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Kill the Principal?

There's gotta be a better way to earn street cred.

When you're a rural rapper, street cred is hard to come by. But Kevin Beebe might want to find a different way to promote himself.

On February 27, Beebe put copies of his unnamed CD on the windshield of cars at Jefferson High School, which was clever enough. Unfortunately, some of the lyrics suggested killing Principal Tom Harrison and Jefferson Police Chief Steve Febel, among others, causing officials to lock down the school. Beebe, aka "Smoke," was charged in an Ashtabula court with aggravated menacing and inducing panic.

Maybe if the cuts were hot, Febel would have given him a pass. "I'm an old-timer," says the chief. "I don't listen to anything that mentions crack cocaine, degrading women, or killing people." In other words, he hasn't turned on a radio since 1958.

Harrison isn't a hip-hop fan either; he prefers Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, and Creed. And neither man enjoyed being threatened.

Everybody's a critic.

At least Beebe will get to spend some requisite time in the pokey, like all great hip-hoppers. But there has to be a better way to self-promote.

"Well, there is always the flier route," says Gerald "EQ" Robinson, a Cleveland producer and promoter. "Giving the CD away -- that's hot. But when you start talking about killing people on your product, that's not cool."

Is there anyone Beebe should call, the next time he mounts a campaign? "Well, there are a lot of local street promoters," Robinson says. "But with lyrics like that, maybe a lawyer would be the best call."

All the President's men
FirstEnergy President Anthony Alexander has raised more than $100,000 for President George W. Bush's reelection campaign, continuing his company's tradition of investing in friendly politicians rather than power lines.

Alexander is one of several Ohioans lavishing gold on Dubya. Ten Buckeyes earned "Ranger" status by raising $200,000 or more, while 15 achieved the coveted "Pioneer" designation by raising at least $100,000. Presumably they sold a lot of Thin Mints.

Among the top Bush-loving Buckeyes: Timken CEO W.R. Timken raised $600,000 at an Akron fund-raiser -- a few months before he laid off 700 workers, thanks to Bush's jobless recovery. And Walden O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Corporation, maker of easily rigged voting machines, raised more than $100,000.

All hat, no cowboy
Back when Cleveland schools were stuck with a 25 percent graduation rate, competition from charter schools was billed as a way to force public education to improve. But if the state's largest charter operator is any indication, the experiment has led to even lower standards.

White Hat Management was founded by David Brennan, an Akron industrialist and major contributor to the Ohio Republican Party. His company operates 28 schools in Ohio, including 16 high schools called Life Skills Academies. Among Life Skill's 225 teachers, 52.4 percent have Long-Term Substitute licenses, the lowest form of certification.

"A substitute teacher is supposed to be there in place of the regular teacher," says Department of Education spokeswoman Marilyn Braatz. "Many districts, if they can't find teachers to do full-time jobs, they use long-term substitutes to teach a class. Technically, that is not according to the standards."

Company-wide, 32 percent of White Hat's 451 teachers use substitute licenses. They have bachelor's degrees, but no previous teaching experience and little if any formal training. "Wow," says Rich DeColibus, president of the Cleveland Teachers Union. "If some school in the Cleveland district had less than 80 percent of the teachers being standard-licensed, we'd go ballistic on them. Substitutes . . . have absolutely no background in the subjects they're teaching."

To White Hat, low training is less important than teachers' attitudes toward students. "We are much more concerned about having people who are concerned that these people succeed," says White Hat President Mark Thimmig.

Still, White Hat remains an educational amateur hour. In the Cleveland Heights/University Heights district, 75 percent of the teachers hold standard licenses. The rest have master's degrees and are studying to get fully licensed; none holds a substitute license. In Shaker Heights, 97 percent of teachers have standard licenses.

And in the dreaded Cleveland district? A whopping 99 percent of teachers are fully licensed.

The lighter side of darkness
Great Lakes Brewing Company has a tradition of turning North Coast tragedy into tasty beverages, as it's done with Edmund Fitzgerald Porter and Burning River Pale Ale. Now it's commemorating the greatest error in U.S. utility history -- FirstEnergy's August blackout -- with one of its most potent brewskies yet: Blackout Stout.

The beer's label features a veritable Norman Rockwell image of neighbors reveling by candlelight on a quintessentially West Side porch. "What did people really do during the blackout anyway?" asks spokeswoman Kami Dolney. "They partied on their porch."

With a knee-buckling 9 percent alcohol, it makes the perfect provision for the next time FirstEnergy leaves you without refrigeration. But it also appears to be honoring FirstEnergy's legacy of inexplicably high prices: a four-pack costs $8.99.

Hate mail of the week
"You liberal faggot. I hope your black boy friend hits you in the head with your ultra large anal dildo. All that crap you spew from your mouth must be from your man pushing it way to far up there. Die of AIDS Please!"

-- Sent anonymously in response to "The Enemy Within," March 3, by Pete Kotz

I want my gov
What better time than election year to nurture America's civic-minded youth?

So went the thinking that led to "Choose or Lose/20 Million Loud," a political awareness campaign created by MTV and Cox Communications. It includes a search for "Cox/MTV News correspondents." Regional winners get to cover politics for local Cox channels. MTV also has rights to air the reports -- provided it wants to step up coverage of the Seven Hills City Council.

Ah, but the lure of cable-access stardom wasn't enough to pack recent auditions at Parmatown Mall. "Even if someone wasn't interested in politics, I thought the MTV brand alone would encourage people to come up and audition," says Cox spokeswoman Vickie Yakunin. "That just wasn't the case."

In addition to an on-camera news-reading tryout, contestants were subjected to a brief quiz. Results were less than encouraging: Out of 35 entrants, 3 correctly named the governor of Ohio. "And I'm almost certain that the only reason they knew it was because they heard the person before them, or they heard me say the answer," Yakunin says. (Most thought Dennis Kucinich was governor.) "I wish I could make a bloopers reel."

She may get another chance: Twenty contestants advanced to the next round, apparently based on criteria other than aptitude. Of them, 10 finalists will be submitted to MTV, with a Cleveland winner selected in early April.

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