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What's your agenda? Better public schools: Other Voices

This is a follow-up to Swan’s columns “A ‘Common Sense’ approach to education” (April 16) and “Reimagining public education” (May 7).

“What’s your agenda?” Among the various comments on my two previous columns about improving our public education, this question begs an answer: “To improve public education by coming up with a plan to have the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School positively coexist.”

The charter school and school district working collaboratively could make our public education system one of the best in the nation.

The district and Bullis Charter School together should offer the quality of education in parallel to the education that makes Silicon Valley the center of the tech world.

To reiterate, the timing for solving this decade-long issue is perfect. Among recent developments, a Superior Court judge recently struck down statutes requiring teacher tenure statewide – statutes that punished new, inspired teachers while providing job security for those simply not cutting it. This landmark ruling could get the ball rolling legislatively for reforms that improve the quality of teaching statewide – even in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

We can initiate incentives on our own to improve teacher performance. Why not, through the school foundations or a separate nonprofit, raise money to give bonuses to the best, most inspiring teachers? Merit-based pay is the best way to raise the bar.

Three seats are up for grabs on the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees in the November election. The community, tired of the long charter school feud, has the opportunity to elect a board majority. The community also can make itself heard on a proposed district bond measure eyed for the November ballot. The district wants a bond passed. With the right plan, we could move forward as a community.

The district’s Enrollment Growth Task Force developed a plan (from 12 different perspectives to a 100 percent consensus) that satisfies the needs of the district and the charter school. The task force recommended that the district pursue two additional school sites – one to house Bullis Charter School and one to house Los Altos School District students. The committee suggested that finding a site for the charter school should be the district’s first priority.

The cities of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills have expressed interest in a joint venture with the Los Altos School District to build the two new schools the task force recommended – for example, they could provide city-owned land for the school.

The Los Altos and Los Altos Hills elections for city council could be used to elect representatives that also embrace resolving the conflict as part of their campaign pledges. This would create a united effort.

We welcome your input. If you do nothing, we all lose.

There are two ways to offer your input on “The Road to Resolution”: email Town Crier Editor Bruce Barton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit re-imaginingaworldclasseducation.com.

John Swan is a former member of the Los Altos Hills Public Education Committee.

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