Ethnically Balancing School Populations

I feel we need to do something about it but I probably won’t see it. I thought I was going to see that at one time when, you’ll recall, we went for a school bond and were talking about closing that school [Palo Verde]. They wanted to close East School and make it an administration office, not a school. Some board members disagreed with the superintendent [Dermody] and myself. I wanted people on the east side to have a better facility for the future. That way we can see the other side. We can see more involvement. People taking care on the east side.

I feel we didn’t do a good job in selling [the school bond] to the people. When it failed, I said to people, “I will tell you that, if this school [Palo Verde] remains open it will always be a minority school. You’re not going to have a chance to put together a new school.” We looked at other options, and the other option was to build Mesquite School. It wasn’t my choice. I feel people got a second hand house. They said, “Well, we get a remodeled school, a new school.” I said, “No! Mesquite is the new school. They will transfer the kids there for a couple of years while they remodel Palo Verde, and I will guarantee you that 3/4ths of the kids will be going back.” They said, “Well, we’ll like it.”

To this day, people tell me “You were right! We didn’t get what they said.” And I say, “But that’s what you wanted. Don’t complain about it.” But I believe something needs to change but how we’re going to change it? I would not know. If you look at the schools being built, Mesquite is the only school south of Florence Boulevard. No others have been built there and, before that, they weren’t building there. Everything was north of Florence. We need to get it distributed around the community. I still feel that way. We need to figure out a better way to gerrymander this minority school. Mrs. Underwood [the principal at Palo Verde] feels that they are doing a good job and I don’t say anything against that. That’s great! But I would like to see it more well balanced.

I stay involved with the school and I know and enjoy the families on the east side. During the holiday season I get so many tamales and cakes and everything! I enjoyed it. They became part of my family. I tell people, “I feel a lot safer on the east side than anywhere in the community. I could walk there at 2 or 3 o’clock at night without worrying about shootings or anything. I knew the people. I used to go early in the morning and get kids out of bed to be in school, walk with them or pick them up or whatever, and I used to breakfast with them. I never refused anything. And I did a lot to prove to kids that they needed that education.

Remember the canal? The canal was a pain in the neck for me. That canal—so many things could have happened. We were lucky that nobody got drowned in that area. I walked that canal three or four times a day to make sure my kids, when they were dismissed, didn’t play in the canal. It took us a while to get the City to cover the canal with the help of San Carlos [Irrigation.] It really helped. Len Colla was involved. We got that done.