The Los Altos Women’s Caucus and others hosted a forum June 4 in an attempt to establish facts about Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District.
I commend our community for wanting to align on facts, which is key to moving toward resolution. However, the facts presented told only a partial story. Our community should additionally consider:
• Bullis Charter School will continue as a privately run school, even after it becomes subject to basic requirements of transparency and disclosure of conflicts under a new law in January. The Bullis Charter School board is private, with members who aren’t elected by Los Altos School District residents, or even charter school families. By contrast, the district board is elected by all district residents. Public boards are accountable to their communities, including on facilities disputes.
• In 2018-2019, according to the Los Altos Women’s Caucus, the district paid Bullis Charter School about $8,000 per student for 35 charter school students who reside outside of the district, in districts that do not reimburse the Los Altos School District. This $280,000 (for students whose parents paid no taxes to the Los Altos School District) was greater than the amount that Bullis Charter School paid the district for facilities.
• For the 2020-2021 school year, the highest admission priority at the charter school after sibling preference will again be for up to 50% of a grade from the former Bullis-Purissima School area, according to the women’s caucus and recently confirmed by the district board. Many community members believed the charter school had eliminated this preference for students residing in more affluent parts of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, so the charter school could serve students equally throughout the district. Despite 15 years since any student was affected by the closing of Bullis-Purissima, and the reopening of Gardner Bullis, the charter school is reviving this neighborhood preference.
• Bullis Charter School and the Los Altos School District have different special-education costs. The district serves both a higher percentage of all special-education students and a much higher percentage of special-education students needing more intensive (and more costly) services. As a community, we need to ensure that the district is sufficiently funded to educate all of its students, especially those with greatest need.
The Los Altos Women’s Caucus and Bullis Charter School have a perspective, and other perspectives are necessary to understand the whole story.
Danielle James is a Los Altos resident.