News

Bullis loses latest round in legal fight

Battle between charter school and Los Altos district continues with new ruling

The Los Altos School District appears to be the victor in the latest round of court decisions in its ongoing legal battle with Bullis Charter School. But if the history of this years-long disagreement over facilities allocation is any indication, this is merely another chapter in the dispute.

Before the pro-district parent organization, the Huttlinger Alliance, had even sent out a press release touting the decision, the charter school's legal team had already set appeals in motion to challenge two separate rulings recently handed down by Superior Court Judge Patricia Lucas.

The first of Lucas' orders, filed on Nov. 13, compels the charter school to turn over information on donations it collected that might have been used to fund its legal team over the past four years and also levies a sanction of about $51,000 against Bullis.

The second order, filed on Nov. 21, denies Bullis' attempt to force the district to provide Bullis with the facilities and equipment to which officials from the charter school say they are legally entitled.

"The ruling yesterday was a major win for LASD and a major win for the families whose children depend on LASD schools," said Noah Mesel, a representative for the Huttlinger Alliance -- an organization that says it represents the interests of community members in the ongoing district-charter school dispute.

Raymond Cardozo, the district's lawyer, shared Mesel's sentiment. "I'm very pleased with both rulings," he said.

But according to Arturo Gonzalez, lawyer for Bullis, Mesel and Cardozo might not have long to celebrate, as he is certain that both rulings will be overturned by an appellate court.

"There is no question that the trial court has erred," Gonzalez said. Trial courts are "over worked and under-funded," he said. "They don't have the resources they used to have, and from time to time, judges make mistakes."

The way Gonzalez explains it, the district is simply trying to "intimidate Bullis Charter School and bully the parents" by asking for information on donations collected by the charter school to fund its legal costs.

"In our view that information is completely irrelevant and is being sought only for harassment and publicity purposes," Gonzalez said. "The sanction is completely unjustified."

The real issue, according to Gonzalez, is that the district has not complied with an appeals court ruling from November 2011, which instructed the district to provide BCS with "reasonably equivalent" facilities.

That's not how LASD lawyer Raymond Cardozo sees things. He said that the district complied with that ruling and that only after the fact did Bullis use the court in an attempt to get more than they were legally entitled to have.

"Basically, when we don't do what the charter school wants, they sue," he said. "The district is just trying to solve this problem and take care of all the kids that it has an obligation to educate."

And so it goes -- the two sides remain deeply entrenched, unwilling to give ground in a battle that has been ongoing since Bullis first applied for its charter.

Lawyers from each camp were able to agree on one score: that the pride of adults seems to have taken precedence over the education of children -- they just can't agree on which side is more interested in winning and which is working hard for a win-win.

"We actually had a settlement agreement in this case," Gonzalez said, referring to the mediated negotiations between the district and BCS that fell apart at the last minute back in June. Back then, each side blamed the other for the breakdown, and Gonzalez remains firm that Bullis was in the right. "It's pretty hard to argue that our client's pride is holding up the deal when our client agreed to the deal. We were willing to honor it, the district was not."

Mesel of the Huttlinger Alliance, on the other hand, maintains that it is the hubris of the Bullis board of directors that has led to this impasse.

"All along, BCS has been very aggressive in seeking facilities regardless of the impact that their demands would have on other students of the district," Mesel said. "There is a school of thought at BCS that they do it better than anybody else."

Mesel said this attitude has resulted in a belief that the school must continue to grow like a business. Treating Bullis like a business, expanding year after year, is inevitably going to lead to conflict, he reasoned, as there is limited space in the school district to sustain that growth.

"Growth for growth's sake is not what public education is about," he said.

Mesel said he thinks the community isn't likely to see an end to the BCS-LASD battle until city governments get involved to finally settle the fight for facilities once and for all. If representatives from Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills all got together with a handful of representatives from the district and the charter school, and had a mature conversation, they just might be able to come up with a solution that is suitable for everyone, he said.

Comments

Posted by BullS, a resident of Gemello
on Nov 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I'm glad. Seems rational thinking is finally taking hold.
What a pariah BCS has become in the community; well, except for their inner circle who seems to be in denial about how disgusted the surrounding communities have become with that place.


Posted by Agree, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I totally agree with the comment above. It will be very interesting to see how many families apply to BCS this year, and whether the demand from in-district parents rises or falls compared to last year. BCS has done so much to damage their own reputation this year. If demand decreases, I hope they see this as a sign that they need to stop the lawsuits for their own sake.


Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Slater
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

gcoladon is a registered user.

This saga is pretty similar to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I respectfully disagree. Its one thing to disagree on how a school is managed, whether as a business or otherwise, but academic results speak for themselves.

The quality of instruction as evidenced by student test scores, the statistics of where Bullis Charter School graduates attend at the collegiate level, and the broad based, well balanced skill sets in art, drama, science, and critical thinking displayed by students is the more compelling argument whether they are doing it right or not.

No, I don't have any children at Bullis Charter, and am not affiliated with the organization. I have attended their open houses, observed the students, and researched the test scores though. They are impressive.

The bigger issue here is not whether Bullis Charter or the School District is right in the eyes of the law. Its whether the existing structure of public education, which has existed in its current form for decades, remains to be the most effective and efficient way of preparing children in this new economy.

Bullis Charter makes a compelling argument that allowing schools to innovate and move in different directions makes possible schools that can teach better and more efficiently, than a public school can.

An argument can be made that just like personalized medicine for individuals, personalized education for students will yield better students by developing their specific strengths and supporting their weaknesses. That's good for everybody in the long run.


Posted by @ Hardin, a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Test scores are not the only indication. They can be "rigged" by having the right students.

I do agree that there should be choice. Even if normal public school is good for some, it is not the best for everyone.

However, there are charters that do this the right way. Look at Summit Schools. They have a couple of schools and a new one coming to this area. They seem to be community minded.

Bullis Charter began with a bunch of rich bullies, and they are still trying to bully their way to get what they want - causing the school district to waste precious funds fighting legal battles - or just give up a school to them and make the people who live there drive to another school.

They should have gotten community support before starting the school. They stared the school by being spoiled brats - and this is what happens.

I, also, have no relation to Bullis, to Los Altos District, or to Summit.

Just SO sick of all this ridiculous fighting. With all the money those Bullis parents spent, they could have built their own school - which is what they just should have done to begin with.


Posted by ann, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm

don't give up bullis charter school....we support you 100%... do it for the kids...


Posted by Tom, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Using $5K donations from the kids to pay their lawyers. Ouch! That does not seem to sit well with the judge, and certainly will not play well in the court of public opinion!


Posted by BD, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Why would Mtn. View Schools be involved with this at all?

The amount of money already spent from the very deep pockets of the BCS 1%-ers
Would probably pay for a new facility of their own!

What is it about these rich people that makes them think they are always right? Because they can either pay everyone off or bankrupt them to become 'right'?!

Even if this charter school was so much better at educating kids...what is the lesson learned from their actions....that the kids with the richest parents are the only kids who get a good education? Until we - as Americans - begin to think about others more than ourselves we will be doomed to this selfish, every man for himself mentality!
Find a way to compromise, to do what is best for all the kids!


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

@Hardin

If you are contending that charter schools are fine, but its the way Bullis Charter went about conducting business that is offensive, that's really missing the forest for the trees.

Bottom line, parents choose schools where they believe their children will thrive, not based on whether they play nice with other schools.

But if parents DID choose schools based on how they play with other schools, its seems to me that judging from the history of this issue, neither party is innocent, or played has "nice". The school district has been doing enough of its own "goosestepping" around the court judgements, as much as Bullis Charter has been aggressive in its court actions.

And, "Well they STARTED IT...." is only an effective argument when you're on the playground.


Posted by LL, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

@Hardin - not sure you've looked at their test scores compared to other LASD elementary skills and the delta is very minor actually. And it's pretty arguable that if you actually adjusted for kids in LASD schools that are english as second language or otherwise challenged, you'd find that LASD schools are roughly the same or better test-wise in some instances. The background of the kids at the school are skewed. I can't say this is purposely done as it is likely self-selected by the parents in hispanic neighborhoods not wanting to put their kids in BCS for whatever reasons.

More importantly though is that BCS offers a different approach -- not necessary better -- but different that may in fact help many children that traditional schools won't or can't.

SO I would really like to see BCS exist. But it must exist in harmony with the community. Today, given its Board and aggressive mentality, it exists as a self-entitled, self-centered, and bitter place. Very sad and unfortunate. This must change for BCS to live on.


Posted by Tom, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Hardin: please check your research on BCS test scores. Surrounding public schools are typically within ~1-2% of BCS. LASD schools Oak, and Covington, for example are at 983 API, and BCS is API is 984.

That BCS requires $5K per student to keep up with the LASD average implies that BCS is very INEFFICIENT and NOT COST EFFECTIVE.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Please read my comments again, I stated Bullis Charter test scores are impressive, I did not contend them to be superior to the school district's.

But it is the combination of high test scores, well rounded extra-curricular activities, and the students themselves that I used to make my assessment.

YMMV, depending on what you're looking for in a school.


Posted by Mark, a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hey Bullis = GET OVER YOURSELVES! (and is it BULLIS or BULLIES?). I don't like arrogance, and I don't like bullies, and I ESPECIALLY don't like arrogant bullies. The only thing a bully understands is being confronted by someone who is not weaker than they, be it physically or financially. It's damned well time that our community confronts these bullies and treats them as such instead of treating them as innocent, well-meaning school administrators.


Posted by Tom, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Hi Hardin, it seems to me that you used the "impressive" test scores to question the whole public school model:

"Bullis Charter makes a compelling argument that allowing schools to innovate and move in different directions makes possible schools that can teach better and more efficiently, than a public school can."

I am respectfully saying that a more careful examination shows that BCS is simply not an outlier that proves any such point.


Posted by Watching a car wreck, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

It will be quite fascinating if the names of people donating to this endless legal assault on our community will be released...and the amounts given! Interesting indeed.


Posted by at what cost, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Hardin outlines some of the benefits of BCS. But what are the costs?

-There's the $5000 ask requested from each family. And this amount is surely going to rise, due to the legal costs BCS is incurring.
-There's the cost of going to a commuter school. This includes the cost of driving your child to/from school everyday, as well as not having your neighbor's kids as classmates.
-There's the risk inherent in a very unstable environment at BCS. Who knows where the school will be located next year? Maybe it will be even further from your home?
-There's the risk inherent in a school run by an unelected Board. Do you want to go to a school where you have no voice in the way it's run?

Do the benefits of attending BCS vs LASD outweigh the cost? That's for each family to decide


Posted by Community Member, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm

We need to know if the BCS legal machine is being funded by outside interests. The fact that BCS is fighting so hard to keep that information private makes me think that they have something to hide.


Posted by Yes Man, a resident of Gemello
on Nov 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Tom, I agree. I also think this is why the catholic schools do not release any test results. In an area with such good grammar schools, the value of paying a premium is just not there anymore.


Posted by Barbara, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 29, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I think it is time for the LASD parents to shun the BCS parents. By staying quiet and not organizing and voicing an opinion which is contrary to the rogue BCS board, the BCS parents are partially responsible for the disgusting actions of their school's board. If you are a BCS parent please find another community. You are not welcome in Los Altos!
You may disagree with my comments, however, please keep in mind that these thoughts represent many Los Altos residents.


Posted by Member, a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Bullis Charter has brought nothing but arrogance and bullying to a once tight community. Bullis children as used as pawns for the Bullis board's reach of the "greater cause" of charter schools.

There is no measure that shows that Bullis Charter kids do any better than LASD kids yet the school has torn this community apart and taken away precious education dollars and mind-share resources for over 10 years.

That a parent would want their children to join a school that has done so much harm to our community is mind-boggling. Los Altos Schools each offer an incredible curriculum and a wide variety of at-school and after-school enriching activities. Teachers are just amazing and cater to the individual needs of each child. The only thing LASD lacks is a PR and marketing machine - something that "public" Bullis Charter seems to have plenty of funds for.


Posted by Shuh Shyu, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Oh Barbara, lets not light the torches and grab the pitchforks quite yet. Sounds a bit juvenile "Lets shun them and not talk to them"
I despise Bullis as well but you're proposing schoolyard stuff.
I'll base my personal associations on my own factors.


Posted by Response to Hardin, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm

@Hardin: Since you brought up colleges, here are some some remarkable statistics from the LASD Almond Elementary School class of 2006, which just graduated from high school in June 2012.

Of the 83 Almond graduates from the class of 2006, five are now freshmen at Stanford, and others from the class attend Cal, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Pomona, and Princeton, as well as other notable colleges and universities. Some of these students attended LAHS and some attended other high schools, but they all had their start at Almond Elementary School and Egan Junior High.

I'd say LASD is doing a fantastic job of educating our children for college and beyond.


Posted by @ Hardin, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm

" ... than a public school can" ? Do you mean neighborhood public school? BCS is supposed to be a public school, yet the low-income kids (aka underperforming kids) who can walk to it aren't attending there. Instead, they attend the neighborhood public schools, Santa Rita and Almond, also with high test scores. BCS has higher test scores because they don't serve those low-income kids, not because they're so much better. In fact, if you consider the kinds of students they serve, it's Santa Rita and Almond who are the real success stories around here. BCS has found many ways to keep out underperforming kids and attracted parents who want to avoid the same. To then tout their scores considering this fact I find disgusting.


Posted by juniperk, a resident of Gemello
on Nov 29, 2012 at 8:14 pm

[Post removed: off-topic]


Posted by To the poster above, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 8:55 pm

LASD is doing a wonderful job of educating our children. By almost any measure, ours is one of the top performing school districts in the entire state. Please explain to me, BCS parent, why you feel justified in attempting to close down a high performing LASD neighborhood school? You could have chosen to send your child to a neighborhood school and you choose not to. That is your choice. Other children should not have to suffer because you want to send your kid to a discount private school.


Posted by sighsighsigh, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 29, 2012 at 10:02 pm

In the beginning, didn't the charter school want to open within the school district? Or was it just a school site they wanted? Whatever; it was denied. Fast forward...Realizing Bullis administration would not condone this idea today, if it is about a different choice for education, if it is REALLY about the choice in education, why can't we approach the idea of running the charter as an LASD school, with LASD administration? Bullis admin will not want to give up their school, but LASD could start a program within the district to meet these needs. Then, the parents that are truly looking for this different approach, will come back to LASD, without having to pay $5k. It will essentially shut down Bullis because they won't be needed. Understanding this would be difficult for LASD, it would be better than the continuing battle, and LASD would have the control to make the right choices for ALL of the students. Give the $$ to the schools, not the lawyers. Would LASD consider this approach? Would Bullis parents consider this approach?


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