A strategic planning meeting for Bullis Charter School parents last week precipitated the latest rift between the school’s officials and Los Altos School District Board of Trustees President Doug Smith.
The meeting, scheduled in two sessions, sought input on the charter school’s future mission and how the school might best split its program between two campuses next year.
Bullis Charter School Principal/Superintendent Wanny Hersey sent a letter to parents in late April encouraging them to register for the event and participate with school staff in the planning process.
“You will be working with our staff, our longtime strategic planning facilitator, Dr. Lindsey Gunn, and myself to articulate what has value as a community while our school moves from ‘startup’ to ‘sustainable,’” Hersey wrote.
After learning of the meeting and assuming that it would take place on the Bullis Charter School campus, Smith said he wanted to attend to observe the discussion.
Because Smith’s presence had caused tension at a previous Bullis Charter School meeting – resulting in his being asked to leave the campus – he contacted Bullis Charter School Board Chairman Joe Hurd in advance to express his interest in attending.
Hurd made it clear that Smith was not welcome at the meeting. In their back-and-forth email exchange, Hurd never mentioned to Smith that the meeting was scheduled to take place at a private residence and not on campus.
After the exchange – and still operating under the assumption that the meeting would occur at the charter school – Smith wrote to members of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, outlining why it should be illegal to exclude the public from a meeting held on campus.
Hurd asked Smith to send the charter school the legal reasons the meeting should be public. Smith did so and also forwarded the information to the county board.
“As their oversight body, though, I would urge you to attend this meeting,” Smith wrote to the county board. “The broader public needs to know what it is that makes Bullis Charter School tick. They also need to start ‘walking the walk,’ and acting like a public school – and in that regard, it is incumbent on the county board to ensure that schools you supervise follow the law, and conduct themselves as a public school should.”
Because Smith’s letter was sent the day of the first meeting, county board members responded that they could not attend due to the late notice.
Following the meetings, Bullis Charter School Board Chairman Ken Moore drafted a response to Smith’s letter to the county board.
Moore explained that the strategic planning meetings have been scheduled annually without incident. Contrary to Smith’s allegations, he said, the meetings are not required to be open to the public.
“A group of parents with enrolled students are gathering at a private residence to talk broadly about the school and specifically about how Bullis Charter School can deliver on its promise to students within the significant constraints of Los Altos School District’s … facilities offer for the coming year,” Moore’s letter stated.
According to Moore, the board of directors did not organize the meeting, nor did a quorum of board members attend.
“We do not believe there is any rule that requires all meetings between any staff and/or parents on a public school site be open to the public,” he stated in his letter.