Schools

Los Altos School District moves to hire consultant for public outreach on BCS deal


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School is currently housed on the Egan Junior High School and Blach Intermediate School, above, campuses. The Los Altos School District plans to initiate a public outreach process to get feedback on a long-term deal with the charter school.

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees unanimously agreed May 28 to hire an outside consultant to conduct a community engagement process on a long-term facilities agreement with Bullis Charter School.

The board approved a motion to hire MIG, a Berkeley-based firm with experience running public outreach campaigns, and capped the cost of the contract at $70,000.

Trustees also asked for a few changes to MIG’s proposal, based in part on concerns expressed by local residents who spoke at the meeting.

Approximately a dozen people addressed the board, with many saying they wanted to make sure the process wasn’t just a rubber stamp on the proposed 10-year deal with Bullis Charter School that the board tabled in late April after public outcry.

That deal would give the charter school the bulk of the Egan Junior High School campus and move Egan to the 10th school site in Mountain View the district is planning to purchase.

“I hope I’m wrong, but at first glance it seems as if (MIG’s) proposal is more about bringing the public up to speed on why the 10-year agreement is the best alternative, instead of a true engagement process,” Herb Marshall told the board.

The parent of two Santa Rita students said he didn’t “want to be sold on the agreement,” but rather to understand the pros and cons of different options.

Other commenters echoed that sentiment. Some said that they wanted to see less time spent on public outreach and education, and more time on hearing the community’s feedback.

Process takes shape

The original proposal from MIG called for spending the summer doing outreach and education, with community meetings beginning in September and running until mid-November.

Trustees discussed the possibility of moving the meetings earlier, but some voiced concern that residents may be gone over the summer break and unable to participate.

A representative from MIG, Joan Chaplick, said it could be possible to host a webinar over the summer, enabling people to participate remotely.

Chaplick said that throughout the process she will work to educate the community and gather feedback and ideas.

“My concern is creating that space where a civil conversation can happen,” Chaplick said.

Board president Jessica Speiser said the trustees picked MIG because they wanted to ensure a public process where all stakeholders could weigh in, and she was “disheartened” some commenters didn’t see it that way.

“We found her services because we wanted to have a very open process to get to a long-term agreement with Bullis Charter School,” Speiser said.

Charter school board member Ann Waterman Roy spoke during the community comment portion of the discussion, noting that she was speaking for herself and not as a representative of the board.

Waterman Roy said she was excited the full community will be able to be part of the public engagement process, and she wants to make sure voices from the charter school are included.

“I hope that this process can really focus on developing a solution that meets the needs of the entire community,” she said.

Los Altos School District trustee Bryan Johnson thanked Waterman Roy for coming and said he hoped to get more information from the charter school’s board about which facilities options would be doable and which would be nonstarters.

To review MIG’s proposal, visit lasdschools.org to find the agenda for the May 28 meeting.

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