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Parents: Show Us The Bullis Agreement For Two Weeks

Concerned about a complex agreement getting passed on a tight time-frame, parents urged the Los Altos School District board to "sunshine" the long-term agreement that is being negotiated with Bullis Charter School.

 

Parents want any agreement hammered out between the and the to be available for public inspection for two weeks before any vote.

During a special meeting of the board Monday night, the LASD Board of Trustees invited input on two topics: announced May 7 with Bullis Charter School (BCS) that would result in it moving to its own campus, and the prospects and possible timing for a bond measure to build that campus.

The board is under a tight June 1 timeline to try to resolve a number of details about a 10-year agreement that means:

  • Both jointly work on passing a bond measure to "solve the problem of ten schools on nine campuses."
  • BCS would move to one of four school campuses upon passage of the bond: , , or 10.5 acres of .
  • If a bond measure does not pass by August 2014, Bullis would get its own site permanently and the Los Altos School District would have to close a school.
  • BCS would stay on the site for duration of the agreement; it could not ask for larger facilities, even if it grows.

Parents had several opinions, and board president Mark Goines asked they also try to come with possible solutions and alternatives, along with the pleas not to close their child's school.

Some parents, such as Sheila McGovern and Jennifer Carlstrom said they would rather have a decision to close a school made quickly, in order to make plans and have certainty.

"Please make a decision on which school is closed or relocated, sooner rather than later," said Jennifer Carlstrom, a Gardner Bullis School parent.

"We want to own a part of this process, we want to be making it happen, not having it happen to us."

During the three-hour meeting, the parents wanted to know why the four schools were selected to be among the pool of schools that might be closed to be given to Bullis School, temporarily or possibly long-term. While LASD board members were open to any of the district's seven schools being candidates for closure, Trustee Doug Smith said it that the four schools were specified during the "give and take of negotiations." The four are feeder schools to Los Altos High School, which has been a part of BCS' facilities request.

Parent Sharon Clay wanted the board to build in some kind of "escape clause" to the agreement, should a second or more charter schools be created. "This should be a risk that BCS shares with us, not LASD children alone," she said.

Several parents agreed with parent Daniel Cornell's request to make the agreement available for the public to see, two weeks before any board vote. Responding, some board members expressed a desire to make some form of the agreement available, even given the tight timeframe for negotiation.

A two-week period of inspection would mean a document would have to be available by Friday if the board wanted to take action by June 1. That deadline needs to be observed in order to allow the district to enough time to prepare the school site for a mid-August move in.

There is also a busy schedule of activities that need board members' concentration:

- Monday some board members have a meeting scheduled with the Mountain View Mayor Mike Kaszperzak, and there is another meeting with the Los Altos Hills at an unspecified date, with Town Council member John Radford.

- May 29 City-Schools meeting to discuss common issues, including a Bullis site solution.

- Aug. 9: A bond measure, if deemed do-able, is submitted for the Nov. ballot

- Nov. 6: Bond measure voted on.

And there were other questions.

"I wonder to what extent that there would be a bond anyway because of population growth?" Daryl Odnert asked. "The public wants to know."

Several board members replied, at the end of the comment period, that a small amount of growth had been projected then years ago when the Phase I and Phase II of a facilties improvement bond wishlist had been constructed ten years ago.

"We are underbuilt," said Trustee Steve Taglio "We do need to do a bond to deal with those issues, not just Bullis. We're at 1200 more children now than we were 10 years ago," partially because of turnover of homes.

There was, however, one question that trustees couldn't really answer:
"What I don't understand about the framework is the BCS agreeing to support the bond," Odnert said. "I don't understand why.

"BCS gets a campus regardless of whether the bond passes. What incentive does BCS have to work for the bond?"

For fuller details on this meeting, and commentary from participants, see Los Altos Patch's.

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Joan J. Strong May 16, 2012 at 07:48 AM
Yes, with the most expensive law firm in Silicon Valley initiating lawsuits on their behalf, the billionaire founders of BCS are now being "bullied". Tell me another one. These are people who could not only afford to attend a private school, but could have easily afforded to CREATE one from scratch when BCS started. Instead that they have a hobby--and not their most expensive one I suspect--called attacking a local school district.
AlmondParent May 16, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Does anyone know which of the affected schools has the smallest capacity campus? If so, that is the campus BCS should get. The biggest losers in our community are probably the Egan kids. This is a lose-lose for them any way you look at it. Next year, they lose. The following year, they will still lose. If BCS is not sharing their campus, some relocated school will. Let's do the smart thing and pick the school that will have the smallest number of kids that need to be relocated there. We owe it to the families at Egan who have been carrying this burden for 8 years.
jolie May 16, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Give me a break AlmondParent! The real leaders in our district (PTA and parents) have vowed not to throw a school under the bus. But not you! You're willing to throw Gardner Bullis under the bus. Any school except mine - right?
Ron Haley May 16, 2012 at 05:00 PM
The school with the smallest capacity at the moment is GB. Some will argue that it will handle only 500 kids (currently has approx 300 students) but it is a full 10 acres. Except for Covington, all the Elementary schools are around 10 acres. Egan and Blach approximately 20 acres.
Dave de Villers May 16, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Wow - just about everyone here is using pseudonyms. Imagine how much more civil and thoughtful the conversation would be if people had to own up to what they say here. http://losaltos.patch.com/terms "... Patch believes in transparency, and we ask that all your registration information be truthful. You may not use any aliases or other means to mask your true identity."
Joan J. Strong May 16, 2012 at 06:48 PM
@(lowercase) lasd: That's what I said above, if it wasn't clear...
AlmondParent May 16, 2012 at 06:50 PM
For full disclosure, I don't currently have any kids at Egan, but one will be there next year. I wish I had been paying more attention to the BCS issue this year.
Joan J. Strong May 16, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Wow, "AlmondParent", you are sounding more like a BCS Parent in every posting! Odd since you said you want to attend this school yet now you want to drive across town and into the Hills? It's not adding up. For everybody else: please observe Exhibit A above. The BCS fanatics will do *anything* to get to their promised land of the GB campus--the campus across the street from their billionaire founders. How does this affect you if you are not a GB parent? It's because it shows just how important NOT passing the bond is to fanatical BCS parents. If a new campus is built it will almost undoubtedly be far away from GB which will mean BCS moves to another campus far away from the Promised Land. This is why the whole "deal" we're talking about is a sham.
AlmondParent May 16, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Joan - I just want there to be the smallest amount of kids at the campus next to Egan - I don't care if it's students from BCS or GB! I am not happy that 40% of Egan's campus is going to BCS. I wonder if it will be more than 40% if we wind up putting Almond's whole student population there which is bigger than BCS from my understanding. I'm just a practical person and I am trying to think thru the hard realities of different options. We're going to have to do it sooner rather than later.
AlmondParent May 16, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I would consider Almond if it had the least number of students, which does not seem to be the case. Given the current congestion at Egan right now, I fear for student safety if a larger student population that the 400+ students at BCS will be housed in the same facility in a few years.
Joan J. Strong May 16, 2012 at 07:24 PM
How convenient. I vote we only consider schools whose names are also a nut. Meanwhile, back here on Earth, the most important and valuable thing which is at stake here is PUBLIC SCHOOL COMMUNITIES. The District's top priority should be (and seems to be) to keep communities together no matter what BCS forces them to do. Here is my article of the public school communities and their irreplaceable social networks: http://bullischarterschoolthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/04/neighborhood-public-school-worth.html There should be no higher priority for our District. Every other factor is tiny by comparison.
comment1320 May 16, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Jolie, the PTA Presidents also stated that "the PTAs and LAEF are committed to working together to assist with any changes associated with the outcome of negotiations, mediation, or court rulings. It is imperative to work together for the good of the entire district and the Los Altos community as a whole." From their March 17th letter. Are they going to stand that statement and help work with the results (even if they don't like it) of mediation? I would like to take them at their word, but so far just silence.... although as individuals they have been pretty darn active working against the mediated agreement.
jolie May 16, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Why not place the temporary school at Blach while a new school is built? It's time to give Egan a break and it would also let the south end of Los Altos shoulder some of the burden for awhile. Blach really isn't too far even for someone from GB, SR, Almond or Covington.
Ron Haley May 17, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Here is how I see the numbers. Randy K has stated that LASD wants to keep each Elementary school at or under 600. That currently leaves 740 open slots. If LASD reconfigured to K-5/6-8 like Cupertino, Mountain View and Palo Alto, this would open up an additional 460 slots for a total of 1200. After absorbing BCS, this leaves 700 vacant Elementary school slots. And this doesn't take into account the 300 students the demographer says LASD will lose by 2018. So by reconfiguring to K-5/6-8, LASD could not only absorb BCS but close another Elementary school. Sure, it will need a bond to add additional facilities at Egan and Blach, and to get rid of the portables in the Elementary schools, but nothing like $120 million.
Joan J. Strong May 17, 2012 at 04:57 PM
A rather complicated point to make is this: Choice Costs Money. In the open market, we all "choose" regularly between say Safeway and Draeger's. However, there is plenty of "capacity" at either of these stores to serve our entire community. We have, in a manner of speaking, twice as much "grocery store capacity" than we actually need. When you have only the exact amount of required capacity, open competition is not possible. Some years ago tiny putsch of billionaires and their lawyers made a decision for all of us: "there will be Choice here in Los Altos/Hills". Now, none of us voted on this and the recent polling results make it crystal clear: our community REJECTS Bullis Charter School. But that doesn't matter. The laws in California are messed up, and they found themselves a loophole. The majority loses. In our current situation then, we have an unpleasant choice: A. Pass the bond and build a new "choice" campus. B. Don't pass the bond and everybody EXCEPT Bullis Charter School kids and parents will suffer. The sooner the community can understand this (admittedly absurd) situation, the better off we'll all be...
Ron Haley May 17, 2012 at 05:43 PM
JJS, Or don't reach an agreement and have the courts hand BCS the school of their choice. And you think the BCS parents are going to support a bond under this scenario? And how long before BCS asks for a second site. And where is LASD going to find the $1 million to pay BCS attorney fees? And how long before BCS files the equal funding lawsuit?
L.A. Chung (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 05:52 PM
@DavedeVillers, thanks for bringing Patch's terms of use to the surface. It's a good opportunity to say that Los Altos Patch appreciates all who use their true names on the site. It is an honor system, because editors can't be everywhere on the site to enforce it, and we know that this topic, in particular, appears to impel people to adopt pseudonyms. To be clear, we believe that using one's true name not only encourages more civility in speaking with one's neighbors and broader community members, but underscores the value of owning one's words, one's viewpoints, and expressing them with authenticity. Patch does invoke the TOU when it appears the commenting violates Patch terms, and we have revoked user privileges. Often, we will simply delete comments, but we have contacted users about commenting as well. If anyone feels that remarks are in violation of the TOU, please feel free to bring such matters to my attention. I can review it and escalate it for further review, but it is not an automatic grounds for revocation of a user's posting ability.
Joan J. Strong May 17, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Ron, you are simply reinforcing my point above. Thanks. Eventually we'll change the laws and remove BCS from our community as the voters currently seem to want, or we'll find our own loophole(s) and nullify it's downside. In the short run, not passing the bond will hurt LASD kids and will help BCS kids. It's not surprising to anybody that BCS people are indifferent to it.
Just Mom May 17, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Ron, really more talk about suing? I now see why the term, "Bullis Bullies" was coined! How about some community outreach? I was empathetic to Bullis Charter's original parents even if I disagreed how they went about pulling an end run to get what they wanted. Not anymore. I myself have been bullied by admitted BCS supporters for asking some tough questions and pointing out inconsistancies. When you stop screaming, "lawsuit" every time someone questions BCS integrity perhaps people will be more willing to hear what you say.
Noah Mesel May 17, 2012 at 06:37 PM
LARes, you're really worried that one woman who has more chutzpah and verbal talents than 90% of the people in the room has pitchforks? Please! She is fundamentally right about the arrogance of BCS leadership and their tactics. I hope BCS families and families who attend the public schools of Los Altos can meet and talk sensibly to work out something. Otherwise, there will be an on-going wealth transfer to everyone's lawyers, who have no incentive to put down their swords, er, pens.
Ron Haley May 17, 2012 at 08:23 PM
JJS, Passing a bond we can all agree on is good for everyone.
Noah Mesel May 17, 2012 at 09:10 PM
OK, Joan, AlmondParent, LASD Resident and all you other pseudonymous posters: We all live in Los Altos (or Hills), love our children and want great schools. So can we put down the poison pens and work together like civilized, intelligent adults to do what LASD and BCS' lawyers have not been able to do so far -- work out a deal that everyone can live with. I understand that parents from Santa Rita, Covington, Gardener Bullis, Almond and other schools have been working on ideas -- some for longer than others. Can we use the forum on May 24 to make progress? I hope to see you at the Presbyterian Church on University Avenue at 8pm on the 24th!
LASD resident May 17, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Can you remind us all what meeting is on May 24th Thanks
Noah Mesel May 17, 2012 at 11:11 PM
According to the organizers, who are from BCS and Covington: Purpose: Brainstorming session to take a community stance on standing together for strong public schools. We will create joint statements and determine actions needed to reach long and short term goals regarding both passing the bond measure and spreading a positive message to children.
Bill Powell May 17, 2012 at 11:43 PM
A Solution! How about this? Several years ago Covington was closed. The School Bd opened Covington and redrew the boundary lines - So why not reset the lines as they were give the Covington Campus to BCS and do the whole deal with no cost? Maybe could be done with some tweaks? Bill Powell
Joan J. Strong May 18, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Closing a school is what got us into this mess. Closing a school would destroy countless long-built-up connections between children, parents and teachers. It would tell parents and children than there is no reason to care about their community, no reason to work on their school, no reason to give a dang about it because it may simply be pilfered by some billionaires and their lawyers. Closing a school will cause a rift in this community which will never heal. Keeping our school communities together should be the #1 priority for our District board, and that is what our PTAs and LAEF leadership has communicated to the District board.
Bill May 18, 2012 at 04:39 PM
What is the process BCS uses each year for the lottery? Do they utilize a grade specific lottery? Does it renew the waitlist each year? If not, this again serves to "keep out" those that did not apply in K. Further reducing its reach to other members of the community and insulating BCS. If I moved to town with a 3rd grader, why should my child be disadvantaged and placed lower on the wait list? First come, first serve is against Ed Code. A random and unbiased process is needed. A roll over wait list is a free "call option". The list should be torn up each year and parents made to re-apply or at least confirm their desire to remain waitlisted in the new annual lottery.
Noah Mesel May 18, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Don't know exactly how their lottery works, or even if they actually have had to use the lottery. I'm going to be seeing friends who are BCS parents (and they are genuinely good people), so I'll ask them what they know.
comment1320 May 18, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Having attended a lottery at BCS, here are the answers to Bill's questions: 1. Yes. There is a grade specific lottery. In fact there is a "lottery" to pick the order of the grades due to the sibling preference. 2. No. There is not a continuing waitlit after the academic year. Each lottery is a fresh lottery. The list is torn up each year and parents must re-apply.
Ron Haley May 21, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Bill, It makes too much sense :)

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