How to bring discipline back to Cleveland schools is a question that's long perplexed the district's deepest thinkers — mainly because they're first committed to figuring out how Papa John's gets the cheese inside stuffed-crust pizza.
Yet some rural Ohio districts believe they've held the answer for years: Smack 'em till they listen. At least 17 districts — including Barberton, Canton, and Mogadore — still employ corporal punishment to ensure obedience.
"When it's done correctly, it was a good deterrent," says Matthew McCorkle, former elementary principal in Scioto County. "At least it was an option to suspensions."
But two state lawmakers are trying to retire Mr. Splinters for good. A bill proposed by state Representatives Brian Williams and Jon Peterson would make the practice illegal in Ohio.
"There are a number of instances where children are bruised physically, and I'm sure some kids are bruised mentally by being paddled," says Williams. "I just don't believe that hitting somebody with a paddle is effective."
Yet McCorkle says spanking a kid here and there isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. At Bloom-Vernon Elementary, parents gave permission before their kids got whacked, and no child ever got more than three smacks per day. "We didn't just grab a kid and paddle him without asking," says McCorkle. "I had kids where their parents were like, 'Yes, paddle them. I do not want them coming home and goofing off here.'"
Alas, it now looks like parents are just going to have to suck it up and beat the kids themselves again.
Barry the Steer
The Junior Livestock Auction has long been a main attraction at the Geauga County Fair, where kids lovingly pump animals to Shaq-size extremes. The champions are then auctioned for slaughter and often sell for thousands of dollars. It's all a rural rite of passage, a way for farm kids to learn about truly American things like death, money, and the price of steak.
Yet the owner of this year's champion steer seems to have taken a page from Major League Baseball: If you can't win honestly, well, that's why God invented pharmaceuticals.
After a three-month investigation, the Ohio Department of Agriculture revealed that the 1,335-pound champ has tested positive for steroids. Its 17-year-old owner, Clark Adams of Huntsburg, will be stripped of his title and, more important, the seven grand the beast sold for at auction.
The revelation calls into question the dominance of the Adams family, who have become the Steinbrenners of the Junior Auction. Clark, his mother, Dona, and his father, John, have won the competition the last three years. So when the latest test proved positive, they naturally took a cue from baseball and blamed Some Other Guy.
John Adams said a groomer recommended a drug — supposedly the equivalent of ibuprofen — to combat swelling. But the ODA (important fact: It's not run by Bud Selig) wasn't buying. "If there was any kind of drug use, it needed to be disclosed before that animal was exhibited," says spokeswoman Melissa Brewer. "The bottom line is that we have this policy set up so the shows are fair for all exhibitors."
The steer is now negotiating a seven-year deal to play left field for the San Francisco Giants.
Frank Wants Jack
If you're thrilled with the visionary leadership of Mayor Frank Jackson, it may have been wise to drop by the Public Square offices of lawyer Stephen Zashin on Wednesday, when you could have showed your appreciation with a $500 donation — the requested contribution for the mayor's latest fund-raiser.
What goes down at such events is anyone's guess. We presume there's lots of genuflecting — maybe some Jell-O shots? — but Zashin's office dodged our questions. We did catch up with Scott Finerman, treasurer of Frank Jackson for a Better Cleveland. But he couldn't do much better, saying only that it's not unusual for a mayor to raise extra scratch for "activities he may be asked to support . . . He's raising money for those."
What activities have awakened Mayor Van Winkle from his slumber of late? Not much, according to recent campaign-finance reports. Aside from a boatload of pricey cell-phone bills, it seems the only thing Mayor Frank has supported this year is the Cleveland Cavaliers, to whom he paid $3,000 for tickets.
(Point of order: What does it say about a mayor of a major American city who can't even mooch free basketball tickets?)
It also appears the mayor runs his own finances just like he runs the city's — by spending way more than he takes in. After collecting more than $1 million to punk Jane Campbell two years ago, Jackson raised just $10,950 in the first six months of 2007, while spending $23,000 in the same time period.
And, yes, since you asked, all but $950 of the contributions came from Forest City executives or their family members. Where did you say you wanted that convention center, Mr. Miller?
The Legend of Dewey Cox
Last week, Dewey Cox made his second-ever U.S. appearance, performing before 500 screaming fans at the Rock Hall.
Reporters standing outside the velvet ropes flashed cameras and shouted questions. When a young reporter tried to yell out a question, the rock star grabbed her notebook. "What's this?" he asked, perplexed.
"A notebook?" she responded.
"The only thing paper should be used for is my autograph," he said, signing his name in lavish curls across the page. "Go sell that on eBay. Make yourself a little money."
Cox, who looks suspiciously like actor John C. Reilly, stars in the new biopic Walk Hard, the tale of a music legend who's spent years on the road sleeping with exactly 411 women and fathering 22 kids.