A group of Bullis Charter School parents, upset over what they are calling a Los Altos School District-imposed "lockout" of BCS teachers, protested earlier this morning, Aug. 8, in front of the LASD main office.
According to Martha McClatchie, a Bullis parent who helped organize the rally, she and the other protesters are upset that LASD officials changed the locks to classrooms at Blach Intermediate School, which BCS uses to run its program --effectively locking teachers with the charter school from gaining access to some of their classrooms in order to prepare for the coming school year.
"As a parent, I'm alarmed that the Los Altos School District would do a lockout," McClatchie said.
Mark Goines, an LASD board member, acknowledged that the district had changed the locks at Blach, but said that the district had good reason to do so and noted that BCS teachers are not entirely locked out. The charter school is split between two campuses and teachers still have access to classrooms at Egan Junior High School.
Furthermore, Goines continued, officials with LASD will be more than happy to hand over the keys to Blach classrooms as soon as the leadership at BCS signs on to the facilities use agreement for the 2013-14 school year. Officials with the charter school have yet to sign that agreement, which Goines said he found "perplexing."
The way Goines tells it, two board members from each educational organization met on Monday, Aug. 5, and worked out the final details of a facilities agreement. After that meeting, Goines said the district sent the final version of the agreement to BCS. But…
"We have not heard back from them," he said. "I don't get it."
John Phelps, a member of the Bullis board of directors has a decidedly different take on the matter. "Frankly, we're all stunned and astonished at this very hostile move by the district," Phelps said, referring to the locking of doors at Blach. "It's unacceptable. There's no excuse for it."
According to Phelps, it has been LASD officials who have refused to cooperate with the Bullis board, which he said has been working "feverishly" since April 1 to negotiate a deal that both parties find agreeable.
In return for their earnest efforts to work out a deal, Phelps said, BCS has been ignored by the district. "They have steadfastly refused to talk at any point about any of the matters regarding the coming school year," he said. "They have flatly refused."
In some cases, he went on, the district has taken action he believes is intended to hurt the charter school.
As evidence he pointed to what he described as a "five-fold increase" in the charter school's rental fee. The charter school is required to pay the district to offset costs associated with using LASD's facilities each year. This year, Phelps said, the fees the district is trying to get the charter school to pay have increased dramatically. On top of that, the district is also trying to put a cap on the number of students the charter may have. That cap would force BCS to actually kick students out of classes.
In response to these accusations, Goines said that the district is simply following the law and doing the best it can with the space it has available. "We're just following the rules," he said, noting that there is only so much space in the district.
LASD puts a lot of work into making sure they allocate a fair amount of facilities to the charter school, he said.
"We've done everything we can to make it easy for them," he said. "It's on their board to act."