A little more than a month after officials from the Los Altos School District publicized their proposal to partner with Bullis Charter School on a bond measure to build two new schools -- one for LASD and one for BCS -- the district has issued another open letter demanding that the charter shape up or else.
According to the letter, dated Nov. 4 and signed by district board of trustees president Doug Smith, the charter school has repeatedly violated the terms of its agreement with the district. In the letter, BCS is warned that it must get back on track within 45 days and make up for past violations. In the meantime, the district will consider "whether BCS's violations should disqualify it from receiving any offer of facilities for the 2014-15 school year."
In a response addressed directly to "Doug," Ken Moore, chair of the BCS board of directors, called the district's letter "yet another attempt to in a decade-long campaign to deny parents the right to choose the best local public school option for their children."
Throughout the letter, Moore wrote: "The district has not only refused to support Bullis, it has done everything it can to destroy Bullis. ... When will it end?"
Litany of offenses
The LASD open letter lists a litany of alleged Bullis offenses. According to the document, BCS regularly exceeds student capacity limits at both the Egan and Blach campuses. The charter is also accused of allowing children into rooms and facilities that they should be restricted from accessing due to their age; and, the district claims that Bullis officials have allowed children to play on shared athletic fields when they were not scheduled to do so -- causing a conflict with physical education classes at Blach.
In his letter to LASD, Moore called the district's restrictions on the charter school "arbitrary," writing that he views them as little more than a tool to "frustrate Bullis' programs."
"The only persons that LASD restricts from setting foot on the Blach or Egan sites are the charter public school students," he continued.
As for the capacity limits on the number of Bullis students allowed on either campus, Moore said they "have no legal or factual support whatsoever."
Attached to the letter, in a document entitled "Exhibit A," the charter alleges that BCS is only allowed to use a fraction of the space at the Blach portion of its campus. It also purports that Bullis is denied open space, such as the soccer field, blacktop, the tennis courts and the track, even though those spaces are unused close to half of the day, or more, in the case of the tennis courts.
While Bullis children on the Egan portion of the campus have a jungle gym they may play on, BCS has been unable to build a play structure for its students at Blach. According to Jay Reed, a spokesman for Bullis, Blach kids are not allowed to play on the field at Blach, but must stay on the blacktop next to the grass.
In short, Moore's letter accuses LASD officials of forcing the charter school into an agreement, knowing full well that they would have to violate the agreement in order to run their programs.
"Your letter only confirms what we have sensed since before our school opened its doors -- the district will not stop attacking Bullis until Bullis surrenders and closes its doors," Moore wrote. "That is not going to happen."
Smith defended the rules outlined in the Facilities Use Agreement, which Bullis signed before being allowed to use district facilities this year.
"If they (Bullis) are going to use the facilities, they should use them with the rules that govern that use," Smith said, denying that LASD officials created rules knowing they would be difficult or impossible for BCS to follow. "We thought about it a lot to make sure that we were giving them a reasonable program."
In fact, Smith said, the charter had the rules in advance of the school year, and had a chance to design a program that would work within the district's guidelines. "They still choose to operate their program in defiance of the rules."
When it comes to rules saying that Bullis may only have a certain number of children on one campus or another, or that primary grades belong at Egan while only middle school-aged kids are allowed at Blach, Smith said there is plenty of research and safety protocols that say those restrictions are sound.
Because Blach is supposed to be the middle school campus for Bullis, the rules say children in fifth grade and below are not allowed on that campus. However, Smith said, Bullis regularly allows primary school kids on the Blach grounds.
This rule also explains why there is no playground on the Blach campus, Smith said, as middle schoolers do not traditionally have play structures on their campuses.
Bad for bond
Smith said the district's most recent open letter "probably is not good for the bond," referring to the proposed joint school bond to build two new schools. But, he added, "The district cannot just turn a blind eye to what is happening."
According to Smith, the best way for the two educational organizations to get back on better terms begins with Bullis "following the rules."
"Although we believe that the accusations in your letter are baseless," Moore wrote, "and although the unlawful restrictions that you are imposing are intended only to harm children -- not help them -- we are going to find ways to live within the restrictions in the (Facilities Use Agreement) within the time frame demanded."
Moore then struck a defiant tone, vowing that the charter will continue to grow and "continue to be a model of education in the nation."
"When the dust settles," Moore concluded, "Bullis shall remain standing -- with or without your consent."