Hurdles remain as LASD, Bullis pursue joint bond

Years of legal battles have worn down trust of BCS officials

Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School appear to be as close as they've ever been to compromise. However, comments made by district and charter officials and a recent exchange of open letters make it clear that there is still a long way to go.

The two organizations are planning to meet on Oct. 30 to discuss the possibility of working together on a school bond measure that would build two new schools -- one which would become a permanent site for Bullis and another for an as-yet-unnamed LASD school. Yet, while officials with BCS have expressed tentative support for the idea, they have also expressed significant reservations over the proposal.

John Phelps, a charter school board member, said he has wondered whether the district isn't simply setting up the bond to fail as part of some elaborate straw man scheme. Phelps said his misgivings are informed by a number of things -- including the district's history of taking his school to court over issues he considers either trivial or made up, and because of the way the district has been framing the bond.

Phelps and fellow BCS board member Joe Hurd, said they are concerned with the way the bond is being presented to the public. According to Hurd, some are already referring to the proposed bond as a "Bullis bond," which he said gives the impression that the initiative is being put forward solely for the benefit of the charter school. Given that the community is deeply divided over BCS, presenting the bond this way will only serve to ensure that it does not get the support it needs to pass.

"This is not about building a brand-new, shiny school just for Bullis," Hurd said. "This is about making the pie bigger for everyone."

The way Hurd sees it, Bullis Charter School has always been a part of the district. As a charter school organized within LASD's boundaries and drawing mostly on children from within the district, Hurd said Bullis has been unfairly painted as an outsider by those who oppose its existence.

Some of Hurd and Phelp's reservations were reflected in a recent open letter from the charter school to LASD. In the Oct. 10 letter, Bullis outlined its position on the bond. The letter, signed by BCS board chair Ken Moore, declared that the charter school sees the proposed bond as a possible road to acceptable compromise. However, the letter continued, "BCS does not seek to be the major beneficiary of a new school bond, and we would not support a bond positioned that way."

Doug Smith, president of the LASD board of trustees, has said he understands and even shares some of Hurd's concerns. If the bond is to pass, Smith said, a large portion of the community will have to get behind it, and that means that the "optics" of the bond and what it is for are very important.

Smith said he wants the bond to pass, and is very concerned with making sure people understand that the proposal is not just about Bullis, but about the improving the district. The district is in need of more space, according to Smith. The LASD student population has ballooned of late, and district's seven elementary and two junior high schools are overcrowded.

While it is true that the district is seeking to add a new school to deal with its growing student body, Smith said the fact is that the district is also taking BCS into consideration with the bond. "To so say that we're not building a school for Bullis is deceptive to the public," Smith said.

Whatever inherent suspicions Bullis officials might have concerning the district's sincerity were only exacerbated by an open letter issued by LASD in response to Bullis' Oct. 10 letter.

The LASD communication, sent on Oct. 16 and signed by Smith, thanked the charter school's leadership for agreeing to explore the possibility of a joint school bond. However, the letter also chastised the charter for allegedly violating the Facilities Use Agreement with the district, a charge Hurd denied.

Hurd said the letter struck him as contradictory, in that it simultaneously extended a hand of negotiation toward his organization while also threatening a lawsuit.

While Smith told the Voice he was encouraged by the charter school's willingness to discuss a potential school bond, Hurd struck a much more hesitant tone.

"LASD can't make up its mind whether it wants to work together or fight," Hurd said. "If you want to work together, then work with us and gain support for a bond that will benefit all LASD residents equally. If you want to fight, continue making unfounded allegations that BCS is in violation of the Facilities Use Agreement -- which it is not."

In response to Hurd's comments, Smith said he is genuinely hopeful about the prospect of the bond. He acknowledged that his district and BCS have "significant differences in what it takes to pass a bond," but said he believes that overall the organizations agreement to talk was a sign of "wonderful progress."

Phelps struck a similar, albeit more cautious tone. "We're fully enthusiastic about supporting the bond as long as it's not a Bullis bond primarily," he said. "The overt hostility needs to come to a close if this district intends to peacefully resolve this matter."


Posted by Los Altos Resident, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 2:27 pm

BCS has spent so much time and resources suing LASD, little wonder there is no trust.

Posted by Los Altos Resident 2, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm

LASD has spent so much effort violating the law that BCS has been forced to sue. Check out the 6th District Appellate opinion that was upheld by the California Supreme Court to see the length that LASD will stoop to to violate the law and subvert the will of the voters of California. There is little wonder why there is so little trust; LASD Trustees exhibit criminal behavior.
Web Link

Posted by BullisIsABully, a resident of another community
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Great document! Did you read it by chance? Here's an interesting excerpt:

"While a Proposition 39 analysis does not necessarily compel a school district to allocate and provide to a charter school each and every particular room or other facility available to the comparison group schools, it must at least account for the comparison schools' facilities in its proposal."

If you read this document objectively, the whole basis for this suit was that the district did not follow correct protocol. That has since been corrected and LASD is providing Prop 39 compliant facilities offer. Unfortunately, the Bullis mafioso continues to assault the community with their misuse of the courts. All of this costs taxpayers money and distracts from educating our children.

Posted by so tired, a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

Clearly, Bullis is suffering from a lack of good community PR advice, or a lack of appreciation of the community's collective intelligence level.

Moore, Phelps and Hurd continually beg LASD to not "present" the bond as a BCS bond, claiming that the optics of such positioning will doom the bond to failure. What they fail to realize is that the community is smart enough to see through any of the positioning/posturing (brainwashing?) that either BCS or LASD may try to inflict on us.

Rather, give us the full scoop, share the details, and we will make up our own minds. So tired of the endless manipulation from the BCS camp.

Posted by Silly Strong, a resident of another community
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:56 pm

The point the Bullis board is making is that the need for a new school or two new schools is not based on their existence. Actually, I think that adding 2 new schools is very questionable. First add 1 new school for North of El Camino service (something closer to home for them and big enough to take the entire pretty small area, anyone who wishes to be local). Most likely you then don't need an extra school for the rest of the district at all, period.

Conssider that Bullis will hold 750 kids next year. Just that alone means that if Bullis takes one of the existing 9 campuses, there are barely enough students to round out the other sites. Subtract 500 for North of El Camino and you really get some too small schools.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I am just any of you ever stand back, take a look at how preposterous you look? Is this the best way for you to spend your time? I've noticed it's the same few people who have made this issue their private source of titillation. You are only adding to the problem while looking like fools. What are you gaining from this? The answer is bad reputation and future regrets.

Posted by Observer 2, a resident of another community
on Oct 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I am sure it wasn't intentional but the headline of this article shows the issue of responsibility for the Bond. It should really be clear that the bond is being pursued solely by lASD. Bullis can't do bonds. Bullis could support it, but the facilities all end up belonging to LASD in perpetuity. Some of the LASD board members just want to buy expensive property because they think Bullis will go down in flames and they can rent them out for income. Why blame Bullis for that motivation? We really don't need a bond issue with extra money for new land anyway.

Posted by Ron Haley, a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm

What LASD hasn't yet addressed is the fact that BSC is on it's way to 900+ kids. That's not one school, it's two. How do they intend to meet that requirement!?

Posted by LASDParent, a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2013 at 8:35 am

Bullis Charter School is asking for Covington to be closed down an handed over! Is this what BCS calls "Innovation in Education"? Web Link

Posted by Sheri, a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I think most people want the district office to move and share the Covington site.

Posted by david, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm

550 barely works traffic wise at Covington, have you been there or around that area during dropoff or pickup time? Imagine how 1500 kids will look? The community couldn't find a way to make 1000 kids sharing the land work when the idea came up two years ago. BCS needs to find their own site without closing down a school. Asking for Covington is just lazy.

Posted by Tom Thumb, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Giving Covington entirely to the charter school and relocating the district offices is a solution. The charter school has 3 different start/stop times so it spreads its traffic out. The district office is generating a lot of traffic all day long. This is a very well connected site with access from El Monte and Foothill Expressway plus also Springer connecting to Covington Road. There won't be the issues with kids on bikes and walking because they can get into pedestrian paths on two different sides of the school besides where the cars come in. This is not like Egan where that entrance has been sealed completely off.

If you work something out with the city and expand the site, then there would be room to leave the Covington school there too on the district office portion with play fields at Rosita. I think it is time that Bullis got a real school and Covington is so large because it was once a Jr High school. It's the only school currently built out that could house 900 students. None of the others have so many buildings and classrooms. It is not hard to see why Bullis refers to it in its pro forma facilities request. The currently buidlings are way too much for a school of 480 kids like Covington, and when the NEC school is opened Covington will lose 100 more kids who now travel 3-4 miles to get to school passing Egan along the way.

Posted by LASDParent, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Roode, you are wrong about access to Covington and the capacity for sharing two schools on the one site. This isn't a numbers game of swapping kids around, this is about our kids education, traffic & site capacity.

Asking for the closure of Covington will forcibly harm a large number of students. Apparently this is what you are in favor of? Massively disrupting the lives of all Covington families when BCS has so many other options to pursue? They didn't even have to request Covington, see Tom's blog on "and" vs "or". Here's a snippet:

"Facility Location Preference
Title 5 CCR Section 11969.9 (c)(1)(E) requires the facilities request to provide information regarding the district school site and/or geographic area where BCS wishes to be located, and Education Code Section 47614(b) requires the District to "make reasonable efforts" to accommodate the charter school's location preferences. BCS's preference is to be relocated to the Covington site, with exclusive use of approximately 14 acres of said site during the entire BCS school day, as BCS will be the largest school in the district. BCS is entitled, under Prop39, its implementing regulations and the standards set forth by the Court of Appeal, which is stare decisis, to a campus totaling over 15.07 acres (the precise amount depends on the projected District enrollment for next year) with sufficient room to accommodate the required classrooms, specialized teaching space, and non teaching space, for which Covington is best suited"

So, the quote from Title 5 CCR Section 11969.9(c)(1)(E) says " and/or ", and somehow BCS' cadre of lawyers, marketeers, etc can't figure out the "or" means that they do NOT need to request a specific school?!? Interesting.
Looks like they may need to find some higher priced help..."

Web Link

Posted by Mel, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Nov 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm

Bcs has been around longer than Gardner or Covington time for bcs to have a space that is not all portables. Bcs is a public school that should be granted public school property. It is the largest school in the district on the smallest campus. Arguing that bcs should find it's own school is rude. Stop trying to make up laws that don 't exist . We don 't live in a populist dystopia.

Posted by Lynn, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Where in the law does it say one high achieving school has to be closed down for another equally high achieving school just because one has more portables than the other? Any issues with portables is more BCSs mess than LASD. LASD provided space according to laws and has been ruled compliant. That BCS chose to alter their program in a way in violation of the facility allocation and is now unhappy as a result is their own doing.

This is really a first world problem that probably looks stupid to the outside.

Posted by Tom Thumb, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Yeah, Roode, stop trying to share the Covington campus. It belongs all to Bullis. LASD doesn't know how to do sharing. That will never work and it is not even needed. There didn't even EXIST a Covington school until 2003, and when Gardner was reopened in 2008 that removed the need for there to still be a school over there at Covington. We can't close Gardner, but we can reduce the expenses for LASD by not operating an unneeded school over at Covington. Creating a school for the Mountain View areas north of El Camino will be a big drain on LASD so we needed to economize somehow. Use Covington to backfill them missing students after the new school opens so that there are still 500 or so students at Gardner, and Santa Rita and Almond. Covington is just redundant. Whatever we do, let's not share Covington. That would be very disruptive.

Posted by LASD Taxpayer, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:36 am

Opening a second entrance into the Covington campus off of El Monte would not be difficult. In fact, the lot required to do so sold for $2M earlier this year. That's a much better price than $50M+ to acquire land for a new campus. Let's use a bond to remove portables from all campuses, to reduce operational overhead (think solar) so we can spend more where it counts, and to configure the campuses for fair sharing of the space that we already have.

Posted by Wake Up!, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Wake up LASD parents! Especially those of you with children at Covington. The BCS drums of war are beating louder and louder. Make no mistake, they are coming for your campus. This has been the end-game for years now. BCS is using it's vast litigation war chest with the ulitmate goal of establishing brand new legal precedent of the courts -- forceably confiscating an existing public school campus to award to a charter. This is why they refused to negotiate constructively on a long-term agreement. The fact that no judge in the U.S. has ever made such a ruling will not stop them. This is about the broader charter cause and BCS cares not about the local fallout. It's time to mobiliize. The HAE must establish a legal defense fund of their own, and an aggressive lobbying effort in Sacramento. Act now, before it is too late.

Posted by Nah, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm

@ Wake Up -

You sure are a pot stirrer. So let's look it at this way. The largest school in the district, BCS - is now crammed into a tiny space at Egan and Blach. Creating huge traffic jams. That is all thanks to the LASD BOT's who placed BCS in the most crowded area of the district. So what to do? Realistically putting just BCS at Covington is the best solution, I think that BCS requested that, as required, in their yearly facilities request. Moving the Covington students seems like a wise idea because:
1. It is located close to 3 other schools, with Gardner not so far away. So every student there would have another school to go to that was in their neighborhood, except for the kids from the Crossings, but there are two schools that are closer to the Crossings anyway.

2. It is a large campus next to a park, all of BCS including the middle school could be placed there.

However you could share the site by moving the district offices and have a gradual draw down at Covington. Once the new NEC school is completed there would be more room at Almond for the current Covington Students who live between El Monte and San Antonio. The students that live south of Foothill could transfer to Gardner. The students Close to Covington could go to The Blach campus could be a good location for the district offices.

It's really not closing Covington, just moving the location to the new NEC school. Crossings kids have had to go across town, so some of Covington could move to the new NEC school if they wanted to stay with their classmates or they could go to one of the many other schools in their neighborhood. It's much better than forced redistricting which is what LASD did in 2008 so that they could fill Covington and Gardner. Building schools were they are not needed and neglecting other areas has its consequences. Covington has been reaping the benefits while the rest of the district suffered.

Posted by Nah, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Sorry I should have added:

The students that live close to Covington can go to Springer and Loyola.

Posted by Nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, goodbye..., a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 4, 2013 at 5:06 pm

@Nah -- Not stirring the pot, just telling it like it is. Blowing up the Covington community and scattering it's current students among various other schools would be devastating to those kids and the families who have invested countless hours and dollars to making Covington the high performing school that it is today. Charter laws created "choice" but they didn't intend to do so at the cost of destroying healthy, thriving school communities. "Oh, they'll get over it" will be the refrain of those who advocate this solution. Maybe. But they should not have to "get over it". BCS is the interloper here. They must be accomodated, but not at the cost of killing off an existing school. Finally, the fact that BCS was spawned out of the anger and resentment created by the closure of a neighborhood school, and they now demand just such a closure to accomodate their selfish interests is the height of hypocricy and cynicism. And let's be clear, the law does NOT require them to name a campus they want to occupy. Yet they continue to do it year after year. And the drum beat is getting louder and louder...

Posted by John Strong, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I'd say LASD decided for itself to consider closing Covington when they reopened Gardner Bullis and drew the attendance area for Covington freshly as of 2008. That's not so long ago. What money has been spent by parents on Covington? That place is a virtual palace compared to all of the other LASD schools which make large scale use of portables. Covington has always been an aberration due to its status as a former Jr High school and the desire of the administration to use it for the district office and warehouse operations. They moved the motor pool over to city land in an exchange where they gave land to the city for the tennis court area. It fits very well as a home for Bullis Charter. And, when the new NEC school is opened, if ever, it will free space at Santa Rita, Almond and Covington that will be difficult to fill without reusing the area currently mapped onto Covington since 2008.

Posted by You are Not Strong..., a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 4, 2013 at 6:35 pm

"Straightforwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes Roodeness"
-Confucius (well, sort of)

DR, once again, you display your complete lack of understanding of the real workings of our neighborhood schools and their real value to the community. Covington families donate massive amounts of their own time and money to enhance the experience of the children at the school. This may not be facilities related, but it covers things like technology, class size reduction, supplemental programs, etc. The notion that Covington should just be handed over to BCS and their current students scattered shows a profound lack of moral compass. A long term solution was offered to BCS that would have resulted in a dedicated campus of their own, but they thought there was too much uncertainty around that offer. So instead, they would rather create massive dislocation and personal upheaval for hundreds of Covington students. Anyone who supports that deserves the contempt of the entire LASD community.

Posted by You are mighty., a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Morals. it's a long tradition of immoral behavior that got us to the place we are now. Consider a few of the following actions. All of them are immoral and demonstrate a clear lack of courage and leadership by the current and past LASD Board of Trustees.

1. Administration first, kids last. Best illustrated by using the late 90's bond to build office space including the District Offices. This money should have been spent of improving educational spaces, used by the students, instead. Promoting administrators before retirement comes a close second - this practice transfers money from kids to retirees.

2. Ignoring students that don't live in Los Altos.

3. Opening a school where it wasn't needed Covington and then closing one school that was needed ( Bullis) because board members had students at Loyola and didn't want Loyola moved to Covington. Tammy Logan was quite involved with that one, even though she wasn't on the board.

4. No alternatives - Covington should have been opened - if it was going to open at all ( see 3) as a Magnet school. Instead the LASD BOT's gave in to the LATA - that didn't want to compromise seniority, and the LAEF that didn't want to compromise on the power structure.

5. Making every decision based on what would make things the absolutely worse for BCS. It cost big bucks to do that.

6. Moving the entire district around to try and fill Covington and Gardner.

7. Trying to send BCS out of the district.

8. Treating kids at BCS differently than kids in LASD run programs.

9. Not granting space to play at Blach.

10. Completely ignoring the law.

11. Out right lying.

12. Trying to steal property and lax revenues from Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View.

13. Lying on a regular basis to members of the LASD community, so that the believe all sorts of lies about BCS.

Posted by Ron, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 8:07 pm

This is very interesting. Four points out of the long term discussion video.
Web Link

1)15:20, Tammy asking directly for their in-district numbers for this year, and they say "we'll send them in the Spring". This is relevant because their in-district number (583) is way off from the 615 they projected as compared to LASDs (572). BCS made a big issue about LASD not trusting their numbers and offering less facilities while Tammy points out BCS is asking for 20:1 classrooms that LASD just does not have.

2) 24:10, Francis says: "We (BCS) want to come up with a plan that doesn't displace any current child". As you all have seen, they are currently asking for Covington - how is this not displacing a current child?

3) 34:30 Tammy asks if the BCS Foundation wealth would contribute to getting an identified site up and running for BCS. "So the existing funds ... that are sitting in your foundation accounts would not be something you are willing to throw in to get the facilities you want? (Francis) We don't think that's fair." "(Tammy) This is money earmarked for building a facility for the charter school." At 40:45 "(Francis) Maybe it would be a good idea if every school raised several million dollars and threw it all in to improving our schools, maybe there would be a match"

4) 52:57 Francis says: "We are a not a democracy, we are a republic".

Posted by Ron, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 8:13 pm

1) BCS couldn't even get close to the in-district enrollment they projected last year. What happened?
2) Francis is being two faced. How can he say he doesn't want any student displaced but the next day ask for Covington? Now it's looking like BCS never even had to ask for Covington or any other school according to the law.
3) BCS has several million dollars for facilities? How come they haven't used it?
4) Republic means "goverened by elected representatives". Who elected Francis and the others on the BCS board?

Posted by Ron, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Since when is 585 not close to 615? 5% off is not exactly bad. What will the Dow Jones Index be in 6 months? If you can get it within 5% you're pretty good. LASD plays all these games to try to dissuade students from choosing the charter school. We'll see what happens when the facilities arrangements are even more stable. LASD is fighting so hard against BCI because it made lemonade out of their lemons. The one issue is the lemonade wasn't visible until the school year started, and of course LASD locked Bullis out of BCI for 2 weeks to do their best to put merde in the lemonade.

Posted by Hey Hey, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2013 at 10:40 pm

BCS is not the interloper. BCS has existed longer than several of the other LASD schools. Many BCS parents are from this community. They grew up here and decided to raise their kids here. In fact only a few of the LASD die hards are actually locals. Way more locals on the BCS side.

Posted by Laura Mullen, a resident of Gemello
on Nov 5, 2013 at 6:59 am

I would like to see this problem solved. I don't think our trustee's are immoral but I do think that they are biased. They do seem to favor Los Altos over Mountain View when they make decisions. Also they seem to favor elementary schools over Egan and Blach. My oldest is now at Egan which is very impacted by the Charter School. I am sure the same thing is going to happen at Blach. It seems to me that the Charter School isn't really happy with the situation either. I think the best idea is to turn over either Covington or Gardner to them, as long as it gets them out of Egan and Blach. Why keep up the litigation? If giving them a school will give us peace and a much better functioning Egan, I am all for it.

Posted by Laura Mullen, a resident of Gemello
on Nov 5, 2013 at 7:05 am

I think it would be great if the Charter would self site, but from what I understand there isn't a location where they can do it.

Posted by BullisIsABully, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 5, 2013 at 11:55 am

Bullis's foundation can simply buy a piece of property and build their own school. Their immensely wealthy backers wouldn't even break a sweat writing a check. Unfortunately, there is a small cadre within the organization that hate LASD and are using the court system to bring them to their knees. There is also a larger, less hating contingent that wish to receive a private school education by taking money from the public. Greed and hatred. Sincerely hope that Bullis graduates turn out better than their parents!

Posted by Jean, a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm

All of the money in the world can not purchase property that isn't available. There isn't any property that can fit a school except in areas where the schools already are. So time to stop this myth. LASD needs to share it's resources fairly, among all the public school students, not just the ones in it's own programs. Most of the problem is caused by the Bot's refusing to make tough unpopular decisions about redrawing attendance boundaries, which they did before, in order to keep a school away from BCS. If they are willing to redraw boundaries to keep a school from BCS then they need to reverse that bad decision now, and grant either Gardner or Covington to BCS.

Posted by Never gonna happen Jean, a resident of Blossom Valley
on Nov 5, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Voters in LASD will never elect a BoT that would willingly hand over a campus to some quasi-private, destructive, anti-democratic entity like BCS. It. Will. Never. Happen.

However, BCS seems to believe they can accomplish this goal through the courts despite the fact that no judge anywhere in the entire country, has EVER ruled that a district must close an existing school (let alone a successful, thriving school like GB or Covington) and hand it over to a charter. They are banking on forging new legal precedent, and because they have the monopoly money to fund such a fools errand, they will continue on despite the very low odds. These are not people who are used to losing, and don't seem to care how much damage they do to the community in their quest to dominate our local school agenda.

Posted by Ken, a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Ken Moore, BCS founder and chairman, has stated many times he wanted a small school. Perhaps if his board had listened more to him about growing a great school over growing for a larger population then we wouldn't be in this mess. Now, Ken has announced he is stepping down from the BCS board. Perhaps the vocal, growth at all cost zealots on his board are just too much to handle and he sees the writing on the wall?

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