A former Washington School District student and aspiring musician filmed a rap video in the high school last month after receiving permission from a school administrator and board member, though the superintendent and several other school board members said they didn’t know school property was being used.
The high school’s gymnasium, hallways and Prexies logo are prominently featured in the by Zane “Z Breez” Zebrasky that was shot while the school was closed over the Easter holiday weekend and later uploaded on YouTube and other social media platforms.
Zebrasky, who is a son of Washington Park Elementary School Principal Kelley Zebrasky, graduated from Canon-McMillan High School in 2008 after transferring from Washington before his freshman year.
Wiley Abbas, the video’s director and a 2008 Washington graduate, said the crew received permission from at least two school officials and were escorted around the building during the April 19 shoot. Abbas, now living in New York City to pursue a career in film directing, said he wanted to return to Washington to highlight the high school in a video.
“I haven’t heard of any complaints about the video,” Abbas said. “The reason we shot there was to showcase where we grew up and how the school has changed for the better. This was the first time returning to Wash High since graduation, and it was a special one being able to showcase Zane’s talents.”
He said they’re pleased with the response and pointed to the nearly 3,000 page views on YouTube since he uploaded there April 27.
“The video has gotten very good feedback online,” he said.
However, several school board members said they were unaware of the video and there was never a vote to permit the former students to use the high school as a backdrop.
School Director Marsha Pleta said the crew, all of whom are former Washington students, asked her and Richard Mancini, the district’s director of facility operations, for permission April 18 and were granted approval to shoot the following day. The crew received a key from district officials and was escorted by Pleta’s husband during the shoot.
“I don’t know what the big deal is. I don’t know why someone is trying to make this into something bigger,” Pleta said. “The administration makes the decisions, and they were given permission. It wasn’t meant to be a commercial … and it wasn’t meant to be an endorsement by the district.”
She admitted someone should have reviewed the crew’s plans for the video before allowing the production in the school.
District Superintendent Roberta DiLorenzo did not take exception with the way the situation was handled, even though she was not aware of the video until last week.
“The procedures may have been relaxed, but they did receive approval,” she said.
She stressed the school district’s approval does not mean it endorses the video, but it was an opportunity to help the former students with their music and production careers.
DiLorenzo understood if some in the community don’t approve of the rap video, which does not have vulgar language but features Zebrasky holding his crotch multiple times in the basketball gymnasium and in front of a Prexies logo.
“It’s a mild video as rap goes, but I can understand why some people don’t want to see that,” DiLorenzo said. “For the young people today, that’s what they do. That’s rap music.”
The full school board did not need to approve the request, she said, because it falls under the administration’s discretion on use of a facility. However, larger productions, such as two wrestling movies filmed at the high school in recent years, needed the board’s approval because of the scale of their operations, DiLorenzo said.
At the board meeting yesterday evening, DiLorenzo briefly broached the subject and said the administration will revisit and review their procedures for accepting requests to use school property.
Several board members said they knew nothing of the video. School Director William Braun Jr. said he watched the video only after learning about it via local media.
“It wasn’t a derogatory video in my opinion,” Braun Jr. said at yesterday’s meeting. He said the school board had not been briefed about the situation before the board meeting, and he wishes the board would have received more information on the subject.