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Student achievements made headlines in ’04

Student academic and athletic successes were the top stories ofthe year in a survey conducted among The DAILY LEADER’s staff.

It was a triumphant year for area schools as Brookhaven HighSchool won statewide acclaim in both academic and athleticchampionships and Brookhaven Academy set a state record inbasketball. The individual stories were pooled together into one”student success” category in the staff vote.

The BHS Science Bowl Team won first place in the MississippiRegional Science Bowl Competition, defeating the Mississippi Schoolfor Math and Science. It was only the second time in 13 years anMSMS team has not won the regional competition and the first timeit had been defeated by a non-specialty public school.

The BHS cheerleaders proved to be one of the best squads in thenation when they won the mid-size varsity division and placedfourth in the nation at a competition sponsored by the NationalCheerleaders Association in Orlando, Fla. in February.

A blue cloud of celebration filled A.E. Wood Coliseum in ClintonFeb. 28 when the BA Lady Cougars won the Mississippi Private SchoolAssociation’s Overall Tournament title as a capstone to a perfect43-0 basketball season.

The BHS Panthers captured the Class 4A State BaseballChampionship May 22 at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson by defeatingthe Pontotoc Warriors 10-1. It was the first state championship forthe school’s baseball program, as the Panthers finished the seasonwith a 30-8 record.

The BHS football team repeated the feat in December atMississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, defeatingClarksdale 29-23 to achieve its first Class 4A state championship.The Panthers finished the season with a 14-1 record.

2. Next on the list of the year’s top storieswas the slaying of a local businessman during an apparent armedrobbery attempt.

John Deere, owner of Pik & Pak Grocery on Beltline Road waskilled in January while opening his store. Deere was shot threetimes. An intensive investigation resulted in the arrest of ateenager in June, but the case has not gone to trial.

3. Brookhaven’s annexation attempts garneredenough votes to capture third place on the list.

When the city tried to annex more than 16 miles of the county inearly 2004, more than 200 objectors lined up to oppose them. Aspecial chancellor eventually ruled the city could annex 14.4 milesof the proposed territory, but objectors have appealed that ruling.The annexation is stalled until the appeal can go to trial.

4. State education budget woes threatened theclosure of the Mississippi School of the Arts and teachers’ jobs inthe public school districts in the second quarter.

More than 50 local teachers appeared on the verge of losingtheir jobs. Several, in fact, were notified they would not berehired for the next school year before the legislature eventuallypassed a compromise bill in May that provided some funding butstill did not fully fund the Mississippi Adequate EducationProgram.

The smaller education budget also threatened the closure of theMississippi School of the Arts before its second year. With morestudents and its budget cut by nearly one-third, local and stateschool officials struggled to determine whether the school couldremain open. The Mississippi School of the Arts was approved for asecond year and a junior class June 17. Community and legislativesupport by local representatives and senators kept the school opendespite reservations among top education executives.

5. The community became aware of the intentionsof a large home improvement store, later identified as Home Depot,to locate here in September. Although welcomed by many, someresidents objected to the new business and the need for the cityand county to pass tax increment financing bonds to pay for theneeded infrastructure, such as water and sewerage, at the proposedsite. Both governmental bodies announced their intentions to passthe bonds, but the process has not been completed. The site,located on Brookway Boulevard, west of Interstate 55, also includesoutparcels for other stores to locate next to Home Depot.

6. The call-up of approximately 3,500Mississippi Army National Guard soldiers in June included unitsfrom Brookhaven, McComb, Monticello, Crystal Springs, Prentiss,Tylertown and Natchez. The individual units deployed to Camp Shelbyin August to become the 155th Brigade Combat Team. They havetrained there for six months, including a month at Fort Irwin,Calif., and will deploy for operations in Iraq in January.

7. Crime again made the list with the tortureand killing of a 4-month-old Lawrence County infant in July. Theinfant’s grandmother was arrested in early September on capitalmurder charges. The infant died from complications resulting frommolestation. The grandmother was indicted in December, but a trialdate has not been set.

8. Hundreds of evacuees from Florida, Louisianaand other coastal states flooded into the area in September toescape Hurricane Ivan. Local volunteer organizations and churchesprovided food and shelter for nearly a week until the hurricanepassed.

9. Brookhaven Mayor Bill Godbold announced hisresignation March 16, citing medical reasons. The resignationbecame effective April 1 ending Godbold’s sixth, non-consecutiveterm as mayor. City Clerk Iris Rudman Smith surprised the board ofaldermen and the public by announcing at the same meeting that shealso intended to resign after 19 years in office. She continued toserve until April 12.

10. A grandson was charged in the slaying of a63-year-old woman on Nov. 12. The woman was reported missing, andher body was found where it had been dumped on South WashingtonStreet. The woman’s 25-year-old grandson has been charged in thekilling.

10 (tie). Hundreds of elderly and disabled residentsstood in line for a limited number of flu vaccines at the Multi-UseFacility on Nov. 9. More than 500 shots were given, but hundredsmore were turned away when the vaccine ran out. Several hundredmore vaccinations were made available during a similar event twoweeks later. The nation’s flu vaccine supply was effectively halvedwhen a major supplier was closed down because of possiblecontamination. The vaccine was only available nationwide to infantsand “high-risk” adults.

Also receiving a good showing of votes were stories on the blazethat destroyed the “Old Green Building” on the West LincolnAttendance Center campus, the local effect of the state Medicaidcrisis, the second trial of a McComb attorney convicted of sellingdrugs in the Lincoln County Jail and the arrest, sentencing andremoval from the bench of a Lawrence County Justice Court Judge whopleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamines.