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Nine Arkansas schools have been singled out for high honors in a state Education Department accountability report.

Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell announced Wednesday that the schools earned "exemplary" status.

The report was issued Tuesday, but the department was still working to determine which schools deserved the exemplary designation.

Mayflower Oil Spill
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A federal agency is proposing more than $2.6 million in civil penalties against ExxonMobil after one of the company's pipelines ruptured and spilled thousands of barrels of oil in central Arkansas.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a document on Wednesday citing ExxonMobil Pipeline Company for nine probable violations of pipeline safety regulations.

The company's Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Mayflower on March 29, spilling thousands of barrels of oil in the community about 30 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR

The Arkansas Board of Corrections is scheduled to meet next week following the release of a report that outlines problems within the state's parole system. The board is to meet Nov. 13 in Little Rock.

The meeting comes after Gov. Mike Beebe on Monday released the findings of an investigation about the Department of Community Correction.

The Arkansas State Police report found systemic problems with the parole system but no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by officials after a man who was on parole was charged with murder.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR

Drivers, rejoice: The average price of a gallon of gas in Arkansas has dropped below $3.

The AAA says the average price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $2.98 on Wednesday. That's down from $3.04 a week ago and $3.13 a month ago.

Drivers in northwest Arkansas are seeing the cheapest prices among the state's metropolitan areas.

The AAA says the average price is $2.89 in Fort Smith and $2.90 in Fayetteville, Springdale and Rogers.

The national average Wednesday was $3.23 per gallon, down from $3.34 a month ago.

Six World War II veterans in Arkansas are to be given a high honor by the French government.

The French consul general from Houston is to take part in a ceremony at the Capitol on Wednesday to present the veterans with the Legion of Honor. The event is set for 1:30 p.m.

On Thursday, the group will enjoy a French meal at the new culinary school at Pulaski Technical College. The Legion of Honor is the highest award that France presents.

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Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt is seeking the Democratic nomination for a south Arkansas congressional seat.

Witt announced Tuesday he was running for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton.

Cotton is challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor next year, leaving his seat open.

Witt is the second Democratic candidate to announce a bid for the seat. Janis Percefull, a community college instructor from Hot Springs, announced earlier this year she was running.

The American Red Cross has closed an emergency shelter in Caraway that was opened following a Halloween night tornado.

Authorities say there were no injuries or deaths as a result of the tornado that was rated an EF1 with winds between 86 mph and 110 mph.

Mobile units from the Northeast Arkansas Chapter of the Red Cross in Jonesboro and emergency trucks from the Mid-South Chapter in Memphis, Tenn., and the Southeast Missouri Chapter in Cape Girardeau, Mo., were sent to the town.

The Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs is preparing to embark on a $7.8 million renovation that will update exhibits and give the facility a skywalk that extends into a forest canopy on the grounds.

The museum said Tuesday that the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and the Oaklawn Foundation are providing the money.

Construction is to begin during the summer with the skywalk. In the fall of next year, the museum will close for six months to complete work inside the building and install new exhibits. The project has a March 1, 2015, completion date target.

Arkansas education officials say the terms of its waiver to vary from the federal No Child Left Behind law are too strict in student achievement and teacher placement.

Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said Monday that if the state is to renew its waiver agreement, the state will have to show it has highly effective teachers in each classroom.

The state would also have to bring almost all students up to grade level in math and literacy by the end of the school year.

The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado was responsible for some of the storm damage in northeast Arkansas.

No one was hurt in the rough weather in Caraway on Halloween night but some structures had roofs pulled off and windows broken from the high winds.

Jonesboro television station KAIT reports that the tornado was rated an EF-1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning it had winds of between 86 mph. and 110 mph.

Authorities say damage was reported in the Craighead County towns of Caraway and Monette after the storms hit Thursday night.

A woman from southwestern Arkansas survived a night tangled in barbed wire after her car went off a road in Little River County and hit a tree.

Authorities say 75-year-old Nina Hinton was taken to a hospital for non-life threatening injuries Thursday after two people who live nearby heard her calls for help. She had been trapped for about 12 hours.

Hinton left a church service Wednesday night and became disoriented in the darkness, which Little River County sheriff's Sgt. Tim Brown said led to the accident.

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor says he will hold up a Department of Defense nominee until Arkansas State University gets answers about the Army's decision to close the school's ROTC program.

Pryor said in a news release on Friday that the Army has not provided justification for its decision on ASU's ROTC program. Pryor says the program at ASU is successful and that he will fight to keep it open.

The Army announced in October that ASU's ROTC program would be discontinued at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

Investigators have cited the state-run veterans home in Fayetteville for its third violation this year, alleging a worker didn't care for a patient's wound properly.

The state Office of Long Term Care said that, when the wound's dressing was changed twice daily, skin would tear and the patient would bleed. Improper care lasted for several days until the treatment method was changed, according to the agency.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper reported Thursday that the patient filed a complaint.

Arkansas Department of Correction

The Arkansas Supreme Court says a lower court erred when it dismissed a petition from an inmate condemned to die for the rape and murder of a shopping mall security guard.

A Pulaski County jury in 1999 convicted Andrew Engram in the death of Laurie White, who worked at a North Little Rock mall.

The state's highest court on Thursday sided with Engram's lawyers, who asked justices to send his case back to a lower court for a hearing on whether he had good cause to file a petition after a deadline to do so had passed.

A Little Rock banking executive and a retired Army colonel from Conway say they're running for the central Arkansas congressional seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin.

Delta Trust & Banking Corp. Founder French Hill and retired Col. Conrad Reynolds announced Tuesday they're seeking the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District next year.

They're the first Republican candidates to announce since Griffin said last week he wouldn't seek a third term.

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