Lockout ends, battle continues

Bullis teachers get keys to classrooms, but tensions with LASD remain high

After being locked out of their classrooms on the Blach Intermediate School campus for 10 days, officials with Bullis Charter School were given the keys at a meeting of the Los Altos School District's board of trustees on Aug. 12 one week before the charter school's first day of class.

While parents and officials with BCS expressed outrage, calling the move "hostile" and "unprecedented," members of the LASD board said that they were simply trying to get the charter school's leadership to sign on to a facilities use agreement.

The lockout marked a sharp increase in tensions between the two organizations, with parents from Bullis staging a protest outside the district's main office on Aug. 8.

According to Martha McClatchie, a Bullis parent who helped organize the rally, she and the other protesters were very upset that district officials changed the locks at Blach. "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, as the district was waiting for officials with BCS to sign the facilities use agreement.

In the past, LASD has not required that BCS sign the agreement before the start of the school year, Goines said. However, California's charter school law, Proposition 39, says that a district can require such an action before handing over facilities to a charter.

At the Aug. 12 meeting a full copy of the facilities agreement -- which was hundreds of pages in length -- was given to Bullis officials and the cover letter to the agreement was handed out to anyone who wanted a copy. About 80 to 100 people were in attendance, according to estimates by both Bullis and LASD officials.

The agreement was accompanied by keys to the rooms that had been locked since Aug. 2 and officials from LASD explained that in accepting the keys Bullis officials were agreeing to the facilities use agreement, whether they signed it or not.

"We just expect them to live up to that agreement," Goines said. "The law is pretty simple: if they occupy the district's facilities they agree to the terms of the final offer that we give them."

Impossible agreement

The problem, according to Bullis officials, is that there is no way the charter can possibly live up to the agreement (FUA).

For starters, the agreement dictates that only BCS' middle school students are allowed on the Blach portion of the charter school's split campus, according to John Phelps a member of the BCS board of directors. Bullis' elementary-aged students are to remain on the Egan Junior High School portion of BCS' split campus.

Phelps said that will not work for BCS, as the charter school's program requires students from elementary and middle school to interact with one another in what he called a buddy system. Additionally, there are science facilities that the charter only has access to at Blach and not at Egan, and Bullis' elementary teachers have lesson plans that require the use of those facilities.

On top of that, Phelps said, the district has placed a limit on the number of children BCS may enroll, which he said might result in the charter having to turn kids away.

"If we sign the FUA that they asked us to sign -- or, I could say 'are forcing us to sign' -- we would be in immediate violation of the agreement," Phelps said, describing the situation as a "catch-22."

Raising the rent

According to Phelps, the district is raising BCS' "rent" -- the amount of money the charter must contribute to the district to use its facilities -- by "five-fold."

Goines said that much of what Phelps claims is exaggerated. The way he tells it, the district is roughly doubling the use fee it is charging BCS, raising it from around $100,000 to around $200,000. He explained that was necessary, as the charter will be using more space. The charter estimates it will have about 645 students this year -- an increase of about 130 over last year's enrollment numbers.

While district did place a limit on the number of students BCS may have at each campus, it based that cap on official enrollment estimates obtained from the charter school, he said.

And when it comes to the facilities agreement, Goines said the district had been working with BCS since April on an arrangement that would be agreeable to both educational organizations and that the charter school officials had refused 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 they never heard anything back.

Phelps countered by saying the meeting Goines referenced was highly informal -- a simple exchange of words in a parking lot.

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. The district has been inflexible to requests for changes in the FUA, he said, and officials with LASD have "dragged their feet" and blown off chances to meet and negotiate.

When asked whether the student enrollment cap was based upon BCS projections, Phelps said he couldn't be sure, and a Bullis spokesman said that it was irrelevant -- saying the real issue was the lockout and the way the district is forcing the charter school into an agreement it can't possibly abide by.

With officials on both sides of the debate vigorously defending their actions it seems clear there is no end in sight to the conflict between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District.

One BCS parent seemed to think that the Santa Clara County Board of Education, which granted Bullis its charter, might be able to step in. In an open letter addressed to the board she implored them to help.

However, according to Toni Cordova, a chief strategy officer with the SCC Office of Education, said there was little the board could do. Though the board is "very aware" of the situation, its "authority is very limited at this point," Cordova said. "They are working closely with both parties and would love to find a resolution."


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm

To be accurate, Bullis received a draft of the Facilities Use Agreement April 1st. There are some changes to it, but the wording about age ranges at different sites has been there all along. Sadly, BCS waited until the last minute to have their protest, creating a sense of urgency when there isn't one. No students were locked out, ever. This was all before school started. And the FUA is legal, and completely in keeping with Prop 39, to which BCS rigidly holds LASD accountable (in fact, a judge expressly ruled it legal just this summer).

What kind of person or group plays victim and feels slighted when a landlord won't provide the keys to a building without a signed lease? A lease that was made available to them months ago? Absurd. And sad. Too bad BCS parents didn't more appropriately picket their own board, who has completely dropped the ball by not signing the FUA. Sign the "lease," get the keys. Hopefully the BCS board will move soon to do their part to move this forward. Until then, blame the BCS board, THEY are refusing do what they legally need to do to get access.

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Posted by Don't Want To Get Involved But...
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm

"Neighbor" is attempting to re-write history. The aforementioned recital of events is incorrect and she knows it.

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Posted by FUA has been executed
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm

LASD provided keys to Blach last week with the stipulation that BCS occupancy of Blach would be deemed acceptance of the FUA, so there's nothing more to discuss. BCS assumed obligations that it intends to breach, and when they do, I hope the district fully enforces the FUA.

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Posted by davidr2468
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I am a resident and landlord of Mountain View. Here is my view of the story.

I have a house to rent. One day, a family with 5 children wanted to rent my house. They looked the house 5 times, know there are only 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and a small kitchen, a small living room and a small family room. Street Parking is crowded. I also disclosed an incident of theft in the past 3 years. Basically they know everything of the house, and the surroundings.

We negotiated and confirmed every detail on April 1st, including monthly, deposit, move-in condition etc. Everything they can think of.

Now they want to move in because school is opening in weeks. You know what? They don't want to sign a Lease Agreement. They are claiming that:

- school is opening, and children deserve the right to go to school. They are still locked out of my house.
- there are only 3 bedrooms, and they have 5 children. I should expand my house to 5 bedrooms
- my living room and family room is too small. They have designed many extra-curricular activities at home. My house is just too small to accommodate their innovative extra-curricular program at home
- my house are 2 stories, and bedrooms are in both upstairs and downstairs. This design isn't good for their extra-curricular program, because their program requires "all bedroom are connected"
- for the benefits of their children, and they have the right to get the best education program, I should remodel my house to accommodate their program
- Lease Agreement is too restrictive, because they have planned to grow their family with much more children.
- Lease Agreement is unfair, because they are thinking of doing some business at home, while Lease Agreement only allows the house for residential purpose. It is unfair to them if they cannot do some business at home.
- ......

They are requesting me to have a conversation, to consider the children, to consider .... all you can think of to agree to their claims. Otherwise, I am not a good citizen, I am cold-blooded because their family has nowhere to live, and their children cannot go to school.......

Should I let them move in without signing the Lease Agreement, and accommodate all above claims after actually they have known every detail of my house and surroundings, and we have confirmed all the details on April 1? I need your guidance.

Who is this renter? BCS.
Who is this landlord? LASD.

Thank you for your time and patience

A Citizen of the United States of America

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Posted by Waldo
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Waldo is a registered user.

Why do we have to have two school districts serving the same area? It seems that highly ranked LASD serves our needs. How do we revoke the BCS charter and stop this nonsense?

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Posted by Grandmother
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:05 pm

he Los Altos School Board is working extremely hard. They have put in long hours and sacrificed time with their families. Should we thank them? Absolutely Not! It is clear that they are working as hard as they can to destroy Bullis Charter School. There can be no other explanation for their current actions. I think they are corrupt. BCS parents should sue them for discrimination against their children. Hit them in their pocketbooks!

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Posted by Tom Fenstermacher
a resident of another community
on Aug 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I saw, what difference does it make. People should get a life.

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Posted by tired
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 20, 2013 at 12:05 am

The whole BCS/LASD saga has become tiresome. In my view, school vouchers and (to a lesser extent) charter schools are intended to provide parents without access to quality public schools and without the means to afford a private education, an alternative that meets the educational needs of their children. So, what we have here is a charter school in an affluent area with excellent schools. Any claim otherwise is simply a fundamental disagreement with what constitutes a quality education... if you believe the LASD schools are not serving the educational needs of our community's youth, you simply do not believe in the state's approach to education. I get that... I really do. I'm actually a supporter of both charter schools and vouchers, but have chosen an LASD school because I feel the community aspect of having many neighbors with kids in the same school outweighs the benefits of educational flexibility and innovation a charter school offers compared to LASD schools. So... I ask this, what SIGNIFICANT benefit does BCS or any other hypothetical charter offer over LASD schools that warrant its existence in place of the traditional alternative in this case (private education)?

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Posted by BullisIsABully
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2013 at 1:21 am

Bullis has declared war on LASD. They constantly deliver demands to the school district and if each and every one is not met, then they refuse to make an agreement.

The legal actions are costing the district money, which are robbing children of a fully funded education. How can the Bullis charter be revoked?

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Posted by @Grandmother
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 20, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Grandmother, you said that BCS parents should sue LASD for discrimination. BCS already sued them. They lost.

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Posted by LASD funds
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2013 at 6:34 pm

LASD seems to have near infinite funds. They have stalled Bullis' rightful requests ever since they LOST in the supreme court of California. Bullis won! LASD lost. But all that Bullis won is the right to their share, and nothing more. Sooner or later LASD is going to run out of the ability to spend money on legal actions to disobey the laws of California.

No body should contribute any funds to LASD or LAEF because they just fritter them away.

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Posted by @LASD Funds
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2013 at 7:33 pm

I agree with LASD funds. I am a Santa Rita and Egan Parent and I will not contribute to LAEF or either PTA until they stop spending money on lawyers and annoying "We hate BCS We love everything about LASD campaigns". We do not love everything about LASD - much of it is drivel. The only reason that kids do so well is that they get a halfway decent teacher every other year or so and everyone pays for tutoring after school. So tired on the slow pace and worksheet avalanche. Applied to BCS for the younger one and didn't get in - will try again this year.

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Posted by boo hoo
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I guess @LASD Funds is too dumb to realize that LAEF and PTA don't spend a dime on lawyers or BCS hate campaigns. These organizations DO improve the quality of education in LASD schools, though. Please go to BCS and good riddance!

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Posted by @boo hoo
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I guess boo hoo fails to realize that LASD parents are paying for things that really should be covered by our tax dollars. Funding LAEF and the PTA lets the Board spend money on retirement pay and lawyers. We should be spending that money on Math Teachers and technology instead. I don't support our board and I won't support LAEF or the PTA until things change.

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Posted by LASDRocks
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm

The Bullis board is backed by a bunch of cranky multimillionaires that are just trying to crush public education. These are the same "anti-socialist"folks that think that private industry built everything great, like the internet, the interstate highways and the trip to the moon. Therefore, only a school that is privately run will be effective. Oh yes, and it should be mostly funded through public funds.

In other words, they are oblivious.

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Posted by incognito
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm

The longer this continues the uglier it will get. Someone, somewhere, somehow has to do something to resolve this situation! Everyone is sick to death of it!

Have they tried hiring a mediator? Have parents from different schools met face to face over coffee, without any school administrators present? What if the school administrators and board members just locked themselves in a room until they hammer out an agreement? Maybe the administrators should stay home and let the teachers figure it out.

How can we possibly expect our children to learn how to resolve conflicts on the playground when the adults who are responsible for educating them can't even do that themselves?

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Posted by Bridges over Stevens Creek
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 12:31 am

The same old board president makes all the noise from the school district, but we seem to hear very little from the others. I sure hope some of the others don't want to concentrate on blocking access to the BCS sites to 10% of the enrolled students via the sham CEQA caps that LASD has invented for the 2 sites.

Also, if BCS wants to have 2nd graders or 3rd graders visit its little 12 portable building compound at Blach, I don't see why LASD should meddle in that. The only person yapping about that has been Doug Smith, and he also made a big deal about keeping their 6th graders out of the Blach science lab when BCS was making use of its 1.5 hour daily allotment of one of the four labs. Why? I see a pattern to the problem here, and I think it's Mr. Smith with his posturing and extreme views.

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Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 22, 2013 at 10:33 am

I find it interesting that BCS supporters are so up in arms about the fact that the LASD board has chosen to insist that they stick to the letter of the law with regard to all documented agreements involving this school year. They are upset that they must sign the occupancy agreement, that they can't move students back and forth at will, and so forth.

It is interesting because these are the same people that are file a court case every year, despite coming to an "agreement" about their facilities. It is disingenuous to act as though the district is being malicious in their actions, since they don't consider their OWN actions to be malicious. They also attack Doug Smith, as if he is acting independently, when their own Ken Moore takes similar actions for their own board. Is he a maverick, or is he speaking for the board he is part of at BCS?

As for the poster that claims to be a Santa Rita parent, you are sadly misinformed about the ability of California schools to fund the "extras" you think our tax dollars can pay for. Those retirement benefits are obligations they MUST pay. The lawyers they pay are to protect the rights of the children they educate. I imagine BCS could spend all their lawyer funds on better stuff too. Perhaps working WITH LASD, rather than against them, to find another site for their program would be a better use of their funds.

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Posted by @psr
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I guess you don't understand the SHAM that LASD is pulling on us. They promote administrators before they are ready to retire then after they work for a year they retire, for life in a higher pay bracket. LASD covers those cost, for life. They also pay for PPO health care for the retiree and the spouse. That's for all retirees for life. I don't know about you but I don't see the point in that. LAEF supports it. Right now they (LAEF) are paying the former assistant sups salary while the former Almond Principle takes over as assistant sup - for a short time - to get more money for life - nice deal. Bad for our kids. The money should be spent in classrooms not on retirement.

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Posted by Der K
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2013 at 12:43 am

Amend the Law, plain and simple. Charter Schools are not intended for areas where the average API is over 960. They're intended for the exact opposite neighborhoods and cities such as Los Altos. Charter Schools were intended specifically to provide alternative schooling for parents who could not afford private school.

BCS Enrollment:

1. Siblings of Existing BCS students

2. Up to 50% of the remaining spots in each grade to the students who reside within the boundaries of the Former Bullis-Purissima attendance area as defined by the Los Altos School District in 2003

- LASD closed Bullis Elementary closed in 2003.

- BCS specifically reserves a major portion of their base specifically for residents of the former school attendance area.

A Charter School with an API of 990+ wants to use existing School District property where the average API of the district is over 960? This story is perfect for the Bravo network but both sides shouldn't be wasting public resources at all.

Again, amend the Law!

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Posted by SillyBullis
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2013 at 2:56 am

Der K is absolutely correct--the law should be amended.

It is interesting to note that the only way charter schools laws were allowed to happen by the right-wingers was to enable public funding to be used to fund religious schools. The greedy Bullis backers have decided to take advantage of these loopholes in order to get public funding for their private school.

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Posted by I Luv Legos
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm

They let their students play with legos and then they call it "engineering" so the dopey parents will pony up 5K. Luv it!

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Posted by BCS Parent
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Heh I Luv LEGO's too.
My kids luv LEGO"S
BCS sometimes uses LEGO's to teach engineering and science. Which is really cool. Last year both of my kids built and programmed LEGO Robots. Then they were able to see how they worked in microgravity because NASA has a LEGO's in space program. How cool is that? I don't know about you but one of things that I always wanted to do was conduct in experiments in space. I think it's fantastic that my kids get to do this.

and now were adding a Fab Lab...... sweet!

Web Link

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Posted by DavidR+JayR
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2013 at 7:57 am

We like how BCS spent $300,000 dollars on a FabLab and another $300,000 on marketing & PR company Wheelhouse Strategy Group* (who was likely fired recently by BCS for sexually inappropriate twitter comments about kids teachers and private acts Web Link), yet stick it to LASD for their facility bill. Sure, BCS has the funds to help LASD make the facility offer better for their K-3 at Blach, to improve Egan, or to begin self siting. That would be too easy.

*Wheelhouse Strategy Group is (was?) the marketing agency BCS spent $310,000 on. Instead of publicly approving, intentionally dodging the Brown Act, the BCS board had their education foundation, BPESF BCSFoundation, use parent donated funds to hire this company. Wheelhouse help organize the recent picketing and newsblast, but then when on to post the above sick twitter comments. Wheelhouse BCS Contract: Web Link pg 22

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Posted by Solution to the problem
a resident of Monta Loma
on Aug 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Would be for Bullis to take over the whole school district in the bay area.

That way the schools budgets would be balanced. Bloated pensions would be gone. And salaries would be competitive.

Unions would be out of the picture and all teachers would have to teach like teachers or lose their jobs.

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Posted by @Solution
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 27, 2013 at 8:57 am

@Solution To the Problem: your solution sounds 100% legal and practical. Thanks so much for your post. I think it's a tremendous contribution to the dialogue.

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Posted by Reality
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

@Solution to the problem, you wrote that "budgets would be balanced"

Really? BCS has been running in the red for several years. Of course, it doesn't matter to them since the Moore Foundation can always step in and make up the difference. I don't think that model will scale very well to "the whole school district in the bay area" (as you so eloquently put it!)

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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