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LASD can't force Bullis to move, judge rules

Original post made on Jan 23, 2014

The Los Altos School District may not force Bullis Charter School to move to a site outside the district's boundaries, a Santa Clara County judge has ruled.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 23, 2014, 11:16 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by Springer Parent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 23, 2014 at 6:39 pm

Dear LASD,
Please stop spending our tax dollars on useless endeavors and start spending it our kids instead. You keep trying stupid stuff to get rid of that school and it isn't working. We need better trained teachers, and a more challenging curriculum. You dumb everything down and offer little to keep our kids interested.

Posted by Former LASD Parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2014 at 10:22 pm

So true, So true.

The BCS issue is a red herring imo….. Just blame everything on that and keep everyone united against the enemy. What a terrible way to run a district. Sent my kids to private school last year - tried to get into BCS - too far down the waiting list. The only reason that there are half way decent test scores is because the parents spend a bunch sending kids to Kumon. Nothing to do with what actually happens in the classroom. LASD schools are not that great and spending money on really stupid stuff like this just makes it worse. Seems to me that the schools are functioning as more of a social outlet for a few of the parents than as an actual place of learning.

Posted by Doug Smith, LASD Trustee
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2014 at 10:56 am

Dear SpringerParent

Thanks for your comment. Of course we are concerned when someone believes their child isn't being adequately challenged in our classes. We strive to ensure that each child is challenged, and that they are achieving at the highest level possible. I would *strongly* encourage you to arrange a meeting with Wade Spenader, principal at Springer. I've checked in with staff, and they'd very much like to understand more, and how we can better meet the needs of your child.

Board of Trusteees

Posted by Tell The Truth
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Doug Smith has no background in education. He doesn't know what he is talking about. There's nothing the principal at Springer can do on a one-off basis to improve the curriculum for one child. This is a silly idea. I do hope the parents have considered their option when the kid reaches 6th grade to apply to Bullis and stay through Junior High. They have a highly adaptive curriculum and offer an excellent program. It's all a trade off between picking a program for social reasons, e.g. there are more kids and parents involved in Blach and Egan than there are in the 6-8 grade middle school at Bullis. But sometimes a small program with under 75 kids per grade is right for smart kids.

I think you have put your finger on it. LASD is not doing a good program for the high IQ kids. They worry much more about getting the average or slightly better kids to do well on test scores. Because of the local population they don't have too many below average or disadvantaged kids to deal with, but they also get short shrift. They then harp on that, about how much of a disadvantaged population they have (100 to 200 kids depending on how you count it). The totally ignore the number bigger issue of a population of 1500+ of high potential kids who are not getting engaged or challenged. This is what drives the demand for Bullis Charter and it is entirely within LASD's control to address it for themselves.

Posted by Another Springer Parent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm

@"Tell the Truth" -- I don't know about Doug's background, but clearly you have none in this space either. My youngest son tested off the charts, but struggled early on at Springer. His teachers, and the administration (Bob Celeste initially, then Wade Spinader after that) directly engaged in helping to find an approach that worked for my child.
They were all both completely professional, and thoroughly compassionate during a tough time. The tried and true BCS accusation that LASD is a "one size fits all" model is a flat out lie and those propagating it should be ashamed. I suspect anyone who did not find the LASD program to their liking didn't honestly and sincerely engage with the teachers and the administration in trying to solve the problem..

Posted by To Tell the Truth
a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm

We aren't talking about a student who is appearing to do poorly. THe issue is that there are a large number of extremely bright kids in LASD. They can pass the tests and do OK score-wise. The problem that it is boring for them and they are not getting much out of it. It's not just an occasional student. It's a large number of students. If you address their needs, you probably also avoid situations like your son's. But it's the ones who are harmed invisibly and don't get any consideration who are most benefited by having choice and magnet programs to make their education relevant. It's too bad LASD wastes so very much time and expense trying to thwart the option tha Bullis provides. They are determined to limit the educational options to only those that serve the mid range kids. It's unusual to have so many highly intelligent students in one school district. LASD knows this because they have IQ tests on all their kids.

Posted by Doug Smith, LASD Trustee
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 9:19 am

It is through my work as a trustee that I have had occasion to speak with a number of parents who have struggled with the questions raised here. We are fortunate to have many children in our community who are exceptionally bright. In nearly all cases we identify this and take steps to tailor the curriculum for the child. In a few cases, the parents come forward and ask us to look more closely. We do so, and work with the parents to take appropriate steps.

How do I know this is true? Because I talk to the principals and the teachers who make it happen. I've literally watched it at work in the classrooms. And I have heard from parents both before and after they've approached staff to raise their concerns. I've been approached by parents to thank the District for the work a teacher or principal has done with their child to ensure their child is excited and engaged. It is *what we do*. It is the culture of our schools.

If a child isn't getting what they need, parents should please speak up. Our staff, including our principals, will be more than happy to work with you to ensure your child is appropriately challenged.

Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 9:42 am

Bullis Charter is not supposed to be a school whose existence is meant to serve the academically gifted yet bored students of the district. BCS has an obligation to attract itself to all students. From reading these and other comments it is apparent BCS has become such a school of choice for those who are not being hurt academically. Hopefully it's not true, else that's quite sad considering BCS has so much potential to use its curriculum to attract so much more of the middle of the road and especially low performing population who may be struggling and truly need a novel approach.

"Tell the Truth", If you really believe LASD is full of high performing kids (it's not) then ask yourself what the point of a charter is about, other than as a scapegoat for parents not to participate in any effort to change LASDs approach to education from the inside.

Posted by To Tell The Truth
a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Bullis Charter school was created to offer academic challenges and provide a high quality education to LASD students. Since LASD has a very affluent residence base, with successful parents who tend to have graduate degrees, this means providing a school which meets the needs of their children. Both LASD and Bullis have a much higher then typical representation of those with graduate degrees. A lot are even moving here from other countries where they need the degree in order to get easier entry to the U.S. Even those (immigrant or not) who do not have a graduate degree will tend to have a higher than average IQ because they have needed it to earn enough funds to afford to live in LASD. The housing costs here are extraordinary, even for the Bay Area.

So, I don't think it is at all an over statement to say that 1/3 of the LASD school age residences have notably high IQ's and that these are the students who would gravitate to Bullis charter. LASD could offer a magnet program to provide some kind of social experience at a school also with a high level academic focus, but it choose not to. Fortunately the charter laws permit creation of a charter program of any sort whatsoever. The programs do not have to appeal to every resident of the district. In this case, there is a long waiting list and much pent up demand for a program like Bullis's.

I wish the people on the school board would stop ignoring this and do something to truly compete with Bullis. Right now their main advantage is two fold: (1) They have retained superior facilities for themselves and have vowed to keep that superiority whatever it takes, legal or not. (2) They cast aspersions at the smart kids for wanting a program which tests their true abilities rather than dumbing down themselves to fit into a neighborhood school which has to focus on the average students in order to get good test scores.

Posted by BullisIsBully
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 28, 2014 at 11:12 pm

It's a shame that the Bullis Mafia continues to revenge itself on the parents and students of the LASD. Great strategy to attempt to force a highly functioning school district and then order them to evacuate school campuses for their own private school needs.

And the public has to pay for this? Sorry Bullis...if you want a private school, go build one. Don't try to steal from the public.

Posted by Truth???
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 29, 2014 at 10:03 am

@To Tell The Truth claims:
"Bullis Charter school was created to offer academic challenges and provide a high quality education to LASD students."

Uh, so much for "truth". BCS was created by a group of angry, wealthy LAH parents frustrated by the closure of Bullis Purssima Elementary. Period. It was an end-run around a decision by local elected officials that took full advantage of ambiguous charter laws. They may have evolved their mission over time, but their origins were not about "choice" or "innovation" and certainly not about helping under-performing segments of the student population.

Posted by Interesting Trend
a resident of The Crossings
on Jan 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Over the last few yrs, I've seen an interesting trend at LASD elementary schools (of which my kids attend). Some of the best and brightest students are transferring to BCS in older grades (3rd, 4th, 5th) which normally is an unusual time to move a kid out, esp after they've built their network for friends. I say these are the best and brightest purely in an academic sense - they are in the top math groups, the top reading groups, they get good grades, etc. I will also say something that is not politically correct, but needs to be said. Most of these students who transfer are of East Asian, South Asian or mixed Caucasian-Asian descent. Why is that important? Well, it conforms to a stereotype that Asian families place a greater emphasis on education and academics. They seek out a better program, a more rigorous program - whether it's reality or reputation. So you want to know why BCS API scores continue to be "better" than LASD's - well if it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. If BCS were marginally better than LASD before, by taking LASD's brightest, then their scores will continue to stay ahead, while LASD's will fall further behind - and round and round this goes, perpetuating the view that BCS is stronger academically. Let's also state another stereotype, if you're Asian in Los Altos, you probably work at Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, etc, so you're doing just fine financially. You'd be happy to pay the "BCS tuition" b/c you know what - it is a better deal than Harker and the commute to a "commuter school" like BCS is a whole heck of a lot better too. So there is a real issue w/ the best and brightest at LASD being bored and not challenged - be it due to insufficient resources, inflexibility on personalization, untrained professionals, whatever. This is view in the trenches said in whispers by many families at LASD. No one wants to state it publicly, but LASD needs to hear it and decide if it's something worth addressing or not.

Posted by lasdparent
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2014 at 6:08 pm

@Interesting Trend "So there is a real issue w/ the best and brightest at LASD being bored and not challenged - be it due to insufficient resources, inflexibility on personalization, untrained professionals, whatever." Or, it's really just the parents who are the ones who think their kids are bored when they are really not. It's easy for the types of parents you just described to displace their own angst and competitive issues onto their kids.

Here is an interesting video of BCS 10 year anniversary: Web Link It's really quite telling when you listen to the original founders of BCS talk about why they started the school. They believed LASD was incapable of innovation and they wanted to attract those families who were going off to private schools. I'll beg to differ that LASD was and is incapable of innovation, but innovation a point of a charter. How has BCS shared such innovation back to LASD? But a goal to attract private school families? Well to me that sounds like BCS intended to be a cheaper alternative to a private school education!

The video is quite nice. The kids look really happy. The facilities seem clean and spacious. The school is highly accomplished. So what are people complaining about? Are they bitter because the land isn't quite equal or the buildings aren't made out of concrete? Really, your priorities need to be reevaluated.

Posted by BCS parent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 29, 2014 at 8:30 pm

@LASD Parent It's really quite telling to me that out of that entire video you believe the message is that BCS wants to attract those families going off to private schools. The mob mentality that LASD is spoon feeding everyone is sure sinking in well.

The facilities are anything but spacious and our entire student body is NOT ALLOWED to be on our campus. A few extra portables at Egan, a staggered start time for Egan and there wouldn't be an issue.

Better planning by LASD could have occurred at any time. But for some reason LASD folks want to sling mud to see what might stick and continue down the path of unequal facilities in hopes to close BCS down. Petty politics at it's ugliest.

Posted by Another Take on the Interesting Trend
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 29, 2014 at 8:39 pm

@Interesting Trend. Perhaps those students you mention are leaving Almond in the 3rd and 4th grade as there is a bummer teacher teaching that year. Parents either want to avoid that teacher or move after having a bad year with that teacher.

Every school in LASD has a bummer teacher or two at different grade levels. It's also politically incorrect to mention it out loud but nothing is done about it.

And I about busted a gut laughing that Mr. Smith thinks talking with the Principals at a school helps. The BEST a principal *might* do is put a child with a better teacher the next year if they have a bummer teacher in the current year. Sucks for the kid but we can always blame the parents instead.

I'm really sad that a LASD BOT spends his/her time on these boards trying to justify their petty behavior. I wish they would spend more time making solutions that help ALL the public school children in LASD.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jan 29, 2014 at 10:34 pm

@Interesting Trend,
I know that you are not trying to be anti Asian but your post comes off that way. It's been my observation that Asian parents are like other parents in our community, they want the best school for their kids, and LASD schools come up short when compared to BCS. Unless you value facilities over substance.

I don't think it is about the test scores, they really are not that different, but BCS does out score the other LASD schools. It's more of a program and teacher quality difference. There is a lot of cool stuff going on at BCS that just isn't happening in LASD schools. The main difference that keeps people in the LASD program is the social pressure/ neighborhood schools thing. Which Asian parents are more resistant to as they often have their own established community networks, and may not be as interested, and may not feel as welcomed in LASD parent cliques. Indeed we see this reflected in the LASD parent leadership which does not in anyway reflect the actual diversity in LASD. That is not the case at BCS, where many Asian parents are in the leadership.

The biggest difference though is in the entire neighborhood schools thing. Like the majority of parents everywhere - even here in Los Altos- they are more interested in the best school, rather than the closest school and most likely their supposed "neighborhood" school is a mile or two or MORE away from where they live. As a resident of the Crossings, Interesting Trend, I am sure you are familiar with the commute that you do everyday to Covington. Rest assured you are not alone, because although LASD tries to portray it otherwise, ALL LASD Elementary Schools are commuter schools, with 60 - 80 percent of the students arriving by car. BCS percentage of commuters is the same as other LASD schools. They just have more students crammed into a smaller space. The parking lot at Covington is 4 times the size of the parking lot at BCS, but BCS has more students.

So while you make valid points about students leaving I think you might want to suggest a solution. Think about why parents are leaving LASD. Maybe they are leaving because instead of trying to improve LASD schools, Mr. Smith and his fellow Trustees put their time and effort, and the tax payers money, into trying objectify and vilify BCS. They manufacture issues which really have zero merit and then fan the flames of hatred. Really that is their main objective, making sure everyone hates BCS. But BCS enrollment continues to grow, so all of their efforts have little effect. Parents leaving are jumping ship. At BCS they see a flexible school that values education and innovation, at LASD they see the same old excuses for why things can't change, or if a change needs to be made, it must take years to accomplish.
Geometry Anyone? That's why parents leave and go to BCS.

Posted by Sarah P
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:01 pm

Mr. Smith tries to sound rational but listen to Monday's school board meeting , you are in for treat, if you enjoy random angry comments. If you haven't yet heard Mr. Smith suggested that BCS Students do not need PE facilities unless PE is a focus of the BCS charter. Irrational - yes sadly he is one angry pot stirrer. His carefully crafted plan is falling apart. Re-election? Not likely.

Posted by To Tell The Truth
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 12:28 am

When you think about it, about the only reason people choose a private school is to find a better school than the traditional public option. Many school districts have options within the public sphere, but you could say the whole reason they have other than the 'traditional' option is to compete with private schools.

I don't supposed LASD keeps classes in Jr High at a size of 20 in many subjects in order to be just like the traditional public junior highs, does it?

Personally, I don't think class size is the key to serving those who are brighter than average and looking for a more stimulating challenging and informative education. I don't think there is any shame in wanting something different or higher quality, nor do I think it should have to be 'private' or cost more. It's worth noting that the Bullis cost is about the same as the LASD cost, just not so fully funded off the public dime. Where LASD students get a $1K subsidy from private donations and $9K from public money, Bullis students get something like $4K private and $6K public. Big deal.

Posted by To Tell The Truth
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 12:38 am

Racial bias is unfair and bad. It's worth noting that regardless of the classification, nearly ALL of the residents in LASD tend to be in the top 2 quartiles of the IQ range. That's life. It doesn't matter what race. Also the top 10% of IQ range is present in way above typical proportions, again, regardless of race. LASD has a special need to offer programs which address the needs of its smart students as well as programs to address those who are less gifted, because it's not the typical Bell Curve in Los Altos.

Posted by Former LASD Parent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 30, 2014 at 7:33 am

All Children, regardless of their IQ should have a challenging and interesting education program. LASD focuses on the bare bones and is only innovative by mistake. Parents or individual teachers start something that gets incorporated if it doesn't take away from test prep, the favored and dominate LASD curriculum. The charter school seems much more innovative to me, but we didn't get in. Our private school is more traditional but it does challenge our kids and doesn't dumb down things. LASD dumbs stuff down and spends countless hours teaching test taking skills.

Posted by Carole
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 10:30 am

Leaving LASD-

When we moved here we choose Los Altos for several reasons one of them was the schools. We didn't even know about BCS. We looked at test scores and they were pretty good in Los Altos. Cupertino and Palo Alto also had some great scores as did a few of the schools in MV. We looked in all those places like most people do, but ended up finding a great home in Los Altos with in walking distance to Almond. We started out there, but were frustrated super quickly when kindergarten ended up being a repeat of preschool. First grade wasn't any better, it was more academic but nothing to challenging or interesting. Nice parent community but I wasn't happy with constant shifting of administrators. The other thing that really upset me was that even though all the schools are supposed to be the same some schools seem to end up with more than others. Covington, Gardner Bullis and Santa Rita seem to be favored - they are always the schools that get to try the new stuff. So we started applying to BCS and finally got in and are so very happy that we did. Our kids are great at some things and struggle with others. One of our kids is really shy and was very with drawn at Almond. BCS helped him out of his shell. He is so excited about going to school now.
We didn't switch because of the test scores. They are a little higher at BCS but that is not a good reason to switch schools. In fact one of the reasons we switched to BCS is because they really to de-emphize test prep. I really like the project based learning which happens all year long, with multiple projects. This year we added the Fab Lab and the Maker Space which my kids just love. Learning with robots and 3D printing really is exciting.

Posted by LASD Parent too
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 30, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Wow. Impressive coordinated message campaign by the BCS supporters here. Were you all provided the standard talking points by Jay Reed, the notorious BCS PR rep? I wonder how many of these little personal vignettes are even real. No school is a perfect fit for every child, but most families have a great result with their LASD neighborhood school. I saw generally outstanding teachers, supportive administrators, committed and active parent communities, etc. Hardly the bastion of mediocrity and rigidity described by the BCS zombies here. But, I guess you all need to find some self-justification for throwing in with such a divisive institution...

Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Funny isn't it? Here we was LASD Parent too accusing posters on this site of touting some mythical BCS message. When they are spewing LASD see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil garbage. I have never met a parent that didn't have things that they wanted to improve about their child's school. That is just the way it is. So instead we need to look at what is really going on here. LASD parents are not in love with there schools, not by long shot. Anyone who knows one has heard them complain. What they can't do now at certain schools is speak up because we now have a scary group of LASD parents who are functioning as a speech and thought patrol and FYI most of these parents bought there house next to school and feel that it is their property to control. Their property value trumps all. Their kids are more important than the ones in the NEC or the ones at BCS. Once you get that you understand everything else.

Posted by Springer Bee
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jan 30, 2014 at 7:57 pm

I am a parent of kids at Springer, and very proud both of the school and the district as a whole. BCS has what looks like a great program too and parents that care. Issues about perceived facility discrepancies aside, we all have kids receiving some of the best education in the state.

The above comment is blatantly not true and so full of BS that it's quite sad the poster is intentionally trying to get people riled up. Not everyone is going to be in love with their school or teachers at any one time, but most have a very positive experience. On occasion there may not be the best fit between a teacher and a student, be it behavior or special need accommodation. However, I have personally found great ingenuity and involvement by the staff and teachers to make the situation work out for the better. Our principal, Wade Spenader, is one of the best I've ever come across and he has some of the best staff at his disposal from the district!

I have friends from across the district in all the schools and I can tell you with certainty that my positive experience and feelings about the schools and staff are shared by them & their own friends as well.

Posted by BCS Parent too
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Thanks Springer Bee great comments. We need more people like you to speak up. We have some great schools here in Los Altos. Hopefully we can all work together to keep them that way and make sure all of our kids are treated fairly,

Posted by BCS Parent three
a resident of another community
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:15 am

Yes, we were given talking points and told to spread the word about the lack of innovation at LASD and tell stories about how BCS is bringing the best out of our children. I won't do that. While I don't agree with the way BCS is treating the public and LASD, I do like all the private money that is pouring in from other wealthy parents. It is benefiting my children, so we are staying.

There are more than a few of us BCS parents who are fed up with the vengeful core of our charter school, but know that we must stay silent.

Posted by LASD Parent Three
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Jan 31, 2014 at 1:58 am

Whatever you do, don't apply any critical thought to LASD. The world will come to an end if you do, and your home value will drop like a rock.

Honestly, this thread just has a few comments from a few people and can't be representative. It can provide some food for thought. Over at Almond on year, they put on this massive school play, and spent a whale of a lot of PTA money on the production. A few parents spent a lot of time on that one. That same year they almost didn't have a science fair because the PTA couldn't spend 1/100 as much money on the cost for that. Go Figure. Well, you see, there was no fun parental involvement in the production of the fair, not one where they could gather at the school during the day, anyway.

Posted by Janine
a resident of Gemello
on Jan 31, 2014 at 10:31 am

I have been a BCS parent for a long time. There isn't a vengeful core. Nobody sends their child to BCS out of vengeance. Stop and think would you do that? Of course not. I don't know who BCS parent three is put it is unlikely they are an actual BCS parent. I choose BCS because it was the better school for my children. BCS is not an exclusive school. It doesn't discriminate. There are many families from Mountain View including my own.

I wish that Mr. Smith and the other LASD Trustees would stop their misinformation campaign and work with BCS. Are kids are crowded into two campuses. They deserved to be treating fairly and in fact as Trustees it's your job to do so. Mr. Smith, Ms. Logan and Mr. Goines made some very distressing comments during monday night's board meeting. I believe that they are discriminating against BCS Children. They seem to be trying to make the BCS campuses as restrictive as possible. They don't seem to care that BCS students have access to play space or even physical education space. That really is evil.

Also one other point. My kids would be at Springer if they were not at BCS. Not at a private school. When we bought our house it was actually in the Almond Attendance Area. Almond is a short walk away. But the LASD trustees moved a bunch of neighborhoods around in 2007. They did this so that they could fill Covington and Gardner. Either one of those schools would have been a great place to put BCS. But instead they made everyone move. So if anyone is vengeful it should be me. But I'm not. I don't want to close an LASD school.

I think that our board came up with a great alternative - a two campus solution with true dedicated space for BCS at Blach as well as Egan. That one could still work. Why not try it? You can't do this by dictating how BCS should set up it's program or use the space. The solution that I think might work is offer actual items like the gym or the MPR to BCS at each site . Then let the staff at each school trade off facilities. Time on the track could be traded for time on Tennis Courts or Baseball field. I think that might work.

Posted by Puh-leeze
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jan 31, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Beh... It's been pretty clear since the 2007 boundary re-draw that the LASD board has only the interest of mainstream Los Altos (voter core?) at heart.

LAH, MV, PA be damned.

Donations welcome at .........

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