Head of School Jennifer Anderson-Rosse recently published a letter announcing the cancellation of plans to open a charter school in Mountain View this fall. She made claims implying that Bullis Mountain View (BMV) has been the victim of unfair treatment by the Mountain View Whisman School District (MVWSD). A review of the facts reveals Bullis' claims to be false, and leads one to question whether Bullis ever truly intended to serve low-income students in Mountain View.
Although their petition was approved on Dec. 20, BMV did not inform the community until March 7 that they would not comply with MVWSD's conditions for approval. Those conditions included enrollment priorities that would ensure BMV would serve the student population they claimed to want to serve. "Our intent is to mirror the demographics of the Mountain View community, and our plan is to offer a priority enrollment for low-income students," BMV stated initially.
In her letter, Anderson-Rosse falsely claims that "several" of the conditions attached to BMV's approval are in violation of state law. While state and federal laws clearly prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, nationality, race/ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, there is no law against providing enrollment priority to socio-economically disadvantaged (SED) students. The California Charter Schools Association points to the requirement that charter schools should "develop and implement admissions and enrollment policies and practices that ... are designed to contribute to a diverse student population that is reflective of the community in which the school is located." It also states that one of "the primary authorities governing charter schools admissions policies and practices are ... Certain policies and practices adopted by your charter authorizer regarding the admissions process." It is puzzling to see BMV claim they can better educate students from low-income families, and then back away from giving them top priority enrollment.
BMV has not acted in good faith in their communications with the Mountain View community and MVWSD. BMV was asked by a variety of stakeholders to defer its plans to open a school in Mountain View. MVWSD asked BMV for a one-year delay so they would be able to assess the effects of newly drawn enrollment boundaries. About 400 parents and community stakeholders from around Mountain View co-signed an open letter imploring BMV to defer its plans, highlighted the damage that would be brought to neighborhood schools, and pointed out BMV's lack of cultural competence. Since the time of the charter's approval, district requests for information from both Bullis Charter School and BMV were ignored or denied.
Anderson-Rosse claims "The district specifically left siblings out to separate families and undermine the success of BMV," as if to imply the district had removed sibling enrollment preference altogether. In reality, the district asked that enrollment priorities be re-ordered, placing SED students before siblings in order to assure a representative percentage of SED students. If BMV were to not meet enrollment targets for SED students in its first few years and provided priority to siblings of currently enrolled, non-SED students in subsequent years, it would be unlikely to ever achieve enrollment of a significant population of SED students.
Bullis' failed attempt to expand its brand and open a school this fall has wasted taxpayer money, but even more concerning, it may cause real harm to the very students BMV claims it wished to help. BMV is already having a financial impact on the district, and the resultant budget cuts are negatively impacting our children.
I hope that the Santa Clara County and California boards of education are paying close attention to what has transpired here in Mountain View. The proliferation of charter schools that do not incorporate inclusive admission policies toward the community they serve, and do not operate with transparency, harms our students and must be put in check.
Sara Kopit-Olson is a parent leader at Mistral Elementary School in Mountain View.