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.