Mountain View Voice

News - February 17, 2012

Bullis, LASD to enter mediation talks

Contentious debate over charter school has caused rift in community

by Nick Veronin

Officials from the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School have agreed to sit down together in mediation and try to come to a consensus upon how to allocate land and facilities for the charter school.

In a Feb. 14 letter to the Bullis board of directors, the school district's board officially agreed to the proposal, which was made in writing by the charter school on Feb. 13.

"The continued contentious litigation-driven relationship between BCS and LASD is a major drain on our community," Mark Goines, president of the LASD board of trustees, wrote in the letter. "We agree that an interest-based mediation approach has the best chance of identifying a solution that will work."

Ken Moore, head of the Bullis board, struck a similar tone in an interview with the Voice. "I really hope that we can end up with some rich dialogue where the interests are understood from both sides, and we can work to some kind of solution that would mean we weren't constantly having to go to the courts."

The talks will be no cakewalk, however, as other comments from both Goines and Moore indicate.

Moore was unequivocal that the district needs to provide the charter school with a campus of its own, and soon. "The status quo is not an option for the 2012-13 school year," he said.

And Goines has been equally clear. He said that while his district would be willing to build Bullis a school (a project that could not possibly be completed by next school year) LASD would not close one of its schools to make way for the charter — an option that Moore continues to push.

Goines said that although he is willing to enter into mediation talks, he is skeptical about how fruitful they may be. "We have been mediation before," he noted. "Progress was poor."

Kelly Toshach is a Mountain View resident who lives in the LASD boundaries and has a child attending Springer Elementary School and another attending Blach Junior High School. She said the debate over the charter has become so contentious that neighbors of differing opinions on the matter avoid discussing it with one another for fear that they will not be able to remain civil.

"Our community is defined by our schools," Toshach said.

She said she hopes that the negotiations will produce results. "As a community, I think we need to figure out a way to make this work for everyone."

Attorneys from Bullis and LASD will work together to select a mediator and schedule the talks.

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