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LASD asks to bring mediator into facilities talks

Despite tensions over the current-year Bullis Charter School facilities, Los Altos School District and charter school officials appear to be making progress in their search for a long-term solution.

District board President Doug Smith last week sent a letter to charter school officials inviting them to reintroduce a mediator and continue discussions about a long-term solution amenable to both parties.

The letter requests that Appellate Justice Hon. Richard J. McAdams (Ret.) return to the discussions “to help facilitate a meeting where we can explore options and interests on both sides.”

McAdams is not new to the problems that divide the charter school and the school district – he helped facilitate meetings between the two parties a year and half ago. While the agreement that resulted from that mediation did not come to fruition, the district’s letter deemed McAdams “a valuable guide to both parties in that discussion.”

The letter states that the district is at a point where it must take a different approach. Potential meetings with McAdams would be closed to the public, a “concession” the district is willing to make. Smith assured the public that all matters under discussion would be vetted after the meetings with McAdams.

“I’m looking for a game-changer at this point,” Smith said. “In the last couple of long-term discussions, there were a lot of ‘nonstarters.’ We have to find some way to bridge the gaps … and I hope by changing the format we can do that.”

The letter suggests that the format could include the same two-on-two teams from the district and charter school that have met during long-term facilities sessions, but the district would welcome the charter school board’s newest members, Sang Yoo and Jennifer Carlton, to “benefit from fresh perspectives.”

The charter school, which was scheduled to discuss the mediator at its Monday meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline, would be open to mediation, according to board Chairman Ken Moore.

“We welcome mediation without any preconditions, and that the end goal of the mediation should be that all public school children get fair access to public school facilities,” he said.

Smith said he hoped the meetings could occur as soon as possible so that both sides could work toward a solution, possibly before the holidays.

Current-year challenges

After issuing a letter to the charter school that detailed violations of the current year’s Facilities Use Agreement (FUA), the district reviewed the problems at its Nov. 12 board meeting.

Bullis Charter School board member Francis La Poll read a three-page response to the district’s notice. The statement disagreed with the district’s attempt to impose grade-level restrictions or limits on enrollment at the two charter school sites, claiming that the district’s attempts are “against public policy and without any support in the law.”

“The district’s strong-arm efforts to force a contract, while locking out BCS, is further evidence of the bad-faith actions in which (the district) continues to engage,” La Poll said. “The district claims that because BCS allegedly violated a contract that (the district) forced Bullis to sign, it may take away Bullis’ facilities and/or not provide Bullis with facilities next year. The district makes these threats even though the district has failed to comply with that same contract of adhesion.”

A list of Bullis Charter School’s complaints about the Blach facilities was attached, asserting that the facilities were not prepared on time and that sharing arrangements did not meet contract specifications. A table outlined the unallocated time of the Blach PE facilities.

La Poll said that although the charter school believes that the district’s accusations are “baseless” and “unlawful,” it plans to find ways to live within the FUA restrictions in the 45-day time period of the original letter.

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