LASD, BCS Agree to Mediated Talks

The invitation to enter mediated talks would not take away any option to litigate, still this and two other initiatives to talk provide venues outside the courtroom for dialogue.

Could rapprochement be within sight for Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District?

Just agreeing to meet outside a courtroom might be considered a small victory, but—don’t jump to any conclusions yet— now there are three fronts on which representatives of the two will be talking.

This week, the Bullis Charter School board invited, and the Los Altos School Distric board (LASD) accepted, an invitation to enter mediation, in another attempt to try to solve the years’-long disputes over how much facilities space the charter school gets allocated.

“We are willing to consider a single or multiple sessions, but ask that the process be concluded by March 30, in advance of when the District’s final offer of facilities is due,” wrote BCS board chairman Ken Moore in a letter to LASD Monday.

Like a glimmer of light in a dark tunnel, it’s a small sign that both parties are trying to change the familiar script that has put them into courts again and again.

"LASD is pleased to participate in the proposed mediation," wrote back LASD board president Mark Goines in a letter to BCS dated Tuesday and posted on the district’s website.

Earlier this month, the Los Altos School District board suggested an ad-hoc committee have non-binding discussions with the Bullis Charter School, if both would agree the to talk without fear of litigation. They hammered out that agreement to talk last week, Goines confirmed.

Plus, the Santa Clara County Board of Education, BCS and LASD moved forward Tuesday with plans for a meeting. They agreed the agenda would include discussion of  county's roles and responsibilities, the district's role and responsibilities, and BCS' roles and responsibilities, Goines said.

Add to that a grassroots effort among parents with children in LASD who are concerned that finding enough space for Bullis to have its own campus means kicking out district students from their school to do so.

PTAs at each of the LASD schools are considering proposals to authorize the state PTA to advocate on their behalf in fighting against a feared displacement from their neighborhood schools.

“For me, it’s good we're getting the public engagement that we need on this,” Goines said.

"The idea here is give it a shot," Moore said. "If we don't talk, we'll never resolve anything. It provides another posible avenue to quickly find a solution to provide our children the same facilities enjoyed by their district peers."

Despite the movement toward dialogue, the courts remain the big stick, as BCS pursues fulfillment of its facilities request on a parallel track.

“The status quo is not an option for the coming school year or any other year,” Moore said emphatically Wednesday. With an appeals court decision that favored BCS, and the state Sureme Court's declining to hear any appeal on the case, Moore said the law is clear for LASD. Mediation, which had been suggested by attorneys on both sides, will go on at the same time, he said.

"If we can get something immediate, we don't have to go to the courts."

As a matter of fact, both parties will be in Superior Court Thursday. After finding in favor of BCS, the Sixth District Court of Appeal remanded the case back to the lower court to provide instruction. BCS has additionally requested discovery on this year's preliminary facilities offer as part of this phase, and has begun seeking attorneys' fees from the district, said Goines, alluding to his expression of disappointment at the last school board meeting.

"The court process takes on its own life."

Kevin Hartley March 03, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Joan, I'd suggest you do a bit more objective research to understand the facts. The reality is that if Bullis Charter School didn't exist and all of those kids went to LASD, it would cost LASD more money and you would be in a tougher budget situation? Again, I'd suggest you do some research to understand the real facts and really understand what's going on here. At the highest level I guess it really comes down to whether you think there is only 1 way (led by the gov't and unions) of publicly educating our children or whether you think we might be able to leave room for innovation and allowing for alternative public methods - we all pay the same taxes for our kids except Bullis doesn't get all the public funding LASD does. The thing that hurts me the most is that you somehow you think that all parents at BCS are super rich. That is so far from the case. BCS students are from all over Los Altos with the minority being from Los Altos Hills. I can appreciate you care for your kids (we all do), but if you really want to make a long term difference for them I'd suggest you do a bit more research and stop blaming BCS for LASD's own issues. Who is LASD going to blame for all of its issues once this is all over? Its time for LASD to step up, act like an adult and take responsibility for its actions.
Joan J. Strong March 03, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Sorry Kevin, I know what the school has been telling you for years, but it's flat wrong. The FACT is that BCS costs the District money because they do NOT contribute to all of the legally obligated expenses such as special needs kids and teacher retirements. For starters, the "gap" is about $2600, not $5000 like they say. (We're working on the graphical display of the rest--stay tuned). And no, I don't think "crony capitalism" is going to work. Solyndra was just the most recent example of this sort of thing failing. We should have public schools and we should have private schools. The mixture accomplishes nothing but corruption and removes democracy from the decision-making process--over PUBLIC money which is compelled from citizens. There is nothing "free market" about Charter schools. If you want "innovation" not decided on by the majority, pay for a private school. BCS parents all pay the $5000 tuition. I know this doesn't sound like much, but--believe it or not--there are people in the world who cannot afford this. I know it's hard to imagine since $5000 almost the same as nothing, but "some" people actually find this to be a lot of money. People who aren't, you know, rich. And no, I do not put parents like myself who make donations to LAEF and thus help every child in the District including special-needs and less advantaged kids on the same moral plane as BCS parents who essentially pay for their own, tax-deductible private school.
Kevin Hartley March 03, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Joan, Why did you delete your previous comment? Its a shame you feel the way you do - stereotyping and attacking the character of BCS parents. Remember, the only reason BCS exists is because LASD closed down their public school many years ago. The reality is that BCS was started by concerned parents just like you for Los Altos public kids, exists for Los Altos public kids. I think you are fighting the wrong battle... maybe you should look a little closer in your own backyard and start looking objectively at how to improve things for all public school children in Los Altos. It seems that you think the only way to make things better for some kids is to hurt others. Such a depressing way to look at life. I wish you well and please ask that you stop spreading your misinformation. Its only creating a divide between all the parents in our community. Thanks for listening and hope you have a nice weekend with your family.
Joan J. Strong March 03, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I actually don't know where my previous comment went... Maybe I hit the button on accident? Weird. I wish, too, you would stop spreading your disinformation. BCS was not started by parents "just like me". I would never do what they did. Never. And maybe you should look a little closer in YOUR backyard. The BCS founders and leadership are bad people. They look down upon us District parents and think we're stupid sheep who would believe anything. They hate public schools and want to shut them all down. They fought bitterly against Measure E with lies on every lawn sign. They attack our District and cost them money with their endless lawsuits. All the while these billionaires (yes, billionaires) only spend their money on lawyers and take money AWAY from my children's schools. In short, BCS is attacking my children's school on a daily basis with their billions instead of helping them. By the way, did the BCS propaganda include the fact that the school that started this is OPEN now? It's called Gardner Bullis School, home of the Gardner Grizzlies. Oh that's right, it's not a school "real" children attend to so it doesn't count. We should--as a recent BCS-planted opinion piece implied--GET THE SHERIFF TO DRAG MY CHILDREN OUT OF THEIR SCHOOL, right? BCS created this divide by spending $millions to start a school founded on spite and revenge and hate. I urge to you participate online so you can see what is really going on.


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