While there has been a pause in face-to-face meetings between Bullis Charter School and Los Altos School District officials over facilities and resources, the parties continue to communicate via letters.
Last week the letter exchange began with Ken Moore, chairman of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors, documenting what the charter school wants – and doesn’t want – in relation to a potential bond measure.
“Bullis Charter School does not seek to be the major beneficiary of a new school bond, and we would not support a bond positioned that way,” Moore’s letter stated. “Our only ask is that public resources (e.g., school facilities, school bond proceeds, parcel taxes and the Basic Aid benefit) be shared fairly and equally among residents attending Bullis Charter School and residents attending other public schools in the district.”
District trustees discussed Moore’s letter at their Oct. 14 board meeting, with a few of them labeling the missive a “manifesto” that is not helpful in reaching a long-term solution.
Earlier in the month, the district sent the charter school a draft agreement based on discussions conducted at their meetings addressing short- and long-term challenges.
“This letter does not address anything that was in the proposal,” said Doug Smith, district board president. “It just adds more to the (wish) list. This is just a letter – and we are floating an actual agreement we could make real progress with.”
Trustee Mark Goines said he floated a proposal a few years ago similar to what the charter school requested in its recent letter, but he was informed by counsel that it was not legal.
“What is asked for in this letter, I don’t think it is legal,” Goines said. “Counsel told me that you need to go to the voters to get their permission (for parcel-tax sharing) – state law doesn’t agree to (property-tax growth revenue sharing). Some voter could stop you dead. Dealing with manifestos is not going to help us heal as a community.”
The district responded via letter to Bullis Charter School officials last week, requesting a response to its proposal and offering to schedule a face-to-face meeting to discuss long-term solutions.
“We are hopeful that Bullis Charter School will be available for future meetings, and might come prepared with a redline document or at least a willingness to discuss the terms necessary to passing a bond,” Smith’s letter stated.
In addition to asking for a response to the draft agreement, the district asked for a response to the district’s data requests at the meetings on short-term matters.
After discussing moving toward a solution that addresses short- and long-term concerns, the district’s letter included a word of warning to the charter school, outlining how the charter school is breaching its Facilities Use Agreement with the district by:
• Allowing more students to attend classes on the Blach Intermediate and Egan Junior High campuses than agreed upon.
• Not adhering to the sharing schedule for physical education facilities on the Blach campus.
• Starting school outside the times outlined in the agreement.
• Permitting K-3 students to use Blach facilities.
“Bullis Charter School’s continued violations of the terms of this agreement are making it increasingly difficult to believe that your teams are negotiating in good faith,” the letter stated. “By violating the agreement, Bullis Charter School opens itself, its board of directors, its chartering authority and its parents to legal exposure.”
Charter school parent input
Charter school parents showed up en masse at the Oct. 14 district board meeting to compel the district to allow their younger students to use the track and grassy areas at Blach when Blach students are not using the space.
“I watch my son play tag football on the asphalt, when behind me the fields are empty for a half an hour,” said Heidi Mitchell, mother of a Bullis Charter School fourth-grader. “I don’t understand why my student is being crammed while these viable outside areas are empty. My son wants to know why he can’t play on that field. It doesn’t matter what grade he is in, all children deserve a place to play.”
Eight other parents spoke on the same topic, asking district officials to allow their children to use field space when it’s empty.
Trustees responded that they understood the parents’ concerns, but the Facilities Use Agreement follows the law. They explained that they addressed some of the concerns in their proposal, to which the charter school has yet to respond.
“I need to have a partner to talk to, and I don’t have that,” Trustee Steve Taglio said of the Bullis Charter School board’s lack of response. “I have individual parents showing up with demands, and I don’t have a board that is consistent. I need to have someone who is demonstrating that they want to talk.”