Planning for an August opening for Bullis Charter School’s expansion into Mountain View came to a surprise halt last week.
Already difficult negotiations became openly hostile between Bullis’ Mountain View iteration and the Mountain View Whisman School District when Bullis Mountain View Head of School Jennifer Anderson-Rosse issued a press release outlining “unreasonable and illegal conditions” the district was allegedly imposing on the charter school. District and Bullis officials had been set to meet the following day for a full day’s agenda of planning for the impending opening.
The district, which is the agency authorizing the new charter school location, was working to “undermine the success of BMV,” Anderson-Rosse wrote to local press agencies Thursday, and the school would not open as planned this fall.
The news blindsided district officials, according to a statement issued a few hours later by Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Ayindé Rudolph.
“We just learned this afternoon of Bullis Mountain View delaying its opening, and it comes as a complete shock,” he wrote to the Town Crier. “We had an all-day meeting planned for tomorrow, which both parties agreed to attend, that we hoped would be the first of many positive steps to ensure BMV could move forward to open a quality school for all of our students.”
The district lays out conditional requirements for the school as part of its authorization process. Negotiating the substance of those requirements was already rocky, with district officials describing transparency and disclosure from Bullis Mountain View about its recruitment and enrollment process as “frankly … difficult.”
Anderson-Rosse listed three primary concerns Bullis Mountain View had with the district’s conditions: an enrollment imperative for under-resourced families; the removal of a top preference for siblings; and the imposition of district-based achievement testing.
Bullis Charter School has been planning to expand by opening a public charter school in Mountain View, with admission by lottery, for students entering transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. Bullis officials characterized the district’s current authorization conditions as “tantamount to a denial” of the charter school’s petition to open, and characterized several aspects of the district’s stance as “in violation of law” or “illegal.”
Questions of legality/illegality and acrimonious negotiations characterized the decade of lawsuits waged between Bullis Charter School in Los Altos and the Los Altos School District over facilities for the charter school.
The district conditions Bullis disputed in Mountain View include:
• That Bullis Mountain View student demographics must match the district’s with respect to socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Bullis Mountain View officials said the school must admit students via a lottery, without “discrimination” based on socioeconomics. Rudolph noted that Bullis Mountain View officials had asked for various preferential priority statuses in the lottery, including for socioeconomics – and that the disagreement appeared to be about order of priorities, not preference-based admissions itself.
• That Bullis Mountain View not prioritize siblings during admission, a preference Bullis officials said was a “nearly universal” request from interested parents and a practice common among district schools. Rudolph said the charter school’s stated mission, to close the achievement gap in Mountain View, wouldn’t be best served by prioritizing siblings and children of staff over underserved demographics when ranking admission to the lottery.
• That the district requires “that (Bullis) follow its internal assessment process” as well as exceeding districtwide academic outcomes. Anderson-Rosse said tying assessment and curriculum to district standards would be contrary to Bullis’ fundamental mission to innovate. Rudolph said the district used a common assessment tool built for any school following state-mandated California Core benchmarks. Without an “apples to apples” assessment, Rudolph said, Bullis Mountain View wouldn’t be able to establish whether it was making good on its ambitions for students in the early grades, which don’t have statewide testing.