By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Instead, Carbino made the course changes unilaterally, say faculty members, then left teachers and students to deal with the results. “I know one girl who got switched out of the one class she needed to graduate,” says a student who would identify himself only as Brad.
It also meant that teachers who spent weeks preparing course outlines, lesson plans and instructional goals were suddenly expected to teach a course for which they had not prepared. Advanced Placement instructors, who, for each course, must get a detailed syllabus approved by the California state college board in order to qualify for Advanced Placement status, were particularly infuriated.
One group of students, most of them Advanced Placement kids, decided to talk directly to principal Carbino — and that’s when things really started to go downhill, according to teachers Anthony Marenco and Lara. According to students, after they arrived at his office recently and requested a conference, Carbino would not meet with them and informed them that if they didn’t leave, he’d suspend them or have them arrested.
Other students say that when confronted by parents, Carbino announced that he made the changes because Santee’s AP students simply weren’t up to doing the college-prep work. “He says he went through our files and that our writing wasn’t skillful enough for AP English,” says 12th-grader Beatriz Rafael.
A cluster of very upset 11th- and 12th-graders approached Marenco, one of the school’s most popular AP teachers, and told him about their encounter with Carbino. Marenco says he assumed the students somehow mishandled the meeting with Carbino, and suggested they view the incident as a learning exercise. On Friday, August 3, Marenco agreed to help the group approach the principal again — using techniques of “persuasive speech” and creative “conflict resolution.”
It didn’t work. According to Marenco and some of the flabbergasted students, Carbino ordered the AP teacher escorted off school grounds by a campus police officer. “I honestly couldn’t believe it,” says the seemingly mild-mannered Marenco. “The officer was really apologetic. He made a point of shaking my hand.”
The Marenco incident became a flash point. “It was the spark for us to organize,” says 16-year-old Carina Palacios, who hopes to get into UC Irvine like her two sisters. “We felt like, this man doesn’t have respect for anybody.”
This isn’t the first time Carbino has had problems at a school. He also worked at Belvedere Middle School, where he alienated some faculty. “He’d go after people and criticize them publicly,” says former Belvedere teacher Craig Knapp. “His way of handling differences in opinion was that everyone else is wrong and he’s correct.” He claims that Carbino was transferred out after six months, in a deal brokered between former schools Superintendent Romer and UTLA.
That’s when he arrived at Santee. A former cop, Carbino was purportedly brought in to stop the on-campus violence that had wreaked havoc at the new school. He did so, allege some teachers, primarily by transferring several hundred problem students to other schools. Carbino was publicly lauded for reducing the violence by Los Angeles City Council Member Jan Perry and civil rights lawyer Connie Rice. But now, Rice says, “You can have someone who is good at turnaround and not good at leadership.”
Teachers at Santee allege that while Carbino’s tough-guy approach may have been useful initially in getting the troublemaking students out of the school, it has backfired.
“But see, the district looks the other ?way, because all it wants from Carbino is to keep the school out of the headlines,” says Steve Bachrach, once a teacher at Jefferson High School, now principal of Green Dot’s high-scoring Animo Film and Theatre Arts Charter High School. “Every week, I get calls from Santee teachers looking for a job,” says Bachrach. “All of them tell me they want to leave because of this strange stuff Carbino ?is doing.”
UTLA second-in-command Linda Guthrie puts it in harsher terms. With Carbino, says Guthrie, the district simply transferred a problematic principal to a different school — a common practice. As for the switched classes and wrong books, she says flatly, “It’s incompetence. But what makes me the most crazy is how he’s treated students. When kids come to talk to him about their concerns for their classes, instead of rewarding them for acting responsibly, he threatens to punish them? He’s just being a bully.”
Matters further escalated on August 7, when about 50 parents, teachers and students showed up at an unrelated meeting Carbino was holding with a small group of parents in the auditorium. When the group of parents, teachers and students began demanding answers, he radioed for campus police officers and walked out of the building.
Furious, two dozen AP students on August 13 drafted a formal letter requesting Carbino’s resignation, reading it aloud at a school planning meeting that Carbino was expected to attend. Carbino abruptly left the meeting, saying he had a conflicting appointment, when 18 students and some of their parents filed into the room.
Now the school’s teachers say they are also gearing up for action. On August 13, after the student presentation, faculty members stayed to speak privately about the principal, telling stories of a man who, they said, gets his way through threats or withering public criticism. “For instance, if he doesn’t like you, he’ll order regular police searches of your classroom,” alleges teacher Jose Lara.