As Monday’s deadline looms, the tentative agreement between Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District to settle the contentious long-term dispute over facilities appears to be in jeopardy.
If no agreement is reached, the charter school must accept the district’s initial offer for facilities next year, which splits the charter school’s program between the Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools campuses.
District trustees have said this road could lead to more time in court, as the charter school deems the initial offer unreasonable.
A working draft of the agreement – posted by the district May 14 at the request of parents – surprised and disappointed some Bullis Charter School officials.
“Unfortunately, the district has sent us (and circulated publicly) a draft written agreement without our input that does not fairly articulate the deal to which we agreed,” wrote Ken Moore, charter school board chairman, in a letter to charter school parents last week. “In a last-ditch effort to avoid further litigation, we have highlighted some of the problems with the draft agreement and are discussing them with the district. There were plenty from which to choose, but we tried to pick 10 of the most obvious flaws.”
The original agreement would suspend litigation between the parties, at odds for eight years over facilities allocation, and give the charter school one of the district’s campuses – either Almond, Gardner Bullis, Santa Rita or a 10.5-acre portion of Covington – within the next two school years. To compensate for losing a campus, the district and charter school would join forces to support a November bond measure to finance a new campus, the community’s 10th public-school site.
But if the bond measure doesn’t pass in the fall – or in a follow-up election in June 2014 if the first attempt fails – the district would be a school short, permanently displacing hundreds of students who would be moved to other campuses for only a few years under the best circumstances. That was a cause of concern for parents who spoke at the May 14 district board meeting.
The 27-page district draft agreement included several edits to the original agreement. The draft includes the possibility of placing the charter school at the 10th school site (if the bond passes), termination of the agreement if another charter school is created, holding the charter school responsible for any additional lawsuit costs as a result of its gaining a district campus and controlling Bullis’ accessibility to the campus during after-school hours and summer seasons.
Charter school officials are not pleased with the additions to the agreement. Many of the edits appear to be in response to the copious parent input district officials recently received from parents.
“Although we are obliged to meet the facilities requirements of Bullis Charter School under the law, we are also obliged to meet the needs of all the members of our community, and we rely on your input and support to make appropriate trade-offs,” Mark Goines, district board president, wrote in the introduction letter to the draft agreement.
District parents continued to provide input at the May 14 meeting, urging the district not to make the mistake of closing one of its neighborhood schools.
“At least 95 percent of the comments have been saying don’t give Bullis one of our neighborhood schools,” said district Trustee Tammy Logan. “We are between a rock and a hard place. I am certain that if we don’t do this agreement, we will be in court again and the next year we will do the same thing and the next year.”
Goines agreed with Logan but put it a bit more bluntly.
“In the next weeks, we need to reach some sort of conclusion or you can all join me in court,” he said.