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UPDATE: Bullis Charter School Chairman Says They'll Appeal After Losing Suit Over 2012-13 Facilities

A Superior Court judge ruled against all three contentions in BCS' petition, and in an earlier ruling before the Thanksgiving holiday, sanctioning BCS $51,000 for non-compliance with the Discovery Act.

 

Bullis Charter School President Ken Moore said his organization would appeal a court ruling that the school cannot compel the Los Altos School District to use its enrollment projections to calculate its 2012-13 facilities offer, and denied the school's petition in two other matters.

In a ruling dated Nov. 21, and received by the parties Monday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Lucas denied the charter school’s petition for a writ of mandate to compel actions on three matters, including the enrollment projections.

“We are pleased that Judge Lucas recognized the legal authority of the elected Los Altos School Board and its responsibility to balance the needs of all the members of our community," said Mark Goines, president of the Los Altos School Board. "Bullis’ appointed board needs to recognize that as well, and accept the need to balance the interests of all students in facilities allocations."  

As with nearly every court action involving the years-long dispute, however, that  appears unlikely. Despite the ruling, the matter seems far from settled.

"We believe the lower court got it wrong and I expect we will appeal the decision," said Moore, chairman of the Bullis Charter School board of directors.

Moore said the October 2011 appellate court decision that found the Los Altos School District had not provided "reasonably equivalent" facilities as required by law was still the most important decision guiding all.

"The trial court responsible for implementing that decision has not granted relief on procedural grounds and we will continue to press on to ensure our students are treated equally and fairly," Moore said.

The decision is the second ruling to come down in a week on two separate legal actions initiated by the Bullis Charter School this year. The earlier ruling, also by Judge Lucas, was received before Thanksgiving. It concerned an aspect of BCS' attempt to recover $1.3 million in attorney's fees from the Los Altos School District. Judge Lucas levied a monetary sanction BCS $51,085 for refusing to provide information, in compliance with the Discovery Act, about the type of parties who contributed to the BCS' litigation efforts since 2009 and the top 25 largest donations.

The latest ruling received Monday is the first to deal with the facilities offer since the state Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled Oct. 2011 that district must provide reasonably equivalent accomodations and improve its method of calculating space. The BCS petition had asked the court to rule on three areas:

At the heart of the 2012-13 enrollment projection issue was the question of whether the district had a right to disagree with the charter school on its 7th and 8th grade enrollment projections and use figures other than the charter school's to calculate its facilities offer. BCS contended that when the district and the charter school disagreed, the law said the district had no discretion and the charter school's projections must be used. Judge Lucas found BCS misstated the law and its petition.

In the second matter, Bullis Charter School sought to compel the district to provide BCS exclusive daily use of one-half of the city gym at Egan Jr. High School. The district had included use of the gym in its facilities offer, then said it found circumstances had changed in June 2012, and that the gym could not be shared because 500 Egan Jr. High students needed to use the gym during seven periods each day. Instead, LASD offered 3,900 square feet of multipurpose room space at Egan. Comparable district schools offer multipurpose space to elementary students, the judge noted, and only junior high students got gym space. Seventh and eighth grade Bullis students who would use the Blach Intermediate School were provided gym space, the judge noted. Bullis contended the school district could not change parts of its facilities offer to adjust to changed circumstances. Judge Lucas, however, noted that BCS had not provided any legal authority for that, and wrote hHowever it is established that charter schools are not necessarily entitled to what they want but only to what is reasonably equivalent."

Lucas cited a passage from a 2012 4th District appellate court decision involving Los Angeles International Charter High School and Los Angeles Unified School District that a facilities offer that failed to take into account overcrowding and other adverse impacts on non-charter schools "would tip the balance too far in favor of the charter school."

"There is no support for a holding that a district is utterly without discretion goal of balancing the needs of charter and non-charter schools," the Judge Lucas wrote.

On the third matter, the court turned down the request to compel the Los Altos School District to provide an inventory on furnishings at comparable schools and provide reasonably equivalent furnishing to the charter school. The court noted that the district presented evidence that Bullis generated the claim only after the Aug. 30 court hearing on its 2009-10 case, and that the district had made relevant queries about furniture and furnishings as far back as April 2012 but received no response.

Lucas' ruling had been telegraphed well in advance with a tentative ruling, based that had been available as early as the Oct. 30 hearing. 

Moore said the October hearing had been "interesting" because "the judge appeared to have ... listened and understood some things she didn't before. However, the order doesn't reflect that."

Noah Mesel from the Huttlinger Alliance for Education, a group of parents who formed to provide a voice for district parents, saw the ruling as an affirmation that the district was in compliance with Prop. 39, the law that governs space allocation to charter schools.

"This latest ruling by the court says the district is doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "It is not going to impose rules beyond what the law already requires just because BCS does not like the result."

The citation of the Los Angeles appellate court decision that speaks to the need to balance resources for charter and non-charter students, was important Mesel said. 

Mesel said he found the court sanction of $51,000 significant, as well. Courts don't often do that, he said, adding that the "extreme" amount signaled how upset the judge was over the charter's school's refusal to cooperate, shown in the meet-and-confer sessions and its argument, "not reasonably asserted."

 

 

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Ron Haley November 28, 2012 at 09:06 PM
All these decisions will be appealed, and like the Kleinberg rulings, overturned. What happens at the Superior Court level is largely irrelevant. It appears the LASD strategy is to make facilities offers each year that fail to comply, then spend $400K-500K in legal fees supporting its decisions. Defer, defer! IMO, it's time for BCS to implement the nuclear option - file the equal funding lawsuit. This has the potential to cost LASD in excess of $20 million. Then lets see them find $500K a year to defend their illegal facilities offers.
Fed Up Resident November 28, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Gee Ron, Really!! It is that important to you and the rest of the Lawsuit bunch? But I guess when you hang with Billionaires you can threaten the masses with numbers like 20M, and displace thousands of children to get what you want. A conscious is only for the poor folk.
Joan J. Strong November 28, 2012 at 09:54 PM
Thank you Ron, for showing everybody just how high the stakes are in this battle. Ron Haley, for those who don't know him, is not just some crank. He's been closely associated with BCS since the beginning and has coordinated with BCS (loosely, of course) on political campaigns including Measure E, the (well-financed) character assassinations of several school board candidates, and most recently was a paid contributor to the Amanda Burke Aaronson campaign for local school board. Everything Ron Haley has "predicted" the BCS board will do, they have done. Ron Haley, in short, is the soul of Bullis Charter School. Today he is repeating his threat to do nothing less than bankrupt our school district through a lawsuit. A lawsuit that, were BCS to prevail, would lead to hundreds of teacher layoffs, overcrowding in our schools and billions of dollars in lost home values in the Los Altos area. I urge citizens to do everything they can to stop the Bullis Charter School board from destroying our community. This "school" must be stopped at all costs. Please find materials here: http://bullisCharterScam.org/bullis_charter_materials.php
John Radford November 28, 2012 at 10:31 PM
To JJS , Ron and all others These discussions are severely going the wrong way. Ron, your nuclear ( what a name) option is ridiculous and is going to get BCS no closer to reasonable equivalent facilities . JJS Ron IS NOT the soul of the Charter school..the children and teachers are. I'm embarassed to say the BCS Board has made no attempt to separate themselves from Ron's very unhelpful comments.Yet to think this school must be stopped at all costs is absolutely no solution either. This community needs to have both of these Boards come together and figure this out. Anyone who is encouraging their respective Boards to keep on fighting, in my mind, is clearly part of the problem and not the solution. This might be very idealistic on my part but more of the same is just not going to work. Come on everyone
LASD Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Ron's Santa Wish List - Dear Santa, please close Covington and give it to BCS and icing on the cake would be to bankrupt LASD. Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth and Good Will To BCS, RH
Joan J. Strong November 28, 2012 at 10:58 PM
John, By "soul" I mean the soul of the leadership of BCS, not BCS parents or students or teachers (who have no say in running the school regardless). Ron Haley has always been 100% consistent with the BCS board, and as I documented above, has consistently supported them with his actions (not just words) in terms of time and MONEY to support their causes. Yes, the BCS board has made no attempt to distance themselves from Ron. Quite the contrary, in the last election they brought him CLOSER by allowing him to participate in a charter industry-funded smear campaign against Anna Song, funded to the tune of $250,000. This is REAL MONEY, not just "unhelpful comments". All you need to do is look in the archives and find other BCS leaders like Janet Medlin and Courtenay Corrigan to see that Ron is absolutely typical of the BCS board, which of course is dominated by litigators, not educators. Like you I don't think more of the same is going to work. That's why I'm advocating that LASD parents help spread the word about BCS and Ron Haley. Only if everybody in our towns know the truth will we be able to deal with this threat appropriately. Too many people have taken a "neutral" stance on this issue by giving BCS the benefit of the doubt. The LATC endorsed Amanda in the last election--and by extension, Ron Haley. The BCS board won't change a thing if people keep doing that.
LASD Taxpayer November 28, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Please attend the 12/3 Meeting at Covington (7pm) to help the school district come up with viable solutions - currently the LASD BoT have outlined 5 options and would like input from the community. 1. Share or Give BCS Covington 2. Continue with the Egan/Blach split 3. Swap with Santa Rita 4. Find a 10th outside of LASD 5. 3 Way Split I think the Egan school and the neighbors have done their share the last 10+ years. It is time for others to share with BCS, it is time for other areas to indure the crowding and traffic we have for so long. It's not without sacrifice but I would propose Oak and Blach figure out how to share with BCS. How about relocate BCS to Oak next year, and then Springer. Each elementary gets to stay at their school for 5 of their 6 years as BCS rotates thru out the school district.
Ron Haley November 29, 2012 at 03:06 AM
John Radford, LASD can stop all this nonsense by simply following the law. It's obvious to all that they have no intention of doing so. Their latest lawsuit clearly denies BCS's right to exist. To expect BCS parents to stand by and suck it up is naive. And if you think I'm Robinson Crusoe, you're seriously mistaken!
Joan J Yawn November 29, 2012 at 06:50 PM
http://www.theonion.com/articles/i-am-a-brand-pathetic-man-says,30545 Hmmm. Seems like this could be any of us. Some more than others.
comment1320 November 29, 2012 at 07:14 PM
LASD Taxpayer, As personally satisfying as making life as difficult as possible for BCS may be for some of you, as a taxpayer in these tight budget times, do you really think it is a good use of funds to essentially create a camp school every year at a different location? It is time for all the parties rationally to deal with this in a way that treats all public school students (LASD and BCS) equally.
Joan J. Strong November 29, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Grace1320, we're here to defend our schools which you and the rest of the BCS regime would love to see shuttered. There's nothing personally satisfying about ANY of this. This is all a massive waste of time and money visited upon us by a family of billionaires. As for the costs involved, BCS costs our district a millions of dollars per year, and that is unfortunate. Until we change the charter school laws to disallow pseudo-private schools to sponge off of our public schools, we have no choice but to pay the "BCS tax" every year in various forms.
Jennifer November 30, 2012 at 06:46 AM
I am still very confused why the City Council won't discuss the possibility of giving Hillview to BCS. Wouldn't Hillview solve the heart of the problem? I understand LA Rec and the Tiny Tots program uses the facility. Perhaps something could be worked out for them so they have a place to use.
L.A. Chung (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 08:06 AM
@Jennifer, there was a study session Thursday evening (which I missed) between the City Council and the representative that the council just appointed to the LASD superintendent's new Task Force on Enrollment Growth. That's Duncan MacVicar. I believe the alternates were also attending. It would have been interesting to hear what the council members thought were the priorities that the representative should bring forth, and what the rep and alternates bring up.
Jennifer November 30, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Thank you L.A. I had heard there was going to be such a meeting after the Election. Does anyone know the outcome of the meeting and if the minutes are publicly available? It just seems so much energy and tears are being spent on the worry of BCS taking over an occupied elementary school. It makes more sense to focus energies on the possibility of Hillview (due to no other fairly neutral facility being available in the district).
LASD Taxpayer November 30, 2012 at 10:42 PM
From what I understand the Mayor presented a letter. The end paragraph states "I am open to considering a land swap, acre for acre, with LASD, executed via a long-term lease, not a sale, and with a school bus program for residents of high-density housing developments such as the Crossings." It also stated that it is her belief "The most appropriate location for Bullis Charter School is in Los Altos Hills, based on the origin of the charter school as well as their admissions preference for students living in Los Altos Hills." She believes that the current BCS site would be an "interesting" possibility for some city of Los Altos facilities. I believe this was her thoughts to the Task Force. It is an interesting direction to research. The pro is that the Egan Community gets some relief from the traffic/safety issues but the school still has much less space than their peers at Blach (unless the acre for acre swap with the city can be on multiple sites - a little at Egan and then a little at Covington, etc)
cj December 01, 2012 at 06:50 AM
When someone enrolls their child at BCS, they enroll him with full understanding of that it is. It’s quality education, program, teachers, community and they are well aware of facilities as well. Then what’s the issue? Nothing was taken away from ‘current’ students of BSC so why this fight? If they are unhappy about BSC facilities – and prefer to attend public schools with better campus – nobody is denying them admission, correct? Pick one – charter school or public school and be happy with it. Don’t poison your own kids’ hearts and mind with this non-sense.
Stacy December 01, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Cj - the BCS facilities are offer to them on a year by year basis, and it's never clear until that final offer is made by the district where they will be placed. The hope is always that the district will give them a permanent home somewhere - the Board of Trustees have made public statements to that effect (we're looking for a permanent home for BCS!) every year. The power is all within that 5 member Board.
Kitty Uhlir December 02, 2012 at 04:09 AM
The study session on Thursday night between the City Council and their representatives to the Superintendent's Task Force on Enrollment Growth can be viewed on the website for the City of Los Altos (www.losaltosca.gov). Go to City Council Meetings, Archived Videos, 2012, Special Meetings, then click on the 11/29 meeting. You'll have to fast forward to minute 12 or so, when the meeting starts. I'm not sure why the music plays in the background, but you can still see and hear the discussion.
Bob Steriens December 03, 2012 at 03:51 AM
I was shocked to read letters from various online sources by both Ken Moore and Doug Smith in response to the recent lawsuit ruling against BCS. Doug Smith's letter claimed that Ken Moore's letter stated that LASD wanted to "shut down" BCS. Ken Moore's letter said no such thing. The closest it came was to claim that LASD does not want to provide any facilities to BCS. This is not the same thing. Ken Moore's letter said that LASD's recent lawsuit "does not have to provide BCS with ANY facilities at all." Not even close-- the lawsuit text claims no such thing. How can two powerful officials simply not be able to read text and separate fact from fiction? Perhaps we should convene a wise committee of, of say, second graders from LASD and BCS to interpret the text for these two old codgers and set them straight? Might even be able to teach them four square also...
L.A. Chung (Editor) December 03, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Ken Moore's letter is attached to this story, one of four pdf documents provided. There is a stronger passage you can find here. It says, "The Los Altos School District is using taxpayer money to challenge the very existence of your children's school in an effort to deny you the right to attend the public school of your choice." That's not exactly the same thing, either, but close.
Kyle December 03, 2012 at 11:51 PM
The BCS Board can control their own long-term solution as well for school facilities and find a site themselves and recover that cost from the district. I do not understand why they are relying on another party for one year short-term solutions when they can control their future and destiny. Or are they signaling that they do not believe themselves the long-term future of BCS?
Joan J. Strong December 04, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Thanks again, Lisa. In order for BCS to stop existing, it would first need to be shut down. The two terms are interchangeable in this context. Doug Smith's letter was 100% accurate and plainly stated. There were several other Inflammatory Distortions in the Ken Moore letter: 1. Referring to the abandoned mediation draft as the District "reneging". The first draft of the mediation contract was just that--a first draft. Anybody whose ever been through business negotiations would never refer to a first draft as an "agreement". It's just the beginning of the conversation. 2. Implying that the appeals court ruled against the District last time, so they will again. This is like saying, "it rained yesterday, so therefore it will rain again tomorrow". It's nonsense. The new case is nothing like the old one. In my view, BCS will lose on appeal--if it's even heard. 3. Ken implies that the current BCS campus offering is smaller than the appeals court ordered them to have in 2009. This is a distortion: the current campus for BCS is far larger than it was, and larger than required in the 2009 case. In Ken's opinion it should be *even bigger* (I guess), but the Superior Court judge obviously disagreed. 4. LASD failing to provide "agreed upon" facilities: an outright lie. Read the email transcripts between BCS and LASD from the court case and you'll see: this was cynical theater on BCS's part. The judge was not fooled by it. BCS distorts, LASD does not.
comment1320 December 04, 2012 at 01:46 AM
JJS, You continue to show a shocking lack of understanding of the law. The latest set of rulings in Superior court did not even address the issue of whether or not the facilities were reasonably equivalent as required by the law for the 2012-2013 year.. Rather, the judge ruled that the district can use reasonable discretion to CHANGE the offer or in adjusting the enrollment numbers. No evidence was heard on whether or not the starting point was a legal offer under Prop 39. Also, at some point, a court could find that LASD overplays the discretion hand. We don't know what that point will be, but if they continue to underestimate enrollment numbers compared to actual enrollment, that could be found to be an abuse of discretion. As would separating BCS onto three sites....
Doug Smith, LASD Trustee December 04, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Thank you, LA. This is the passage that I was referring to. I have also received various other communications from BCS to this same effect.
Joan J. Strong December 04, 2012 at 06:16 AM
@wrathofnewman -- The courts could also likely rule that LASD is 100% within its discretion to keep existing schools open and offer a sharing arrangement--a ruling that would render moot the entire BCS strategy of sacrificing its school's integrity and ever student attending the school in order to get LASD to close a neighborhood school. LASD has yet to underestimate enrollment numbers, so I'm not sure what you mean by "continue to". LASD has good reason to believe its own projections. I personally can't imagine why a parent would choose BCS over a nearby neighborhood school which offers the same general program, the same test scores, a smaller and more intimate school, and doesn't cost $5000--but's that just me. Maybe the BCS marketing hype cons a lot of people. Who knows.
Stacy December 04, 2012 at 09:50 AM
And here's the passage in the lawsuit LASD filed against BCS: "Based on the foregoing allegations, LASD prays for judgement as follows: a) A judicial declaration that BCS's practices and related conduct violate or have violated the law, and thus, LASD is not required to furnish BCS with any facilities under Proposition 39, ......" Mr. Smith - you've been equating attendance boundary adjustment to "closing of a high performing school". So forgive Ken Moore for equating your lawsuit asking the court for permission to deprive BCS of their rightful facilities under the law to asking the court to "challenge the very existence" of BCS.
Stacy December 04, 2012 at 10:01 AM
How about attaching the very last page from the LASD lawsuit against BCS filed on October 12, 2012? The filing is long - but the last page "Prayer for Relief" is sufficient for this exercise. Let the public see the shamelessness in all of this.
Joan J. Strong December 04, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Stacy, So you are saying that Doug Smith (and the rest of the LASD community) has lied by saying that BCS is driving at the closure of a school, so it's okay for Ken Moore to lie too then? Interesting. Doug Smith didn't lie: if Covington were given to BCS, then Covington wouldn't exist, and so on. The founding family of BCS gave Caltech $600 million dollars--enough to buy about 15 BCS campuses. Ken Moore knows this, obviously. So do lots of other people. BCS has, at present, something like $7 million dollars in the bank. BCS could easily--easily--lease its own facilities any time they felt like it. There's virtually no chance of BCS not existing, even if Prop 39 and the rest of the charter laws were summarily repealed, the school could be taken private and run like a 100% private school instead of the 50% private school it is now. The only way BCS will no longer exist is if the billionaire founders decide it should no longer exist. Period.
Concerned citizen December 14, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Ron, Would you like to rescind your statement that all of these decisions will be overturned or are still sticking with your original projections. Before you answer, you might read the following link: http://losaltos.patch.com/articles/bullis-loses-latest-appeals-must-pay-51-000-sanction?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001
david lee January 31, 2013 at 09:21 PM
No wonder people hate lawyers.

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