Bullis Charter Renewed for 5 Years By County Board

Contentious hearing ends with a 5-2 vote in favor of a new charter; BCS board members promise more outreach.

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."


Administrator October 06, 2011 at 11:15 PM
All the outreach in the world won't help diversity unless the charter changes their geographically discriminating enrollment priorities. No matter how many disadvantaged kids from outside the district apply, all of the available slots will go to kids from the old Bullis-Purissma attendance area first, and the remainder to LASD kids. There will never be room left over for kids from outside the district, aside from the occasional slot or two (which given their enrollment is effectively a rounding error).
gamer October 07, 2011 at 03:46 AM
LASD has been pushing around those kids N of El Camino for years. Maybe Bullis Charter should just agree to school all of them in exchange for getting its fair share of parcel tax from LASD.
Noel Brick October 07, 2011 at 04:51 AM
whoops - in my comment above I quoted the wrong budget --- the quote is actually from the 2011 - 2012 budget report -- Here's the link: http://www.losaltos.k12.ca.us/files/user/1/file/2011_12_budget.pdf The quote is from page 111
Noel Brick October 07, 2011 at 05:03 AM
I think a comment needs to be made here about the Los Altos School District and its’ diversity efforts. Los Altos School District does indeed, let in out of district students. It welcomes students from Palo Alto Unified, as long as they live in Los Altos Hills. These kids are welcomed to attend Gardner Bullis Elementary, inflating the schools attendance numbers. In return Palo Alto Unified gives the district a little less than $6000/student. As a Los Altos School District tax payer I am more than happy to contribute to the difference - about $6000- to help these needy families. Here in fact is the direct quote, copied from the LASD 2010 - 2011 budget: Inter-district Transfer Students Because the number of inter-district transfer students (IDTs) is controlled by district policy, it does not reflect the district’s demographic trends. With the district now in Basic Aid status, where its revenue is no longer dependent on student enrollment, we expect to limit the number of 
inter-district transfers. The forecast assumes dropping to a total of 69 district-wide inter-district transfers by 2018. These students are assumed to be children of district employees and children from the Palo Alto School District portion of Los Altos Hills.
botto October 07, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Certainly there is room for improvement at BCS -- elected board, remove the LAH preference and increase outreach to the broader community. However, perhaps the LASD board should also ask themselves why is it that BCS could have filled 10+ Kindergartens? LASD schools are great, yet so many parents felt the need to apply to BCS. What's lacking at LASD? Innovation? Active learning? Maybe there is something to learn from BCS?
David Cortright October 07, 2011 at 05:28 PM
I would suspect the vast majority of those applications are coming from outside the LASD borders. They are families that want an LASD-quality education without having to live within the district. Of course most of them are denied due to the enrollment discrimination.
RC October 07, 2011 at 06:33 PM
Bullis does not receive any part of the Parcel tax from LASD. This is why the lawsuit.
RC October 07, 2011 at 06:47 PM
David - "The core issue to having a community school has been solved [with the opening of Gardner Bullis in Los Altos Hills]". Just have a school is not enough. Parents want more (innovation, enrichment, etc.). Is there any difference between San Jose State, UC Berkeley, Stanford? All three are good schools will give you a Degree but I am sure you have preference for which school you wish your child to attend..
LA27 October 07, 2011 at 07:31 PM
RC, that is not cool coming to a public forum and spreading rumors that someone's child did not do well at BCS. One would hope that BCS parents would have a little more common sense!
Ron Haley October 07, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Whenever socially disadvantaged students move from an LASD school to BCS, LASD absconds with 40% of the funds necessary to provide their education. This practice of withholding education funds from students as they transfer to BCS imposes an incredible financial burden - that 40% has to be found somewhere, and is currently funded by BCS parental donations. Even though these donations are voluntary, many disadvantaged families don't apply because they are embarrassed at not being able to pay. If LASD board members like Doug Smith feel so strongly that BCS should be more inclusive, then perhaps he can stop this practice of withholding funds. BCS can then eliminate the need for parental donations, and all LASD parents,irrespective of their economic status, can avail themselves of the BCS option, .
Ron Haley October 07, 2011 at 08:05 PM
LASD provides BCS NO facilities for children originating from outside the district!
Tamara Logan October 07, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Mr. Haley has stated the truth, "many disadvantaged families don't apply because they are embarrassed at not being able to pay."
Noel Brick October 07, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Tamara and Giants Fan- I think the point is that BCS does a lot more with much less. BCS spends the same/ child but parents make up the difference. BCS parents pay the parcel taxes and property taxes and then pay extra -- so our kids can have a great education at BCS. The money goes to the kids -- not to lavish retirement plans and over generous health care for family member of employees. All tax payers should support BCS -- we are spending far less of your money. The district caused the law suit by not meeting its prop 39 obligations and has spent millions of dollars trying to get rid of BCS. The applications within the district are much higher than you claim. I know families who live in the district who were in 100's on the kindergarten waiting list. Lots of families want to go to BCS --- they want an alternative to the one size fits all LASD schools. One thzt you have failed to offer. Sure, there are good test scores, you spend quite a bit of time teaching to the test. BCS students spend very little time on test taking skills -- but they still get better test scores ---- and the demographics are the same as the lasd schools - so that is not the reason
Ron Haley October 07, 2011 at 11:06 PM
I don't want to take it back - it's the truth. The real question is why is there a payment requirement at all? In talking to parents in the area, I get two primarily two complaints about BCS - first, my kids can't get in, and second, I can't afford $4,500. Both of these complaints complaints can be laid at the feet of the LASD board. Kids can't get in due to lack of facilities - in my opinion LASD is not meeting it's prop 39 requirements, thus the lawsuit. The $4,500 problem is because, unlike Palo Alto for example, LASD discriminates against children who attend alternative public schools like BCS, by absconding with 40% of the funds students would receive if they attended LASD. The economics are pretty simple - BCS needs to raise $4,500 per child to cover the shortfall. If all parents contribute, that means an ask of $4500 per child. If only half the parents contribute, the ask per child would be $9,000. At that level, you could close the school, because parents won't pay that much. So let's see- LASD creates the funding problem by depriving the children of $4500 and ntuition, but isn't satisfied that the parents are making up the difference - it now wants BCS to go out and find students who can't pay anything and make up the $4,500 differential for them as well. All this coming from a school district that has greatly reduced the number of students from outside the district, because as a basic aid district they get no money for them.
Ron Haley October 07, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Perhaps before LASD starts preaching outreach, it should take a look at it's own demographics - 0.2% black vs statewide 8%, 8% Hispanic vs 50% statewide. Oh, Giants Fan - perhaps you should have the guts to post under your real name!
Ron Haley October 07, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Tammy, as a LASD board member, you can solve this problem. Stop stealing from these kids when they move to BCS. Treat these kids like the rest of the kids that attend public schools in LASD! You and you cohorts on the LASD board are the problem here!!!!!!
Ron Haley October 07, 2011 at 11:55 PM
The lower court has ruled - speaking as someone who has been through the process, this means nothing. The lower court judge is an elected official, with no staff. At the next level, there will be three judges with extensive staff support, who will rule on the law. Once that's done, then we'll see who is the winner here.
Ron Haley October 08, 2011 at 12:42 AM
Still hiding I see. BCS originally asked to be chartered by LASD. LASD not only refused, but vigorously opposed its formation. BCS had no choice but to the request a charter from the county. Yet another mistake by a lightweight LASD board!
Ron Haley October 08, 2011 at 12:59 AM
I have no issues with BCS being chartered by LASD, as long as BCS retains control over hiring and the curriculum. In fact, I'd like to see the a single LASD school district that includes children K-12 - district and alternate school students. I've proposed this to the LASD board both publicly and privately. The financial savings are significant.
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