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Public comments on Bullis Charter School

The supporters of the Bullis Charter School presented their charter to the Los Altos School Board of Trustees, as required by law, March 31, followed by a public comment session.

Some Bullis-Purissima parents have been working to start a charter school since the district's Feb. 10 decision to close the K-6 school in Los Altos Hills, beginning with the 2003-04 school year.

A charter school is an independent public school, supported by public funds and held accountable by a public authority, usually a school district.

The district has until May 16 to make a decision regarding the charter. According to the law, a district must grant a charter to a school if the proposal is "consistent with sound educational practice."

The law states a board may not deny a petition unless it makes written factual findings that state that the charter presents an unsound educational program; the petitioners are unlikely to successfully implement the program; the petition does not meet the signature requirement; the charter does not contain required affirmations or a comprehensive description of the charter criteria.

It is the same law that requires the board have a public comment session, but the law also states that a board or school district cannot take public comments into consideration while making a decision on whether or not to grant a charter.

That fact did not stop the public from voicing opinions.

"I believe, and fear, that the charter school proposal will tear this community apart," said district parent Christa Amsden. "No one, myself included, expects any parent to accept the closing of their child's school without turning over every rock and examining every possible alternative. The district presented one alternative, a completely intact move of the entire Bullis community to Covington."

Los Altos Teachers Association President Amanda Terry representing Los Altos teachers, read a statement in opposition of the charter school.

"The Los Altos Teachers Association is opposed to the opening of a seventh elementary school in our district at this time," the statement read. "A charter school for kindergarten through sixth-grade would be a seventh elementary school and a financial hardship for the district."

Brenda Dyckman, principal at Egan Junior High School, also read a statement representing the views of the principals in the district.

"As educators, we are gravely concerned that the Los Altos School District's staff, students and our valuable parent resources will be divided and at at odds; and therefore, will work against the fundamental principal of promoting a quality educational program for all students," the statement said.

By law, the board cannot consider financial impacts on the district when making its decision regarding the charter.

"We are not in the least bit disturbed by any of what we heard Monday night. It's what we expected. It's very typical of what charter organization faces when trying to organize a charter," said Craig Jones of Bullis Charter School regarding the opposition voiced at the public hearing. "We are focused on getting our school up and running. We are not answering our critics anymore. It's not pertinent to the criteria under which board examines the charter nor is it pertinent to the appeal should they turn us down."

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