Thursday, October 27, 2011

Appellate Court Ruling

I am deeply disappointed in this ruling, received today. Once I've had a chance to speak with counsel, I'll post more. However, I've always advocated for transparency, and I won't stop that now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

BCS Location: CACF Presentation

On Monday, CACF presented a decision process for a new location for BCS. They've evaluated ~20 options and seem to have had a very good discussion internally, some of which they shared with the Board on Monday night.

They presented a matrix that analyzes the categories of outcomes. They've intentionally left the discussion open (eg. acquire land) rather than list a specific location (e.g. buy part of the Sears site and build a new campus). This will allow us to evaluate teh pros and cons of different approaches before people start reacting to a specific site.

I want to thank the members of the committee for their work so far. The team was made up of CACF members, including one BCS Board member. I personally felt that we had a good mix of folks involved in that process. Resolving this issue is going to create some difficult decisions, but it's good to have the process underway.

I have posted the document here for anyone who would like to see it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Board Meeting: BCS Location

This communication recently went out from our Superintendent. I'm reposting here so that people know this is going on.

Message body
Dear Parents/Guardians,

The Los Altos School District's Board of Trustees will hold a study session prior to their regular meeting on Monday, October 24. At the study session the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Finance (CACF) will present the results of their study of a long term location for the Bullis Charter School. The Board will not take action on this item Monday night.

The study session will begin at 5:30pm in the Board Room at the District Office, located at 201 Covington Road, Los Altos. The study session is open to the public; however, public comment is not taken during a study session. The regular meeting will begin at 7:00pm. The agenda for the meeting can be found here (link) and on the district website at

Thank you,
Jeffrey Baier

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BCS Appeal Hearing

This morning I attended the latest in a long string of litigation from BCS.  We met at the Sixth District Court of Appeals in San Jose to hear oral arguements in the BCS appeal of Judge Kleinberg's previous ruling for LASD.

I believe strongly in our position, and I believe that LASD has consistently applied the "reasonably equivalent" standard to our process.  Districts have pretty broad discretion in setting up our methodology for determining reasonable equivalence.  Hopefully the Appeals Court will reinforce that message and we can move forward with less litigation in the future.

In terms of timelines, the Court may return a decision quickly, or it could take several months.  We just have to wait and see where it goes.  If you want to be updated on the case as soon as it comes out, you can subscribe to this link.

Lifelong Volunteers

It is an axiom of education that kids learn by doing. We show them how to do a math problem, but they master the concept by doing problems. In science, we talk about a chemical reaction, but any eighth grader will tell you that the lab is "way more cool" than the lecture. DOING teaches far better than "telling"

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a number of our school campuses during their walkabout events. This annual rite is a wonderful community event, and it requires a tremendous number of volunteer hours to make it happen. Parents spend countless hours acquiring prizes, coordinating meals, setting up and tearing down courses, helping students collect pledges, and doing the countless activities that are needed to make this event a success.

What struck me, though, wasn't the number of parent volunteers (although we know the event couldn't happen without them). I was thrilled to see so many of our alumni volunteering at the events. At each campus, I saw a substantial number of 7th and 8th graders who were back at their alma matter to lend a hand.

It was no surprise to also notice that many of those young volunteers are the children of some of our most stalwart parent volunteers. Their parents have spent countless hours, week after week, working in the schools to make our community a better place. Their children are learning that lesson from their parents- that good things need good people to make them happen. having witnessed the lessons year after year, I have no doubt that those kids will go on to be regular volunteers in their community.  Their parents have set an example through their actions, and those children are already well along the journey to understanding the importance of volunteering for good causes and putting those beliefs into action.  I commend each and every one of those kids- they are learning lessons that are in some ways more valuable than just the pure academics of school.  And their parents are pretty great too, for having started them on that journey.

Monday, October 10, 2011

BCS Decision

Author's note:  I didn't post this right away- I wanted to make sure I'd "cooled off" from the frustration of the meeting.  Still, I think these thoughts are worth airing.

I am saddened to report that the SCCBOE approved the BCS Application by a 5-2 vote.

To be clear, I did not advocate that their charter should not be renewed.  BCS is a high achieving school, and it would be very difficult to shut them down.  However, Like Anna Song, I believe that the BCS actions over the past 8 years have actively or passively discriminated against members of our student community.  I say that I am saddened by the renewal because the SCCBOE failed to take any meaningful measure to protect those underserved students.  This was effectively their only opportunity to do something meaningful and place hard requirements on BCS, and they chose to do nothing.

SCCBOE could have done several things to make this situation better.  I mentioned several of them in my remarks to them.  Those options included:
  • Refuse to renew the charter.  (extreme, and politically unlikely)
  • Renew, but make it a condition of the charter that they actually follow through on the hastily made promises to improve their outreach. 
  • Renew, but require BCS as a condition of the charter to have an enrollment more representative of the student community.  (measure the results, not just the action)
  • Renew, but strip the geographic preference for the Los Altos Hills area
  • Renew, but require BCS to seek County Board input before filing future lawsuits against LASD
  • Renew, but provide an avenue for LASD to supervise the admissions aspects of the BCS program.
  • Take no action for 30 days and ask BCS to return to LASD and first ask for their charter from LASD, giving LASD the opportunity to help shape the conditions more clearly
In the end, the County Board simply rubber stamped the application as it was presented.  There are no meaningful new requirements placed on BCS as a condition for their renewal.  I am not sure why the County Board feels like BCS will change their behavior all on their own.  BCS has not followed through on previous promises to the County Board (such as their promise at last year's meeting to complete a merit-based teacher compensation system.)  Without the hammer of renewal hanging over their head, there is little chance that BCS will change.  In point of fact, BCS Board Charmian Ken  Moore repeatedly told the SCCBOE that BCS was, in fact, serving these underserved student populations.  He presented "data" to back this up, but the data methodology fails to conform with the way that California public school districts measure their populations.  I guess if you don't like the rules and you can ignore them, that's what you'll do.

If I sound bitter, frustrated, and angry, it is because I am.  Referring to the recent outpouring of public comment, one County Board member asked "where have all of these complaints come from?  We haven't heard anything for many years."  He then dismissed the complaints as not important.  When staff tried to explain that people felt the County Board was deaf to the public, he was dismissive.  The County Board has proven by their actions that they are, in fact, deaf to our community.  I am deeply saddened and frustrated by their actions.

I would also make an observation about the role of the county board.,  Craig Mann said during the renewal hearing that they couldn't do anything more than "follow the law".  I'm not advocating that SCCBOE create their own laws, but it is my considered opinion that BCS hasn't been following the law, and that SCCBOE failed in it's responsibility to hold them accountable for that.  Even IF someone felt that BCS was following the law, it was still within the bounds of the law to ask BCS if they'd make some of the changes listed.  As it stands, Board Member Mann seems to accept the LEAST that the law demands- hardly a recipe for a successful democracy.  If the only standard LASD used to measure our schools was "do they comply with the minimums proscribed by the law?", we would certainly not be a top performing school district.  I had hoped for much more from the County.  I guess now all we can do is hope that they'll be more active in their oversight for the next 5 years than they have been in years past.

Thank you to all members of the community who did reach out over the course of the past several weeks.  All I can ask you to do is to keep the pressure up.