Friday, September 26, 2014

Criticality of upcoming elections...

I've been feeling really good the past few months, which have meant that I haven't made any posts :)  Given the 5 year peace agreement between LASD and BCS, I was cautiously hopeful that my "posting days" may be over - and no, I'm not Joan Strong.

But now, with the upcoming elections, my peace has been interrupted, and my "concern antennae" have been piqued.  I've attempted to send "Letters to the Editor" of the Town Crier, but to date, nothing has been printed.  Hopefully, I will be able to get the word out before the election, so that the vast majority of the Los Altos voters who are not as aware of the details, are more informed voters.

Concern #1:
So, we are coming up to the election period for 3 LASD board seats, and I think that it is very important that the electorate is educated about the candidates. While parents of school-age children are probably aware, a majority of the voters in Los Altos do not fall into this category. With that being said, there are 5 candidates for three positions:
- Vladimir Ivanovich - current Gardner Bullis parent
- Tammy Logan - incumbent and former Loyola parent
- Martha McClatchie - current Bullis Charter School parent
- Sangeeth Peruri - current Covington parent
- John Swan - former Bullis Charter School founding family

I believe that it is important that all voters are aware of this, given the past 10 years of litigation by Bullis Charter School against LASD. I believe that Martha and John could be great members of the Bullis Charter board, but unfortunately the public does not have any say or vote in the BCS board's composition.  Fortunately, we do for the public LASD schools, so please make your voice heard by voting.

Concern #2:
The upcoming vote for Measure N, which I loosely describe as a $150 million bond with the intended purpose of providing a 10th site for the 10 schools for which LASD is responsible for facilities as well as a prioritized upgrading of the facilities across the district, many of which are quite outdated despite the wealth in the area, and the great results of the schools.  

LASD currently has seven elementary schools and two middle schools, but for the past 10 years has also been forced by the courts to house a charter school (BCS) chartered by Santa Clara County.  LASD has done the best that they can to house them, and have now provided facilities at both middle schools, which have more space than any of the elementary schools (for bigger kids).  Despite the fact the BCS is not chartered by LASD and LASD has only one configuration which has worked for ALL of their schools (K-6  elementary and 7-8 middle), Santa Clara and the courts have allowed BCS to create a different configuration (K-8) and fight for facilities to which no other K-6 kids in LASD have access.

There is still some serious doubt as to whether or not Measure N will pass, and the most common reason for voting 'No' has been called out as "I don't want to pay for a shiny new school for the charter.  Can't they just pay for their own, like many other charters do".

But, unfortunately, I believe that this is a classic example of "cutting off our noses to spite our faces".  The little detail that many voters are missing is the the current configuration of splitting BCS across the two middle schools isn't working.  You know, that old idea that we like to call "sharing".  So, LASD may be forced to hand over an existing elementary school site to BCS if they are not able to find/buy a new one.

Let me make this perfectly clear - BCS will probably be getting their own site within the next 5 years, whether we pass the bond, or not.  The difference will be, if we don't pass the bond, the remaining 8 LASD schools (those that do not lose their site to BCS) will most likely all be affected - i.e. 
6th graders moving up to middle school for Logistical/Space reasons, despite the fact that the district has specifically avoided this over the years for educational reasons
fitting 7 elementary schools' worth of kids into 6 schools - aka, many kids will be reshuffled for logistical reasons, not educational reasons

In conclusion, regarding Concern #1, I see no reason why a school that has been suing LASD for the past 10 years should have representation on the board, and many reasons why they should not.  Unfortunately, you'll notice very little information (signage, marketing, etc) which will educate the non school-age public as to Mrs McClatchie's and Mr Swan's affiliation with BCS, so I can only hope that the Los Altos voters make an informed decision.  And, regarding Measure N, the answer to "I don't want to support the charter" is NOT to not vote for the bond.  With the bond, all LASD schools AND BCS will benefit.  Without the bond, only BCS will likely benefit, and the other schools will suffer.
Please be an informed voter.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Confusing board meeting tonight

I feel like I have been a little out of the loop, but tonight's LASD board meeting was a little confusing to me.  On the positive side, the consultants who are helping with the bond surveys seemed to indicate that the polling is trending up, and is looking quite positive for the ability to pass the bond in the upcoming election.  BUT, I was very confused when the discussion of the bond indicated that we are looking at one new school (rather than two).  When I was last following along, I thought that the bond would be able to fund TWO schools (a new LASD school to help alleviate growth and overcrowding concerns - i.e. keep small school model, and a new school for BCS - so they won't have to be on shared grounds at Egan/Blach in portables).  Tonight, my takeaway is that the bond would be used to fund ONE new school, but we didn't get into the specifics of "for whom", or "how would the logistics work"?  For example, if this is a new school for LASD, would be BCS be getting an existing LASD school, or still be split between Blach/Egan (something that I don't think would go over very well)?  Or, if the new school is for BCS, does that mean that BCS would get new facilities, while LASD would still be overcrowded in the existing facilities?
Also, no one has ever been able to explain to me how BCS can claim that they need to have an integrated K-8 program collocated on one site when:
1. they didn't start out that way
2. LASD (i.e. the school district to which they claim to be related) doesn't have any schools like that

Many questions to be answered in the coming months, before the election, but it sounds like the polling is trending up...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Elves (Trolls) Support Charters

So, I looked up a synonym for Troll, as many people believe someone with the initials of DR might be, and I found out that the top synonym was Elf. Is it just a coincidence that the acronym for the new group in Los Altos with the apparent goal of spreading FUD prior to the upcoming elections is Each Student Counts (, aka Elves (or Trolls) Supporting Charters?

The leadership group of this "non-partisan team", is comprised of:
Rob Fagen - spent many years at Netflix, home of the influential charter magnate, Reed Hastings
David Roode - a name of infamy to those folks on Facebook who hope to have honest conversations about options, only to be continually undermined by Mr Roode
Jill Jene - a very vocal antagonist of the LASD school board who speaks about the unfair treatment of BCS at most LASD board meetings (funnily enough, I've never heard her speak at a BCS board meeting?!?)

One of the first pieces of FUD released by this esteemed group is the following:
This ALMOST seems compelling, except that it is incredibly thin analysis, and leaves out certain important information, which makes things look a little bit more like this:
In a nutshell, LASD antagonists often complain that LASD is taxing (hence spending) more than comparable, neighboring districts.  When little variables like business taxes, etc are normalized, or accounted for, the picture shows the fabulous job that the LASD team (board, staff, students, etc) are doing with similar or less funding.
Perhaps "Elves Supporting Charters" just mistakenly sent the wrong graph to the town crier?!?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

First board member declares for LASD race

I'm a bit behind in this post, but aside from my forgetfulness, that is largely due the conflict in my mind and not wanting to hurt anyone for whom I have such respect. Martha was a fellow parent at Oak elementary, with one of her three daughters in my daughter's class. She is a very respected member of the community, and does a lot for the girls (especially through her Girl Scouts leadership). I was quite saddened when she decided to pull her girls from Oak to attend BCS, but I respected her decision to do so. When I saw the article in the town crier about Martha running for the LASD school board, my initial gut reaction was one of concern. Normally, I would be 100% behind an LASD parent running for the board, and against a BCS parent, because of the history of vitriol, litigation, etc between BCS and LASD. While I understand that LASD is our "community school district", and anyone in the community should be eligible to sit on the board, I can't imagine how anyone associated with BCS could fairly hold a seat on the LASD board, given BCS' litigious nature, and the fact that unfortunately much of the LASD board's time appears to be dealing with the various lawsuits brought on by BCS. If there were ever a conflict of interest in being on the LASD board, it would seem to me that being affiliated with BCS would squarely fit the criteria. As has been the case from the beginning, I'm still hoping that BCS gives up their "political/financial war that they have waged upon the citizens of Los Altos", and decide to self-site. Lost in the more than a decade (yes, we can now say this) of fighting is the fact that many charter schools self-site. Can you believe what a wonderful school, and addition to our community, BCS could have been if they would have just used their ample funds to self-site, and still have the same wonderful programs. LASD would have more than $1million more for the LASD students every year, and I'm sure that BCS would have the same. Funny, that I've never heard this perspective from someone associated with BCS. I always hear "we deserve", or "we're being discriminated against", but not "here's what we can do for the broader Los Altos community" - starting with self-siting, partnering with LASD, providing facilities and programs for the disadvantaged, etc". Now, that is a message that I could really get behind. Alas, I'm not holding my breath. All of this being said, I truly like and respect Martha and her family. She is a pillar of, and an asset to our community, and would make a wonderful member of the BCS Board.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Conclusion of depo...

Listening to David Spector being deposed in 2013, and the attorney deposing him spins him in a few interesting circles, but one that confused me a little bit - when the attorney asked him if BCS would have been given a school for the original offer of 3 million (which apparently was BCS' offer for the Bullis site in LAH) would they have dropped the litigation?  Mr Spector responded that the lawsuits are about "more than getting a school".  Was he referring to something else in Los Altos, or was he talking about a broader political movement?!?

Another interesting point was a review of an email from an original donor of the "Site Fund". This donor was concerned about the impacts of the lawsuits upon the community, and asked that the funds specifically be allocated to purchasing a site, and not lawsuits. Mr Spector didn't really have a response to this concern, although he did talk for a bit...

Another funny back and forth:
Deposing attorney: so, you said that there is a Site Fund that was used to pay for litigation, but in your view there was no "litigation fund".  And the single largest expense of the site fund has been litigation, but in your mind this is not a litigation fund?!?  Abbott and Costello would be proud - Who's on first?...

An email from Spector to a community member:
To make a donation on our legal fund all you need to do is make a check payable to "BPESF" and write "for Legal Fund". But wait, there's no legal fund, right???

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I used to like "The Depot"...

Having worked in San Carlos for 8+ years, I was very fond of "The Depot" for breakfast meetings.  Unfortunately, the "Depo" that I sat through the past few nights wasn't nearly as good. Along with a few other members of our community, I had the opportunity to see the deposition of Ken Moore and David Spector (partial) by an attorney from Reed Smith regarding the never-ending legal battles between LASD and BCS. 
Although the content was rather dry, there were a few interesting tidbits that arose from it, like;
- the BCS Foundation was formed with the mission of returning public ed to west of foothill (ie the hills). For those who are not as aware of the history, I believe that this all spawned from the closure of the only public LASD school in Los Altos Hills.  From what I understood, LASD had some hard decisions to make, due to declining enrollment, so the decided to close the smallest school in the district.  In hindsight, I don't think that they realized the power and fortitude of the people who they angered by this maneuver.  Not to mention the town/leadership of Los Altos Hills.
- the "site fund" that was initial formed from $5mil in donations had been collecting interest.  Over time, this interest was used to fund lawsuits against LASD. Over more time, some of the principal has been used too. Guess LASD knows what it is up against now...
- influential parent volunteers spearheaded the fundraising and site identification. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ah, the trials of being a "public" school

Hopefully this letter below is a sign that the SCCBOE is becoming more serious about actually "monitoring" BCS (you know, the role that they signed up for as authorizers), but I fear that this might be a mere appeasement to the public who is concerned about the school's practices. I guess we'll see at renewal time... (sorry, reposting this because I didn't do it correctly last night. Now, you should be able to see/download the letter from the SCCBOE)