Bullis Charter School Asks For Covington in 2013-14

Facing a bigger Bullis, the Los Altos School District board opens the door to public comment Monday night, as the annual facilities request process begins with some startling news.


Bullis Charter School is requesting to be sited at Covington School for the 2013-14 school year, citing its projected 29 percent growth and decision to add a fourth strand of kindergarten-to-third grade classes.

"BCS recognizes that current students at the Covington site will either need to be reassigned to another site or apply to BCS, and that some families will not be happy with these options," wrote BCS board member Janet Medlin in the letter that accompanies the annual facilities request, a process mandated by the state. 

The Los Altos School Board will hold a community meeting Monday night to discuss the 2013-14 facilities offer and to solicit comment from the public.

The meeting will be held in the Covington School Multi-purpose Room at 7 p.m. A second meeting will be held on Dec. 3, also in the multi-purpose room.

Representatives of the charter school have been invited to present their perspective of the preliminary facilities offer, but as of last Wednesday, had not heard back.

The event has been closely watched, since the charter school board voted at its meeting last week to grow admission by 20 percent, adding a kindergarten through third grades.

In submitting its space request on Nov. 1, Bullis reported it will have 614 in-district student (total of 644), representing a 29.5% increase 140 more in-district students than currently enrolled, LASD said. As part of the facilities request BCS states that its location preference is the Covington School site.

The Los Altos School Board has asked for the community’s input using these questions as a starting point, which it posted on its website:


BCS is a school in our community for which LASD is required to determine a facilities solution.

Guiding Questions:

  1. How does LASD best accommodate BCS growth? 
  2. What should the LASD Board consider when evaluating the impact of sharing arrangements with BCS co-locating on an existing LASD campus?
  3. Assuming meeting Prop 39 will require expenditure of District resources, where do we prioritize? 
    1. Providing reasonably equivalent facilities at existing school site on shared basis?
    2. Finding a new, non-District site for BCS?
    3. Reconfiguring district schools to open more space for BCS?
    4.  Is there a less divisive process by which to address facilities issues each year?
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 08:23 PM
CG, BCS can only grow if parents want to send their children there. What kind of school board is LASD in that it refuses to acknowledge what PA, MV, Cupertino, etc have -- not every model works for every student. If LASD was so perfect, then no one would be interested in BCS. But they are... As for Covington, it is my understanding that under Prop 39, BCS is required to name a preferred location.
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Karen, Why should me child who is at BCS, a legally chartered public school under the laws of California, not be treated equally as your child at an LASD school? They are both public school students who are entitled under the law to equal facilities.
Los Altos Mom November 05, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Dear Comment 1320, Of course I want all of our children to be educated! LASD welcomes you back with open arms, I would love for your children to attend their neighborhood school. I bought my home here because of the top-rated schools as I am sure you did as well. As a tax payer I can't afford for you to keep suing your neighbors ($750,000 currently spent) and pay 10 million dollars to build a new school. Please! Come back to your neighborhood school and let's all volunteer to make our schools better for all of our children. You decided to leave LASD, you decided to sue us. We are the ones who do not have a CHOICE.
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Karen, But for my kids, BCS is a better school -- they love learning Mandarin, love singing in an serious, award winning choir, art and drama (four school wide plays/year) and love being able to do integrated learning across different subjects. These are things that LASD simple does not offer. Plus the fact that BCS offers 7000 more minutes of instruction each year and really wonderful no cost after school activities. If BCS was not open, LASD would stil have to accomodate these 600+ kids. How does BCS do it? We have amazing non union teachers who operate on one year contracts and work incredibly hard. They are on campus from before 8 am until 4:30 everyday. They are there because they love to teach and share their passions with the students. For us, we are getting the 21st century education at BCS that all children should have access to. BCS emphasizes empowerment to the teachers and has site specific decision making. We are like a start up that is nimble and can easily innovate. It is an education that every parent should consider for their child.
Wselbert November 05, 2012 at 09:37 PM
As a percentage of the total K-6 LASD, the number of students that go to BCS is 12%- Why do 88% of the students have to be disrupted and displaced by this small number? 500 kids will be displaced, 2,500 will be disrupted by the placement of those kids....to accommodate adding 140 projected kids to BCS. Does this make sense to anyone? We need a new site and BCS needs to WAIT until that site is available. LASD must act to get a new site- NOW.
Katie Roper November 05, 2012 at 09:48 PM
It's ironic - we got into this whole mess because Bullis parents didn't want to send their kids to Covington. What's changed?
Lisa J. November 05, 2012 at 09:48 PM
There is no doubt BCS offers a great education... but so do ALL of the LASD schools. However, public resources (money and space) are scarce and limited. LASD provides a very successful scalable model that educates each and every child that walks through its doors. If your child would be better served in a small, more intimate environment with less diversity, go to a private school, of which we have many wonderful ones in the area. This is nothing dishonorable about getting a private education but you must be willing to pay for it.
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
This is only a problem because the LASD BoT has so badly mishandled this from the beginning. Due to the BoT making villians of BCS, it is very unlikely that a bond issue would pass for a 10th site when the existing schools can accomodate the total student population. LASD has redrawn boundaries 3x in 12 years. Disruptive? Yes but each time everyone has adjusted and will again. Given the growth NEC, there will have to be a redrawing of boundaries no matter what.
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Lots of assumptions there that are not based in fact. The BCS model is scalable (isn't that the concern with more and more LASD parents choosing it?). There is actually equal or more diversity than Gardner Bullis and Loyola. I cannot afford a private school but I am thrilled that my children get an amazing education that works for their needs. Other than the short term disruption, if BCS is given an exclusive site, how would that impact the existing LASD schools? Yes, some more kids at each location but still more spacious and less crowed than BCS currently is. What I don't understand is why all LASD parents don't want what BCS offers for their kids?
James November 05, 2012 at 10:01 PM
BCS students are not LASD students. LASD has no jurisdiction, no authority, and no responsibility for their education. They are no more LASD students than are Pinewood students or St. Nicholas students or Bowman students. As a county approved charter school, the ultimate responsibility for the educational experience of BCS lies with the Santa Clara County Board of Education. Perhaps you can go petition your grievances to them for "reasonably equivalent" facilities rather than trying to STEAL a high performing LASD neighborhood school?
Joan J. Strong November 05, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Facts: 1. No, BCS will not scale, but the BCS board will not put that in their marketing materials to parents, surprise, surprise. They just need those kids around long enough to close a school, then they will start trimming it down. 2. BCS pulls from the entire District, not just GB and Loyola. It sorts out the most advantaged who can pay the $5000 tuition. 3. Closing BCS would also cause, "short term disruption". Who's school should we close, then? Most are going to vote for nobody's school (keep sharing at Egan and Blach) and build a new campus. Everybody, that is, except for fanatical BCS founders and supporters who care zero about education and children. 4. Many LASD parents want what BCS offers, like Mandarin. They pay for it as a separate offering from outside companies. It costs far less than $5000/year. BCS would force this choice in everybody if they took over, as they are trying to do.
Lisa J. November 05, 2012 at 10:18 PM
The model isn't as scalable, given it is more expensive than LASD's model. BCS is closest to Santa Rita and Almond, which hands down are much more diverse on every dimension than BCS. Yet, those schools provide a top notch education to EVERY child that goes there. Comparing to Gardner Bullis which is in the wealthiest part of the district (and nation) hardly is apples to apples. Again, for every *unique* quality you assert BCS has, LASD could counter with its own. I go back to my original assertion, if you want a different education other than the one your community district can provide, go to a private school. I suspect that a large percentage of BCS families either started at a private school (without every stepping foot in an LASD school) or transferred to BCS because his/her neighborhood school was *too big* for the child. Nothing wrong with wanting a smaller school but you must be willing to pay for it.
Kyle November 05, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Dear Comment 1320 I am very glad BCS is a good environment for your children and that it works for them. My family looked at BCS, private schools and LASD and did not chose BCS. For our kids we felt that BCS was not the right fit for the math and science interest that my kids have which was confirmed by multiple middle and high school teachers that we spoke too, similar to what they confirmed that BCS does well in writing and reading. My children's elementary school also offers Mandarin, chess, and arts. If we want something more intense such as music and other enrichments we have time to do it and chose from many awesome selections within the community (talk about ultimate choice). Their school has amazing teachers (albeit union) who love to teach and share their passions with the students. Our school teachers are empowered and customize the learning based upon the needs have the students. I am curious on what your proposed solution is for facilities? The courts appear posed to rule that BCS' current facilities are compliant. So, let's step back from the emotion that the facilities are not legally equivalent. Personally I think LASD needs more options with uncertain demographics with new build, etc. so we need a 10th site.
Christy Lin November 05, 2012 at 11:00 PM
even more ironic that people keep saying BCS is exclusive, and now that BCS is willing to grow more, everyone is crying FOUL... this community can't have it both ways.
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Lisa, I don't know the demographics of the entire school but can say that the kids in my kids' classes a) did not come from private schools and b) transferred from LASD schools not because they wanted a smaller school (it isn't anymore) but because they wanted a different kind of education California law supports that for public school children -- why don't you? I agree that Almond and Santa Rita do a wonderful job with a more diverse student population than is characteristic of the rest of LASD. My point was that BCS is very similar to the averages for all of LASD -- Santa Rita and Almond are more diverse, GB and Loyola less. Not sure about Oak and Covington. I believe that the evidence shows that it is not more expensive than LASD but very similar.
Lisa J. November 05, 2012 at 11:26 PM
I absolutely support providing a top notch education. Do I wish I could have an 'a la carte' menu of endless choices for my child? Yes, that would be wonderful. However, that is not reality. We have limited public resources to educate our children and LASD does a phenomenal job allocating those to the highest yield programs. Is it perfect? No, we certainly have our flaws but we work to fix them. The existence of the Charter has taken already limited financial resources and now wants our other limited resource: SPACE. If BCS shut down, guaranteed that not all 600 would matriculate to our public schools. Many would opt for private. (Ask how many current BCS 5th graders are applying to private middle school, by the way...) Again, nothing wrong with private school but BCS operates like one but my public dollars are funding it.
comment1320 November 05, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Lisa, How does BCS operate like a private school? Anyone in the district can apply -- with the increase in enrollment for next year, the lottery wil become less of an issue. The new mantra of those that want to close BCS is that it operates like a private school. Yet any child in LASD can attend, there is no tuition, kids cannot get thrown out. Everyone seems to like to repeat these talking points but have no facts to support them.
Kyle November 05, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Comment 1320 BCS is more expensive to run. 1) The cost to run their program is more expensive than LASD. From the latest available tax data it costs 31% more to run than LASD. 2) BCS is less efficient administratively than LASD, BCS only spends 69% of its funds on direct program expenses compared to 80% for LASD. The LASD number includes the legacy pension costs etc which BCS does not have. Then additionally you have the $250,000 personal loan to Wanny from all of our tax dollars. Not questioning BCS' results, just the efficiency of their spend to good results.
GG November 05, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Quick question on this whole Covington site request - For the last several years, I thought that BCS was unwilling to alter the geo preference (to the whole LASD community vs. just the old BP area) because it would open up the charter for modifications. However, we are now hearing that BCS is willing to change the geo preference to favor Covington community. Is this truly an option now or just random talk? How is the risk to the charter any lower now than just a couple months ago?
GG November 06, 2012 at 12:10 AM
comment1320, My personal experience is that LASD schools continue to evolve and improve as a result of parental input and involvement. And, individual schools have the latitude to design and implement programs to meet the needs of the constituency ... with successful programs then migrating across to other schools. This is certainly not a school system in decline ... Regarding why folks are interested in BCS? Well, part of it is that LASD is often just taken for granted. It's there, it's available. It's a public school that you can always fall back upon. Whereas BCS is seen as an exclusive, hard-to-get-into school, with "superior" test scores. Easily worth the minimal time/effort to apply and see if you win the lottery.
Noah Mesel November 06, 2012 at 01:07 AM
As a BCS advocate, I would be careful about the analogy to "not sharing 'their' school with minorities."
Noah Mesel November 06, 2012 at 01:18 AM
What surprises me is the lack of discussion regarding alternative sites other than existing LASD campuses. Due to recent a California court decision, there is virtually no chance that BCS will be allowed to "take over" an existing LASD campus. To quote the court's holding in Los Angeles International High School v. Los Angeles Unified School District: "More to the point, [Education Code] section 47614, subdivision (b) does not entitle [the charter school] to facilities in the specific location it desires, if so doing would favor charter school students over other district students. Proposition 39 requires that facilities “should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools.” (Id., subd. (a), italics added.) … To move large numbers of students in a district-run school to new campuses, … just to provide [the charter school] eight contiguous classrooms in the school in which it wants to be placed, would put [the charter school’s] needs over those of the [district-run school’s] population and would not “strike a fair balance between the needs of the charter school and those of the district-run schools.” … A holding that the District must provide facilities a charter school requests, on demand and without regard to overcrowding or the impact on other public school students, would tip the balance too far in favor of the charter school." So why doesn't the BCS board look outside of LASD to find a campus?
Karen Wiener November 06, 2012 at 03:15 AM
As the mother of 4 former LASD students who by any measure of success had an excellent experience and sense of community in their neighborhood schools I am deeply saddened by the misuse of public funds to support a divisive force within our community, I don't feel it is possible to remain silent year after year even as my kids are now 15 years out of LASD. Karen W.
LASD Concerned Parent November 06, 2012 at 03:38 AM
BCS is not more diverse. API score results show 4 socioeconomic groups represented vs. 6 or 7 at every other LASD school. So, comment1320, other than some superficial, minor increases in API scores, BCS has contributed to the community by being divisive, considered a dirty word around Los Altos (based on a survey done by losaltospolitico.com), and generally creating animosity...just look at the comments here and on every Patch or Town Crier article. The good news is that BCS' actions have motivated the LASD community (90% of it at least) to fight back.
Ron Haley November 06, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Noah - no one is asking fro preferential treatment. BCS is entitled to "reasonably equivalent" facilities. As BCS grows to 900 students, that's approaching 20 acres - two schools.
Noah Mesel November 06, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Ron- are you saying the 550-1,100 (or so) children who currently attend school at the campus(es) that BCS seeks are supposed to go somewhere else?
Joan J. Strong November 06, 2012 at 09:16 AM
It's random talk. Changing the preference has never been seriously discussed by the BCS board, all of whom live within the geo preference area, and all of whom are accountable to nobody. The BCS board, it seems, want a neighborhood community school. They just don't want this for anybody else.
Los Altos Mom November 06, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Ron - "reasonably equivalent" facilities LASD Students attend 3 different school campuses during their K-12 education. BCS should be willing to divide their students among 3 campuses. This is - "reasonably equivalent" facilities
Joan J. Strong November 06, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Over half of BCS's revenues come from private sources. It is run by a board not accountable to anybody. This is most people's definition of "private".
Alan November 07, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Sounds like it is Bullis Charter School that is doing the welcoming with open arms, at least as many as they are able to take for a given year.


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