Friday, November 22, 2013

Is Antagonistic Juxtaposition a thing?

I have no idea if those words even go together, but I couldn't help but feel that way tonight.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the BCS board meeting, and had a chance to see some nice videos that they had created around their teamwork.  But the highlight of the night, was listening to each of the teachers stand up and profess their admiration and love for the BCS program and the students.  As much as I may not agree with the actions of the BCS board, it was truly touching to hear from all of the teachers and their enthusiasm for each other, the students, and the impending school year.  I also had the opportunity meet a very nice parent who had recently moved over from LASD to BCS, and we had a very nice conversation about the unrest in the community, and how unfortunate it was.  I certainly wish her, and the rest of the parents in all of the school communities the best, and if she is a good representative of everyone else, I still have hope for accord within our community.

Unfortunately, I didn't just grab a piece of cake and leave with all of the teachers, and I decided to stay and listen to the board for a bit.  It didn't take long for my happy thoughts and goodwill to dissipate.  Somewhere between Andrea's whining and Janet's complaining, my brain started to turn off, and my excited hopeful feeling was gone.  I'm starting to feel like, that if we could only just get rid of members of the boards, the community might actually be able to settle this thing.  But wait, the community has no say over the "public" board of BCS?!?  If only, I had left with the teachers...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Your culture is your brand" - Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos

After seeing the excitement in my daughters eyes as I kissed her goodbye in her classroom for her first day of school, I left with my son on cloud 9.  Despite small challenges we may all face, and in the grand scheme of the world, almost ALL of our challenges are small, our kids have a wonderful opportunity to blossom and grow in this environment, and will hopefully someday help the world become a better place.

That's how I felt when I left the school. Unfortunately, I then took a peek on Twitter, which I check weekly, at best, and was quickly disgusted and saddened.  I remember when the I was hearing about potential picketing/etc related to the lockout.  In an effort to try to come up to speed, I tried to follow the story, and was told (rightly or wrongly, I don't know) that Jay R Reed was the spokesperson for BCS on twitter, so I figured that I'd follow him to better understand what was going on from BCS' perspective.  A few of his posts (below) on Aug 8 seemed to back up this belief:
But, for the sake of all of the kids at BCS, as well as anywhere else, for that matter, I certainly hope that this man has NOTHING to do with BCS, and that they publicly distance themselves from him - which unfortunately, his daughter cannot do :(

The reason for my strong statements, are what I saw when I logged back into twitter today.  I apologize, in advance for putting this out there because these comments are reprehensible, but if this will help just one kid by keeping this guy away from them at BCS, it will be worth it:

Having both a son, and a daughter, I CERTAINLY hope that the beliefs being tweeted (and re-tweeted) by Mr Reed are not representative of, or affiliated with BCS, or frankly, any other institution of learning.
I am just saddened...

A couple of hours pass... And
Perhaps we should be thankful for BCS, because otherwise, Mr Reed might be attending LASD with his daughter...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What is an "Innovative" School

I had the opportunity to attend the SCCBOE meeting tonight, and there wasn't much controversial to report from it (certainly compared to the last meeting that I attended where BCS was presenting their annual report).  One topic that was discussed a little bit, which I found interesting, was the Office of Innovative Schools, which is a growing department under the County Superintendent.  The concept, in and of itself, is not that interesting to me, because I agree with the premise, but what I did find interesting was that they needed to "dispel" the myth that this was the Office of "Charter Schools".  I'm sure that this wasn't a purposeful intention, but just that fact that this department was created, and people "assumed" that it was meant to help with charter school oversight and management just goes to show the faulty assumption that exists that it is difficult to innovate in traditional public schools.  Hopefully, someday, we will be able to break the link that people make between innovation and charters, and recognize that we should really be evaluating which schools are doing the best with the hand that they are dealt, and which schools are counting cards, stacking the deck, and otherwise manipulating the student population in order to segregate and gain a competitive advantage...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Be there or be square...

BCS-LASD Sub-committee Joint Meeting on 2013-2014 FUA

TUESDAY, AUGUST 27, 2013 –7:00 P.M.

Community Meeting Chambers, Los Altos City Hall

One North San Antonio Road, Los Altos, California


1. Opening Statements:
Each side will be given up to 5 minutes.

2. Grade-level Restrictions Imposed to BCS at Blach Campus:
The sub-committee will discuss grade-level restrictions included in the
Facilities Use Agreement.

3. Closing Statements:
Each side will be given up to 5 minutes.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Made me think of Liar's Poker...

I had the opportunity to attend "the beginning" of the joint LASD-BCS meeting/discussion tonight.  Unfortunately (for tonight, but fortunately for all other nights), I didn't realize that the meeting was being webcast, so I attended in person.  I left straight from the Oak Back-to-School night, and made it to the meeting/discussion a few minutes in.  I probably missed a couple of questions/comments from parents, because I as I came in some where still speaking and admonishing the board, but I made it in the for the beginning of the board discussions.  I will try to sum up what I heard, in a nutshell, but I'm sure that I could have missed some nuances (or frankly, some major points):

  • Participating in the meeting were two members of Bullis' board (Joe Hurd and John Phelps, I believe), along with two members of the LASD board (Mark Goines and Steve Taglio), and lastly, a mediator.
  • Joe Hurd presented his perspective of the situation, and Mark Goines presented his.  Following these presentations, the mediator set some ground rules, and the discussion commenced
  • The purposed of tonight's conversation was to discuss the "who can attend Blach aspect of the FUA", specifically the restrictions around younger kids attending.
  • LASD stressed that they are not only representative of the members of the LASD schools, but also of the community at a whole.  This is somewhat different from the BCS board's position, which is to represent the BCS community specifically.
  • Both sides seemed amenable to having an open conversation with the hopes of reaching a mutually agreeable conclusion
  • LASD stated that they needed a better understanding of how BCS wanted to use Blach if they were to be able to be more flexible with their offer
  • Both sides agreed to a 15 minute recess while BCS gathered some data and answers to provide more details around the questions.  And, I had a chance to drive home and listen to the webcast :)
  • BCS gathered the details, and age levels and numbers that they proposed to attend Blach.  Unfortunately, I missed these details, but they seemed to be able to provide enough information to allow the members of the LASD board to go back and speak with the rest of their board about augmenting the offer.
  • A key takeaway from the meeting was that although having the two boards meet and discuss in public, both would need to go back to their full boards before committing to, or making any changes.
  • At the end, there were questions/comments asked from the audience ranging from denigrating our publicly elected officials to "why are we having these conversations when the lawsuits have not ceased?".
My comment about "Liar's Poker" is in reference to the apparent secrecy around which many of the aspects of BCS revolve.  LASD seemed to spend the first half of the meeting repeatedly asking the same question: "Please just give us details about what you would like to do at Blach, so we can make an educated decision regarding what is best for the community as a whole".  BCS family members seem to be happy with the program, which is great, but if BCS wants to be a true PUBLIC school, then they need to be held accountable to the PUBLIC, not just the parents of the school.  This comment in bold is my assessment of the chasm that exists between the two sides, because it seems that BCS is hoping to have the best of both worlds: Take from the public coffers, but not be open with the public about what they're doing.  Something tells me that this is NOT what the taxpayers voted for when the approved the concept of "Charter Schools", which were specifically sold as an attempt to fix broken school systems, NOT a subsidized private education program in one of the best districts in the state?!?

In a nutshell, this discussion was a good first step, but there is still MUCH work to be done...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

So proud of the kids in LASD

Although the title of the article is a bit misleading, LASD has yet again shown that they are doing an excellent job of educating all of our students. At some point, when the scores are so high, they are bound to come down every once in awhile, but I think that the high scores across the board (including ALL students from those with disabilities to those who are English language learners) are a testament to the wonderful area in which we all live. 
Special shout out to our neighborhood school, Oak, which was able to eek out a small increase :)

Most Los Altos Schools Lost Ground on Test Performance in 2013 - Los Altos Patch -

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Attended the BCS-LASD mano a mano discussion tonight

Unfortunately, I was a bit late to the meeting, but the gist that I got from what I did hear was that BCS was looking for some type of guarantee that their kids/teachers would not be locked out, despite the fact that the had explicitly broken the FUA by having their whole school at Egan this week. LASD didn't seem to be able to give BCS the commitment for which they were looking, but they did seem to indicate that they didn't think that it would happen. It does make me wonder if there is any teeth in the agreement that would punish the school/leaders for failing to keep their word, without hurting the kids, but that is for brighter folks than I.
I was quite surprised when the vice mayor of Los altos hills seemed to rather explicitly threaten that if LASD didn't acquiesce to BCS' short term demands, that they would lose the longer term support for a bond. This seemed rather petty and inappropriate to me, but I'm starting to sense that this is how these people play (reminds me of the whole "well, I'll just take all of my toys from the sandbox battles of childhood").
Anyway, aside from not so veiled threats, and the usual complaints from the BCS partisan crowd, I was happy to see that at least the participants from both sides remained civil with one another...

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm confused...

Part of BCS' argument for why they should be able to grow their school indefinitely and still remain on one contiguous site is that "everyone else is"?!?  What?  I continue to see quotes along the lines of "we're the only school in LASD that has to split our program between two sites".  Have they even heard of Blach and Egan?!?  They were actually the only school in the district that DIDN'T have to use two sites for k-8. Otherwise, following their logic, they could decide to add a high school program, university program, grad school, etc, and insist on being co-located by LASD. This may sound crazy, but it's actually not far from what is now happening. This argument that BCS is being slighted by outgrowing their space is so specious, that I don't even know where to start...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Disappointment = The discrepancy between "expectation" and "reality"

I don't know if this is the real actual quote, or not, but it is certainly how I felt tonight after attending the LASD board meeting, and finding out that BCS has backed out of the next "Long Term Planning Meeting", which was scheduled for tomorrow night.  BCS was very interested in having the short term meetings, and seemed equally interested in getting some type of "commitment" from LASD that kids will NOT be locked out of school, despite the fact that LASD has NEVER locked any kids out of school.  This only proved that BCS had zero intention of living up to the agreement that they signed with LASD, and were just concerned that LASD would "call their bluff".  Fortunately, for them, and everyone else, LASD is yet again taking the high road.  I don't know what "teeth" exist in the legal system, but I hope that the BCS board will be made to pay for their blatant lying to the community and misleading marketing.  To be clear, I am not looking for the kids to be punished, because I think that they are just unfortunately victims of a terrible scheme of deceit and political agendas.  Very sad.

Fortunately, despite avoiding Facebook and LOVING IT, I have missed my periodic tete-a-tete with Mr David Roode, but I was not disappointed tonight.  I was fortunate enough to be on this Patch thread, and catch this BEAUTY from David.  Catch the irony in the fact that he is signed in as David, arguing that he is Leroy, and that other people are trying to mislead... as MasterCard would say - Priceless:
David commented on the article "Acrimony Continues After Bullis Signs Facilities Agreement" you commented on in Schools:
Rocky is wrong to mention any name as belonging to me. I am Leroy and Leroy alone. He hides behind "Rocky" and the attempts to assign identity to Leroy. It's just wrong. He might be Doug Smith for all I know. As for what I said about relative finances, that's my opinion and it is borne out by any careful analysis. I can't make that analysis for the reader but what I offered were considerations that do bear on that comparison. It's apples and oranges to compare BCS to LASD, so if you want to get into the price of the fruit, you need to consider the differences. The Joan J Strong individual posting got into pricing... so my comments relate to that. Use them as you will.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

BCS is very good at public relations

At least, if money spent is any indicator, they must be. Did you ever notice that whenever LASD wins a judge's assessment (or BCS loses one), we usually find out through word of mouth or from Doug's blog. But, when BCS wins (or, in this case, when LASD loses) BCS issues formal press releases, etc. I guess we can at least be thankful that this press release, at least, didn't come from that sexist guy again :)
Well, anyway, it sounds like the judge has ruled against LASD in their request to site BCS outside the district (but within the county), since they are chartered by the county. So, what do we know at this point?
- The the county board (SCCBOE) approved BCS' charter after LASD didn't, effectively making BCS LASD's problem.
- This same county board seemed to acknowledge their responsibility in the unrest that exists within Los Altos, and surrounding communities, and seemed to indicate that if things didn't change, that they might not vote the same way at the next renewal. 
- LASD is very pressed for land, and has been looking for a suitable site for BCS within its boundaries for 10 years. 
- LASD also has responsibility for a section of mountain view, known as NEC (or north of El Camino), and mountain view hasn't offered up a school site, thus influencing many people to choose the "local school" - BCS.
- LASD closed the only LASD school in the hills (bullis) 10+ years ago, which led to the formation of the charter because the folks in the hills felt slighted and unrepresented. 
- So it sounds like LASD is between a rock and a hard place, and a hard place...
I don't envy the board, and I hope that cooler heads prevail through these mediated discussions (assuming BCS doesn't cancel again, since its been over 2 weeks since the last chat), but I fear that this latest ruling may just embolden the most aggressive BCS stalwarts.
Here's to wishful thinking...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another disappointing night...

This time, it wasn't even brought on by BCS, actually, the opposite - it was my inability to hear the LASD/BCS mediation tonight. I was surprised that I couldn't easily find a webcast of the meeting, so I took my kids directly from softball, gave them some quesadillas to go, and we headed over to Los Altos Hills to find out how I could listen/watch the live webcast. Despite the fact that there were two people videotaping (with big, official looking cameras), I was told that a video would be available after the weekend :(
Anyway, while my kids were downing their food, I only got to hear:
- BCS parent saying to LASD that she would only support a bond if she knew that it would help BCS.  The mayor cut her off at some point. 
- Then the mayor asked both sides to issue a statement, a request for which neither of them seemed prepared
Unfortunately, I needed to head home with the kids at this point, but hopefully we'll hear an account from someone who was present...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Many thanks to Mayor Waldeck

It's a long watch (about 90 minutes), but Mr. Waldeck did a great job of clarifying and facilitating the conversation between Doug Smith/Tammy Logan & Peter Evans/Francis La Poll.  Thanks to Doug for posting the video of last night's session at

I was told by someone who attended the meeting last night that it was civil, and there weren't many disputes.  My perspective after watching this is a bit different.  At the 10k ft level, it sounded to me like LASD was saying "We need to come up with a solution that will work for the community as a whole (parents, singles, elderly, etc)" and BCS kept saying "We want some security that if we work with you, that you will not threaten the existence of our school".  Both are eminently reasonable positions, but unfortunately one appears to be a bit more narcissistic than the other.

There was a bit of pulling hairs, but it sounds like the next meeting will be on the 16th.  Be there, or be square... :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

More thanks to Mayor Waldeck

I continue to be impressed with his level-headedness, and his ability to listen to, and actually 'hear', both sides of the story. I can see that his years of program management experience are being put to good use.  In regards to the specifics of last night's meeting, it started with a proposal from Doug (LASD) - would BCS be willing to waive their attendance preferences for folks from the hills?  The rationale for his request was:
- if, we are trying to appeal to the broader los altos community, who would be paying for the additional parcel tax
- because, Bullis Purrissma (the LASD elementary school that was closed for renovation 10+ years ago, a closure that caused the rationale for the creation of the charter school - if you doubt this at all, listen to Francis La Poll for a few minutes, and you won't) has been reopened for many years, so the kids in the hills do have a local LASD school again
- then, by waiving the preference, it would show that BCS is actually trying to appeal to the broader community more than it is trying to cherry pick the easiest students

This seemingly innocuous suggestion devolved into into a disappointing meeting including such gems as:
- Francis saying that BCS actually does a "better job" with special needs kids, because they mainstream all of them (I honestly don't know whether this comment is just intended to be misleading, or just ignorant, but if anyone doesn't think that BCS is even creaming the special needs children by taking those who can excel while "discouraging"  those who require more help and score lower on tests, then that person is just not paying attention)
- Doug quoted numbers from BCS' chartering agency that said that LASD has 12.9% ELL (English Language Learners) while BCS has 1.8%. Hmm, this doesn't seem to be a representative slice?!?  Again, I'm not sure if the BCS representatives were trying to be misleading, but they kept quoting that they have a larger number of ELL in their latest kinder (I think that the number was 16 or 20 - I wonder how many are Hispanic, and how many are children of PHD students at Stanford?!?) as if this number was "larger " than 12.9, an incongruous statement of comparing a raw number with a percentage. 
The consistency with which BCS representatives make misleading statements, either intentionally or ignorantly, is staggering.

Abbott and Costello would be proud...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kudos to the team for exhibiting patience

When Mr La Poll clearly, and repeatedly, stated that these public discussions were fruitless, and that they should be meeting behind closed doors, I thought that the meeting would end right there.  I appreciate the efforts of Mayor Waldeck, Doug, Tammy, and Peter to override Francis' cynicism and attempts to derail any discussion. Frankly, the fact that the group seemed to achieve a mild consensus that holding the BCS attendance at current levels, vs continuing to grow and stress the facilities and neighborhoods, could actually be beneficial to passing a bond, was a minor miracle. After hearing Mr La Poll's comments about the fact that they don't want LASD involved in their stuff, as Doug and Tammy kept pressing in order to learn (you know, kind of like the spirit of the law to innovate and share successes), combined with his desire, nay, insistence, to have these discussions behind closed doors left me with only one conclusion - BCS (or at least Francis' vision of it) is NOT a public school. I'm not sure if this vision is shared by BCS' other board members, but I was impressed/surprised with his frankness in underscoring this fact tonight. Ironically, they could have self sited anytime in the last 10 years, or now, but then what could they sue LASD for...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Another board meeting night, another board meeting conflict...

In honor of Mr La Poll's attitude during the last Long Term Facilities discussion, I thought that this gif was apropos...
I'm not sure how this came to be, because I remember the LASD and BCS boards attempting to arrange their meetings to NOT conflict, but somehow they are again at the same day/time, so interested attendees had the option of choosing one meeting or the other. I believe that many folks attended the BCS board meeting, so I look forward to hearing about their board's unprofessional antics, but I choose to take my stress level down one notch and attend the LASD board meeting. After some great discussion about what was going on with STEM in the district, we got to the BCS portion of the agenda (always a highlight). I was quite surprised to hear one BCS parent stand up and lament the fact that her kids are in portables and don't have a cafeteria. Other than the fact that most of the kids in LASD are in the same boat (I know that mine at Oak are), we really need to get past these petty arguments/complaints about facilities, and the two boards need to reach an agreement. I was cautiously optimistic when there were two sets of board discussions going on simultaneously (one about short term facilities needs of BCS - i.e. younger kids at Blach, more flexibility to have their whole student body on one site more often, etc AND one about longer a longer term facilities agreement that would hopefully end this prop 39 groundhog day that we have all been suffering through). Unfortunately, the short term meetings appear to be awaiting BCS to respond with some data, and the long term meetings seem to be waiting for Mr La Poll to return in a couple of weeks. Given the fact that our progress seemed to be tenuous, at best, the lack of progress towards the end of last week and presumably this week is disheartening. Hopefully, people will take the high road, and agree to meet in public to hash things out. Otherwise, the prop 39 clock is ticking, and this may all be for naught this year :( At the LASD board meeting we did have another interesting discussion, about full-day kinder. I was actually excited, since I have an incoming kinder next year, but I was surprised at the number of parents who were against it. Hopefully the board can come up with a plan to meet the needs of both parents who want "less kinder, more play" for their kids, and those who are already exposing their kids to more schooling in preschool than LASD kinder is offering, and consider a half-day kinder to be a step back. Not saying that either side is right or wrong, but I do hope that the LASD board can come up with a plan to help everyone.

Monday, October 7, 2013

And like that, he's gone...

Borrowing a Great line from a Great movie, I can't help but feel like Keyser Soze... As excited as we all were that these discussions were happening in a public forum, I assume that we are equally disappointed that they seem to have ended. I sincerely hope that BCS will come back to the table and be willing to meet in public again.  I guess it has given me the opportunity/time to go back through the public comments from past meetings in order to better understand people's perspectives. My original intention was to be able to better understand the fact that Mr Radford approached me after the last meeting saying that I had misrepresented him. Since I am easily confused these days, I wanted to go back through and re-watch his points. I have posted my comment here, followed by his comment on the same day which precipitated it, as well as two other comments that he has made during these public sessions. I'll leave it to you to make your own decisions regarding his message and intention, but I would like to publicly apologize to him if I misunderstood and/or misrepresented his message. Without further ado, here are the 4 video snippets, in their entirety:
What I said:

What Mr Radford said a few minutes earlier (which precipitated me getting up):

What Mr Radford said at a meeting a few days earlier:
(first comment, and reminds me a bit of when someone says "don't take this the wrong way...", and you know that they're going to rip you after that, as if preliminary statement softens their eventual statement)
And the day before:
(Lockout hurt chances for a bond issue, as if nothing precipitated it)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Comments from BCS Families

In attempting to find Mr Radford's comments, because he was concerned that I misrepresented him with mine, I ended up going through all of the public comments.  I have broken them into three posts:
1. Comments from BCS Families
2. Comments from LASD Parents
3. Comments from community members (without students in BCS or LASD)
I have found the public comments to be quite enlightening, so enjoy...
This first post is the comments from BCS Families.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Comments from Community Members (without students in LASD or BCS)

In attempting to find Mr Radford's comments, because he was concerned that I misrepresented him with mine, I ended up going through all of the public comments.  I have broken them into three posts:
1. Comments from BCS Parents
2. Comments from LASD Parents
3. Comments from community members (without students in BCS or LASD) - my assumption is based upon whether or not they said that they have kids in their introduction
I have found the public comments to be quite enlightening, so enjoy... YouTube: Control Embedded Player With JavaScript API
You need Flash player 10.1 (or higher) and JavaScript enabled to view this video.
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