Mountain View Voice

News - November 18, 2011

LASD plans to fight latest ruling on Bullis

District trustees agree to take legal battle to state Supreme Court

by Nick Veronin

There's no end in sight to the legal battle between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School.

At the school district's Nov. 15 board meeting, trustees decided that the cost of fighting the latest appellate court ruling — which overturned a prior Santa Clara County Superior Court ruling in favor of the district — would be well worth it.

"The needs of the district students are not represented in the latest decision," said Jeff Baier, superintendent of the Los Altos School District.

Countering Baier's claims, Anne Marie Gallagher, a member of the Bullis board of directors, said that the district is simply attempting to delay justice.

"This maneuvering is keeping the case in the courts and just gives them the opportunity to not comply with the law for longer," Gallagher said.

On Oct. 28, the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District unanimously overturned a November 2009 ruling issued by the Santa Clara County Superior Court. The initial ruling rejected Bullis' complaints that the district had violated Proposition 39 by not equitably sharing its facilities with the charter school.

In reversing the lower court's decision, the appellate court ruled that the district had failed to tally more than 1 million square feet of space that should have been counted when calculating the "reasonably equivalent" share of public school facilities it is required to provide Bullis under the provisions outlined in Proposition 39 — legislation passed in 2000 that, among other things, laid out guidelines for how school districts should share their resources with charter schools. The court also found that the district overstated the facilities it offered to the charter school.

In the decision, the appellate court used strong language, at one point even suggesting that there was evidence to support the accusation that the district had acted in bad faith in its negotiations with Bullis.

Despite the strong language of the decision, Baier said, "We believe that there are serious errors with the decision."

Baier said the cost of fighting the decision — which he estimated to be between $50,000 and $60,000 — are worth it, especially when considering that it will result in a better educational environment for students at his district's nine schools.

If the district were to let the appellate court decision stand, it would result in a diminished educational experience for those students, Baier said. "The district can't let a decision that doesn't consider the rights of our students stand unchallenged."

Gallagher is confident, however, that the decision of the appellate court will stand. "We feel that the court of appeals has ruled, and they ruled clearly, that BCS has been treated unfairly," Gallagher said. "We'd like to move beyond this and work together for the good of all children in the Los Altos School District."

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