Mountain View Voice

News - February 22, 2013

LASD calls for 'pause' in legal fight

Bullis Charter School chair indicates no interest in 90-day break

by Nick Veronin

The head of the Los Altos School District's board of has proposed halting all litigation between his district and Bullis Charter School, at least temporarily, so that the two organizations can focus on negotiations.

The suggestion appears to be a non-starter with the charter school.

Doug Smith, president of the LASD board, called for a 90-day pause in litigation in a Feb. 14 open letter to BCS Board Chair Ken Moore.

Moore subsequently told the Voice that he does not support the idea.

"Our efforts are completely focused on working with the district on making the split campus work for every district student," Moore said. "Any other requests are just an attempt to delay the process."

Smith's proposal comes after BCS officials announced on Jan. 23 that they would be willing to accept splitting their school between the Egan and Blach middle school campuses, so long as the district agreed to provide some more facilities at each site.

The announcement garnered a mixed response from LASD officials. Smith, for one, said he felt that the charter school was asking for too much in return for agreeing to the two-site solution. Since then Smith and other district board members have been increasingly vocal in supporting a pause in legislation.

LASD Trustee Mark Goines said he supports the idea of halting legislation because it would allow the district to focus all its energy on coming up with a mutually agreeable solution, without having to worry about the multiple suits currently unfolding in the courts.

"We're all spending an incredible amount of time on (litigation)," Goines said, adding that he would rather spend his time figuring out how to resolve the years-long battle between the district and the charter school. "You can't possibly do both in our view."

Both Goines and Smith said that the ongoing legal battle, more than any other aspect of the two organizations' disagreements, is hanging over the entire process like a dark cloud and creating rancor between the parties. Taking a break from the litigation would help to lift that cloud, they said.

"We're looking for a true show of good faith and good will that they really want to negotiate something," Goines said.

Smith noted that the district has spent a great deal of money fighting in court — money that should be going into improving local schools. "It's a waste of resources."

Last year alone, Smith estimates, the district spent more than $500,000 on the legal fight with Bullis — a sum that could have gone to hire four or five teachers.

But Moore, pointing to the suspension of litigation last year, followed by the disintegration of negotiations, said that BCS would not begin to reconsider its current legislation against the district until his organization has received a facilities offer that officials like.

"Last year, around the same time, we stopped litigation and went into mediation, which LASD abandoned," Moore said. "If we can reach an agreement that they can stick with, then we can consider pending litigation."

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