The following is the view of the author and does not necessarily represent the view of the LANN board.
As reported in the Town Crier on May 27, the Bullis Charter School Foundation offered to donate $3 million to the Los Altos School District in exchange for “exclusive use of the Gardner Bullis Campus.” The offer was declined by LASD, as reported in the Crier, “at least while the charter remains independent of the district.”
I had some questions after I read that article. For example, I wondered how long the offer had been available to the District. I also wondered why I hadn’t heard anything about it. Information about the relationship between the Charter School and the District that came my way always seemed to be cloaked in strong opinions and dire predictions.
On March 20th, the verbal offer was made to the Los Altos Elementary School Board and the information became a matter of public record. Unfortunately, very few residents were in the audience that evening, so the offer continued to fly under the radar. By now, most of you have heard of the offer. I thought it might be interesting to share with you the speaker’s notes from the March board meeting where the offer was presented. For me it answers some questions:
My name is David Spector and I am the Chair of the Bullis-Purissima Elementary School Foundation. I am speaking today to offer a better way forward.
On multiple occasions over the last few years our Foundation has offered “several million dollars” to the District if it and Bullis Charter School reach an agreement to move BCS to the Gardner Bullis site. I have recently been told that this offer is not specific enough to start negotiations, so tonight I will try to get more specific. If the District provides BCS long term exclusive use of the Gardner campus, then, in addition to the statutory fees BCS pays for facilities, our Foundation will contribute $3 million to the District.
I understand that there are related issues that would need to be worked out, which is why I have been trying to start negotiations. BCS could expand its enrollment and admit current Gardner students to BCS if they wish. BCS could also adjust its lottery preference to match the current Gardner attendance area. BCS is open to discussing other terms with the District, so long as the characteristics of BCS that make it successful and attractive to so many local families remain intact.
The alternative to a negotiated solution is not attractive. BCS educates about 10% of the public elementary school students in the District. Should it choose to expand, BCS has enough in-district applicants for next year to fill up to eight kindergarten classrooms as well as new classrooms at other grade levels. It is also planning a middle school expansion. The law requires that the site and facilities offered to BCS by the District be reasonably equivalent to those of District schools students would otherwise attend. More BCS students would otherwise attend Gardner than any other District school, and it is hard to see how portables on roughly 6 acres for about 350 in-district students are reasonably equivalent to a newly built campus on almost 10 acres for about 200 students. Further encroaching on Egan middle school and building more comparable facilities is not an attractive option for the District.
I have consulted with the BCS Board Chair who confirms this offer is in accordance with longstanding BCS Board policy.
I urge this Board to put the past behind it and constructively work with us to negotiate a solution that provides superior public education choices for all local families without requiring substantially more money from local taxpayers. Thank You. For more information see: www.bullischarterschool.com.
Note: Please see also Part I of “Behaving Badly in School” above for a more detailed look at the issue of funding of LASD and the Bullis Charter School. Part II of that article in September will discuss the specifics of the offer described here and the potential economic impact on LASD.