With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends?

By Ron Haley

Editor's note: Los Altos Patch runs opinion pieces when there are issues that attract wide public discussion. The following is from a parent of the Bullis Charter School, in light of the Los Altos School District's recent offer for facilities space to the school. Patch will run opinion pieces, as offered, expressing different views on the topic.

Over the weekend, while studying the latest Los Altos School District facilities offer, I had an epiphany. I realized that the LASD board members are really closet charter school supporters. The evidence for this is compelling—I'd just missed it. Let’s take a look!

With absolutely no demand for a charter school, LASD created that demand by closing the Bullis Purissima school, and then Superintendent Marge Gratiot recommended opening a charter school in its place. Voila—just like that BCS was formed!

Then, when BCS offered to take over the closed Bullis site and renovate it at its expense, LASD said "No, no no, save your money—we'll renovate it. And we aren't going to locate you there on the outskirts of the district; we'll put you right in the middle so you can draw from all over." So LASD went ahead and spent $14 million to renovate the Bullis site, and located BCS centrallyon the Egan campus.

Lastly, when BCS offered LASD $3 million to meet its Proposition 39 obligations, LASD again said "No! No! No! Keep your money. Just sue us." And they did!

LASD's genius here was to make their facilities offers so blatantly non-compliant that the court had no option but to find in favor of BCS.
So, thanks to the LASD board, here we are today, with a charter school boasting a huge waiting list, centrally located and drawing from all parts of the district, $17 million better off, and able to approach LASD each year for fair and equitable facilities at minimal cost to it for whatever student population it decides to enroll.

More of that same canny LASD genius is on display in the latest facilities offer. Another blatantly non-compliant offer—LASD knows what the courts will do with this—but this time with a twist! Currently there’s no consensus at BCS to expand beyond a single school. But by placing BCS on two sites, LASD is settling that argument once and for all. BCS parents will now fall in line behind an expansive, accept-every-applicant strategy. And what's more cost efficient than two schools? Three or more! Once again the LASD board shows its closet support for the charter by mandating its expansion to multiple sites!!

As someone who supports public school choice for all LASD students, I thank the board for theircontinuing efforts towards realizing this goal!!!

Ron Haley February 07, 2012 at 01:03 AM
And for those that aren't and can't afford private schools?
Just Mom February 07, 2012 at 01:13 AM
In this district Ron? Really? Why prior to Gardiner Bullis closing was there not a peep about lack of innovation? Lack of choice?
Ron Haley February 07, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Wow - you blast BCS because you claim it ignores disadvantaged students, but now suggest everyone can afford private schools! Which one is it?
Just Mom February 07, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Funny Ron according to BCS there are no disadvantaged kids living here. Certainly if there were BCS would have been reaching out to them right? And the question I asked Ron?
Joan J. Strong February 07, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Entities that act like private schools, in which they are run by unelected boards, perform "experimental" education, and have lavish extras such as trips around the world, should be private and should not receive public money. Public schools should be public, and should do the best they can to educate ALL children (except for ones with rich and/or the curious parents) with the money they have. Most people cannot afford the BCS "tuition" of $5000/year per student. BCS must have this money to pull off its lavish, private-school-like benefits such as the trips to Costa Rica to look at the turtles or forced Mandarin classes from Kindergarten. Without the $5000/year, BCS would have the same or worse programs as any other public school. And NO, the extra money the District gets from local taxes goes to all of the things that BCS does not have to pay for but the District does. So BCS, you see, is a kind of a pyramid scheme. Parents are drawn in by all of the lavish and amazing things they do with the understanding that the "tuition" is temporary--and that they can actually run the whole District even though only a fraction of parents could really pay this much. Once BCS gets to be more popular, and they need to let the "riffraff" who are not millionaires in, their "honor system" tuition will crumble as some not paying will cause others to not pay, and so on.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I wish that we could all stop ranting. I wonder if anyone else is posting right now, besides myself, ron and the many Aliases of David Cortright.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 04:14 AM
I am not sure. Quite a few district residents apply. It's about 1/3 of the total in coming kinders. Two schools certainly, three maybe.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Wow, I guess you don't know the same moms that I do. For years I have heard about the lack of a PACT school. Also I know that quite a few were interested in a science magnet. 
About 5 years ago there were some parents who were trying to start a Mandarin Duel Emersion School. I think some others were interested in the IB program. Quite a few schools run these types of programs as smaller schools which share a campus with a neighborhood school, but LASD declined to do so. I think it had something to do with the way that they staff.
Just Mom February 07, 2012 at 04:31 AM
No sorry I do not know the Mom's you do 2nd Gen. Why no action until the Gardiner Bullis closing? Why no vitrol towards the district until that time frame? Sorry, not buying it.
Joan J. Strong February 07, 2012 at 04:33 AM
That's right, every single one of these people here (myself included) are David Cortright. Did you hear that parents? YOU DO NOT EXIST. Yep, saying we don't even exist is a GREAT way to reach out to LASD parents... Is it any wonder BCS is so hated in this community? For the record, David Cortright has made his posting habits clear on his blog at http://kpao.org/ . He uses his real name. He always has. He has nothing to gain by using an alias as he has ALREADY been threatened with legal action by BCS so that ship has sailed. What's odd is that all of the BCS people here all have the same exact arguments they emit over and over: maybe they are ALL aliases of Courtenay Corrigan? Or maybe this "all anti-BCS posters on the Internet are David Cortright" thing is one of the talking points from your PR firm?
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:07 AM
I don't think most of are. There is always be room for improvement.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:12 AM
I didn't know that BCS claimed that. My kids went there a while back and there were some families who weren't that well off. Where can I find this information?
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Be Careful what you ask for. BCS could accept every in-district applicant. The district would then have to provide facilities for them. That could mean a second and third campus for the school. I think about 1/3 of the parents of incoming district kindergartners apply for a spot at BCS. So think about it - even if only half of them actually excepted a place, that would be 3 or 4 more kinder classes at BCS. They would need a second campus, and soon a third. The latest offer tries to contain them on the campus, I doubt that it has any possible chance of being accepted by the court. The court ruled that the district wasn't in compliance 3 years ago, when the BCS k-6 had less students than it does now. ( There wasn't a middle school at BCS then) 
The Trustees can try and keep them there, but the court still has to come up with a plan that gives BCS reasonably equivalent space. I believe that they owe them a bunch of playground and non-instructional space. I heard that LASD is offering the same exact amount of space as they did in 2009, so we know this offer is not going to fly. My theory is that the Trustees are going to let the court decide. Some of them are up for re-election this year and they don't want the coming mess ( It could be very bad ) to be blamed on them.
Just Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Better be careful Joan if you take away attention from the BCS and its supporters they might try to sue you. You know when all else fails it's what they do best. The more I learn about BCS and it's board the more motivated I become to get out there and make our voices heard.
Joan J. Strong February 07, 2012 at 09:19 AM
Our primary goal for this coming year should be to attack the BCS application numbers (or enrollment numbers as it's probably too late for apps). I am quite certain that if applying parents of BCS knew what was going on here they wouldn't apply and/or they certainly wouldn't enroll. So many parents I talk to about BCS are exactly like we once were--completely in the dark about all of this. Once they hear even a smattering of what is going on they immediately retreat to what is obviously an outstanding choice in our local public schools. So I think this is a "retail" operation. Hand out flyers at BCS info nights and make sure the truth is always displayed along side of any visible BCS materials in town. Call the local papers and TV stations to get them to do stories on us, etc. Remember that most BCS parents are NOT the "win-at-all-costs" types that define the BCS leadership and visible (noisy) community: most are just parents who thought they were going to a "school". Many parents pull their kids out of BCS when they find out and we should obviously encourage that. Beyond info nights, we should be handing out flyers anywhere LASD parents might be found. For materials, see: http://bullisCharterScam.org/bullis_charter_materials.php Or make your own. Finally, I urge people not to "compromise" with BCS as they are a "winner-take-all" bunch and they will CERTAINLY never, ever compromise with us. This school needs to be shut down.
Bill February 07, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Follow my lead here as this may sound like splitting hairs, but the subtle difference could make a difference. BCS claims to have x amount of applications thereby justifying its need for more space. Why not put that to the test? BCS should agree to a limited "reasonably equivalent" facility, for a mutually agreed upon sized school (500 kids?). Then default all LASD students into a prioritized lottery (or require people to opt out of it). Once the name is picked, the tour (or other requirements in application process) would be a condition of ENROLLMENT, not application. In the current system, applications are treated as a free call option. BCS is using this to fuel the growth plan. Anybody can fill out an app or take a tour, but If the applicants and BCS have their feet held to the fire, there would be a much clearer picture of demand. Demand which BCS does not necessarily need to completely fill at the cost of other sites.
Ron Haley February 07, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Bill, There is already a mechanism in place to ensure that BCS doesn't ask for excess facilities. If they do, and LASD provides them, then BCS has to pay a substantial fine on any overage.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Charter Boards are a version of School Site Management - it's been around a long time and it's nothing new. All charter schools in California answer to an elected Board. It works the same way for School Site Management.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Here is a link to a much more interesting and better crafted story: Second Posting on the page. http://www.mv-voice.com/square/index.php?i=3&d=&t=4090
Just Mom February 07, 2012 at 05:48 PM
LA Mom, who elects the BCS board? How often are elections held? Where is the transparency for the general public? Why when anyone questions this are they dismissed without a solid answer?
Ron Haley February 07, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Just Mom, Like most non-profits, new BCS board members are elected by the board. It happens in a public forum. I'm not sure of the frequency of elections. Based on how well the BCS board works compared to the LASD board, it's a pity that each LASD campus can't do the same.
Joan J. Strong February 07, 2012 at 06:13 PM
...a "substantial fine" that is, which will mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to these billionaires... Cost is no object here, and it never has been. The BCS founders could pull the money to buy a new campus out of their back pockets and end this war in a day. But they won't. The fight is more important. Winning is more important.
Ron Haley February 07, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Perhaps BCS should run with the slogan "Become a billionaire - send your kids to BCS"
Joan J. Strong February 07, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Yeah why not, it would be about as truthful as all of the rest of the BCS marketing materials...
Jeff F February 07, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Ron, please provide some solid proof to back up your cynical (and it is until proven) view that the LASD board is corrupt yet the BCS board is not. Until then they are just unhelpful words directed towards the board members that does nothing to move the dialogue along. To be fair, claiming the BCS board is a bunch of resentful billionaires doesn't help as well, though the resentment does show through their favoring of litigation over dialogue. Also, to add to the list of unanswered questions: Why would BCS use application numbers as a justification of its success and reason for expansion? What we really need to look at are enrollment and retainment stats between the grade levels. The fact that a lot of people apply doesn't mean much when anyone in the county can apply. Where are they applying from and for what grades? We live in a highly educated town full of parents that would do anything for the best education of their kids. When told of a school that claims to be superior than our existing superior district schools, of course a large number of people are going to apply on the chance that the marginal improvement is real. It doesn't mean the school is any better.
Second Gen LA Mom February 07, 2012 at 09:40 PM
I don't know if they are corrupt. But they made some very costly choices.
Just Mom February 07, 2012 at 09:46 PM
As did the BCS board.
LA parent February 08, 2012 at 08:36 AM
Hey Ron - I asked you a few questions up above that no one from BCS seems willing or able to answer. I'd love your thoughts! While you're at it, I see that you are describing BCS as "like most non-profits." I can be a bit slow, so I need some help there, too. Can you name some other non-profits that are seeking to evict kids from their neighborhood schools in order to claim those schools for the non-profits' own use? That doesn't seem "like most non-profits" that I know.
LA parent February 08, 2012 at 08:44 AM
What is not compliant about the current offer, bikerchick? I understand that it is not what BCS wants, but that is a different issue. And before you direct me there, yes, I have read the offer and the appellate decision.
LA parent February 08, 2012 at 08:49 AM
Hey Ron - Sorry, one more question. If BCS took all of the money that it and its foundation spend each year on lawyers, consultants, PR firms and survey firms, and instead spent that money on acquiring its own campus, what kind of campus could it afford? I know BCS has no obligation to do this, but we're apparently comparing BCS to "most non-profits." In my experience, a lot of non-profits use their resources to support their charitable mission rather than litigation. I'm just wondering how far that comparison goes.


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