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County School Board Agrees to Meet in Los Altos

A plea for help, and an invitation to hear first hand, how decisions affect the school community, moves board.

With 136 emails received and anxious parents in the audience Wednesday night, the Santa Clara County Board of Education agreed to conduct a meeting in Los Altos to open up badly needed dialogue over charter schools and school districts.

"I ask for your active involvement for a situation that is not good and getting worse," said John Mahlmeister, a parent at Oak School and one of a dozen who signed up to address the board in the public comment period. "We need help."

The county board of education grants and oversees the administration of the charter for Bullis Charter School (BCS); the Los Altos School District (LASD) provides the facilities for the school.

With ongoing lawsuits and appeals, including a pending , tensions have been steadily increasing since the fall, after of BCS' contention that facilities offered by the district were not reasonably equivalent and speculation rose over which existing school LASD students might have to leave to house BCS as it grows. No school has been identified by the district or requested by BCS' board.

Some speakers described a community being riven—parent friendships "ripped apart" and local businesses placed in the position of having to "pick which school they support." Uncertainties were causing some parents to stop giving to the Los Altos Educational Foundation, said one parent. 

Santa Clara County Board of Education President Joseph Di Salvo assigned three trustees to hammer out the meeting format, participants and date. They include trustees Leon F. Beauchman of Area 3, Michael Chang, who represents Area 2 that covers Los Altos School District, and Julia Hover-Smoot, vice president of the board, from Area 7.

"The thought I had that what we would do is have a dialogue," said Beauchman, who led the proposal for a small-scale meeting. Beauchman suggested that it include representatives from the Los Altos School Board and the BCS Board and staff, but without large numbers of people at the table because not much meaningful discussion takes place in such formats. "Let's talk about what the issue is."

Hover-Smoot suggested that a format that would allow parents to at least hear the discussion, would be more beneficial. Chang said that having a dialogue was important. The meeting was an opportunity to get ideas to craft something that could benefit the larger community, he said, and to build "a little bit more trust" among the participants.

Many of the approximately 20 parents in the audience at the school board's meeting in San Jose had children attending LASD schools, but there were a few from BCS' board, as well. 

"I want to let you know that BCS has not asked or demanded closure of a school, said BCS board member Janet Medlin. "All BCS is asking for is that the LASD comply with the law. If they have to reorganize because of this, great, or that's the way it is, but we didn't cause this."

The county school board, which renewed BCS' charter in October, is in negotiations with the school over the memorandum of understanding. The county Office of Education's self-imposed deadline for reaching agreement on the memorandum is April 30, Weis said, and the statutory deadline is June 30.

Many of the issues raised in school district parents' letters are already being discussed in his office's negotiations with Bullis Charter School, Weis said, adding that he anticipated the school's cooperation. Weis had drafted a letter of response to the emails, and read it during the meeting.

Area 5 Trustee Anna Song asked Weis to go over point, by point, responses to the issues raised in from Michelle Sturiale, a Santa Rita School parent, for the benefit of the large audience.

Weis said that the suggestions to drop geographical preference for Los Altos Hills residents were under negotiations, but that changes would mean material revision of the charter petition. He said that language addressing outreach to low-performing students, appointments or elections to the BCS board were also under discussion. Lastly, Weis said that suggestions that the county encourage BCS seek a multi-year facilities agreement were supported by BCS because the school leadership also thought it would be more beneficial to its operations.

Tamara Logan, appearing as a school district parent, also briefly donned her hat as Los Altos School Board trustee to signal that the LASD board intended to send a formal letter to county board to ask it to meet on other issues, such as how LASD could help the county, as part of building relationships.

Joan J. Strong January 15, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Here are a few specific references from the Site: 1. Is BCS about "school choice"? Answer: http://www.bullischarterscam.org/bullis_charter_facts.php#school_choice 2. Are parents REALLY choosing BCS in droves? Answer: http://www.bullischarterscam.org/bullis_charter_facts.php#bcs_applications 3. Is BCS a great example of the "free market" in action? Answer: http://www.bullischarterscam.org/bullis_charter_facts.php#free_market
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 15, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Did anyone else see the SF Chron article in yesterday's paper about State budget cuts and the fact that Jerry Brown is already closing down the Transitional Kinder program? Public schools are in crisis and funding woes appear to have no relief in site. Again, these spit balls lobbed at BCS are a smokescreen for LASD to continue and blame everyone else for their woes. It is time to demand answers from the district. There simply isn't money to sustain their current programs and model. The trustees are saying "hey, look over there!" instead of addressing how they plan to sustain what you enjoy now. Is the Charter school affected too? You bet. Can't we all join together with this common cause and start to find solutions so NONE of our kids suffer the cuts that are sure to follow?
Joan J. Strong January 15, 2012 at 07:41 PM
I've put forth my solutions in conversation here and there are details of a couple of approaches on that oft-referenced website... What are YOUR solution proposals? If you can envision a solution where none of our public schools are closed and BCS stays happy somehow (wherein it could promise to stop suing our district for instance) I think a lot of people would be open to hearing that. Vague promises to "think of something" if we "all hold hands" are not useful at this juncture. This isn't a legal document so you can talk about ideas here--so go ahead. What do you have in mind? I know my solutions absolutely WILL WORK. So far I have the only workable plan. It doesn't mean it's the only possible plan though. Go ahead, tell us what you think. Tell us a plan that might work.
audience from MTV January 16, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Not only I like cat fights, I like to fuel the fire. Joan, are you asking for another solution that will work? On your web site, you describe the history as... "At this point, LASD decided to close Bullis Purissima in order to open Covington. All Bullis Purissima students (along with their staff and principal) were moved to the Covington campus, and the boundaries of other schools' attendance areas were also shifted in order to send some of those students to Covington. No time frame was given for when Bullis Purissima would reopen, and the plans to renovate the school were originally put on hold." Another solution is for LASD to do this again!
audience from MTV January 16, 2012 at 07:04 AM
And a third option, if you want to go a boring route, would be: - For BCS parents to ask the BCS Board of Directors to start addressing the three or four major issues that are constantly brought up by the community members. - For LASD parents to ask the LASD Board of Trustees to create a community where charter schools become an asset to the community (since they are teaching the same group of kids). Here I am suggesting a novel concept: for all parents to demand something from the organization that is accountable to them and not the other side. Unfortunately I don't like the third option since it will end my entertainment.
suzi berry January 16, 2012 at 07:13 AM
I have to believe we can come up with solutions, particularly if the school board is willing to accept the fact that there are issues to be dealt with today. Through listening and creativity, it should be possible to turn challenges into opportunities. Maybe the Trustees should consider asking all of their constituents what they want? Thousands of families have applied to BCS over the years, many of whom have not gotten in. There seems to be a strong vote for choice in the district. Do the Trustees even know why? What kinds of other choices and things do LASD families want? Is there an opportunity to turn what seems to be a difficult choice for the district, into a series of exciting choices for families? Could one school, for example, have a small Spanish Emersion magnet program? Could another school have a tech program? How about a Mandarin program? what else would be of interest? ASK the people of LASD! What else do your constituents really care about, LASD Trustees? Do you know for sure? Is it libraries, enrichment programs, PE, merit based pay for teachers, technology in the classroom? Is there a creative way to reconfigure things so that the district can be more efficient and offer more? If you have to move things around to follow the law, then give folks something to move for - more choice and more of the programs they care about. Figure out how to make lemonade out of the lemons.
Joan J. Strong January 16, 2012 at 08:10 AM
I was one of those "applicants". Then I learned the truth. Applications mean NOTHING. Please see: http://www.bullischarterscam.org/bullis_charter_facts.php#bcs_applications So basically you're all saying that the "compromise" you are willing to make is that we actually be HAPPY and GLAD that you will close our school down because the school we love and support and has state-leading test scores actually really SUCKS but we didn't know that. You will gladly save us from ourselves (by scattering our kids all over town) and you won't even charge us money for that. Wow, how open minded of you. *** This thread is indeed useful. Almost every parent you talk to in our town will tell you its "impossible" that BCS really wants to force the District to close public schools. They assume that the BCS regime is not really serious about this. They assume that no entity could really be that evil and get away with it. The more people know the truth, the better it is for us. Keep talking, BCS people... keep talking... Here we've witnessed ACTUAL BILLIONAIRES talk about how imperative it is that the local public school district give THEM lots and lots of public money. People would think I'm making this up. But I'm not. It's AWESOME to have this on the record.
audience from MTV January 16, 2012 at 08:55 AM
I love what you are doing, Joan. You are making sure I have entertainment for years to come. (Btw, I checked out the "applications means nothing" link, and the argument there is incorrect. For the '11-12 school year, there were 365 applications from LASD (out of 680). When approximately 9% of LASD students apply to leave the district schools, it's reasonable to believe that they want more than what is being offered right today. Trustees would benefit from asking all of their constituents what they want. --factcheck'ing)
Joan J. Strong January 16, 2012 at 09:20 AM
What website were you reading? Your counter-argument has nothing to do with the one linked... In short, after a heavy bombardment of marketing propaganda plastered all over town by BCS and then an hours-long presentation where you are told just how terrible and awful our public schools are, BCS gets many applications by parents like myself who STILL have no intention of attending the school because they see through the lies. But I think what you are saying is that the District should, in the name of fair play, give parents the URL for the BullisCharterScam.org website and have them read every part of it so they actually get exposed to another viewpoint besides the BCS lies they are bombarded with in the BCS Marketing Presentation. Of course we both know they wont do that. Rumors are that the BCS regime have THREATENED our District leaders with legal action PERSONALLY if they so much as say ANYTHING non-positive about BCS. It's entirely up to parents and private citizens (whom they have also threatened to sue) to spread the word.
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 16, 2012 at 05:41 PM
From your own blog. It is in a letter you addressed to the LASD on November 10, 2011. "...All that preamble aside, the most pressing issue for you is what facilities to give BCS to meet Prop 39, especially given their tendency for unchecked growth. I have two suggestions for you. The first would be the simplest and most straightforward. Give BCS the Gardner-Bullis site. They have been quite clear about their desire for this particular site since the beginning. Yes it pains me to think that we might actually end up rewarding them for their bad behavior, but it might prove to be the best way to resolve this issue. It may not be currently big enough to house the BCS school body, but portables be installed on the property there to give them the required capacity. My hope is that BCS still places a high value on getting that particular site, and thus would be willing to concede on other points in a legally binding contract in order to do so."
Joan J. Strong January 16, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Thanks again, Courtney, for demonstrating your true feelings. And here I thought the Official Talking Points from your regime were to publicly deny that you want to close thriving public schools. Get it straight people: BULLIS CHARTER CLOSES SCHOOLS Stop Bullis Charter or SCHOOLS CLOSE. PERIOD. They are self-righteous fanatics who are NOT INTERESTED in compromise. We need to put this on flyers all over town. People need to know about this. Their true intentions have been hidden from the citizens of Los Altos and Hills for too long. Please print and distribute flyers and bumper stickers from this page: http://www.bullischarterscam.org/bullis_charter_materials.php Thank you.
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 16, 2012 at 07:29 PM
The quote is from a letter YOU wrote to the LASD on November 10, 2011! I assume it reflects your point of view (or one of your many aliases) It is your letter darling, not mine....
Joan J. Strong January 16, 2012 at 07:53 PM
[[ Side note to confused readers: Courtney and the BCS regime are obsessed with a certain local non-parent blogger and are convinced that everything critical written about Bullis Charter on the Internet and elsewhere is actually the work of ONE PERSON. Presumably they also believe that all 131 letters recently sent to the SCCBOE were also all forged by this one person. Like most beliefs held by BCS supporters, this one is immovable. While I and others have tried to convince them otherwise, she and the rest of the BCS regime have convinced themselves of this and there is no changing their tightly closed minds. The only thing you can do is ignore gibberish this and focus on what they are REALLY saying, which is that they WANT TO CLOSE THRIVING PUBLIC SCHOOLS and will feel GREAT about doing that. ]]
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 16, 2012 at 08:00 PM
You are not the same person who wrote this? Your writing style is identical. You and the various names you post under all use the exact same language and you all are the ONLY ones who point traffic to your ridiculous website and blog. Wat is even funnier is that you post that you are a non-parent BUT also you post that you 1. call GB "your" school that your kids go to and 2. that you applied to BCS. Which is it? Just so those of us watching this farce understand who you "really" are.
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 16, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Joan, right? It is C-O-U-R-T-E-N-A-Y. Always has been, always will be....
Fred January 16, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Thanks for the data MTV. Is the 365 number publicly available information?
Joan J. Strong January 16, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Confusing, isn't it? Self-delusion is like that sometimes. Whatever you do don't let reality confuse you like that. Just ignore certain parts. Keep clinging to your ridiculous world-view that all opposition to our schools closing is coming from just one person. I guess that must be comforting and helps alleviate some of those pesky feelings of guilt... *** Again, readers take heed: CourteNAY Corrigan is a key supporter of BCS (Google it) and by all accounts is representative of the school's policies. Reading this poster's writing gives you a clear view into what BCS really thinks and is a great indicator of what the school will do next. They want to shut down our schools and they will feel GREAT about doing it. They demonstrate here the necessary self-delusion to commit these acts. They do not care what happens to our children or even the children at BCS itself whom they gleefully use as pawns in their chess game. They could "solve" the problem any time they felt like it by just buying their school a campus. But they are not interested in "compromise" of any kind. It's us or them.
suzi berry January 17, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Joan, respectfully, what piece of land would you propose BCS or LASD buy? To my knowledge there aren't a lot of 10 acre plots available in Los Altos or Los Altos Hills. I believe the way the Charter arrangements are structured, it is the responsibility of the district to provide the facilities, but this is a moot point if there is no land to acquire and no funds to acquire it with. No one "wants" a school to close. However, there are many of us who do feel that the LASD Trustees should live up to the letter of the law and give public school children, charter or otherwise, their fair share of facilities. Right now BCS kids are only getting about 1/2 the facilities as other LASD kids, and the Trustees must know what they are doing is underhanded or they wouldn't have spent so much time fudging architectural drawings to hide 1,000,000 square feet of space in the last facilities offer (see the last legal ruling for details). I, personally, feel BCS kids should also receive equal funding to other LASD kids--right now they only receive about 60%--but I am only speaking as an individual. I cannot speak for the entire population of BCS, no more than you or anyone else can speak for the entire population of LASD. I am pretty sure we are all just individuals sharing ideas in a casual online format known as blogging :)
Joan J. Strong January 17, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Stop hiding behind "the law" (your interpretation of it) and tell me why this is RIGHT. Why should any random gang of rich lawyers be able to kick my children out of their school? Why should a group of billionaires be able to perform their own little private experiment at the expense of MY children? In other words, tell me what you'll say if "the law" changed and the Supreme Court reversed everything. What if they threw out the BCS case entirely and made THEM pay the legal fees to the District? I'm not saying this is going to happen (although there absolutely is "some" chance of it happening) but by way of illustration, tell me why what this school is doing to us parents is right? All I hear from BCS is "we won the lawsuit therefore we are right". Your ultra-expensive lawyers (and the BCS regime has infinite money for lawyers / zero money for a campus) won their case. They figured out how to "buy a Ferrari with Food Stamps" by applying a law meant for disadvantaged areas on the most advantaged area in the State. Bravo. Nice litigating there. But it doesn't make it right. The Charter laws were NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS passed by the voters of California to help rich people take over top-rated public schools. No honest person can look at what BCS has done as anything but exploit a loophole in the law. So go ahead. Defend this "law" that you hide behind.
Ron Haley January 17, 2012 at 04:37 AM
No need to close a school - move the kids from one of the current LASD schools to the current camp site on Egan, and give the vacated site to BCS. LASD says it's an equivalent site, so this shouldn't cause any problems.
Joan J. Strong January 17, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Or, just leave that billionaire's experiment right where it is and stop suing our school district. Easy.
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 17, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Joan, right? Boring again! "Billionaire," "experiment," and "stop suing?" You need new material. Plus, last I checked, it is LASD continuing the lawsuit at this point. So, now you do have kids at GB??? But, you did not author the letter advocating for LASD Trustees to give BCS "your" campus at GB??? You're right, this is confusing! Since that is such a tangled web, let me pose a much simpler question to you. Exactly why do your kids (if you have them???) deserve facilities while my kids don't? And if said facilities are equivalent, why are you so reluctant to trade--especially if it means keeping "your" precious school community in tact? Something, by the way, I totally understand.
Joan J. Strong January 17, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Short answer: your kids go to a school owned by billionaires who could easily afford their own campus for their defacto private school whereas my kids go to a public school which is open to all kids in the attendance area and is run by a democratic process. The charter laws were NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS passed by the voters of California to help rich people get revenge on school administrators for not doing what they wanted, when they wanted. Bullis Charter has no right to exist (and yes, this a different stance than that blogger you keep confusing me with but hey, my "writing style" is the same so I guess I must be the same person). You are rich so your kids can have the very best. What they are doing at a publicly funded school has far more to do with the BCS founder's egos than actually wanting an excellent education for your children. You and the rest of the founders of this school can afford any school you want but you instead CHOSE to setup your own publicly funded experiment and proceeded to attack our public schools with squadrons of lawyers. The founders of Bullis Charter CHOSE to have a war with the District and thought nothing of putting their own children on the front lines. Worse, they had to drag completely unwitting and INNOCENT parents and children into THEIR war as well. I am playing by the rules by going to a public school. BCS parents are cheating the system--to reap a reward that amounts to less than their children could have otherwise.
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 18, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Joan, right? nothing but crickets...everyone has really maxed out on your crazy math. But, given your ability to weave such colorful tales and twist facts into your own fuzzy truth, perhaps the LASD Trustees would like your help explaining how they are going to keep managing their unsustainable program. Your focus on BCS is comical and yes, entertaining, I admit. But really, you are treating a kid with the flu in the waiting room while your heart is about to get the paddles in the ER.
Deep Grizzly January 18, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Entertainment is what it's all about. Nobody reads. Too hard, right? Just watch then. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO3C17Uv1fc
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 19, 2012 at 01:09 AM
And that is a wrap, folks. In case you haven't heard, the CA Supreme Court has denied LASD's appeal. What's next? Eager to hear from the school district!
Joan J. Strong January 19, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Score one for the evil billionaires. It's not over though. Just begun as a matter of fact. For the first time EVER parents in Los Altos are going to weigh in on this. This is our "Pearl Harbor" moment. A sleeping giant (you know, like the one that passed Measure E) has been awakened.
Courtenay C. Corrigan January 19, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Joan, right? Uhhh, those would be the paddles your feeling on your chest about right now. "Pearl Harbor?" Really??? See you at the LASD Board meeting next Monday. Perhaps they can move it to the gym? Betting it will be a big turnout...Save me a seat, ok? We can discuss your fitted shirts and vegan diet! ;)
Hill Morgan January 24, 2012 at 08:32 AM
BCS' grades don't have to be on one single campus. BCS' grades K-5 can study on one campus (shared with one LASD school), while its grades 6-8 on another campus (shared with another LASD school). BCS can continue to expand without having to affecting others too much.
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