Los Altos School Board President Doug Smith has formally asked the Bullis Charter School to agree to a temporary halt in litigation while the two boards are engaged in the delicate business of determining how faciltiies will be allocated for the 2013-14 school year.
The board had raised the issue several times with the charter school. At is board meeting Monday night, board member Pablo Luther asked if for a formal request to signal the urgency and priority the board placed on a suspension of legal hostilities during the next critical months in which decisions will be made under the process mandated by the state law known as Prop. 39. Practical and critical decisions will also be made about portable buildings and equipment to house the charter school in the next few months, as well.
The following letter was written by LASD Board President Doug Smith:
13 February 2013
Mr. Ken Moore
Bullis Charter School
102 West Portola Avenue
Los Altos, CA 94022
Re: LASD Board of Trustees Calls For Pause Of All Litigation
On Monday night, the LASD Board of Trustees (“Trustees”) discussed BCS’s expressed desire to work “urgently and transparently”with the District from now until April 1 on a facilities allocation at the Egan and Blach schools for the 2013-14 school year. The Trustees agreed that LASD and BCS should agree to an immediate 90 day pause in all litigation activity to permit all stakeholders to engage in 6‐way discussions that all participants agree will not be used in court for any reason. The Trustees believe this would be in the best interests of the entire community—District and BCS alike— for the following reasons.
• The litigation is siphoning large sums of money away from the children and has increased the level of conflict. Both sides have more in common than they have differences, yet the litigation will polarize the two camps as long as it remains.
• BCS’s announcement that it will accept an offer of facilities split between the Egan and Blach sites for 2013-14 means the parties are in agreement on the broader contours of a potential solution, and the devil is in the details. Those details need cooperative attention from both sides, free of the hostility and conflict that is inherent when the parties are simultaneously fighting in court.
• The next two months call for a particularly expensive and bitter stretch of litigation. A temporary pause would save a lot of public education dollars while giving 6-way discussions a fair chance to reach a short term solution.
• The failure to halt the litigation gives the 6-way talks little chance. No one can openly explore ways to make a relationship work while the other is trying to beat it in court. A clear and unequivocal action that displays good faith (like a 90-day litigation halt) is essential to reorienting the discussions on common goals.
• A peaceful end to the litigation is the only way all stakeholders will be able to work together on a long term solution. When this dispute began eight years ago, BCS supporters tried to work with the Los Altos Hills City Council on a plan to purchase the former BP elementary school site in Los Altos Hills. Although that kind of public-private partnering might ultimately yield a creative long term solution, litigation will never produce a mutually acceptable outcome and will scuttle any hope for the public-private partnering that provides the best hope for a mutually acceptable long term solution.
• The District has heard that the focus groups BCS recently convened reveal that BCS is highly polarizing in the community, and this is also what the District has heard. The District also has heard the BCS community is concerned about harassment. This rancor must be stopped. It harms both LASD and BCS’s reputations, and it shows this dispute has deteriorated too far. The end to litigation is essential. Given how entrenched BCS and LASD each are at this juncture, a 90 day pause to facilitate 6 way talks is a more realistic first step toward that goal.
The Agreement that the Trustees propose is very simple. Each side agrees to stop all activity in the litigation for 90 days, other than the execution of any stipulations necessary to preserve the status quo and permit the parties to resume the litigation in 90 days if, unfortunately, that becomes necessary. Each side also agrees to participate in 6-way discussions aimed in those 90 days at a short term solution for 2013-14. The parties contemplate that successful achievement of a short term solution will permit all parties to drop all pending litigation, and then move to further 6-way discussions on a long term solution for years 2014-15 and beyond. If you agree, we suggest that each side direct their attorneys immediately to standstill, and schedule Board meetings as soon as practicable to obtain Board approval of this concept. Because one of the key benefits of this proposal is to avoid the extensive community stress that the litigation is inflicting daily (not to mention the expense as well), time is of the essence so this offer will expire in 14 days.
President, Board of Trustees
Los Altos School District