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NEW UPDATE: Closed-Door Schools Mediation Session Cancelled Tuesday

Los Altos School District officials quickly cancelled a closed-door session between the LASD board and the Bullis Charter School Board after a resident cited the state's open meeting laws in a Monday night email.

Mediation talks poised to begin Tuesday morning between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School Board were abruptly cancelled 90 minutes before the start of the 10 a.m. session.

"We've cancelled the closed session, since there was some question about the Brown Act," said school Superintendent Jeff Baier Tuesday morning, referring to the state open meeting law that governs local bodies.

, who is a new member of the school district's Citizen’s Advisory Committee for Finance (CACF), had written to Richard J. McAdams, the retired judge who was selected as the mediator for the special session. Ivanovic said he objected to the special, closed-door meeting that was announced Monday morning.

Ivanovic had also enjoined Californians Aware, a well-known open-government advocacy organization , to weigh in. That organization's counsel wrote to the district and advised that California Aware could challenge and ask for nullification of any agreement stemming from closed door meetings.

Californians Aware, known as CalAware, advocates, educates—and litigates—in the interest of open government.

Ivanovic said it was too important of an issue to decide behind closed doors. 

"I think the issue is such a big issue and involves so many people, and has such a big impact on the community that any mediation that doesn't involve the community is doomed to failure," Ivanovic said Tuesday morning.

"I also believe it's the law and I ask people to follow the law."

The LASD notice of the closed-door session cited "existing litigation" regarding the current Superior Court case over the 2009-10 facilities offer involving Bullis Charter School and LASD, and "anticipated litigation." The closed session was described as being held "in conjunction with a closed mediation session with Bullis Charter School conducted by Hon. Richard J. McAdams (Ret.)."

Baier said the district acted after Monday night's school board meeting ended, when he saw the California Aware email sent at 6:30 p.m., challenging the closed session. At 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the administrative assistant for the district sent out the cancellation notice.

Baier said the mediation talks will go on, but with only two representatives of the LASD board. Since there is no quorum, no decisions from such closed-door mediation sessions will be made, he sadi. 

"Before any decision is made, it would be brought back to the full board and there will be opportunity for public input," Baier said. Future closed door mediation sessions do not need to be announced to the public since there is no quorum of the board and no decisions made, he said.

Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, wrote a letter to Los Altos School Superintendent Jeffrey Baier Monday, cautioning that the planned closed-door sessions would violate the Brown Act, known as the open meetings law. Francke further warned that he would recommend his board of directors move to nullify any agreement reached if full-board sessions were held in secret.

"There is no provision in the Act authorizing a legislative body to meet in closed session to participate in mediation with a legal adversary," Francke wrote.

"The closed session basis specified on the meeting agenda for tomorrow—Conference with legal counsel pursuant to Government Code Section 54956.9—is not authority for such a nonpublic interaction."

Board members meeting in numbers less than a quorum could meet without violating the Brown Act, Francke reminded. 

"Nothing in the Brown Act precludes or is in any manner inconsistent with mediation, if those participating on behalf of the district in a nonpublic process are less than a majority.  But it does preclude a local body or a majority of its members from being present in a closed session to participate in a mediation with representatives of an adverse party, whether or not the majority is present behind closed doors all at the same time or whether shuttled in and out in serial fashion as alleged in Page."

Ivanovic, who was an advocate for mediation—but in the form of binding arbitration—between the two boards, invoked the Brown Act and the Gloria Romero Open Meetings Act in raising his complaint to retired judge McAdams.

McAdams, a retired justice from the Sixth District Court of Appeal, joined the JAMS Resolution Center in San Jose last year, specializes in government/public entities. He served on the state Court of Appeal for six years, and on the Santa Cruz County Superior Court for 26 years.

David Casas March 06, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I agree that the meeting, while well intentioned, should never have been scheduled as a closed session. Both Ivanovic and Francke are correct in their assertions.
Barbara Goodrich March 06, 2012 at 07:45 PM
I've held back on the LASD / Bullis Charter controversy, but I'm troubled by a number of things I'm reading about. 1. Suggestion that the solution be left to "vested parents" to figure out. I have no kids in the system but pay a lot (two parcel taxes plus bonds) for education in our town. People like me are funding the controversy. We're plenty vested, but without an ax to grind. We're EXACTLY the taxpayers who should be engaged in finding a solution, so please drop all references to "vested parents" while taxpayers are financing the schools. 2. The appeals court made a ruling last fall. We know for sure that LASD has not complied with the law regarding BCS and "reasonably equivalent" facilities. So long as that's the case, BCS has a legitimate grievance which isn't going away. 3. The root problem was created by closing the LAH public school after passing a parcel tax. It was a terrible mistake on the part of LASD, and BCS is a natural outgrowth of that mistaken decision. I'm tired of reading that BCS is a "lawsuit machine." It's a group of parents who have created a successful learning environment for their kids when the local public school was closed, and did so against great odds. 4. Why did LASD invest so much in remodeling the Gardner Bullis site when the population base couldn't support it? Why are we importing elementary age students from Palo Alto while our own BCS students are in trailers?
Joan J. Strong March 06, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Barbara: 1. If you have no axe to grind, why are you grinding your LASD axe? This sounds disingenuous. By the way, most of my own taxes are Federal and go to pay for a LOT of things I don't personally agree with but I don't tend to wade into issues I know nothing about. 2. The appeals court overturned a judgement about a technicality in the law. Please educate yourself as to the exact technicality in question before you repeat "BCS PR Firm Talking Point #6: the District is breaking the Law, yadda yadda yadda". 3. So now BCS is right in wanting to close a LAH public school AGAIN? This time a thriving school with perfectly fine facilities that do not need fixing like fore? Do you really think this is going HEAL anything? 4. Ah yes, "BCS PR Firm Talking Point #8: PAUSD kids at GB". This is one of the most dishonest attacks from BCS since THEY THEMSELVES were founded partially by PAUSD parents who attended the old school in LAH. That they bring this up now shows their extreme cynicism. Please read the site linked above--it it a refreshing change from the list of BCS PR Firm Talking Points you've obviously memorized.
Chris Sanchez March 06, 2012 at 11:14 PM
"I agree that the meeting, while well intentioned, should never have been scheduled..." WOW why don't you take a stand for once instead of saying so much yet saying so little. I understand you're trying to please everyone so you can sell more homes but it would be nice to see some spine every now and then.
Courtenay C. Corrigan March 06, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Dearest Joan, Barbara, like my self and most others are content to post under their real name. We stand by what we say then and now. You lobbing hate-bombs from the comfort of anonymity is no longer tolerated by the broader community...a community that is looking for real solutions. Time to grow up.
Bob Montgomery March 06, 2012 at 11:47 PM
David, unless I'm mistaken, aren't you a member of the city council? Please stick to renovating the downtown and stay out of other government agencies' issues. It's fun to spout off but it really doesn't contribute anything other than to get your name out there one more time. Sorry for the candor.
Joan J. Strong March 06, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Be careful what you wish for, CC. Recall that in previous discussions on this site, after having absolutely no answer to any of my honest and well-reasoned arguments, you were reduced to hateful personal attacks on me and by extension David Cortright (who you kept repeating was me). David C, in particular, has been on the receiving end of VICIOUS personal attacks by yourself and other BCS supporters. Attacks that have absolutely nothing to do with the subject at hand. My postings are direct in nature and call out dishonesty, but I have NEVER EVER resorted to personal attacks as you ABSOLUTELY have. Is this what you mean by standing by everything you say? I am, in fact, the most honest person in this broad conversation...
Joan J. Strong March 07, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Insofar as Mr. Casas is not taking a side in the Charter School discussion because he doesn't fully know all of the facts, he should not be criticized for that. This is a complicated issue and we most decidedly have NOT pushed the LACC to take a side, so I don't think we should expect them to drop everything and dive into this mess. Further, just because BCS people have been able to "bully" certain other nearby City Councils we know into accepting their talking points on faith doesn't mean you should expect that from everybody. Mr. Casas was taking a side on the narrow point of open government, which I support as do many others. It has nothing to do with schools per se. I think public money should be spent out in the open where everybody can see it and apparently so does Mr. Casas--and so do advocates of open and transparent government.
Joan J. Strong March 07, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Sorry to flood us with postings, but this is something that really, really needs to be on the record and is relevant to our discussion of Prop E whose opposition was lead by two posters here and one who thus far is not--Ron Haley. I quote from another discussion in another forum from earlier today: "This stopped being funny for me 9 years ago when LASD closed GB. And through the 17 student years my children have had to put up with the crappy facilities at the charter. What I do find amusing is all this panic from LASD parents that are so worried that 'little Johnny' is going to be relocated from one refurbished LASD school to another refurbished school. Like most BCS parents, I have very little sympathy for 'little Johnny'." That's the face of BCS, ladies and gentlemen... Spite and revenge...
Bob Montgomery March 07, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Joan, you miss my point. David is a fine man, a dedicated leader.... He's on the city council. For him to weigh in on school district matters would be analogous to a school board person publicly suggesting what color planter boxes to install on First Street. Sure, he may have an opinion (not that he really says much of anything in his comment) but it's not his turf. This whole situation is volatile enough without a city councilman chiming in on procedural stuff. Make sense?
Joan J. Strong March 07, 2012 at 03:45 AM
He's implying that he's a strong advocate for open government, and yeah, doing a little grandstanding--he's an elected official after all. Now I know a little bit about this LACC member--whereas I know ZERO about the others. Is that such a bad thing? I would rather ENCOURAGE elected officials to join discussions here and elsewhere about anything and everything...
David Casas March 07, 2012 at 06:31 AM
@Bob ... your comment, about turf, is not correct. First, the Brown Act is much more than a procedural matter. Next, there are consequences for noncompliance. Finally, for the past eight years, I've been fortunate to collaborate with LASD Board Members on a City/School subcommittee. Over those years, the City and LASD have worked to accomplish mutual goals (including transparent governance). @Chris ... that was an interesting segue. @Joan ... thanks for understanding the underlying premise for my comment.
Chris Sanchez March 07, 2012 at 07:30 PM
David, quit it with your PR stunts and get back to work on approving the First Street Safeway plans and other projects you have failed to complete for the past 7 years. I trust that the school board can handle their own affairs without your naggy input.
Joan J. Strong March 07, 2012 at 07:43 PM
@Chris -- please stay on topic. We're talking about schools here, the Charter school and the mediation that started yesterday. Please stop using our forum to grind some axe of yours that has nothing to do with our topic--have Patch write a story about the traffic lights and get your own damn topic.
Chris Sanchez March 07, 2012 at 08:38 PM
No, Joan. We are talking about a meeting that was cancelled and a councilman's desire to tout his own horn. This has nothing to do with schools and our children's education. Unfortunately, Casas and others have politicized this issue while ignoring the students.

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