hard work, both on and off the football field, and included good home training, good teachers and coaches, a commitment to his faith and a God-given gift of athleticism.
That gift of athleticism alone would not have been enough for Townsend to reach this point in his career.
And that is why he is so valuable to our community.
He is also about making the right choices, and we all, especially youngsters, need to hear that from someone other than the usual cast of parents, preachers, siblings and teachers.
Throw in Townsend’s humility, and we have a role model of whom we can all be proud.
Community events abound in the Batesville area this weekend including Townsend’s football camp. If you get a chance, please tell him "thank you."
When during the Super Bowl pregame show Townsend promoted his beloved high school, "South Panola University," ahead of his college team, it showed a commitment to this community that went beyond the call of duty. He is not paying us back; he’s paying us forward.
That school has recently shown a commitment to excel in other athletic endeavors that are beginning and should continue to pay dividends and, at the same time, attempt to raise the academic level in an all-out effort to improve the quality of life throughout our area.
There’s nothing new about the benefits of learning team work, attaining goals and setting high standards through athletic programs. Having local sports legends serving as positive role models can only intensify efforts to promote a healthy environment for our youth.
Thank you, Deshea. And welcome home, anytime.