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LASD, Bullis Still Discussing Talks

Both boards want an agreement to talk, but language on transparency still needs fine-tuning.

How hard is it to have a talk?

If you're the and the Board (BCS), first you have to have an agreement to talk. And that takes some negotiation.

Monday night, both boards met in their respective board meetings, BCS at the school on Portola Avenue, LASD at the board room in the district's headquarters. Their business included voting on having an agreement to meet in a manner that would allow representatives of both boards to speak freely about the charter school's current and future facilities needs.

That proposed agreement called for non-binding discussions, without fear of litigation, something that nearly always has been a backdrop to negotiations. LASD Trustee Doug Smith had initiated the idea for such an agreement because of the constraints he has felt on the committee negotiating the facilities agreement in the past. 

As Patch sat in on both board meetings Monday night, it was clear that some members of the BCS board thought it was a good idea, and LASD was anxious to get started. LASD must make its final offer to the BCS by April 1.

"The way I see this is we were aiming to create a sanctuary where healthy discussion could take place," BCS board member John Phelps, who is on the group's Prop. 39 committee, told the BCS board. 

"If we don’t talk, nothing is going to get resolved," said BCS board chairman Ken Moore.

The sticking point, LASD trustee Doug Smith told his colleagues on the board was how much, and under what circumstances, do the parties also talk to the public about that dialogue?

BCS wanted to have language that would allow speaking to the public by one joint public statement, Smith said.

Smith wanted the independent ability for LASD or BCS to speak to the public in general terms, if asked. Speaking in general terms would be much the same way questions from the public are handled when the LASD board is in contract negotiations with various bargaining units—how often meetings are taking place, whether progress is being made, or how long the meetings are.

"From my view this issue transcends BCS," Smith told the LASD board Monday night. "I believe in open government, and I believe the public needs to know when we execute their business, and not just at the end. 

"The community at that point doesn’t know, did we meet once? Did we meet four times a week? They will wonder, 'Did you do anything, or did you give up on March 1?'"

In the end, at the BCS meeting despite Phelps' urging, the board voted 3-3, with one abstention to accept LASD's agreement language. The motion failed.

Smith, in the meantime, received unanimous authorization from the LASD board to work on fine-tuning the language on public disclosure so that it is mutually agreeable to both boards.

The Los Altos School Board also discussed what a possible timeline might be if the district undertook a bond measure proposal to build a permanent campus for the charter school. 

Joan J. Strong February 08, 2012 at 04:54 PM
This probably looks very strange and puzzling to anybody who doesn't understand the situation, but the reason for the seeming madness above can be summarized in one word: LITIGATION. BCS and LASD are currently in court because of litigation initiated by BCS. Because of this, both parties run the risk of damaging their respective cases in "open talks" like this--and certainly no publicly elected official should hold "secret" talks unless its a matter of national defense. So we're stuck. Until the litigation ends (years?) these two parties are not going to openly talk about anything and ALL arguments will happen in court in esoteric legal language. This battle does not belong in the courts, however. This is a battle for the heart and soul of our community. Should we have neighborhood public schools here in Los Altos or not? The BCS people say no, and parents like myself say yes. If you are for neighborhood public schools and don't want them shut down you MUST EDUCATE YOURSELF on this issue as these people absolutely ARE coming after your school to close it. Please read more at: http://BullisCharterScam.org/
Laurie Uhler February 08, 2012 at 05:31 PM
There are two very public and productive forum which has been created to share ideas and factual information about the BCS/LASD issues. It is a place for active discussion from BOTH sides; no vitriolic rants allowed-that helps no one! Please consider joining the discussion with your fellow community members (that's means BOTH BCS and LASD-gasp!) and give it a try! Stay informed and work together. The boards at BCS and LASD seem stuck. Let's help unwedge them and show ALL our children a great life lesson-negotiating through searingly painful conflicts. http://www.facebook.com/groups/lasdvoices/ AND LASDVoices-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
Claudia Cruz (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Thanks for the comment Joan. This is definitely a difficult issue to understand, even for the most educated in LA and LAH! Like I told Laurie below, open, respectful and productive conversation between citizens and parents could really help BCS and LASD. You are probably right, they have to measure what they say for fear that it could be used against them in litigation. However, if the community gives them positive feedback and ideas, it could help eliminate some of the disparate points of view.
Claudia Cruz (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Thank you for the positive outlook Laurie. I like your "let's help unwedge them" line. The different boards are responding to public sentiment, so if the public can hold productive discussions on the matter, the boards will have something to base their future discussions on. There's a lot at stake if the language doesn't change.
Bill February 08, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Claudia, isn't there some term for "hijacking" an online dialogue to another site? Not sure why you'd want Patch readers eyes elsewhere.... Regardless.....perhaps BCS supporters can address this issue "fairly"...BCS provides no transportation (not sure on that one), NSLP meal service(there is no need given the paltry number of NSLP kids), has no English language learners, no low income students and an extraordinarily small population of low-need special education students. Together, providing those services takes $ off the top for every general ed student in the district impacted by, and concentrated by, the existence of BCS......Even if BCS were given the Taj Mahal of schoool sites, HOW WOULD BCS ADDRESS THAT ISSUE FOR THE GREATER GOOD OF THE COMMUNITY?
Claudia Cruz (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Bill! You make a great point about Patch readers going elsewhere. I hope that since the Los Altos Patch is all over the news coverage, people will continue to come to Patch first and at least initially start their conversations here.
L.A. Chung (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Whatever Los Altos Patch can to do facilitate healthy discussion, we want to do. We realize that people have strong views and they want to air them, as well. One thing we hope people recognize is that reliable reportage is a solid starting point for discussion, and civil discourse.
Joan J. Strong February 08, 2012 at 10:07 PM
I'm all for lots of discussions going on in lots of places. This is a complicated issue and it's important that people talk it through. Personally I'm fighting apathy and denial among District parents. If a local neighborhood public school were closed today, easily 90% of parents would be taken completely by surprise. People in these discussions know it's a distinct possibility and if/when it happens, will know most of the facts. So yes, there's lots of room for lots of discussions--so let's have them.
Laurie Uhler February 08, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Let me chime in hear. Mostly I see Patch comments being mean spirited and unproductive, no matter which "side" you are on on this issue. Don't get me wrong, I have VERY strong opinions on this matter. We have attended BOTH LASD schools and BCS. However, the discussions happening on the other forums are "adult" and respectful. That has not been my experience in reading Patch comments of late. I hope that it can be moving forward. Come on people, talk to each other, on ANY forum. But, be thoughtful and respectful no matter how angry you may be. And I agree with Joan Strong. Most parents are woefully under informed on both sides. the more places this information and discussions around it are available, the better for all of us.
Ed Reform Advocate February 09, 2012 at 03:08 AM
I agree with the sentiment the conversation is the key to helping mend the obvious wounds between the district and BCS. I do have one question that has been nagging at me ever since I began following this issue on the Patch...maybe L.A. or Claudia can help me out with an answer to this: If the goal is to have "open, RESPECTFUL conversation", then how is posting a site such as BullisCharterScam (which pushes accusations of bribery upon BCS and anti-BCS bumber stickers heralding "STOP Bullis Charter School") helping to heal wounds? This website seems to pop up frequently on stories about BCS...and all from the same poster. I'm really struggling to see how this site, which was even (softly) rebuked by an LASD Board Trustee, is playing a positive role in this dialogue. While I wouldn't necessarily "flag" the thoughts that often accompany it as "inappropriate", I'm beginning to think that the link itself just might be. Any help here with my nagging question?
Joan J. Strong February 09, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I just checked: there is absolutely NO place on the info site where there is an accusation of criminal activity (viz. bribery) anywhere on there. This is not a fair accusation. There is a section where BCS's contributions to key politicians are discussed, and the currently ongoing "question" shall we say about a certain BCS contractor being involved in a re-redistricting that would be very detrimental to certain enemies of BCS. (and this is all based on the Mercury News story). All of this is not illegal--big mean multinational corporations do it every day. It's business as usual here in the USA. The point the site is not that this is illegal, but that BCS is operating like a big mean multinational corporation--and parents should be aware of this in their dealings with them.
Ed Reform Advocate February 09, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Point taken, Joan. Maybe the bribery is more implicit than explicit. I guess I am responding more to the name calling...If there is to be a "healthy" conversation (as L.A. references below), it just seems like calling one of the other parties as "mean" and rallying other parties to "STOP" BCS seems a little bit like an elementary school playground fight. I would hope that both parties want to rise above this level of rhetoric. Also, to clarify, I never suggested the site was illegal - just inappropriate for "open, respectful" conversation.
Joan J. Strong February 09, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I don't think it's name-calling by saying, "BCS adopts the tactics of big mean corporations" (and then showing evidence of this). It's not the same as saying, "BCS is mean"--and I would never say anything like that because it's--sorry--meaningless. As for "STOP BCS", well, in my opinion Charter Schools in general and BCS in particular are very harmful to the cause of education. Although my views are currently in the political minority in the USA right now, I am certainly not alone in thinking this and others of like mind include some of the founders of the Charter movement itself. Charters, it can be argued, have peaked and are on their way OUT as we're seeing train wreck after train wreck nationwide. So I absolutely do not think that BCS helps our community, should exist, or is a good thing in any way. I think it should be stopped. (And yes, I understand this is different than the views of some other parents on the side of neighborhood schools so I'm willing to compromise the way us rich people love to compromise: throw money at the problem--float a bond and buy a campus). If you want to debate the relative merits of Charter Schools--or the overall merits of the existence of BCS--then fine, but simply having an opinion about this is certainly valid. Also, for what it's worth, many BCS supporters feel exactly as I do about public schools and have said so here...
Ed Reform Advocate February 09, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Joan, I hope you don't think I'm attacking your posts. (As stated in my original comment) I don't object to the posts that contain the link - just to the link. I would encourage you to continue expressing your opinion using your own words in an environment that is fair and neutral and not promoting a site that could be polarizing. And yes, charter schools are clearly polarizing issues. I get that...But the intent behind any charter is to facilitate change in a traditional public school model that has failed so many students OUTSIDE of LASD. While LASD might classify as a "high-performing" district, they still follow that same model. It's about moving forward as a whole...not just saying we're okay with how we do things now because it works for us. And on the issue of charter "trainwrecks", that's one of the strongest advantages to the charter model. If a charter school fails, then they cease to exist. It's called accountability. This is something that the traditional school model DOESN'T have in it's favor. So, in regards to "stopping" BCS, you should take comfort in knowing that if BCS really does fail at what it's supposed to be doing, then it will cease to exist...bumper stickers or not :-)
Joan J. Strong February 09, 2012 at 10:27 PM
No offense taken, Ed. Just discussing here... The site links are useful when dealing with the same six talking points from BCS over and over again. Many of these things they bring up ("talking point #4: BCS saves the district money") need a somewhat involved explanation that it tedious and type again and clutters up the forum. Although that might have been a stretch in a few places, I'll endeavor to only use these links for that purpose alone for now on. As for the "experiment" that Charters want to perform on my children, I'm sorry to say that my children only have ONE childhood and I am not interested in them being experimented upon during this time. Moreover, the idea that these government-backed "businesses" don't simply "go out of business" without MASSIVE and cruel ramifications to the children involved. Please read some background on failed Charters and you'll see what I mean. Finally, in "business" there's this thing we call "marketing". Just because BCS can get a whole bunch of people to apply to their school does not make it better. BCS is free to perform every imaginable kind of marketing (and between EdTech and Larson, BCS spends a significant amount of their budget on this). Our District on the other hand is defenseless against this (which is a good thing). Long story short, in Charters people looked for a "silver bullet" solution to very hard problems (which are based on poverty, not teachers or schools). Charters are not it.
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Bill July 09, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Support AB 1594 and require BCS to enroll in the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program. The reporting requirements would mandate BCS report exactly how many disadvantaged kids are at the school.....rather than masking that number with the "we provide lunch to them so they dont feel embarrassed or singled out"

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