Bullis Charter School- LASD Now: Your Ideas Wanted

Monday night the 2013-14 facilities offer to Bullis Charter School is due. Can you help? What can members of the community do and suggest now—and in the days and weeks to follow?


This has been the spring of severe disappointment for many in our community.

On New Year's Day, Patch asked readers to contribute ideas, large and small, to helping to resolve the facilities issue regarding Bullis Charter School (BCS) and the Los Altos School District (LASD). We didn't expect a magic bullet to appear, but we wanted to start out the new year on a positive and constructive note, with members of our community thinking about solutions and a way forward.

Patch is soliciting your ideas. Again.

Residents of Los Altos, Mountain View and Palo Alto who have a stake in education are too creative, too smart and too committed to simply stand by. We have watched as parents have taken to the comment boards and written emails to demand some things, urge decision-makers to think out of the box, and to make constructive suggestions. 

We're asking you to do it thoughtfully for our home page.

We're also asking people to set aside rancor and offer an approach that lowers the temperature and lays groundwork for working together in the future, on any level. 

With some clear deadlines and some hard positions on both sides, what can we suggest? What can we, without the "woulda-coulda-shoulda" asides, do to help both the Bullis Charter School and Los Altos School District get to a satisfactory place by August so that educators teach to the same standards that we have grown to expect?  

E-mail a paragraph or treatise to losaltos@patch.com

Joan J. Strong April 01, 2013 at 06:35 AM
To be clear though, its actually somewhat rare these days that a BCS supporter comes out and advocates the closing of a school, and I haven't seen anybody talk about GB in a long time. Most BCS parents I have talked to want a school and not a cause, and want real solutions. We all know that any solution here is going to involve at least one new school campus in the long run, and we all know it's NOT going to involve the closing of a single neighborhood public school. The article here is calling for real solutions, not flame bait.
Mitch Caldwell April 01, 2013 at 06:57 AM
No school is closed in my suggestion. Kids can still go to the same campus, just a different program. Nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell.
Joan J. Strong April 01, 2013 at 07:08 AM
(I wrote this on Mitch's wall but I'll write it here too). Mitch, A couple of pointers on common courtesy for online aliases. First, keep your alias for the long haul. It's important when communicating with people that they know where you are coming from. What you have written before establishes context. Also, the longer an alias has been around, the more credibility it has. Second, be clear about who you are IN CONCEPT and why are you advocating what you advocate. Making things "mysterious" in this regard will severely damage your credibility. Remember, a very common negative campaigning tactic these days is called "astroturfing*", in which people pretend to be "innocent bystanders" but are in fact just shills for a very specific political cause. People are on the look out for that kind of thing. Don't let yourself be mistaken for that! Looking forward to hearing more of your views, "Joan J. Strong", pseudonym since 2011 * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astroturfing
Joan J. Strong April 01, 2013 at 07:14 AM
This is stepping in flame bait probably, but for what it's worth, BCS is now the #3 school in Los Altos Hills behind GB and PAUSD, and in the past five years parents there have voted with their feet and NOT chosen BCS even though they have a clear admission preference to do so. GB will not be closed anymore than any other school would be closed. Your suggestion here is actually a lose/lose since it wouldn't solve the problem at all and would also close a school. It's just about the worst suggestion we've heard so far.
LA Patch Poster April 01, 2013 at 07:34 AM
"Not a single Gardner Bullis Student needs to move - unless they want to stay at an LASD run school. - So no school closing just a program change." Mitch, If the parents wanted their kids at BCS they would already be there, which they obviously do not want, so most all of them would be FORCED to move. They chose to be at GB, chose to be in a LASD PUBLIC school, so you would then be kicking them out to drive cross town to Egan, which BCS hates being at right now. So you propose BCS would be taking over GB for their private school, which anyone who has been paying attention since the start, was ALWAYS BCS' PLAN A. The other parents & lawyers were just smart/savvy enough in the last couple years not to come out & say what they have desired since the beginning, seizing GB for their private school campus. But people here who read the newspaper & are informed have not forgotten how all this has played out over the last decade. Problem is LASD will never shut down ANY neighborhood school for BCS to take over. Check out the editorial in this last weeks LATC with EVERY PTA in the LASD stating that no school will be closed/taken over by BCS: http://www.losaltosonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=45804&Itemid=55 BCS has obviously created cult-like behavior in their supporters & at this point they will not be reasoned with or effected by reality, facts or the history of the problem with BCS co-existing with LASD and the rest of the LA/LAH taxpayer's.
Mitch Caldwell April 01, 2013 at 07:51 AM
LASD Patch Poster - I thought that there wasn't enough room to meet demand at BCS. So this might be one way to solve the problem.
Mitch Caldwell April 01, 2013 at 07:54 AM
Joan et al.... Thanks for the tips....If I ever make an alias I will keep them in mind. I thought the point of this thread was to suggest ways to solve the problem. That's what I did. I think maybe you were reacting to my post on the other thread.
Joan J. Strong April 01, 2013 at 08:11 AM
We could also close BCS. That would "solve the problem" too, completely, totally and thoroughly, saving taxpayers millions of dollars per year. Why didn't you think of that one, "Mitch"? Mind you, I would NEVER advocate the dissolution of an existing school community, and I'm not doing so here, but just by way of example...
Philip Aaronson April 01, 2013 at 03:15 PM
I'm getting a little tired of hearing the same-old same-old excuses for the LASD BoTs' hard line attitudes. There is a BCS proposed solution on the table, and I know there are many in the LASD community who support it and want to see a solution, so what's the problem?
Rocky April 01, 2013 at 03:28 PM
I don't think people are making excuses for the BoT Philip. The proposal on the table from BCS demands more than they are legally entitled to *and* does not address a long term solution at all. In fact, they caveat their current proposal with another affirmation of their intent to litigate this one as well. I actually fully support an enhanced two site offer as an interim solution, but only in the context of a long term plan for stability. Until that is on the table, the BoT is acting rationally by offering only the minimum required by law. I'm sure DR will say that the current LASD offer does not meet the minimum legal requirements, and since there does not appear that a long term solution is being negotiated, then I guess that will be for the courts to decide as well. Again, only the lawyers are winning in this conflict...
Philip Aaronson April 01, 2013 at 03:36 PM
They're not asking for more than is legally required, they're asking for more of the facilities allocated to them to be at Blach, for obvious and very reasonable reasons. They're even willing to accept the smaller than legally required footprint at Egan for the students there if the BoTs are willing to do this. Why is this so difficult?
LA Patch Poster April 01, 2013 at 04:43 PM
Philip, to call the current town position representing 'LASD BoTs' hard line attitudes' is just your bias POV & has no grounding in reality. BCS supporters are proposing 'solutions' that the town & taxpayers will not accommodate and the law does not require. At this point, BCS needs to get real & understand that they can either be a PRIVATE school or be part of a our community that they take millions of dollars of PUBLIC funds from every year. No middle ground. BCS needs to create a binding agreement that: 1) Maps out enrollment/growth plans for the next five years 2) Proposes when/how their PRIVATE board and school comes under the PUBLIC school board control 3) Starts to work with LASD on a plan that will have BCS enroll ALL the kids (at least the from LASD), not just the preferred ones they want to cream off the top 4) States in writing that BCS will no longer attempt to close a LASD school 5) States in writing that the litigation phase of this integration process is over & the negotiation will go forward without the constant threat & COST of litigation Having the head of LASD BoT thrown out of a public meeting last week & threatened with 'arrest' by BCS leadership shows where we are at this point. It is up to BCS to stop playing games & come to the table with real proposals & a binding agreement for long term planning & an attitude that shows they want to be a part of this town's education future. Or BCS can buy their own PRIVATE campus.
Philip Aaronson April 01, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Clearly you're a troll. I won't be responding to your posts again.
Joan J. Strong April 01, 2013 at 06:14 PM
We should get these definitions straight. Here's the Wikipedia definition of "troll": "In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion." * While LAPP's post might have been "inflammatory" in that it might anger some people, it certainly was not specifically designed to do that. It was not extraneous or off-topic. We have a fairly general discussion about BCS going on here, and LAPP was responding directly to Phil's post. Now, there's not doubt, Phil, that y'all are going to agree to disagree, etc. But let's at least try to keep the conversation rooted in a general decorum, shall we? Call LAPP wrong, or a meanie, or biased, or other things--but don't use terminology that doesn't apply at all. * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)
BW April 01, 2013 at 07:21 PM
The district needs to discontinue the dangerous and expensive escalation of stakes in their battle with the charter school. LASD should quit while they are ahead. Here is my recommendation: 1) Identify the campus which holds the least strategic value for the district and give that campus to BCS in exchange for a long term agreement from BCS not to outgrow said campus. 2) Redraw attendance boundaries to best fit the LASD student population into the remaining 8 campuses. Consider switching to a K-5/6-8 model to alleviate overcrowding in the elementary schools and utilize existing capacity at the Jr High schools.
L.A. Chung (Editor) April 01, 2013 at 07:46 PM
I've had offline communication with LA Patch Poster about the specific problem mentioned above, and have learned some new things in the process. The following is helpful for anyone posting comment, announcements, events or using our blogging platform for the first time: In February, we rolled out a more robust spam-filtering feature that auto-rejects uploads that the program recognizes as possible spam. This has virtually stopped all the UFC-live-webs-treaming-in-HD-fights notices and sports links that used to hijack my and other Patch sites. It is not perfect, however. I've discovered there's a rejected- item queue that I can check periodically, but I wasn't aware of where and how to do it. Now I do. LA Patch Poster and at least one other community member's comments were in the rejected queue. Our support desk advises commenters to try not to include a lot of hyperlinks, which will touch off the spam grabber. They don't get zapped, they just get corralled in a separate queue and need an editor to release them. In general, flag me if your comments are getting rejected so I can go check it (lachung@patch.com or losaltos@patch.com). Also, if you have other questions about stuff not working on the site, our support desk is our public-facing presence and they are really helpful guys and gals who try to respond quickly: support@patch.com
Philip Aaronson April 01, 2013 at 07:52 PM
The final offer is up on the district website. The final offer unfortunately stands at 5 classrooms at Blach, and incredibly the sharing is actually worse than the preliminary offer. The offer remains at 1 period (that's an average ADA of 56!), but now the schedule for sharing the science labs goes from 2:30 to 4pm (in the preliminary offer it went from 2:10 to 3:30). When did Blach's school day run until 4pm? Note they also share the drama room starting at 8am, and yes, the offer does apparently dictate that BCS's school day run from 8-4pm. What are Blach's hours currently? Egan's are 8:15 to 3pm. If this is a April fools joke, I'm not laughing.
Joan J. Strong April 01, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Another day, another BCS supporter calling for the closure of a neighborhood school...
mark April 01, 2013 at 09:27 PM
@Philip - the Blach bell schedule has their school day going from 8:12 to 2:53. I would expect BCS's science lab time to be adjusted prior to the first day of school to be 2:55 to 4:25pm. Such an adjustment is contemplated at the top of page 14 of the Final Offer. The algorithm is not "share resources" - it's "allocate BCS resources when Blach isn't using them". Sometimes that might actually work. But more often it will just shift all the burden to the BCS kids and staff.
Philip Aaronson April 01, 2013 at 09:48 PM
The Multi use is similarly awful. Two weeks a year (as part of a gym)? For two weeks out of the year BCS can use the multi on Mon & Tues for periods 1-5, and period 1 on Wed, Thu and Friday (which is when they also have Drama shared)? Are they serious? For non-PE use, BCS gets 8 school days of use throughout the entire school year. Blach apparently uses the Multi (for non-PE use) for 24 events throughout the year, apparently it is very lightly used. BCS has heavy use of a multi in their program, the sharing should work really well, and yet they've gone out of the way to deny access? There's also no after school allocation of PE spaces for BCS students at all and apparently they're not counting the after school allocation to Blach students as part of the offer either. It's just a freebie for the district, Blach students get 100% after school use, BCS students 0%. Blach facilities are limited to grades 4-8 to promote safety even though our facilities practically on top of a pre-school. k-5 will not have access to any shared PE facilities because it wants to avoid simultaneously sharing even though there is no simultaneous sharing that I could see. The home arts, drama classrooms are limited to 6th, 7th and 8th only for safety reasons? Drama? Really? The whole thing is strange. The LASD BoTs are basically dictating schedule, and grades with this offer.
Philip Aaronson April 01, 2013 at 09:59 PM
The superintendent Jeff Baier has already said that the science labs are idle for the 1st period and the last period of each day (I assume that would be approximately 2pm), and one of the science labs is idle for an additional period. So basically this change from the preliminary offer is complete and utter baloney. The lab is sitting idle from 2pm until 2:30 because why?
PSR April 02, 2013 at 07:32 AM
The district needs to avoid redrawing the boundaries for the benefit of BCS. This seems to be the "go to" solution I hear from the charter parents. I can only think that is has not been made clear enough by LASD parents that our children should NOT BE MOVED to benefit the charter. Why is the unchecked growth of the charter something that should make the LASD children suffer? The size of the charter is the decision of the charter and their kids stay together with their classmates. For some reason, BSC supporters don't think LASD kids deserve the same treatment. When the boundaries were redrawn a few years ago, it angered many parents and affected a lot of children. That scenario should be avoided at all costs. When a new school is built, children new to the district should go there. Children that are already in a school community should NEVER be moved. Let the numbers correct over time as the children go on to middle school. Let me repeat. NO LASD school community should be disrupted for the benefit of the charter. The charter is by definition a "commuter campus" and as such is the entity that should be moved. If they have a site OTHER than an existing campus in mind, I'm sure the district and LASD parents would love to hear about it and do what can be done to make it happen. We want this to stop but are NOT willing to sacrifice a school to do it.
PSR April 02, 2013 at 07:40 AM
Phillip & Mark, BCS prides itself on the longer instructional hours. Why is it unreasonable to bias the use of the specialized rooms to when the Blach kids are gone? I know there will be some overlap, which I'm sure could be managed, but i don't see the big issue. I simply don't see why sharing is such a problem. It seems the real need for innovation here is not how the children are taught but in how we can provide for ALL of them.
Philip Aaronson April 02, 2013 at 01:31 PM
I don't think it's unreasonable to bias the use of specialized rooms to when Blach kids are aren't using them. That said, BCS's middle school instruction ends at 3:15. Sharing of facilities after that point does little good. I was at the LASD BoTs meeting last night and Mr. Kenyon was highlighting how they had increased science lab sharing to 400 and something minutes per week. No. Starting sharing of 1 lab at 2:30pm means that the science lab allocation is less than 1 period for 56 in-district students by the boards' own projected numbers, and they projected down. That is simply not acceptable. At least one science lab is idle for 3 periods out of the day, there's no reason why 2 or all 3 aren't shared.
Philip Aaronson April 02, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Mark, you're right, at last night's board meeting they announced that the Blach principal has agreed to push the start of their school day back (I assume to 8:30 or 8:45 but they didn't say exactly). So the shift of the start of sharing to 2:30pm is likely in reflection of that new schedule.
PSR April 02, 2013 at 06:22 PM
From the comments above concerning the offer, it is obvious that BCS will probably once again sue the district. I imagine that the papers were drawn up to do so even before the offer was tendered. I will be most surprised if the papers aren't filed today. Rather than nit-pick every item offered to BCS and how it is unfair, perhaps it would be wiser to see what does work, what isn't working and what could be better and try to actually compromise. BCS won't get everything they want and neither will LASD. That is what compromise is. What it is not is one side complaining and rattling sabers before the first day of classes. It can't work if threats are the order of the day. It would be nice to hear, for once, what is good about the offer rather than what is bad. It would be nice, for once, to have specific issues discussed without threats. Everybody needs more space. Why not work toward that for a year and see what happens rather than getting back on the merry-go-round again?
Philip Aaronson April 02, 2013 at 09:31 PM
No offense, but splitting BCS into two parts isn't a minor nit type deal. It's major. The biggest deal breaker here that I see is that a) there are only 5 classrooms at Blach. And b) there's an awful lot of restrictions on who can use what. And note that the BoTs cannot dictate who uses what facilities, but they're doing their best to do it anyway. I asked LASD parents to please contact the board and to ask them to compromise and make the Blach site a little bigger (and Egan smaller), to make the split viable, we were heartbreakingly close. I guess the BoTs weren't listening since everyone else seems very interested in compromising. Mostly I wish LASD parents would just simply ask if this is something they'd accept for their children if they were put in the same position. Would stuffing 56 students into a science lab sound like a reasonable, safe option to you? Or were you thinking that BCS students should just have half as much science lab time (no one will notice). Are these things you would compromise? I don't think so. I'm just curious why you'd think I would?
PSR April 02, 2013 at 10:07 PM
What I think is that BCS can choose what size it wishes to be. Since it chooses to get its facilities through prop 39, even though many charters get their own facilities privately, then it is also making a choice that is going to require that it may have to deal with facilities that aren't the perfect set up for itself. If it is important to have all the children on one site, then figure out what is available through the district and only grow to that size. If the school makes the decision to grow larger, then they will have to live with less-than-perfect facilities. That doesn't mean they are getting less than the other children in the district get. It means that ALL the kids have to live with less than optimal facilities until we ALL work together to get more space for everyone. Phillip, I don't want your kids to have less than mine, but I also expect that you should not want mine to have less either, which was suggested by a BCS parent at an LASD board meeting only a couple of weeks ago. Why should LASD "over allocate" space to BCS just so BCS has what it wants? How is that fair to the district kids? Why is it more fair that LASD kids have less space than BCS kids? Isn't it really more reasonable that we all put up with a little discomfort while we deal with the problem for the long term? Do you really think that having all this litigation rather than working together for more space is really better?
Joan J. Strong April 02, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Whether it makes sense or not is beside the point. The only thing the District can do is make sure they do not lose their court case. The litigation locks LASD into a narrow set of possibilities: they MUST follow Prop 39 to the letter. That's just reality, whether we like it or not. Prop 39 is the thing here that doesn't make sense. That, and a certain charter school who has forced the District's hand in following it exactly. The best thing that could happen for existing BCS parents would be for BCS to curtail enrollment next year such that they had more room. Growth does not help existing BCS families in ANY WAY. The BCS program takes more facilities per-student than the parallel LASD program, meaning that by definition BCS will NEVER be given enough facilities for their program as long as LASD follows the law. Unless they drop the litigation they will be on this merry-go-round until, in the words of the BCS lead counsel, "until our kids are out of college".
Philip Aaronson April 02, 2013 at 11:35 PM
Again, I fail to see how district kids in traditional schools are impacted by this one way or the other? What difference does a few more portables on Blach make to the traditional students there? Or sharing another already unused science lab period? I suppose you could argue that it collectively makes the experience marginally worse at Blach, and marginally better at Egan, and Egan has compromised far more than Blach. That's why the BoTs were initially for the idea of having more students at Blach but then for some reason they quickly backed away from that and have never explained why.


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