Sat07262014

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Hills education report highlights challenges


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

Seventy percent of Los Altos Hills children attend either Gardner Bullis School, left, or Bullis Charter School.

Although newly designated Los Altos Hills Education Committee Chairwoman Heather Rose reported no educational achievement gap in Los Altos Hills for most students, her annual presentation to the city council Nov. 15 highlighted the committee’s underlying challenges.

“Our remaining ‘in town’ public school, Gardner Bullis School, has had a rough set of transitions since we last came before the council,” Rose said.

Gardner Bullis Principal Erica Gilbert announced the day before school opened this year that she had accepted a position closer to her home outside the Los Altos School District. Linda Eckols served as interim principal until Courtney Cadwell accepted the position in early October. The recently reopened campus was one of four named as acceptable alternate sites for the Bullis Charter School program in the mediation agreement between the Los Altos School District and the charter school.

The committee and the community are grappling with other issues, including the discontinuation of more than half of the bus services provided by the Palo Alto Unified School District and the ongoing lawsuits and tension between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School.

Although Los Altos Hills parents send 352 children to 15 different elementary schools, more than 70 percent of students attend either Gardner Bullis or Bullis Charter School. According to the Education Committee’s 2012 Enrollment Report, 149 students (50 percent of all students at the school) attend Gardner Bullis and 108 students (22.3 percent of all students at the school) attend the charter school.

“The committee exists due to the structural problem in LAH,” Rose said. “Los Altos Hills needs a unified group to monitor educational issues for our residents – who are otherwise quite a minority in their districts.”

As of this month, only five of the 11 seats on the committee were filled. And not all schools are represented, despite efforts to include more diverse voices. According to the committee roster, there are no members representing Bullis Charter School. Rose encouraged community residents to apply for appointment.

“We welcome parents from any schools attended by Los Altos Hills kids, but mainly we want Los Altos Hills residents passionate about informing and improving education for our kids,” she said.

Councilman John Radford applauded Rose’s efforts to include parents representing all schools on the committee.

“The focus (of the committee) does have to change,” said Radford at the Nov. 15 meeting. “For the past three to four years, it’s been between BCS and LASD. … It’s always come down to a discussion of one versus another.”

Radford called Bullis Charter School a “wonderful” charter school but noted that if the school’s latest facilities request for Covington School moves forward, it will likely drop the Los Altos Hills quota used in its lottery system.

Rose highlighted numerous goals for the Education Committee in 2013, including the creation of an informational website listing education options available to Los Altos Hills parents, increasing safe transportation options and boosting carpooling, producing enrollment and performance reports, and collaborating with the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Los Altos Hills Education Committee meets 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every other month in the Los Altos Hills City Council Chambers. For more information, visit losaltoshills.ca.gov/city-government/standing-committees/education.

Los Altos Hills State of Public Ed

• Parents in Los Altos Hills send students in elementary grades to schools in the Los Altos School District and the Palo Alto Unified School District.

• There are 956 K-12 public school students enrolled for 2011-2012.

• Residents of Los Altos Hills contributed $20.2 million, $21,133 per student, in property and parcel taxes to public education.

• High school students are enrolled in four schools.

• Middle school students are enrolled in five schools.

• Elementary students are enrolled in 15 schools.

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