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."