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Schools

Judge rules for LASD, charter school to appeal

The Santa Clara County Superior Court ruled late Friday that the Los Altos School District complied fully with state laws, including those regarding joint-use agreements, in leasing the Egan camp school rather than Bullis-Purissima Elementary School to Bullis Charter School.

The order signed by Judge Leslie C. Nichols was in favor of the school district on all active points in the lawsuit brought by the charter school last September. The charter school plans to pursue the case and has 10 days from the Sept. 9 ruling in which to file its response.

"This is just one more episode in a very long saga is basically how we're looking at it," charter spokesman Marlin Miller said Monday.

The two parties in the case had embarked on a series of three mediation conferences that broke down during the second, held Sept. 7. Both Miller and district superintendent Tim Justus characterized the settlement talks as at an impasse.

Justus admitted to surprise at the decision.

"The two sides were still apart, and the attorneys asked the judge for a ruling. We didn't expect it so soon," he said.

Miller said the decision did not surprise the charter school.

"All the facts in the case haven't been heard yet. ... I think the judge pro tem was trying to wrap up his responsibilities in the case and pass it on. We do intend to pursue the case and continue down the path."

Attorneys for the charter school had lodged a 166-page deposition, containing 13 exhibits, with the court after all briefing had closed, without the court's permission and without notifying the school district. Noting that "the entire stack of paper is about two inches thick" and was not accompanied by a separate summary sheet, Nichols wrote, "It appears wholly inappropriate for the court to be required to read through this submission. The tardy submission provides no opportunity for defendant to reply. ... Nonetheless, in order to diminish the prospect of jousting in any reviewing court on an ancillary issue, the court did review the paper received and determined that nothing contained therein changes the decision here announced."

Justus said he was "pleased that the district in the eyes of the court did nothing illegal to house the charter school and followed all the rules in respect to Proposition 39."

Miller said the charter group will pursue the complaint that the Egan camp school is not reasonably equivalent to other district facilities. The district's obligation under state law is to provide reasonably equivalent facilities."

"We've always been confident that an objective party looking at these trailers on a ball field (will see) they're just not comparable," he said.

The superintendent said that before he received word of the ruling he had called Wanny Hersey, principal of the charter school, to talk about meeting regularly.

"The ruling will make no change in the way we work together. It's going to get better and better," he said.

Randy Kenyon, the district's assistant superintendent for business services, said Monday that the case has cost the district $200,000 through July, but billings for August have not yet arrived in his office. Miller, the chairman of the charter school's fundraising organization, the Bullis-Purissima Elementary School Foundation, said he does not know how much the charter school has spent pursuing the case.

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