Mon07282014

News

It is not about the facility

Back in September, the Santa Clara County Board of Education approved a Bullis Charter School on the condition that such a school not be site specific. Proponents accepted this condition at the time. But it is quite clear charter eyes are on the Bullis Purissima School prize, which shut down last June amid strong Los Altos Hills opposition.

The fight to reclaim Bullis is clearly brought out in full-page newspaper ads and any and all discussions by Bullis Charter School proponents as they proceed with the establishment of their school. They seem to be bent on Bullis, to the point of confounding the public - and us - with an array of numbers over projected and lost lease income at the Bullis site, and threatening litigation.

Charter proponents have been pushing for the site under Proposition 39, which would allow the school at Bullis rent-free for strictly one year. The charter would have to apply for a location every year. The proposition requires the district provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to normal district classrooms.

Now some charter proponents and Egan-area residents have said they intend to sue the Los Altos School District if the board chooses Egan Camp School to house the charter. The board selected Egan Camp School at Monday's meeting. Litigants fear the charter at Egan Camp School interferes with district assurances that officials would remove the camp school when facilities projects are over. But under Proposition 39, this is a temporary arrangement. The charter school would occupy a fraction of the portables there currently.

Instead of pursuing litigation and throwing out vague financial scenarios, charter proponents can pursue a lease income arrangement with the district unbounded by Proposition 39 restrictions, especially the restriction that limits occupancy to one year. Moreover, the onus is on the charter to emphasize its unique programs and show it has more of an agenda than reclaiming Bullis.

The charter has trotted out an award-winning principal and a program that emphasizes environmental education, among other subjects. Great. Let's see how the program does at Egan for a year, then we'll talk long-term location.

Bullis charter proponents say they want to heal the wounds of conflict and misunderstanding as they seek to establish their school, and "lock arms with the district" as one member put it, last week. They can do plenty of healing by avoiding litigation and taking what the district offers. After all, the emphasis is on the program and the kids, right?

We agree with charter supporters on this: it would be nice to see a public school back at the Bullis-Purissima campus. If charter supporters keep their cool, they just might get their wish. Just not right away.

Meanwhile, do as promised to the county board and make this charter about the program, not the facility.

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