But with long-standing adversaries who have built up years of animosity, simple disagreements can morph into loggerheads that even the greatest of mediators cannot solve. For when push comes to shove, which simply means one or both sides suddenly realizes it needs to accomplish something, problems can be worked out.
Our own local feud, while not quite up to the level of Congressional discord we see today, is nevertheless causing unrest among parents whose children attend Los Altos School District schools or Bullis Charter School. And even after years of litigation, the two sides remain ready to do battle at a moment's notice.
A case in point came last week when LASD changed the locks on Blach Middle School classrooms it had promised to BCS, so teachers could not use the rooms to prepare for the first day of school on Aug. 19. It was an incendiary move that immediately turned into an uproar that culminated with 80-100 parents at Monday's nights LASD school board meeting. Luckily for BCS students and teachers, new keys were handed over to so teachers could gain access to the promised classrooms, but there still is not confirmation that this dispute is over.
Both sides are distributing press releases that spin the lock-out incident their way, so it's virtually impossible to make a judgment on who is right. More than likely, there is plenty of blame to go around and, at least for now, students will be able to attend classes on Monday.
At the bottom of the disagreement is LASD's refusal to give BCS a school building of its own, even though at nearly 600 students, the charter school has outgrown its allotted space in portable buildings on the Egan and Blach campuses. State Proposition 39 requires school districts to give charter schools in their districts adequate space to operate, but of course, neither the district nor BCS agree on the interpretation.
It is time for these warring schools to tone down their rhetoric and find a way to sign a master agreement that will defuse these seemingly never-ending disputes. Gov. Jerry Brown recently imposed a 60-day cooling off period so BART and its workers could continue to bargain to avert a possible strike that would cripple Bay Area transit. It is a shame someone can't call a similar time-out in this disagreement.
Luckily, district and BCS students have not seen much impact in the classroom from the current disagreement, at least yet. But with animosity running high, there is no telling what the next surprise tactic will be. Reasonable parents from both sides should push their respective boards to seek out a longterm agreement. One way would be to choose a mediator who could resolve the dispute over classroom space. There has to be a way for the two sides to end their "Hatfield and McCoy" warfare.
Parents from the district and BCS should be tired seeing their top school officials engage in this childish behavior. And resolving these issues would save thousands of dollars in legal expenses that should be spent in the classroom.