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Schools

Bullis Charter School facing opposition

The Bullis Charter School effort is facing some opposition. With the Los Altos School District's acceptance of the charter, March 17, also came the district's statement that the Bullis-Purissima School site in Los Altos Hills will not be available for use by the charter school.

Some Bullis 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, begining with the 2003-04 school year.

A charter school is an independent public school, supported by public funds and held accountable by public authority. Charter schools have a written legal agreement with a sponsoring agency, usually a school district.

"The charter petition, including the statement made on the pages associated with the collection of signatures, clearly states that the charter plans to operate out of the Bullis site," said a board statement read by Los Altos Board of Trustees President Duane Roberts. "It is important that we make it very clear from the starting point of the charter school evaluation that the Bullis site is not available for a district school in the foreseeable future. The charter school, if approved would be a district school (as also stated in the charter) and will not be able to use the Bullis site."

According to the state's Proposition 39, "Students in a public charter school should be entitled to reasonable access to a safe and secure learning environment, within the jusrisdiction of a particular school district."

It is up to the district to decide where the charter school would be located .

Some charter school founders think the school board was in violation of the Brown Act, when that statement was read.

The Brown Act does not permit private discussions that allow a majority of a council or commission to arrive at a "collective concurrence," and mandates that all public business, such as a site use decision, be made in public.

"This was an attempt to discourage the charter movement. The policy announced is clearly based on some action taken in private, we never heard a discussion on the issue or a public hearing or saw a vote taken," said Craig Jones, of Bullis Charter School. The board wants to suggest an extension of the policy to close Bullis and to say it's not going to be available is a policy decision, not the same decision to close Bullis. It's clearly a different policy decision."

School Board President Duane Roberts said that the board has in no way violated the Brown Act.Roberts said that board members had known that he would be asking the district's attorney's to draft language regarding the district's official position on the issue, but that idividual board members were not polled before hand and were given a copy of the statement for the first time at the March 17 board meeting.

"There was nothing passed. We asked our attorneys to draft language from past information and create a position based on those things. It wasn't a vote not to award the charter school the Bullis site. When we don't vote on something, I don't see how we can be in violation of the Brown Act," Roberts said. "This is what the decision to close Bullis meant -- that it would not available to the district as a school. The purpose of the closure was to save money on one hand and to provide revevnue through rental, lease or sale of the site."

By law, when a school district has a piece of property or a school that is not in use, it must appoint a "7-11" committee to decide what to do with the property.

"Per state law the first step in making that determination is to form an advisory committee, commonly called a 7-11 advisory committee, because it should have between seven and eleven members," said Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services. "The committee is responsible for making a recommendation to the school board regarding the disposition of the site. The board may or may not follow the recommendation of the committee."

Los Altos Hills City Councilmen Breene Kerr, a member on the 7-11 committee, said he is disheartened that the board has come out with a position against the Bullis Charter School occupying the Bullis site, before the committe's dilberations have begun.

"The board's statement read at the conclusion of last week's board meeting and recently included in printed communication sent to District parents refers to "lease or sale" of the Bullis site. The possible sale of the Bullis site by the Los Altos School District is a new and unfortunate development," Kerr said. "The Los Altos School District continues to take positions that make compromise with the Bullis Charter School group difficult to negotiate. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation being circulated about the Bullis Charter School's possible effect on the Distict and its finances. This is unduly alarming parents in the district. Ultimately, opposition to the Charter School is not about money. It is really about the District's response to a challenge to their authority."

The district has a strict timeline to follow to either accept or deny the Bullis School charter as submitted to the district March 12. The district has 30 days from that date to hold a public hearing and 60 days from that date to make a decision.

A public hearing has been scheduled for 7 p.m., at the Blach Junior High School Multipurpose Room, 1120 Covington Road, Los Altos. For more information, call the district office at 947-1150.

The purpose of the public hearing is for the charter school is to present its charter to the public and for the opportunity for the public to comment.

While a public comment session is required by law, the law also states that a board or school district can not take public comments or proposed financial impact on a district by a charter school into consideration while making a decision on whether or not to grant a charter.

"Whether the district and the public of the district support a charter school or not, to me, is relavent. but legally as it stands, we can't take that into consideration," Roberts said.

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