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... :(

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

From Lenin to Lennon

Hmm, never knew that the old "one step forward, two steps back" was a Vladimir Lenin quote?!?  While I'm on that trajectory, I'll borrow some wise words from a different Lennon - "Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one."  I, too, hope that we will all put down our differences, and work together in the best interests of educating ALL of our children, not just those biologically related to us.

I now understand a little bit more about what transpired in the meeting yesterday, and I'm disappointed to say that it sounds like the fact that the BCS teachers are "locked out of the new Blach facilities" seems to be caused by BCS' unwillingness to sign the document stipulating the agreement around the facilities use agreement (FUA).  Without the signed agreement, furnishing access seems like it would be a bit of putting the cart before the horse - especially, since one side seems to have a particularly itchy legal trigger finger.  Hopefully, the lawyers can work faster than the marketers, and we can sign the agreement and move forward on another fun filled year of edu-leg-cat-al-ion...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

MOUs, FUAs, TLAs, oh my...

Sorry for my Freudian slip of the finger, but it sounds like the dispute is over whether or not BCS will sign the FUA (Facilities Use Agreement) - who was the funny guy who nicknamed it the FU agreement :)  For the conspiracy theorists out there (you know who you are), this document is perfectly reasonable, and is a part of the standard charter package of stuff, which you can find here:
Long story short, LASD and BCS used to use this agreement.  BCS sued over the legality of it, so it wasn't used the past couple of years while the judge deliberated.  The judge ruled in favor of the district, so the agreement is back.  Seems pretty straightforward to me, but I'm sure the conspiracy theorists out there will concoct some ulterior story/motives...

Friday, February 21, 2014

To self-site, or not to self-site?

Apologies to Mr Shakespeare, but apparently that is the question. Why do some charters choose to provide their own facilities, while others piggyback on the local district to furnish them?  Seems to me that finances would play a role here, because low income areas would be dependent upon help from the government. But what about the richest 1%?  Seems that they could self-site and build an awesome facility of opulence and prestige. So, when they don't do that, something else must be a driving motivation.  Could it be revenge, for the errant closing (and subsequent realization  and reopening) of the only LASD school in the hills?  Could it be spite, because of perceived injustices brought upon by the LASD board?  Could it be a political maneuver to help set legal precedent for all of the less privileged "I want school choice because it is my god-given right" proponents?  Maybe it's just a game for some rich folks with too much money and time on their hands?  Who knows, but hopefully we'll find out someday, before too many more kids get "used" in the process...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Marketing, or honesty, which will win the day?

I do feel bad for the parents who had to skip latte hour in order to picket at the LASD offices yesterday, but I have to wonder if they know about what they are picketing. Common sense would say that kids were being deprived of something, but that's not the case because NO kids (LASD or BCS) have access to the rooms  right now.  So. perhaps the picketing was because the BCS teachers don't have access to the rooms at Blach?  If that's the case, then we should move the whole congregation to Mr Moore's house, because it is actually BCS who has refused to sign the agreement which would provide them access.  And why did they refuse?  Because the rent went up?  News flash, Los Altos property values are rising, and BCS is getting more land.  And maybe, just maybe, there were some errors in the calculations which have since been fixed.   Whatever it is, there is no Diabolical Plan against the charter, as some would like you to believe, just people trying to educate kids.  Oh, and some just trying to generate marketing hype...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Miss Leading Marketing

Many have claimed that Miss Hersey (or Mrs Hersey, to be correct) is the mastermind behind BCS' brilliant marketing machine, which has developed much hype, and a devoted following.  What if, she is even better at MIS-LEADING than LEADING.  The latest example is the "apparently signed" FUA which has been posted on BCS' website -  One interesting note about this "signed document" is that it lacks Mr Baier's signature?!?  Apparently, the document that Mrs Hersey has signed and posted on BCS' website is significantly different from the document that was verbally, mutually agreed upon, hence will not probably not be signed by the district???  Would that be an example of MIS-LEADING marketing?  Hmm...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What a LONG, meandering day...

It started out a promising day.  I dropped the kids off at camp, and had the opportunity meet with Amanda Aaronson at Starbucks.  I always enjoy chatting with Amanda.  Although we may not agree on everything, she is very wise, and respectful, and I value her opinion and thoughts.  It "seemed" like it might be a good day.

But then, unfortunately, I went on Facebook.  Despite being a valuable communication vehicle, I have finally decided that the rancor that is spewed by David Roode was not worth my time.  Over the past many months, I have attempted to reach out to him, to meet and chat with him, and to better understand him.  Taking this same action with many vocal BCS parents has been very successful, but doing so with Mr Roode has proven fruitless.  Ironically, he somehow thinks that I have impersonated him on patch, and at one point, he even accused me of being JJS on Facebook.  Won't it be eye opening for him when these actions continue now that I have moved on :)  The extent of my online interaction with DR was to question his motives, and at the peak of my frustration with him, follow his inane and belligerent and respond by parroting his insanity with equally insane posts and prefixing them with "DR Elucidation".  Anything else that he thinks was me, well, he will be sorely disappointed.

Anyway, I've decided that the value that Facebook was bringing to my life (information, and opportunity to share, etc) were all outweighed by cost in frustration the he brought.  Why, many have asked, don't I just "ignore" him on FB, so I can't hear what he is saying?  To me, that seems a bit disingenuous, and in a forum where honesty and openness are valued, I felt like trying to have a conversation, while missing parts of it, wasn't worth the hassle.  So, after removing myself from all groups into which he is posting, I felt a great calmness come upon me, so I knew that I had made the right decision.

Unfortunately, the calmness only lasted a few hours, because I decided to attend the LASD board meeting to hear the "community feedback".  Unfortunately, this consisted of one member of BCS after another (teachers, parents, board members, etc) venting about how bad (uncaring, spiteful, vengeful, etc) the LASD board is and how their children are unfairly being harmed.  Ironically, enough, I've attended a couple of the BCS board meetings (as difficult as it is to figure out when/where they are happening), and no one attends, or questions them.  Perhaps the parents are afraid of being blacklisted or something, but their perspectives are INCREDIBLY one-sided.  I wish them, and especially all of the children, the best, but the arrogance of this community is just beyond me.  How they can be in one of the best school districts in the state, and say "it's not good enough for me", and THEN say "and I deserve choice" and THEN say "and the government should subsidize it" despite the fact that there are ample, stellar private options in the area astounds me.  I feel like we should all take a field trip to East Palo Alto, and then talk about "choice"...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Serenity now... Ahh

Many have suggested that I rejoin the Facebook groups, and just block Mr Roode, but given the fact that he seems to make 50% of the posts on there, that just seems disingenuous to me. As much as I might miss the potential for real discussion attempting to achieve a fair resolution, the overwhelming sense of peace by disconnecting is really worth it. Hopefully, someone smarter than I will create a forum/environment to allow people to share ideas.  As a famous bather once said. - Calgon, take me away...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Perils of a Troll

Having grown up in the world of Dungeons and Dragons and some of the wonderful JRR Tolkein fantasies, I thought that I had a pretty good picture in my mind of this mythical creature.  But little did I know that my imagination would come back to haunt me in the internet age.  I often heard people saying things like "oh, that person is a 'troll'", and just kind of let it slide, because it seemed to be a fairly random insult, but I didn't connect the dots to understand the underlying implications of such a person until now.

I believe that the internet is a wonderful communication forum which enables people to hold ongoing conversations despite geographic or timing differences.  But, to me, the fundamental basis behind holding a conversation is attempting to understand the "background listening" that a person exudes.  I first learned of this concept of "background listening" from a very wise educator named Toby Hecht, who used to teach at GE's famed executive education center named Crotonville, and went on to create his on program based upon some of the same fundamental concepts.  He really helped me to try to "step out of my own thinking" in order to better understand the actions and motivations of others, while always attempting to balance integrity and ethics.

I think that integrity is what really brings me back to these insidious online personas that we call trolls, because I believe that if we can not be honest regarding for what we stand, and who we are, then how can we possibly have a healthy discussion?  For example, if I were to tell you ("this is totally a fake story") that I had lost my child at a young age due to a horrible mishap in the hospital, then this would help you better understand me if I were to go on a long diatribe about how horribly broken the medical field is.  You may work in the field, but you would still be sympathetic to the emotions that are underlying my positions.  If it then came to light that that story about my child was a complete farce, not only would you question my motivations for telling you in the first place, you would question all interactions that you had with me, because they were all based upon a false foundation.

I fear that BCS has fallen victim to relying on such a beast in the debate with LASD.  When I was first learning about this "healthy debate" (LASD-BCS) while lying in a hospital bed with lots of time on my hands, it was a great opportunity for me to better understand all of the players involved.  By understanding the individual people, I could better appreciate their perspectives, and have a healthier conversation with them, despite potentially differing opinions.  Reading peoples posts, their backgrounds and experiences, really helped to frame the conversations, and prevent comments from being taken too personally (knowing the individual's heart that was involved).

But something happened a couple of months ago.  I'm not sure of the root cause, but it seemed that there was a concerted (if not organized) retreat from the online debate by the BCS contingent.  This change in strategy alone did not particularly upset me, because my goal was still the same one with which I started (to try to prevent a false narrative from being told to unsuspecting readers).  I started this goal when a friend of mine, Amanda Aaronson, was running for the open LASD board position.  Amanda could have provided a good perspective on the board as a resident from Mountain View.  She could have also furnished a different perspective by being a BCS parent.  But, during her campaign time, I noticed something unfortunate happening, which was what caused me to step out from being solely a "reader" to become a "participator".

I noticed on several boards that statements in support of Amanda were being made by people whom I did not know.  Without this knowledge, I feared that my "background listening" would not be as accurate, so I dug a bit to learn about these people, and invariably, they all seemed to "anonymously" tie back to BCS.  I say anonymously, because they "attempted" to hide their tie to BCS, thus misleading people into thinking that they were "just random citizens" making astute observations.  These attempts varied from people using pseudonyms to post online anonymously to people claiming that they were just "random citizens" who thought it would be "great to have Amanda on the LASD board".  Ironically enough, a little digging, and I found that these "random citizens" had also donated a fair chunk of change to BCS, and most likely were also other BCS parents, thus destroying both the randomness and unbiasedness of their comments.

Now that I had been brought out from being an observer and a learner in this debate, I have found myself actively participating.  As I have said many times, I enjoy meeting with people face to face more than anything, because I really believe that looking in someone's eyes can help me to better understand their perspectives, and hence their comments.  I have deep respect for all of the people with whom I have personally met, with the exception of one.  Unfortunately, this one, is the same person who BCS has "allowed" to step to the forefront as they have retreated from some of the online conversations.

What began as a healthy, albeit sometimes quite spirited, debate among very intelligent, honest people, seemed to turn into more of a marketing campaign.  The troll began with a false pretense of "unbiasedness", and then would continue to "stir the pot" by making inflammatory comments on "slow news days".  While I don't doubt his overall intelligence, nor his vast, encyclopedic knowledge of everything from charter school law to California history, it is his integrity that I doubt.  And without integrity, what are we all really... trolls???

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Maybe they're fruit-thetic-less?

Thank you to Kristine for reminding me of why I have been so happy and at peace the past two days.  
Really, I don't know whether these arguments are fruitless, or pathetic. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ahh, Back to School Time

I still remember the excitement from my childhood, and I can see it my daughter's eyes. The end of summer is always a bit of a bummer, but going back to school, seeing your friends again and sharing stories is awesome!  We were just reminded again of how exciting a time this is by attending a Back To School event at Oak. I love our community, our teachers, our principal, and especially all of the kids!  I feel so lucky to be where we are, and especially fortunate that we are "somewhat isolated" from the constant threats of losing our school to BCS. And you know why?  It's because BCS only wants to be affiliated/compared to a school that sends their kids to Los Altos High, and not Mountain View High. If that is the case, then color me lucky!
Happy Back to School Week!