The Edge

School Czar Seeks Commission Seat

American Psycho
Testy! Add Cleveland public schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to the growing list of educators who'd like to deep-six the state proficiency tests. "They are biased and ill-conceived," she told a meeting of the local NAACP last week, insisting they leave "deep and perennial scars" on children. Byrd-Bennett has started raising hell in Columbus, where the commission appointed by Governor Bob Taft to review the tests reportedly will not include anyone from Cleveland, which has 20 percent of the state's students. "I've been very vocal with the governor," she said, threatening to crash the commission meetings herself. Nor did Byrd-Bennett rule out the possibility of simply refusing to administer the tests. "We've been thinking about that," she confided. It would be a risky move, inviting retaliatory cuts in state funding. But, she warned, "I've been known to be impulsive."

Sharpening its claws for another catfight with the White administration, city council has retained legal heavyweight Barbara Marburger of Walter & Haverfield to dissect the civil service snafu. "I can't comment," she says. No comment needed: Marburger spent 11 years working for the city, including a three-year stint as employment section chief, and offers a killer combination of insider knowledge and employment law expertise. Chances are, Marburger's name won't be mentioned in upcoming council hearings on the civil service mess. But when the long knives come out, it will be clear who sharpened them.

Most frightening statistics from the new survey of Ohio nurses: 70 percent say hospital staffing is inadequate, 40 percent are "frightened for their patients," and 50 percent would not want a friend or relative treated in their facility. Instead of hiring and training more nurses, hospitals are spending their money, according to the survey, on infrastructure, executive compensation, and marketing. "We would like a more rigorous, scientific study done," cautions Pat Divoky, head of the Greater Cleveland Nurses Association, who says the survey had a low return rate. But Ken Kirkpatrick, a 27-year nursing veteran who works critical care at St. Vincent and MetroHealth, says the survey "rang true to a staff nurse who's there every day. It did not seem exaggerated at all." With less staff and more demands, Kirpatrick wonders, "How far can you stretch the rubber band?" Ask the folks who used to work at Mt. Sinai.

Best anonymous item in the mailbag last week: A photocopy of a City of Cleveland check for $720, made out to the Mayor Michael White Campaign Committee. A sneaky way of siphoning off city funds for nefarious political purposes? Not at all, according to new mayoral press flak Brian Rothenberg, who says the money was simply a reimbursement for "an overpayment the mayor made on his city car." White pays $30 a month for "extras" in his city-provided car, according to Rothenberg, who could not say exactly what those extras are. Nor could Rothenberg explain why the mayor's campaign committee, rather than the mayor himself, was due reimbursement. Then, to confuse matters further, Rothenberg called back to say that the $720 wasn't for overpaid extras after all, but for the mayor's mileage expenses between home and City Hall. Which means either White is commuting from his Newcomerstown villa . . . or Rothenberg needs to take the math portion of those pesky proficiency tests.

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