After sometimes-strident discussion, the Santa Clara County Board of Education voted 5-2 to approve Bullis Charter School's request to operate for five more years, through June 2017.
The board placed some conditions on its approval, including broader recruitment of students, although the language of the restrictions has yet to be worked out.
Critics of the charter, including trustee Anna Song, wanted the board to delay approval Wednesday night in order to persuade Bullis to change admission preferences, commit to enrolling more underserved students, drop its current lawsuit against the Los Altos School District and submit to binding arbitration with the school district. Bullis backers have sued the district four times. Song and trustee Grace Mah dissented in the vote.
Song believes that the school did not comply with state rules that charters serve academically struggling students, and that it acts more like a private school by leaning on parents to donate $5,000 a year plus, for fifth- and sixth-grade students, pay about $2,000 for annual field trips...
The Bullis Charter School Board of Directors has filed paperwork to appeal a November decision in which the Santa Clara County Superior Court upheld the Los Altos School District in a dispute over facilities. Bullis Charter School filed a lawsuit June 10 requesting that the court define the district’s legal obligation in providing facilities for the charter school. Proposition 39, passed in the 2000 election, mandates that districts must provide “reasonably equivalent space” for charter school students who reside within district boundaries. The charter school currently shares space with Egan Junior High School on West Portola Avenue. Judge James P. Kleinberg issued a ruling in November rejecting all but one of the charter school’s petitions…
The lawsuits have created a financial burden for the school district, according to Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services. As of October, the school district has spent $200,000 in legal fees, and previous filings cost $300,000 to defend, he said…[NOTE: Taxpayers pay a double amount for the legal costs when charter schools and districts fight. Charter schools are paying their lawyers out of their publicly-provided budgets, too. Additional expenses incurred are the courtroom costs.]
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has ruled in favor of the Los Altos School District in a lawsuit brought by Bullis Charter School over shared facilities. The Hon. James P. Kleinberg Nov. 24 ruled the school district made available "reasonably equivalent and contiguous facilities" for the charter school. Charter supporters had contended the district did not provide adequate facilities required under Proposition 39.
While the judge did note that the district and the charter school should work out an agreement regarding shared use of outdoor, non-teaching space, the charter's petition for seventh grade space, classroom teaching space and non-teaching space was denied…
"It appears to the court from the record presented and the history of disputes between the parties that some of the charter School's supporters are motivated by a strongly held yet entirely unjustified sense of superior entitlement to the Gardner Bullis Elementary School site, likely stemming from deep resentment over the closure of the former Bullis-Purissima Elementary School. This position undermines the charter school's credibility, as despite occasional remarks to the contrary it repeatedly (and unconvincingly) suggests that the only possible outcome which would fully satisfy the goals of the Charter Schools Act would be for it to be given the Gardner Bullis Elementary School site."
The court further concluded that, "To the extent that some of the Charter School's supporters cannot reconcile themselves to policy decisions made by elected bodies such as the school district board their energies might be better directed at the ballot box than the courthouse."
District Board President David Pefley said: "Although all prior lawsuits brought by the Santa Clara County sponsored Bullis Charter School have achieved similar, unsuccessful results, the district does not believe that expensive lawsuits should be used as a weapon against school districts in an attempt to force concessions from the district beyond what they are entitled to by Prop. 39. LASD has taken great care to be compliant with all requirements. BCS has insisted on prolonging its expensive and time consuming legal tactics at the great expense of the district's children and the community."
Superintendent Tim Justus said "The Los Altos School District is relieved that now for the fourth consecutive time, a judge has ruled that the District has upheld its legal obligations and has offered reasonably equivalent facilities to the county sponsored Bullis Charter School, and we sincerely hope that the charter school will discontinue its practice of continuous lawsuits which waste the community's money and distract from the educating of our children."