Our community is currently engaged in a historic discussion about the future of our schools. Back in 2014, the voters of the Los Altos School District approved a $150 million bond measure to build a 10th school site and upgrade existing school facilities. This past school year, many of us were shocked and angered when the district seriously considered a plan to relocate our longtime neighborhood school, Egan Junior High School, to a new site on the other side of El Camino Real to give use of the entire campus (less 2 acres for much-needed affordable teacher housing) to Bullis Charter School.
Many of us were relieved when the district board of trustees, after listening to the concerns of many district residents, tabled the proposal for further study. However, the issues of where and how to house Bullis Charter School, what happens to our neighborhood public schools and how the $150 million bond measure will ultimately be spent still loom large.
We will have the next three months to participate in a critical communitywide process – to understand and weigh the fiscal, legal, educational and social dynamics surrounding these important decisions. All of us should be concerned and engaged.
To promote better decision-making, a group of concerned citizens calling ourselves Unintended Consequences? has formed to provide objective information and insights, as well as to spark discussions about our community’s values. We aim to bring to the district/charter school deliberations greater transparency, fact-based reasoning and alignment with our community values. We will be exploring a number of themes for our schools and communities in future articles, based on our extensive research into public records dealing with such issues as student enrollment within district schools and Bullis Charter School, the performance of our schools, school finances and neighborhood dynamics during the period of 1997 to the present. LASD Families for Public Education has generously agreed to host a section on its website (lasdfamilies.org) where we will post charts, graphs, data tables and links to information that are pertinent to collective understanding of our schools issues.
Our group is not opposed to Bullis Charter School. It is a commuter school that is performing well for its students. We will post (at the link above) a graphical summary illustrating that the performance of our local public schools is on par with that of Bullis Charter School, particularly when you consider that our public schools serve a more diverse population than the charter school serves. The quality of our schools should not be an issue in the coming community discussions.
What concerns us about Bullis Charter School is its current trajectory as part of our community: its impact on our neighborhood schools; its willingness to serve all of the members of our community, including low-socioeconomic status, special needs and otherwise diverse student populations; and its transparency and accountability. We believe there are a number of unintended consequences that have developed since the initial formation of Bullis Charter School in 2003.
We hope you will assess the facts and insights we will offer in the coming weeks against an important set of core values that we believe are shared by most of our citizens. These include:
• All of our youth matter.
• Neighborhood schools matter – they are the foundation of strong local communities.
• Publicly financed school enrollments should reflect the economic, racial/ethnic and disability balance of the neighborhoods they serve.
• The current excellent performance of every school in our district needs to be protected and preserved.
• Public resources should be spent for the good of our entire community and with full public transparency, accountability and oversight, or else public trust will be eroded.
We encourage you to carefully consider the school choices ahead based on a belief in the value of our neighborhood schools, an inclusive approach to public education and a desire to pass down the legacy of excellent schools that we have inherited.
Sam Harding is a member of Unintended Consequences?, a group comprising residents concerned about how Los Altos School District facilities are shared with Bullis Charter School.