UPDATED: Bullis, Los Altos School District Back in Court

After negotiations over a long-term agreement break down, Bullis Charter School asks the court to hold hearings on the district's compliance. The district asks the court to determine whether BCS is a semi-private school and those implications.


Update #2: Los Altos Patch has now posted Bullis Charter School's June 8, 2012 request to the court to set hearing dates on the district's compliance to the court's March 2012 order, the district's response, the court's June 8, 2012 order for hearings. It has also posted a stipulation and order to extend the deadline for filing of any attorneys' fees.

Editor's note (Update #1): Los Altos Patch has now posted a letter from Bullis Charter School Chairman Ken Moore to BCS parents, and a copy of the BCS request for declaratory relief from the court. We will continue to update this article throughout the weekend with commentary from involved parties.


After a season of hope, one that included an announcement of a tentative agreement, Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District are headed back to court.

"I am sorry to have to inform you that the Bullis Charter School has decided not to accept our interim offer to keep their K-8 program at Egan for the next two years while we work out a long-term agreement and have instead chosen to return to court," wrote Los Altos School Board President Mark Goines in an email to district parents Friday.

With a breakdown in negotiations, Bullis asked Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas on Friday to hold hearings on the district's compliance with the court's order to comply with Prop. 39, the state law that requires districts to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to charter schools in their boundaries.

"I'm totally disappointed that the district backed away from the tentative mediated agreement," said Bullis board Chairman Ken Moore. "That was months in the making, and it had extracted large compromise from both sides." 

The Los Altos School District responded during a hearing Friday, and took a new tack: It has raised the question of whether BCS is a semi-private school, and asked the court whether such a school is entitled to public school facilities under Prop. 39. It also asked whether a district's offer is compliant, when combined with a  charter school's private resources that provide equal or greater student resources than those afforded in-district students. 

"It is not the desire by LASD board to make this more difficult than it has to be," said district Trustee Doug Smith who has been a member of the ad-hoc  negotiating team. He noted that district school parents have been raising that question for months, but "we have been holding back."

Things had looked more hopeful on May 7, when a tentative agreement, one Smith called a framework for a solution that would last a decade or more, was announced by both boards.

Negotiations over a long-term agreement foundered last week, however, as both sides labored to hammer out a host of details in just a month, and anxious district parents had raised a series of concerns. Four schools—Almond, Santa Rita, part of Covington, and Gardner Bullis—had been identified as possible sites for Bullis Charter School. Part of the solution, too, hinged on finding a 10th site, ostensibly to place a displaced school.

Last week, unable identify a possible 10th school site in a three-week timeframe, the district offered an interim agreement, initially presented as a term sheet, that the board thought would provide a little breathing room while trying find a campus.

Bullis had objected to the interim agreement proposal because members felt the district had reneged on key features of the agreed-upon framework, said charter school Chairman Ken Moore Friday.

"The term sheet took all of the concessions BCS made during the mediation, but none of the benefits," Moore told Patch Friday afternoon. "In my opinion they backtracked away.

"We reached a point that we're going to have to go into court and set up dates so that the judge could hear our case."

Los Altos Patch has posted a copy of LASD's response, and will post a copy of BCS' brief when the board makes it available later.

Watch for more updates over the weekend, as Patch further analyzes the action, and provides more information from interviews conducted Friday.

David June 09, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Question. The document attached here labeled "Bullis Charter School filed this complaint for declaratory relief from Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas June 8 2012 " was faxed in June of 2009. Is there a mixup?
L.A. Chung (Editor) June 09, 2012 at 10:47 PM
@Nancy: I wrote that sentence that way for a reason. I am very precise in word choice. "Solution" does not equal the mediated "agreement." If I had meant to say agreement, I would have used the word "mediated agreement" or "agreement" for clarity. Again, this is a short summary of the dynamics and not what was the negotiated agreement vs. what was the term sheet proposal, nor a detailed explication of the mediated agreement. Everyone has access to those documents, which were placed on Patch's website contemporaneously, and on BCS' and LASD's websites. The description in the article was a summary of the movement of this process, not a summary of the mediated agreement. A short rundown of the process thus far: The mediated agreement was a document that was released on May 7. After that, there were continued negotiations to hammer out the details of the agreement. The board made a proposal. The BCS negotiators were not in favor of the proposal. That brings us to June 1. In between those dates, there were several parallel things going on. The City Council demanded a letter that eminent domain would not be used on the Hillview Community Center site. The observation that a solution hinged on the 10th site is separate and apart from the mediated agreement document released on May 7. I made that observation based on the direction that the negotiations took, and the sturm-und-drang with the city of Los Altos. Right or wrong, justified or not, that's what's happened so far.
fact checker June 09, 2012 at 10:51 PM
"It is not the desire by LASD board to make this more difficult than it has to be," said district Trustee Doug Smith who has been a member of the ad-hoc negotiating team. He noted that district school parents have been raising that question for months, but "we have been holding back." For those of you who have not seen/heard or forgotten Doug Smith's presentation of the May 7th Agreement, here's a refresher: http://losaltospolitico.com/2012/05/doug-smith-the-lasd-bcs-long-term-tentative-agreement/
L.A. Chung (Editor) June 09, 2012 at 11:03 PM
@David R. I was in error in the caption and will make a correction. This is a foundational document, from which BCS' request yesterday (June 8) stems. The hearing, indeed, took place June 8, 2012. The June 2009 date is the original date that BCS filed the lawsuit, in response to LASD's offer for facilities for the 2009-10 school year. This case went up to California Sixth District Court of Appeal, which, in October 2011 overturned the Superior Court's earlier decision. It was sent back down to the Superior Court and is now in Judge Patricia Lucas' jurisdiction; that court issued a writ of mandate in March 2012. Even though the 2009-10 year is long gone, Judge Lucas has the authority to order the school district to comply, per the March 2012 writ of mandate.
thedofca June 10, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Can someone tell me if the $4000 or so is an actual mandatory payment from parents at BCS? I've been told it is. I don't see how that can be true.
lasd resident June 10, 2012 at 01:11 AM
It is absolutely NOT true. BCS is a public, tuition-free school. It welcomes all children regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or whether they have any special needs. There has been much misinformation spread in the last few months unfortunately, but all charter schools are PUBLIC schools and tuition free.
fact checker June 10, 2012 at 02:22 AM
No - there is no "mandatory payment" from parents. The foundation operates much like the Los Altos Education Foundation or any other public school foundation. See their website for more info: http://www.bcsfoundation.com/ For reference, here are links to some other local district foundations: Woodside Elementary School: http://www.woodside.k12.ca.us/Page/798 Hillsborough Schools : http://www.hsf.org/annualgiving.html
Ron Haley June 10, 2012 at 04:47 AM
"It's a sad day our elected officials have sunk so low." To sink, you must at some stage been higher. I don't think that applies to these characters. Now you know why the court said they acted in "bad faith".
Ron Haley June 10, 2012 at 04:50 AM
The original mediated agreement had BCS getting one of the listed 4 schools whatever happened to the bond, within no more than 2 years. LASD unilaterally changed that and the first BCS saw of the changes was via LASD's public disclosure.
Ron Haley June 10, 2012 at 04:53 AM
Let's hope this is the catalyst that gets BCS to sue for equal funding!
Ron Haley June 10, 2012 at 04:56 AM
And the only reason the requested donation is so high is that LASD witholds $6,500 in funding when a student leaves LASD for BCS.
Joan J. Strong June 10, 2012 at 09:02 AM
Looks like a rare story with no participation from anybody except members of the BCS regime. I guess it's good to see what all of the BCS lies look like in one place. For the truth, please see: http://bullisCharterScam.org/
Joe Seither June 10, 2012 at 03:39 PM
The mediated "framework" was just that - a framework for achieving a long term facilities agreement. On the night it was "sunshined" to the community at large, the question was asked of (I believe) Doug Smith, "What happens if you never reach final agreement in this mediation process, under this "framework"?" Fall back to the Prop 39 offer was the answer, and that's where we are. Confidential mediation - lacking community oversight and input - is what produced the "framework," and once the community had an oppty to review and provide input, we learned that the community deemed it deficient in important ways. The LASD BoT responded to the concerns of its constituents, and I applaud them for that.
Joan J. Strong June 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Lie. The total government funding difference between BCS and LASD is somewhere on the order of $1000--which LASD uses for things BCS ignores, such as special needs kids. BCS children enjoy over twice as much money for their programs as typical LASD children. BCS, as you can see, is working night and day to change that and take even more money from our District and use loopholes in the law to essentially bankrupt our schools. This is not hyperbole--they want to sue us for $20m. Please see: http://bullisCharterScam.org/bullis_charter_money.php
LASD resident June 10, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Yeah Joe I get that. They listened to their community and then back away from it What I don't understand is why they are claiiming BCS backed away from the agreement in both their press releases and in the recently filed court documents. The LASD board seems to want it both ways. Heroes to the LASD parents and also the ones who claimed they want to do a deal.
Ron Haley June 10, 2012 at 11:18 PM
It's looking bad for Egan parents. Given the timing of the next hearing, the only way I can see the court forcing LASD to meet its prop 39 requirements is allocating BCS another 3+ acres on the Egan site. That's 3+ additional on top of the current proposed increment. BCS will occupy 55%+ of the Egan site.
David June 11, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Don't throw fuel on the flames. The main issue with next year's offer in the short term could be fixed by an extra 4 to 6 portable buildings and hardly any more land. The fact that the offer is deficient by that classroom space is easy to prove and relatively quick to fix. It wouldn't help anyone to take an extra 4 acres from Egan just like it isn't helping anyone to give it to BCS from Blach! The condition of the offered facilities also must be taken into account and that would include the split and the odd gerrymandered layout, but that is not so quick nor easy to fix. But it could be fixed by 2013-2014.
Joan J. Strong June 11, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Yep, it's not "looking good for BCS children"--totally beside the point; the important thing is that this will be BAD for Egan parents. So does Ron Haley speak for BCS? Let's see. Ron Haley leads the charge against critical funding for our schools: http://losaltos.patch.com/articles/measure-e-a-case-against-the-parcel-tax Ken Moore, BCS Chairman, leads the charge against critical funding for our schools: http://losaltos.patch.com/articles/measure-e-public-funds-for-some-but-not-all Fact: Ron Haley has never, ever been repudiated by BCS despite years of appalling, vindictive statements like the one above. All you have to do is read the documents attached to this story to see that Ron Haley absolutely IS the face of BCS. So just remember, when you support BCS, you support Ron Haley and everything he stands for.
lasd resident June 11, 2012 at 03:11 AM
And the LASD board has not repudiated Joan J. Strong. They're both equally guilty and I think any rational person knows that Joan J. Strong does not speak for LASD and Ron Haley does not speak for BCS. Ron has never claimed to speak for the BCS board. Nor have I seen Joan say she speaks for LASD. I can only hope the people on this board are more rational than Joan and Ron.
Joan J. Strong June 11, 2012 at 06:24 AM
@lasd -- I don't recall coordinating with LASD on a political campaign, actually. Ron did with BCS. Conflating me with Ron Haley is a smear tactic--and it's typical BCS... Your assumption seems to be that people who read this are idiots and can't get past your two bit conman tactics. You're wrong.
Ron Haley June 11, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Smearing an alias :) I thought you were VERY VERY close to Jay Gill!
Ron Haley June 11, 2012 at 03:21 PM
If only they wouldn't lie about how we got there. BTW, I didn't see the $1million for BCS legal fees in Randys budget?! Perhaps LAEF is going to pick that up?
lasd resident June 11, 2012 at 05:42 PM
Actually, Joan, I think just the opposite. I think the readers here are far from idiots and know that both you and Ron speak only for yourself. Ron's actions on Measure E were NOT coordinated with BCS. They were purely of his own making. And since you're not a real person, I have no way of knowing how you interact with LASD. So much for transparency. I stand by my comment that no rational person reading these threads takes either you or Ron seriously. The facts speak for themselves. BCS does not get parcel tax money. They do not get the bump from basic aid. They do not get other government funding LASD gets. The difference is $4300.
Joan J. Strong June 11, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Both Ron Haley and Ken Moore wrote editorials on Patch with the same exact message. Wanny Hersey wrote a letter to parents that was obviously an attempt to get BCS parents to vote no. You are really excited about that $4300 number. The BCS website used to contradict that number before they changed their site (now it says nothing). I wonder why? Maybe because it's a made-up number by some consulting firm BCS paid to come up with it? The BCS board, arguably, takes Ron at his word and operates 100% consistently with his every single statement about what actions BCS ought to take. Ron speaks, defacto, for the BCS board of directors. If it's hard to imagine how a whole school board could be filled with hate like Ron, ask yourself what kind of people would try to stop funding for our schools out of spite like BCS absolutely did. (I suppose I should be complimented in a backwards way that you are willing to sacrifice Ron's reputation in order to take me out by using the fallacy of conflation). Ron wants to win no matter who it hurts. He's shown time and time again that his priority is hurting the LASD board even though it would hurt children. Like all of the BCS founders his children would have been much better off going to private school which they can all easily afford. I, on the other hand, have a offered a POSITIVE vision of hope for the BCS community: http://bullischarterschoolthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/03/bullis-charter-school-post-war-vision.html
michael crimson June 11, 2012 at 09:11 PM
As for the threshold of donations - what dollar level separates a public school from a 'semi-private' school? LASD asks for $1500, BCS asks for $4500...most communities in America find those levels prohibitive, so why is BCS 'semi-private', but LASD not? I'd prefer to hear from someone with facts, rather than someone who will call others liars and fabricate information. Thank you.
lasd resident June 11, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Joan... who would deny students their right to equivalent facilities? I'm not going to engage with you any more. You have far too much time on your hands and have twisted everything that's good and turned it into a negative. Bottom line is that BCS is an outstanding PUBLIC school. it is tuition free and welcomes all students. It's programs are so sought after that 1 in 3 kindergarten students in LASD applies. The community wants choice. They want what BCS offers. Enough said.
Joan J. Strong June 11, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Here's some facts. The LASD charitable foundation, LAEF, asks for $1000 and gets approximately $500 per child per year. BCS asks for $5000 and gets... $5000 per child on average--not including "supplemental" fundraising such as the recent auction that reportedly raised $400k or another $1k per child in ONE NIGHT alone. Another fact: LASD would be fine without the LAEF donations and keep all of its schools open and educate all of its children, albeit with somewhat less quality. BCS, without it's donations from parents, would cease to exist. Period. That's the definition of a private school in most people's book. Oh, and it turns out that the difference between $500 and $5000 is actually somewhat material for some people. Only 40 parents--from a student population of 4500--donate at the $5000 level to LAEF. On the other hand this is by definition the median donation to BCS.
Ron Haley June 11, 2012 at 09:55 PM
BCS parents pay 10 times more because they think it's worth it. And there are 700+ more lining up to pay it! Perhaps it's to get away from those overpaid, "jobs for life" employees at LASD?!
Joan J. Strong June 12, 2012 at 12:34 AM
There is no significant, structural difference in total compensation between BCS teachers and LASD teachers. None. Currently BCS teachers are younger on average. I have heard testimony by a BCS teacher that, despite what Ron might say here to win his argument, BCS does not engage in the systemic purging of older teachers. As such, their salaries and health benefits will necessarily grow over time, bringing them ultimately in line with LASD teachers, and there is even reason to believe they could even be paid more based on BCS's somewhat more generous health plan (dang [lack of] teacher's unions!). LASD teachers teach at the top-ranked school district in the State. They achieve these scores with roughly half of the money available for their programs than typical BCS children enjoy. Yes, BCS engages in a few gimmicks in an attempt to squeeze "higher performance" out of teachers--gimmicks that studies show do not work. These gimmicks make great copy for BCS brochures, but they don't save money and they don't improve educational outcomes.
Bill June 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM
What Ron and others fail to understand about referring to a "waitlist" as pent up demand, is that ones spot on the list is just a free call option. Similar to being on a waitlist for a country club. Parents can wait in a list, then decide at the last minute if they intend to change schools. The implication that every person on the wailist will (and wants) to attend BCS is a farce. I would be willing to bet some people place their names on the list as a hedge against their local school being taken over. Can't say I blame that, but I wouldn't blanket them as clamoring to get accepted.


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