Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel went to the campus of a charter high school in rival Eric Garcetti’s City Council district Wednesday to argue that Garcetti would do little, if he is elected mayor, to help reform Los Angeles’s schools.
In retrospect, Greuel might have wanted her staff to do a little better advance work, because Garcetti is well liked at the school — Camino Nuevo Charter Academy — which he helped get a $700,000 grant to help build a new soccer field.
“It was odd that Camino Nuevo would get caught up in negative campaigning on a site that Councilman Garcetti supported in securing that soccer field,” said Ana Ponce, CEO of the school, which educates students from preschool through 12th grade at several campuses.
Ponce said that Los Angeles Unified School Board member Monica Garcia contacted her school Tuesday about a site visit and tour. Garcia said she would be visiting along with Greuel, the city controller who will face Garcetti in a May 21 runoff election.
On Wednesday, Ponce said she was told that Greuel would also use the visit for a campaign event.
The school’s chief executive said she didn’t object but was disappointed when she later learned that Greuel had used the visit to attack Garcetti as a politician who would not be independent from the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the union supporting his bid for mayor.
“Camino Nuevo should not be used for any negative campaigning,” Ponce said. “We worked really hard to get where we are, in partnership with a number of elected officials. It was disappointing to have Camino Nuevo used as a backdrop for negative campaigning.”
Greuel said: "While I respect the principal's relationship with Mr. Garcetti, as a parent of an LAUSD child, I'm not going to back down when it comes to reforming our schools or calling Eric out when he flip-flops on issues critically important to student achievement and parent empowerment."
Ponce said that a $700,000 federal Community Development Block Grant — delivered after a council motion by Garcetti — was critical in the construction of the soccer field.
After opening in October 2010, she said, the field “really revived the community and brought together a whole bunch of stakeholder groups and constituents.”
Ponce said that she and other school officials are not officially supporting anyone in the mayor’s race.
The episode at the school, located near Silver Lake Boulevard and the 101 Freeway in historic Filipinotown, came a day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa challenged the two candidates to talk more about education.
Garcetti promptly challenged Greuel on Tuesday evening to a debate on education issues. Greuel replied on Wednesday, saying the debate should take place two hours later, during her campaign stop at Camino Nuevo.
That put the proposed debate at the same time as Garcetti’s only campaign event of the day — a rally with three defeated mayoral candidates who now support him.
Garcetti called Greuel’s proposed instant-debate a “silly stunt.”
The two are scheduled to face off in the first debate of the mayoral runoff Thursday night at 7 at American Jewish University in the Sepulveda Pass. KABC-TV Channel 7 plans to broadcast the debate live.