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School Daze 

So this is what they mean by fiscal responsibility.

It doesn't take a scholar to understand that the International Preparatory School is utterly failing its students. Cleveland's largest charter school owns a striking history of neglecting kids while simultaneously torching millions in tax dollars ["Dream Killer," July 27].

But TIPS has found a staunch defender in Jamie Callender -- the former Republican state rep from Willowick, who chaired the committee that governed charter schools.

Last week, Callender, now serving as TIPS' lawyer after being bounced from office by term limits, got a restraining order to halt a vote on closing the school.

It's a brilliant scam. Callender helped draft the moronically written charter laws -- which consist of "Hey, anyone want some free money to play school?" -- that allowed TIPS' dreadful performance to go unnoticed for six years. Then Scene's story got the attention of legislators, and all hell broke loose. Now Callender's using his own shoddy craftsmanship to argue that the laws don't adequately protect a school's right to suck and waste money.

This, friends, is how a smart man earns in Ohio.

"He's representing the management team that failed, and we have not been able to follow the money," says state Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). "It's not defensible what he's doing. Now he's reaping the financial benefit of defending failure, against the bill that he voted for. This school is the poster child of what's wrong with our charter school system in the state of Ohio."

Welcome to the Party of Fiscal Responsibility, Ohio Edition.

Hire education, Part II
Speaking of weirdness, Akron school-board member Loretta Haugh is having her own Jamie Callender moment.

Haugh was recently hired as the director of special projects for Summit Academy Management, which oversees 27 charter schools in Ohio, including three in the Akron-Canton area that just happen to compete with Akron public schools for students and tax dollars.

After being blitzed by calls from pissed-off parents, the remaining board members unanimously asked Haugh to resign. "I think that most clear-thinking school board members would know better," says member Linda Kersker. "She has an obligation to the public schools, an undivided loyalty. The charter school is a competitor, and she can't serve both interests."

But Haugh has no intention of removing herself from the board. She claimed that her job wasn't a conflict, but merely a continuation of her work to serve disenfranchised students. Which is Norwegian for "Christ, you think I'm gonna pass up a payday?"

The matter is now going to the Ohio Ethics Commission, which is expected to issue an incomprehensible ruling soon.

Northern Ohio leave?
Northern Ohio Live staffers celebrated 25 years of publishing last month with a banquet at the State Theatre. Then they cleaned out their desks.

Three editors left in the wake of the festivities, including top editor Kathryn DeLong. This, experts say, is not a textbook method for maintaining momentum.

According to one source still with the mag, Live's bedrock traditions of low pay and lower morale have exacted their toll once again. Even the banquet drew internal sniping for being poorly organized.

"Probably the timing was pretty good," counters Publisher Steve Casey. "It's a good opportunity for the three people that are leaving to kind of broaden their journalistic talents, and that's an exciting time for them. And it gives us an opportunity to do a few things too."

Live plans to honor its next anniversary by burning down its offices.

Regina Fulwood III
Poor Regina Brett. The Plain Dealer columnist just wasn't herself last Thursday. Instead of her usual razored performance as Songbird of the Matronly Class, she discoursed on Cleveland's problems, unpoetically pondered the obvious, then talked a lot about herself. It was as if she were channeling the spirit of Sam Fulwood.

Actually, it was Sam Fulwood. The PD's production team screwed up, placing Brett's smiling mug above Fulwood's column.

Brett chuckled it off in her column the next day, but there are few things more horrific than being mistaken for Fulwood, whose mere presence at the paper has reporters thinking: We gotta get us that bud the bosses are smoking.

Yet it did provide Brett a chance to contemplate the unthinkable: "What would it be like to be Sam Fulwood for a day?"

She wrote: "Cue the dream sequence music: I'd be driving around in my Beemer convertible, on my way to a poker game, thinking about me, me, me."

The previous sentence -- at least the "me, me, me" part -- also serves as Fulwood's abridged works for the last five years.

The PD goes street?
Just weeks after promoting Joanna Connors to write about pop culture -- which is akin to hiring Donald Rumsfeld to cover hip-hop -- The PD appears to be reversing course.

In a story last week about the romantic allure of Tribe center fielder Grady Sizemore, reporter Mike McIntyre quoted a leading expert on the phenomenon . . . a bartender at McCarthy's Ale House.

Under previous house rules, the story would have been spun as a "trend" piece about the growing number of hunkish center fielders on Midwest baseball teams -- 1 -- and McIntyre would be mandated to quote people with very long titles from Case.

But the paper is apparently now embracing that time-honored journalistic practice -- fondly advocated by Punch -- of simply making an expert out of anyone who happens to be at the bar, since it's way easier than real reporting, and you can get hammered at the same time.

It's called multitasking, boys and girls.

Yet McIntyre quickly dashed our thesis: "Unfortunately, it was working time. You can't mix the two. Beers are for after work."

As sources in the crosshairs often do, McIntyre quickly followed his candid comments with a backtracking e-mail. "I am insulted at your insinuation that I would drink a beer while working on deadline to produce a story," he wrote. "Anybody who knows me knows I'd never do that. I'd do a shot."

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