Villaraigosa and Los Angeles Schools Are at It Again!

Written by Patricia Hawke for

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles schools have had several run-ins over the past couple of years. Villaraigosa has been trying to gain control over the Los Angeles public schools through both the legislature and the courts. Thus far, his efforts have been only marginally successful, having been given some control at the end of last summer.          ```````
This latest drama has at its center a high school student called Zoner. This creative lad, who attends Santee High School, decorated a bus with graffiti in early March of this year. Unfortunately for Zoner, the mayor and Los Angeles schools Superintendent David Brewer were riding on the bus.
Villaraigosa’s solution to the situation was that the boy needed mentoring — his mentoring. The mayor proceeded to apply to the Los Angeles schools as a mentor for Zoner.
The Los Angeles schools has a set procedure for potential mentors. They must first complete a one-page application. Then, they must submit to a tuberculosis test and fingerprinting. Finally, they are interviewed by the principal at the school in which they wish to mentor. The entire process can take up to a month to complete.
There currently are 2,000 mentors within the Los Angeles schools, offering a diverse background and experience to the students. Santee High School already has 40-50 mentors on campus at any given week. Movie stars and celebrities give drama and dance lessons. Financial gurus teach students about financial planning and business. Health professionals focus on nutrition and fitness. They have all followed the mentor application process with very little complaint.
Though it is obvious that the procedures have been created for the protection of the children, Villaraigosa has been very vocal about what he sees as jumping through too many hoops. He has publicly accused the Los Angeles schools of rejecting outside help, saying that the extensive procedures are more proof that the Los Angeles schools impede even the best intentions. In his frustration, the mayor has said they are doing everything possible to refuse his assistance with Zoner.
Santee Principal Vince Carbino and his supervisors at the Los Angeles schools, said the mayor must follow the same process as all the other mentor applicants. Carbino further stated that it is his responsibility to deal with Zoner by assisting him with any problems, educating him and focusing on behavioral change in order to ensure the teen graduates and is successful in life. It also is his responsibility to ensure the safety of all students in every area of their school life, including mentors. What Villaraigosa sees as politics, Carbino sees as simply protecting his students.
Additionally, Carbino stated that before the Los Angeles schools can approve the mayor as a mentor to Zoner, the boy must first work with the school’s psychiatric social worker for several weeks. Then, the student and his family would decide if they want Villaraigosa’s mentoring. He just cannot insinuate himself into Zoner’s life without regard to the boy’s feelings or his family’s wishes.
Los Angeles schools’ director of School Volunteer Program is Susan Snelgrove. She has offered to fast track the mayor’s application, but she was adamant that he must follow the same procedures as everyone else.
What do Zoner’s classmates think about the whole drama? They were not too thrilled about the mayor interfering with a student. They said he could do more good by focusing on making their neighborhoods safer and cleaner.
Click here for more information on Los Angeles Schools.