The charter for (BCS) was renewed for five years on a 5-2 vote at the Santa Clara County Board of Education meeting Wednesday night where both sides of the debate went head to head.
Board members Anna Song and Grace Mah were the two dissenting votes. Song—an early Bullis Charter supporter— in response to a BCS parent nearly two weeks ago.
In a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Board President Joseph Di Salvo said he felt the vote was a fair one.
"No doubt Bullis agreed to step up to the board's concerns relative to expanding outreach and eventual services to underserved, special need and English Language Learner students,” Di Salvo said.
"In the end I thought the 5-2 vote to reauthorize Bullis for five years was right by the children," he said.
In a meeting that lasted several hours, dozens of community members, parents, and students filled the county boardroom Wednesday night to voice their opinions on the charter’s possible renewal and to hear its outcome.
Bullis Charter School carries a public school charter with the county board and uses Los Altos School District facilities, on the campus of Egan Junior High.
The school faced harsh criticism the past few weeks, spurred by Song's email, in which she expressed her disappointment with the charter school’s state.
“A quick look at the Academic Performance Index scores for the Los Altos School District shows that BCS has performed abysmally in serving socioeconomically disadvantaged students,” Song says in her letter.
Last night’s meeting served initially as a routine charter renewal but instead gave time for BCS to answer questions brought on by the letter and the critics, as well as for the community to chime in.
“Board Member Song and others have raised many concerns on outreach and we hear you. We hear you,” said BCS Board Member John Phelps.
Phelps added that as part of the outreach program, BCS plans to mail bilingual postcards targeting areas North of El Camino Real, as well as having recruitment meetings in lower socioeconomic areas.
There were mixed feelings Wednesday night with many concerns over the practices of the charter school, like the non-elected board, the ways the foundation raises money, past legal actions against the Los Altos district, and more.
“I’ve heard that your fundraising tactics are very aggressive,” Song said. “And I don’t know if that is true. That was raised and that concerns me.”
But, Wanny Hersey, superintendent and principal at BCS, said that the foundation only makes a public presentation for fundraising once a year.
A former BCS parent, Kate Disney, spoke about her disappointment after choosing to the leave the school.
“I think it’s important the school is governed in a way appropriate to public schools,” Disney said. “As a county school, shouldn’t it give all preference to the county, not just mirror Los Altos and cater to Los Altos?” Disney added that the boundary preference to Los Altos Hill should be removed.
David Cortright, a Los Altos resident, said, “I want to commend BCS for their academics. But when I was in school, meeting expectation was a C and we want more than that. The core issue to having a community school has been solved [with the opening of Gardner Bullis in Los Altos Hills].”
“If the charter gets renewed, I would ask BCS to drop the lawsuits. Six hundred thousand dollars would send a lot of kids to Costa Rica,” Cortright joked, referring to foreign field trips offered to BCS students.
The charter school opened in 2004, shortly after the closing of an LASD school, which later reopened as Gardner Bullis Elementary in 2008. Even school district trustees at the meeting expressed that the charter closing was not what they wanted.
“I don’t want the charter revoked,” said Tamara Logan, LASD board trustee. “They’re doing a good job for those kids. It’s a rich, full program.”
“But, there has been for years statements that there will be outreach, so I want to see the teeth to this,” Logan said.
Trustee Doug Smith even asked the board encourage BCS to come to LASD to be the chartering agency, an idea Di Salvo talked about in his statement, suggesting that BCS do so when the charter comes up for renewal in 2017.
The discussion went on for hours, focusing on predispositions and assumptions from both sides—LASD and BCS.
“We should be only focusing on the law, not hysterics,” said county board trustee Craig Mann. “The children are behaving better than the adults. I’m sick of it, personally.”
In his statement on Thursday, Di Salvo said, “There continue to be many issues still to be resolved. My hope is that the adults on all sides of the issue will move toward complete reconciliation and end the wasteful litigation."