Tactical error on Bullis Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Mountain View Voice Online, on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:11 am
Looking back, the Los Altos School District can't be happy with its decision to close Bullis-Purissima Elementary School four years ago. The move, made due to declining enrollment and the desire to cut costs, has had the opposite effect and continues to exact a high price from the district.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 4, 2008, 12:00 AM
Posted by curious parent, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2008 at 10:11 am
I still don't understand why the LASD doesn't move the charter school back to the BP campus, especially as I understand the charter school could help defray some of the costs. Wouldn't this cost the district far less than the current plan. Did they think that if they re-opened BP then all the BCS parents would leave BCS and go to BP, thus damaging BCS in some way. It seems like the LASD is following the worst of all solutions.
Posted by also curious, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2008 at 3:23 pm
I too don't understand this. BCS offered several million dollars towards the renovation of Bullis-Purissima at one of the last LASD meetings if they were put at the BP site. Seems as though the board would prefer that we all drive way out of our way rather than do what obviously makes senses.
Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Jan 10, 2008 at 12:38 pm
"Schwarzenegger's proposed budget includes slashing close to $4.5 bil from schools" - http:\\www.sfgate.com
LASD is going to really feel these mistakes hard in the coming years. They really need to just relocate BCS to the B-P campus. But since they won't do that, I'll be applying to BCS for my kids next year. The BCS campus is currently much closer than Covington School where they are shipping us next year. BCS will not go away no matter where it is.
Posted by Craig Jones, a resident of another community, on Jan 11, 2008 at 12:40 pm
As the original founding Chairman of Bullis Charter school and the current Mayor of Los Altos Hills, I want to point out the positives from the last 5 years. First and foremost, we have learned that Los Altos Hills residents feel passionately about public education and are not willing to be second class citizens within Los Altos School District. If there was a miscalculation by LASD, it was underestimating the true devotion to public education by Los Altos Hills. As a result of these events, we have gotten three very positive results: (1) The Bullis Charter School is now a great asset for the entire Los Altos/Los Altos Hills/Mountain View community. (2) LASD has elected its first Los Altos Hills resident ever to the LASD Board of Trustees and now knows that LAH needs a public school (3) Bullis Purissima is being renovated, which was promised in the Measure A Bond measure, just like all the other elementary schools. This expenditure of $10 million (actually closer to $12 million)is not a "loss" but a gain of a newly renovated school.
The one negative is the repeated use of the "rich people" argument as if that justifies any set of irrational actions. This whole battle would have been so much easier if we did not have to fight a perception that Los Altos Hills was rich and Los Altos was something else. Los Altos properties are now selling for $2, $3, $4, $5 million, and there are many highly successful Silicon Valley exec's living in the City. This was never about rich vs. poor, but about fairly spreading out the physical facilities of the districts. I tried to explain to LASD the analogy that cutting customer service in a downturn had wrecked many businesses, but it fell on deaf ears. Likewise, closing schools to "save" your way to solvency does not work. Particularly in a district that was not suffering from declining enrollment. That is ancient history now, and we have entered a new era when we can all celebrate the reopening of Bullis Purissima this Fall for the betterment of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills kids.
Posted by Experienced Parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm
It is important to have the historical background of the LASD school closures in 2004. What will be interesting is how LASD proposes to pay operating costs in future years with CA's huge budget deficit; i.e. fundraising from the parents. Why should all the property owners have to pay more taxes because of LASD's poor judgement and fiscal management? It would satisfy a lot of LASD parents if they just moved BCS to the BP campus, thus mitigating the need to redistrict so many kids. Maybe that would save on operating costs, something that will be needed with this huge budget deficit.
Posted by sick and tired parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:56 pm
I agree with your suggestion Experienced parent, but would Los Altos Hills and their town council agree to this. It seems like they are bound and determined to have an LASD school at the site.
If Craig Jones is still reading this thread, do let us know. Would you compromise and have just BCS at the site?? Would free up lots of funds for the rest of LASD. If so, I certainly hope you will let the Los Altos School District board know you are willing.
With Arnold's new budget, LASD is in serious trouble. I for one will NOT vote for an increase in our parcel tax. LASD has so seriously mismanged funds that I'll move my kids to private schools (or to BCS) before giving them any extra $.
Posted by A Dad, a resident of another community, on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:46 pm
Not about Rich vs Poor?
Tell that to the non-Hills folks who send their kids to the Bullis Charter School, hoping for a better education, only to find out that they will be treated by the Hills folks as if they were second-class citizens.
One of the "founders" of Bullis Charter, now thrown overboard...
Posted by LASD Parent, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jan 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm
Craig Jones would be well advised to also recognise that LASD is not just Los Altos Hills and Los Altos. Mountain View kids represent more than 3 times the amount of LAH kids attending LASD; yet they represent over 50 % of the kids being displaced and denied a neighborhood school. Call it rich vs. poor or whatever, there is definitively two casts in LASD: have and have nots.
It would also be easier if Craig Jones discussed why providing a preference to BCS is a good thing and how he can reconcile this with his support of having another neighborhood school financed for LASD for the same area. Again and again: 2 public neighborhood schools for this area is 1 too many.
As an aside, the Santa Clara Booard of Education issued its Fall Charter School review. It does list as a discrepancy (which might mean charter revocation if not addressed) for Bullis Charter School:
Student Enrollment ---> Under-enrollment of various categories of students
Posted by Retired History Professor, a resident of another community, on Jan 12, 2008 at 8:37 am
Many believe that the lessons of history are buried in the distant past, frozen in time and incapable of speaking to a modern audience that is so technologically advanced. We as a democratic people, despite Santayana’s admonishment (Those who cannot learn history are doomed to repeat it.) as well as Lord Acton (Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely) are locked in a vicious cycle of repeating the mistakes of history over and over. The struggle is always the same, albeit with differing circumstances: representatives elected by the people who lose their moral or political compass, and through their own misjudgment, spite, or hubris, stop representing and serving the people/community that they ought to.
Such is the case with the LASD board. Rather than pursuing a course of action that seeks the greatest good for the greatest number of people, this group of five soldiers is marching under the flag of an old crusade (seek the charter school’s demise at all costs) championed by a former superintendent. Essentially, the cost of that crusade comes at the expense of the taxpayers, and is fundamentally at odds with the school board’s mission to serve (rather than divide and punish) its community. Pursuing a “scorched earth” (or more accurately, scorched charter school) policy, at any cost, amounts to fiscal mismanagement, abuse of authority, and ultimately the greatest sin in American history: taxation without representation. This board is wasting taxpayer dollars on a war (keep the charter school out of the old Bullis site, and damage the charter school in any way) that does not serve several communities, not to mention the fact that it directly hurts parents and students needlessly (one only needs to read the threads on websites to see how upset and frustrated parents feel about this quagmire). It is now apparent to many that the system of checks and balances for LASD is horribly broken, perhaps nonexistent.
Let us not forget the challenges that the founders of this country once faced: a foreign sovereign who abused his power and taxed the colonists and refused to listen to their concerns. Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense and galvanized his fellow colonists to condemn the actions of their King in the eloquent Declaration of Independence. The brave and courageous actions of the colonists who strongly objected to the injustices to which they were subjected to, set forth in motion a revolution that would give birth to a new nation governed by and for the people. The foundation of this country rests on democracy: the power is not in the representatives, but in the voice and will of the people.
Sadly, over the decades, millions of Americans have fought bravely and sacrificed their lives in the name of democracy. More often than not, I am afraid, we take democracy for granted. I shall be so bold as to suggest that the citizens of these communities (LAH, LA, MV), rather than bicker incessantly among one another (“full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” in the words of Hamlet), band together, embracing the full strength and power of democracy: the voice of the people. Collaborate as fellow men and women, as our country’s colonists once did, and take aim against the tyranny of the LASD board. Their arrogance in the face of bad decision after bad decision is an indication that they are incapable of a mea culpa and reversal of policies, that left unaltered, will cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the next decade. The effect on this board is directly proportional to the collective strength of the effort: be it picketing, speaking en masse at board meetings, distributing literature condemning the boards decisions, a steady stream of letters to the editor, placing posters around town criticizing the board, etc. All of this should culminate in a recall effort that will result in a more responsive and responsible school board. This will be a watershed moment for this community, never again will a citizen run for school board to pursue a private, misguided agenda.
The legacy of Watergate, a watershed moment in both journalism and history, taught this country two important lessons: first, that individuals in power have a tendency to abuse that power (Lord Acton’s observation, mentioned earlier), and second, an objective and vigilant press is the best protection against the abuse of individuals in power. Articles like this one, in the Mountain View Voice, are a step in the right direction. I urge editors of all newspapers, blogs, newsletters to focus on the bad decisions, fiscal mismanagement, and the drastic financial impacts that their decisions will have on our communities. Short of a recall of this board, nothing will change the dire situation. If the journalists are not willing to protect these communities and if the citizens of these communities do not rise against this board, then we all are condemned to repeat history, needlessly by our own choices and inaction. A tragic lesson for our children.
Posted by David Spector, a resident of another community, on Jan 12, 2008 at 10:17 pm
As the Chair of the Bullis-Purissima Elementary School Foundation that helps raise funds for the Bullis Charter School, I spoke at the June 18, 2007 LASD Board meeting. I stated then that "the Foundation would be willing to provide several million dollars to assist with the renovation of the old Bullis site in Los Altos Hills" if LASD could reach an agreement with Bullis Charter School to relocate the Charter School to that site. This would of course free up the Egan camp site where the Charter School currently sits to serve students in the immediate neighborhood, where the District is experiencing the most growth. The money the District would save could be used to renovate the Egan camp site and make it more comparable to other District sites while solving the crowding problems at Santa Rita and Almond.
I offered to facilitate discussions between LASD and the BCS Board, but heard nothing from LASD Board members. Even at this late date, my offer still stands. It seems silly for the District to spend more than is necessary while disrupting the attendance boundaries of so many elementary schools when there is a better solution.
If the District moved the charter school to the old Bullis site, it would solve many problems for all. Many more students would be able to walk or bike to a neighborhood school, which was supposedly one of the major goals of the LASD Board. Not only would the District save money, but the charter school would have room to increase its enrollment and accomodate more of the many LASD residents who wish to attend its highly sucessful program.
It is a shame that the District appears ready to initiate a new legal action against the County using scarce District funds, supposedly in the name of increasing the chances of certain LASD residents getting in to BCS. The scarcity of openings at the Charter School is in large part a problem caused by the District. BCS has indicated in the past that as part of an agreement to locate BCS at the old Bullis site with expanded facilities, the Charter School would be willing to increase enrollment. This is the logical way to allow more LASD families to attend the Charter School.
Even at the Egan camp site, the District has made it harder for the Charter School to accomodate the many children wishing to attend. Charter schools are required to accept out of district children when space is available, and BCS has a considerable number of out of district students from earlier years. In allocating facilities, however, LASD acts as if these students do not exist and refuses to allocate any space for them. Last year BCS had to give up its school library in order to find classroom space for its children.
If LASD really wishes to allow more LASD families to attend the Charter School, offering to provide BCS with more classroom space and a site that can accomodate these additional families would be much more constructive than attempting to set local communities against one another.
Like all LASD residents, BCS families also pay their share of parcel taxes that fund more than 20% of LASD's budget. If LASD allowed some portion of these parcel tax revenues paid by BCS families to help fund BCS, that would be another way of allowing BCS to potentially expand its facilities and serve more families.
Given the large number of families choosing to apply to BCS each year, the Charter School is obviously doing something right. I truly wish the District would embrace the Charter School for offering an important public school choice to local residents and take constructive actions to make that choice available to more families throughout the District, while providing an additional LASD elementary school in the part of Town that most needs it. Working together, we could truly improve the educational opportunities for all our children.
David Spector, Chair, Bullis-Purissima Elementary School Foundation
Posted by BCS Parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 13, 2008 at 1:56 pm
Would like to correct two posts that are factually incorrect:
1. To "Dad" who states he is a "founder" now thrown overboard. This must be somebody trying to "stir up" the pot and create more angst. It's just not true. The new preference affect NO ONE currently at the school. The siblings at the school still have the same level of preference they had before.
2. To LASD Parent from Cuesta Park who listed the discrepancies the Santa Clara County Office of Education found. You should have come to the meeting. You would have heard the board request that the staff NOT put items on this list that have actually been corrected. And... you would have heard that the staff was actually incorrect on this last item you mentioned. I heard clearly that BCS's population matches LASD's--it's not like you can ask for more than that.
Posted by LASD Parent, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2008 at 8:13 pm
To BCS Parent from another community (a community which most likely doesn't offer such forums :) ) :
I will take your word on that meeting. If anything it proves that the County is just as dysfunctional as the LASD Board. It seems akin having the LASD Board boast in June that they'll be displacing 400 kids to then realize in January that the figure would be 800 :(
They will be adopting the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the recent attendance area boundary changes. It would be good to show up and recommend that they reject the document as it doesn't take into account the recent actions by BCS.
Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:54 pm
I went to the LASD Board meeting tonight. They announced that they are formally pursuing litigation against the Santa Clara County Board of Education. There will be a hearing on February 19, 2008. A Finance Committee member told me after the meeting that this litigation is necessary to stop BCS from setting a precedent that could allow "rich neighborhoods all over California to form a charter school for just their kids". I disagreed, but it appears that LASD is fighting for the whole State now. Lucky us.
Tim Justus, superintendent of the Los Altos School District, said the new enrollment preferences impose a hardship on the district because by drawing Los Altos Hills children to Bullis Charter, they would shrink enrollment at a new Bullis-Purissima, which the district will reopen as a K-6 school in August after a $12 million modernization project.
He said the district will lose revenue because the state reimburses districts based on attendance - and will face difficulty planning for classes.
"We developed attendance areas not knowing that somebody would come along and give another school the same attendance area," Justus said.
But meanwhile on Monday night the LASD Board unanimously approved a resolution adopting the flawed attendance area boundaries. They should have tabled that resolution until after the lawsuit is resolved. Justus' quotes above indicate that LASD is just suing because BCS' new preference policy inconveniences the Board. I don't see how a judge will care.
Posted by Recall the LASD Board, a resident of another community, on Jan 16, 2008 at 8:25 pm
By ratifying its boundary changes and forging ahead with their implementation, the LASD Board removes any credibility to the otherwise legitimate claims of hardship (both financial and in having to redraw attendance boundaries in 1-2 years).
As a result the lawsuit doesn't seem to have any legs and a judge will likely toss it out as being without merit.
The reasonable thing would be for the LASD Board to just drop that lawsuit but reason
If the LASD Board's intent was to really care for and protect the district, they would not be affecting up to 800 District children to provide for what is now a second public school for 7% of the District.
Oh and here's another quote from the LASD superintendant when asked about legal expenses -see latest Los Altos Town Crier edition- :
“We have no idea what this is going to cost,” Justus said.
Right after the State announcing USD 4.5B cuts in K-12.
Posted by joanna, a resident of another community, on Jan 17, 2008 at 10:18 am
I was also quite alarmed and disappointed with the Superintendant's comment that he was initiating a lawsuit and did not know (or care?) how much it cost. That is completely irresponsible and such behavior truly reduces my confidence in the school board's ability to do what is right and cost effective.
Posted by Duncan MacMillan, a resident of another community, on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:21 pm
BCS needs a permanent home, I certainly agree with that. The northern portion of LASD also needs access to another neighborhood school, as does Los Altos Hills - we on the edges of the empire suffer (Ben Franklin, 1773 <-- that for History Professor, in London under pseudonym).
Unfortunately, simply moving Bullis Charter School to the Bullis-Purissima site will not provide a neighborhood school for Los Altos Hills. It is as simple and sad as that.
Neighborhood schools have attendance areas to foster the ability to enroll students who can hopefully walk and bike to and from, meet neighbors and all those good things. Charter schools do not benefit from having strict boundaries around a particular neighborhood, the law (Ed Code) just isn't written that way.
LASD can fight on, hoping to overturn what was granted to BCS by SCCOE, wasting more money that should be spent on kids. BCS and LASD could even decide to argue about who gets to retain "Bullis", which a local paper suggested be removed from the LASD school. Happily that hasn't happened, yet.
There are likely other things to fight about but I would much prefer that we just get Bullis-Purissima Elementary School re-opened and get it back to being a nationally-recognized Blue Ribbon neighborhood school instead of beating so many old horses. And, to work for systemic solutions.
Want to consider alternatives that could possibly benefit the north side?
LASD could seriously study going to a K-5 instead of the current K-6 structure. That would free up space at the elementary schools and the Egan and Blach “middle” schools, then grades 6-8, might just have room. PAUSD made the same change in 1991.
Try another. Consider making Egan a mixed campus K-6 plus 7-8, which it already is, but with a true neighborhood elementary school and move BCS to Blach, permanently. Both Blach and Egan would also then be equal. They aren’t now.
Those don’t work for you? Think on. We need different solutions - not mine versus yours, please.
Any systematic change will take time and a bond issue but LASD is certainly thinking about a bond issue anyhow. Solving the mismatch of student populations using the real estate on hand would be an even stronger justification to the taxpayers, I would hope – not just fixing up the old stuff, as some might otherwise think.
Meanwhile, full steam ahead to re-opening Bullis-Purissima Elementary as a neighborhood school!
Being limited to the choice of "another community" below, I want to acknowledge that I am better described as being from the portion of LAH served by PAUSD ...on the edges of two empires.
Posted by Bullis-Purissima Parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:22 pm
Bullis-Purissima is NOT a second school for the same area - it's the only school for many of us (and no we are not rich compared to our fellow Los Altos residents!). We applied to the Charter last year and did not get in even though we are in the district; neither did many of our friends. We live in the Bullis-Purissima area and will be going to Bullis-Purissima for 1st grade next year and are now emotionally invested in that school. To suggest that the Board simply throw away a year's worth of work in getting the school open and drawing new attendance lines because the Charter changed its attendance preference doesn't make sense. Should we close Almond if the charter chooses to give Almond students a preference? No - these are separate issues.
Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:40 pm
We already proposed all of those ideas to the school board. They didn't listen. I think most of ideas would work. The board doesn't want to experiment like that.
In addition, Covington could be turned into a 6-8 middle school like it originally was before it was closed. If you look at the schools on a map, this immediately seems obvious. Again, the board didn't listen.
Now we're left with a shrinking budget with an additional school to fund. An additional school that will be a struggle to fill. I am furious that LASD is making deals with PAUSD to fill it with "Hills" kids so that they all have a chance to go to Gunn HS. It is criminal considering that the northern part of LASD is overcrowded and being shipped across Los Altos.
What happens when BCS converts their charter to include grades 7 and 8? What will happen then?
Posted by LASD Almond Parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 17, 2008 at 12:55 pm
Looking at the hypothesis of BCS picking Almond as its prefered attendance area:
1. Almond being "overcrowded" would certainly not be at rist of being under-enrolled, Bullis Purrisima will (and it should be in everybody's minds what could happen in a time of budget crunch to an under-enrolled school)
2. While Almond wouldn't be under-enrolled, clearly the boundaries would have to be redrawn. And that's clearly what's going to happen. Do we all want to go through this once more in a year time? Why would make this painful exercise a yearly event?
Posted by Mark Jensen, a resident of another community, on Jan 17, 2008 at 7:36 pm
I am disappointed in your apparent abandonment of BCS. LASD has been trying to kill this school ever since the county chartered it. My wife and I have been working hard to support it as a means of getting Bullis reopened. Now that LASD has decided to reopen Bullis our LAH town council has seemingly abandoned BCS. I am sad that one of the main persons who we have worked alongside with in this long struggle also seems to have abandoned BCS. This remarkable school deserves to be at Bullis. LASD is terrified of putting BCS at Bullis because this would mean it would thrive and they would lose all hope of it killing it.
Posted by interested parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 17, 2008 at 11:15 pm
Am I the only one who finds it slightly absurd that LASD is attacking SCCBOE in order to preserve equal rights for ALL LASD families to leave LASD programs for BCS? Help me with how that supports providing LASD children with a sound education...
Posted by LASD Parent, a resident of another community, on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:32 pm
to Duncan MacMillan:
Thanks for the admission that you don't live in LASD and don't pay your taxes in that District. Given that, I'm not sure why you wish to express an opinion on how LASD should be run and OUR tax dollars should be spent.
Since you did though, maybe you can explain how encouraging (via
MOU, attendance preference and more generous transfer terms) more out of district children to free-load of District funded schools is in any way helpful. Especially at a time where over 800 LASD children will be shuffled around towns.
Posted by Parent, a resident of another community, on Mar 12, 2008 at 7:58 am
Turns out that only 8 children or so applied for the PAUSD -> LASD interdistrict, so it really begs the question on why carving such preferences for so few.
What's even more ridiculous is that this year the Board spent overall almost more time discussing transfer terms and conditions for these 8 non district kids than for the 800 LASD kids forced out of their current schools at next school year.
These 8 non district kids get multi-year transfers, the 800 LASD kids get (if they're lucky) one year transfer and are forced to reapply every year.
Sadly, the parents of these 800 kids are also the ones who will be asked to foot the bills in the form of an increased parcel tax.
Posted by Matt, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Mar 13, 2008 at 12:45 pm
My requests to keep my kids at their current school were both denied. The reason on the forms said "no room". If only 8 kids from PAUSD are going to Bullis, I'll bet it will have plenty of room. Nice.
What a mess the Board of Trustees has created. Too bad no one ran against Cooper or Harrington last fall. I wonder if the Mountain View and Palo Alto portion of LASD even got to vote. Mountain View had no other issues on that ballot last fall. My house didn't receive any voter information packets.
Parent, how did you find out that only 8 PAUSD kids applied?
Posted by Fed up Parent, a resident of another community, on Mar 22, 2008 at 2:35 pm
The LASD Board seems intent on putting on the ballot (this Fall or next Spring) an increase in the parcel tax.
This is allegedly to offset the upcoming state education budget cuts; in reality this is really to bail out from a disastrous string of bad decisions: reopening a school at a cost of 12M for less than 200 kids, affecting over 800 kids in the process, leaving unsolved the permanent location of Bullis Charter School.....
Three of the LASD Board trustees are up for reelection in 2009.
Here's a suggestion for the LASD Board: make this Board election coincide with that parcel tax increase initiative. This would arguably save the District some much needed money. This would also give a chance to have a new Board more financially responsible and more in tune with the interest of the WHOLE district.