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UPDATED: Bullis, Los Altos School District Back in Court

After negotiations over a long-term agreement break down, Bullis Charter School asks the court to hold hearings on the district's compliance. The district asks the court to determine whether BCS is a semi-private school and those implications.

 

Update #2: Los Altos Patch has now posted Bullis Charter School's June 8, 2012 request to the court to set hearing dates on the district's compliance to the court's March 2012 order, the district's response, the court's June 8, 2012 order for hearings. It has also posted a stipulation and order to extend the deadline for filing of any attorneys' fees.

Editor's note (Update #1): Los Altos Patch has now posted a letter from Bullis Charter School Chairman Ken Moore to BCS parents, and a copy of the BCS request for declaratory relief from the court. We will continue to update this article throughout the weekend with commentary from involved parties.

 

After a season of hope, one that included an announcement of a tentative agreement, Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District are headed back to court.

"I am sorry to have to inform you that the Bullis Charter School has decided not to accept our interim offer to keep their K-8 program at Egan for the next two years while we work out a long-term agreement and have instead chosen to return to court," wrote Los Altos School Board President Mark Goines in an email to district parents Friday.

With a breakdown in negotiations, Bullis asked Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas on Friday to hold hearings on the district's compliance with the court's order to comply with Prop. 39, the state law that requires districts to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to charter schools in their boundaries.

"I'm totally disappointed that the district backed away from the tentative mediated agreement," said Bullis board Chairman Ken Moore. "That was months in the making, and it had extracted large compromise from both sides." 

The Los Altos School District responded during a hearing Friday, and took a new tack: It has raised the question of whether BCS is a semi-private school, and asked the court whether such a school is entitled to public school facilities under Prop. 39. It also asked whether a district's offer is compliant, when combined with a  charter school's private resources that provide equal or greater student resources than those afforded in-district students. 

"It is not the desire by LASD board to make this more difficult than it has to be," said district Trustee Doug Smith who has been a member of the ad-hoc  negotiating team. He noted that district school parents have been raising that question for months, but "we have been holding back."

Things had looked more hopeful on May 7, when a tentative agreement, one Smith called a framework for a solution that would last a decade or more, was announced by both boards.

Negotiations over a long-term agreement foundered last week, however, as both sides labored to hammer out a host of details in just a month, and anxious district parents had raised a series of concerns. Four schools—Almond, Santa Rita, part of Covington, and Gardner Bullis—had been identified as possible sites for Bullis Charter School. Part of the solution, too, hinged on finding a 10th site, ostensibly to place a displaced school.

Last week, unable identify a possible 10th school site in a three-week timeframe, the district offered an interim agreement, initially presented as a term sheet, that the board thought would provide a little breathing room while trying find a campus.

Bullis had objected to the interim agreement proposal because members felt the district had reneged on key features of the agreed-upon framework, said charter school Chairman Ken Moore Friday.

"The term sheet took all of the concessions BCS made during the mediation, but none of the benefits," Moore told Patch Friday afternoon. "In my opinion they backtracked away.

"We reached a point that we're going to have to go into court and set up dates so that the judge could hear our case."

Los Altos Patch has posted a copy of LASD's response, and will post a copy of BCS' brief when the board makes it available later.

Watch for more updates over the weekend, as Patch further analyzes the action, and provides more information from interviews conducted Friday.

lasd resident June 11, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Joan... who would deny students their right to equivalent facilities? I'm not going to engage with you any more. You have far too much time on your hands and have twisted everything that's good and turned it into a negative. Bottom line is that BCS is an outstanding PUBLIC school. it is tuition free and welcomes all students. It's programs are so sought after that 1 in 3 kindergarten students in LASD applies. The community wants choice. They want what BCS offers. Enough said.
Joan J. Strong June 11, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Here's some facts. The LASD charitable foundation, LAEF, asks for $1000 and gets approximately $500 per child per year. BCS asks for $5000 and gets... $5000 per child on average--not including "supplemental" fundraising such as the recent auction that reportedly raised $400k or another $1k per child in ONE NIGHT alone. Another fact: LASD would be fine without the LAEF donations and keep all of its schools open and educate all of its children, albeit with somewhat less quality. BCS, without it's donations from parents, would cease to exist. Period. That's the definition of a private school in most people's book. Oh, and it turns out that the difference between $500 and $5000 is actually somewhat material for some people. Only 40 parents--from a student population of 4500--donate at the $5000 level to LAEF. On the other hand this is by definition the median donation to BCS.
Ron Haley June 11, 2012 at 09:55 PM
BCS parents pay 10 times more because they think it's worth it. And there are 700+ more lining up to pay it! Perhaps it's to get away from those overpaid, "jobs for life" employees at LASD?!
Joan J. Strong June 12, 2012 at 12:34 AM
There is no significant, structural difference in total compensation between BCS teachers and LASD teachers. None. Currently BCS teachers are younger on average. I have heard testimony by a BCS teacher that, despite what Ron might say here to win his argument, BCS does not engage in the systemic purging of older teachers. As such, their salaries and health benefits will necessarily grow over time, bringing them ultimately in line with LASD teachers, and there is even reason to believe they could even be paid more based on BCS's somewhat more generous health plan (dang [lack of] teacher's unions!). LASD teachers teach at the top-ranked school district in the State. They achieve these scores with roughly half of the money available for their programs than typical BCS children enjoy. Yes, BCS engages in a few gimmicks in an attempt to squeeze "higher performance" out of teachers--gimmicks that studies show do not work. These gimmicks make great copy for BCS brochures, but they don't save money and they don't improve educational outcomes.
Bill June 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM
What Ron and others fail to understand about referring to a "waitlist" as pent up demand, is that ones spot on the list is just a free call option. Similar to being on a waitlist for a country club. Parents can wait in a list, then decide at the last minute if they intend to change schools. The implication that every person on the wailist will (and wants) to attend BCS is a farce. I would be willing to bet some people place their names on the list as a hedge against their local school being taken over. Can't say I blame that, but I wouldn't blanket them as clamoring to get accepted.

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