Monday, August 1, 2016

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Open Invitation

I have often extended this one-by-one, but I want to extend an invitation to ANYONE who would like to discuss any of my posts, or the topic of whether or not BCS is meeting the intentions of the charter school laws, or if it is just a semi-private school taking funds from the public school system. I can (almost) always be reached at my email:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Is there such a thing as homophonic meetings

So, over the last few weeks, I was fortunate to attend two meetings about "How we (LASD & BCS) can successfully share Blach" (or at least, I thought that was the purpose of the meetings)
On Weds, May 22nd at Covington, I believe - Doug Smith and Sandra McGonagle did a great job of describing how Blach would be "shared" among LASD and BCS students, even going so far as to alter the Blach starting time to accomodate the addition of the new students from BCS.  I left this meeting jazzed that it seemed we could finally find a mutual ground of respect and collaboration upon which we could build as a community.
On Weds, June 5 at BCS - after a wonderful student concert, Wanny scheduled an introduction of BCS' two new executives (both of whom seemed very nice), along with a discussion of how BCS intended to use Blach.  After the community discussion the prior week, I was anticipating the meeting, and looking forward to hearing how the communities could work together.  Unfortunately, what I heard was Wanny doing a great job of isolating the Bullis program, and attempting to describe any possible way that they were better/unique.  Starting with before/after pics of some of the facilities improvements that BCS has made "on their own dime", which I'm only assuming was done to show that they can make lemonade from lemons, but to me seemed to me to be the same things that all schools are doing through PTA contributions.  The only discussion of Blach usage was about a new FabLab program (very interesting concept, but certainly not collaborative), and didn't touch at all upon which students would be a Blach, when, how it will be decided, etc.  I'm not sure if I missed something between the lines, but I left there assuming that there must be some other meeting where they will actually discuss the details, because otherwise they have nothing but marketing fluff (I don't mean this as an insult to marketing people, but as an ex engineer, this is how I felt when attending shows where it appeared that there was more style than substance).  I hope that this "other" meeting will happen soon, and I am able to attend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Latest LASD Board meeting

I was fortunate to have the in-laws who were able to watch the kids tonight so that I could attend the latest LASD board meeting.  The highlight of the meeting was the presentation by Mrs McGonagle and a couple of her students about their field trip to Yosemite.  She really is an impressive leader.

The rest of the meeting was a familiar back and forth attempting to properly allocate facilities among all Los Altos "public" school students, without actually having all of the data (at least historically accurate data) from BCS.

And finally, it sounds like we have seen the end of the "open, public" discussions between the BCS board and the LASD board.  What started out as a seemingly hopeful, public set of meetings broken up into "short term" and "long term" discussions had devolved into "private, mediated negotiations", and now have seemingly reached an impasse.  It appears that BCS will remain insistent on being treated like "every other LASD public school", yet is not willing or able to have a representative student population.  Despite their attempts at "outreach", somehow the less privileged kids seem to be avoiding BCS.  The BCS board seems quite intelligent and accomplished.  I wonder if they are actually trying to address this issue, or if they even see this as a concern that should be addressed?!?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Why am I Fru-strated

My wife and I LOVED our house(s) in downtown Mountain View. She was "The girl next door". I was the "peeping Tom" (ironically, she was the one who noted that you could see into her house from mine, I hadn't even noticed, but I needed a nickname). We walked our dog all around the neighborhood. We walked downtown to meet friends, or to get a bite to eat. Our daughter was born in a beautiful home birth in our own bathtub. We loved everything, UNTIL I started to look into schools, and found out that we were in "worst performing (according to API), by a large margin, elementary school district in the area - Castro". NOTE: I believe that this school has continued to improve, like the rest of the neighborhood, but I was not patient enough to wait. Despite the fact that we loved our location, we decided to sell our two houses and set up roots in a great family-oriented neighborhood with a wonderful neighborhood school system (LASD). Unfortunately, at the time, I didn't know anything about the brewing "battle over bullis". I still remember biking with my daughter to her first day of kindergarten. I've enjoyed volunteering at the school when I am able, and getting a chance to meet her classmates and their families. The environment was the epitome of what I had dreamt for my family, EXCEPT for the ongoing lawsuits against the district from the charter school. Now, don't get me wrong. I voted for charter schools, because I envisioned them as a viable alternative for what I saw as some failing public schools. I still believe that some solution is needed to improve the educational opportunities for those less fortunate. BUT, I am 100% against a charter school that was founded out of spite (mistaken, in hindsight, closing of last public school in the hills), and I believe is being used to further political motivations (fight labor unions, republicans vs democrats, etc) AND/OR offer a government subsidized private education to the wealthy. I was surprised when I met some neighbors who are attending Pinewood, because I felt like I had just invested my whole life savings to move into a house in LASD, but now I respect those people's decisions more than ever. I think that I agree with the "concept" of school choice, but in my world, choice costs money. When I grew up, we all had "choice" - we could attend our local public school, or pay to attend any number of private, catholic, etc schools. Now, before you envision a wealthy environment like our own, I grew up with a single, full-time working mother, and we lived in the same small two bedroom apartment for 20+ years. We didn't really have any choices, but you know what, we were happy. That brings me back to our situation here in Los Altos. It seems such a travesty to me that we are fighting these battles between LASD and BCS when EVERY person in this fight absolutely has access to an excellent, free public education, something that many in our country do not have access. Maybe, someday, we can focus our efforts and energy on fixing a real problem, liking helping kids who truly lack a viable education.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Are School, Zip Code, & City Snobbery the same thing?

One would think that growing up in suburban Philly, I would be eminently familiar with the concept of Zip Code Snobbery, which emanated a couple of hours away from me in lovely NYC.  I wasn't exactly living in the hood, although I did get sucker punched one time at the local mall because the guy wanted to rob me (funny story for another day).  Ironically, it took me to move all of the way across the country to California before I experienced snobbery.  I knew that there was the "rich" school in our district when I was young, but that was mostly because they had bigger houses (or any houses at all) and their baseball/basketball/football teams dwarfed ours in size, but I guess that I was lucky to grow up not longing for what other people had.  I was happy with anything that my mother was able to provide for me, and I was extremely happy later in life when I was able to buy her a house and repay a fraction of what she had given me over the years.  Yet here, we seem to have so much, and never enough.
We have the best public school district that I have ever seen (LASD), yet we have a long line of people looking for something more.  This in and of itself is not the problem, because there are MANY fine private options in the area that offer hosts of cool features and great people.  BUT, even then, people want more, or maybe I should say, they want “less” (tuition than private, class sizes than LASD, diversity slowing the progression of their children, etc).  So fine, the law says that you can do it, so create a different type of school and call it a charter.  Take some funds, but not all of them, follow some rules, but not all of them, but WHY keep suing our district?  Many charter schools choose to self-site, and if you can point to any of those who have more financial wherewithal than the founders of BCS, I’d love to meet them.    Then again, maybe not…
If 10 years of fruitless looking has proven anything, it has shown that it is difficult to find available land within LASD's boundaries.  So maybe it really is time to think "outside of the box".  BCS was chartered by SCCBOE (i.e. a body serving more than Los Altos Hills).  BCS is attended by people from (at least) Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, and Mountain View, but I'm sure some more too, maybe even including Sunnyvale?!?  If BCS won't decide to self site and build a spankin new, world class shrine to intelligence and riches, I think that the Raynor site in Sunnyvale could be a great, easily accessible location to build a wonderful SCCBOE Charter School - you can even keep the name BCS :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Summer Must be Over

Fortunately, the weather around here rarely changes, but I can tell that summer is over because I just wasted 2 hours of my life at another pointless BCS/LASD board meeting.  This time, it was the BCS board meeting, which I had been anticipating attending since last week.  The "plan", was for some members of the growth task force to jointly present their findings, and discuss how we can all work together.  Ironic, given what transpired.

Luckily, I found out about the last minute change in venue before I left my house, but UNFORTUNATELY, the change in venue occurred too late for the LASD board members to attend because they had to adhere to their publicly committed venue due to the Brown act.  Where did this leave us?  With just enough time to listen and learn the following:

  • Apparently, LASD has locked BCS out of the new rooms at Blach until the facilities agreement is signed.  Unfortunately, this is preventing teachers from preparing for a successful start to the year, which is not what anyone wants.
  • I don't know why the agreement is needed now, and wasn't before.  I also don't know why it hasn't been signed.  Basically, I don't know anything about it.
  • I don't know why BCS moved the venue of this board meeting, but it had the unfortunate effect of spiraling a once promising collaborative meeting out of control into a useless waste of time
  • Joe H was visibly upset with Doug for his lack of collaboration on this matter, which is quite unfortunate since they had appeared to develop a mutually respectful relationship up to this point
  • No presence of LASD, including Jeff B, the board, etc, so none of the planned agenda items were discussed in the open session
  • There seemed to be some discussion about a nice program that BCS held for low income students, but unfortunately I missed most of it because I had to step outside in my disgust at both board's behaviors
All around, a colossal waste of time for all.  We can count this as the "two steps back" portion of our "one step forward" dance... :(