Friday, August 31, 2012

Courtroom Shennanigins (7th and 8th grade)

(Note:  There are two posts today.  The next post provides a summary of the hearing.  This post is just one specific issue within the larger discussion.)

I waited until today to write this because I wanted to see how it played out in court today.  Since we have our answer, I want to share with the wider community our perspective on the recent BCS allegations with respect to their 7th and 8th grade.

BCS has been trying to make hay about the District's supposed failure to deliver furniture for their 7th and 8th grade kids.  Readers may recall that LASD determined that the best location for the BCS 7th and 8th grade program was to co-locate them at Blach, rather than to try to locate them at Egan and further impact the Egan program.  BCS was none to happy about this, and has been fighting it every step of the way.

Leading up to today's hearing BCS amended their complaint to include the assertion that LASD had failed to provide them furniture at the Blach location.  Arturo Gonzalez, counsel for BCS, went so far as to send a letter to the judge telling her he had a photo that she needed to see.  (letter) It turns out that the photo was a group of students seated on the carpet in a portable.  Hardly the stuff of a revolution. 

Where it starts to get frustrating to me is how BCS intentionally manipulated the situation to make all of this occur.  We have a series of communications stretching back to June 2012 wherein our facilities folks try to work out with BCS what all of the furnishing arrangements will be.  Randy Kenyon asks how they intend to use the space, so that he can arrange appropriate desks, etc.  BCS says they want to see the space first, then they delay the entire process, even into the early weeks of August.  A fair bit of the back and forth is because BCS already has desks for 7th and 8th graders, located at Egan.  We were willing to move those desks to Blach, but BCS wanted us to provide two sets, one at Egan and one at Blach.  Since we aren't required to spend extra taxpayer funds providing BCS students with redundant furniture, we declined to pay for it, but offered that if BCS wanted to fund it, we would procure it and put everything in place.  (link to email threads)  BCS continued to delay, right up to the start of school.  Lacking any more specific information, and knowing that Ken Moore had told the parents that they would be holding the 7th and 8th grade classes at Egan, we didn't move the furniture from Egan to Blach.

If that were the end of it, I probably wouldn't be as frustrated. BCS, though, seems to think it's OK to involve the students directly and create photo ops to try to create a false point for the court.  They chartered luxury coaches (you know the type- the great big buses with air conditioning and TV's in the ceiling) to haul their kids the 4 miles across town to Blach, and took pictures to submit to the court.  (Interestingly, they didn't include photos of the buses, but diligent folks did capture the images) I understand that they also arranged a "press tour" this morning to complain to the local media about  how LASD is trying to cheat their 7th and 8th grade students. 

I'm deeply disappointed that people who profess to be "all about the children" would do such a thing.  They have failed in at least two significant ways:
1) they've involved and manipulated the kids for political benefit.  Frankly, it's just not appropriate to use kids as props in the theater you're orchestrating
2) they lied to the court by concealing their manipulation of the situation.  Great set of values to pass on to the students...

Maybe I'm reacting strongly to this, but I really believe that they've crossed the line with this stunt.  It's just not appropriate.  The first thing the judge did today was to throw out all of their late filings, so we probably won't see this discussion in front of the courts.  However, I did hear from enough community members that I felt compelled to set the record straight.  If adults reasonably disagree about something, well, we all know how to find the courthouse, but leave the kids out of the charade.  They aren't pawns to be played with.

(Please see the next post for a more detailed summary of the court hearing.)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today's Hearing re: "BCS Youth Prison"

First, my sincere thanks to all those who have expressed their support throughout this case.  We are grateful for the support of the community as we navigate this difficult time.

I spent the afternoon in Judge Lucas' courtroom today, listening to oral arguments in the latest BCS action against LASD.  Although the final ruling won't come out for a little bit, there were a few interesting take-aways that are worth sharing.

The first thing the judge did was to throw out all of the late filings from BCS.  She did observe that the late filings made it apparent how much of a moving target all of this really is.

The next observation she made was that she didn't think she had the authority to impose part of the negotiated settlement as an outcome to the case.  Specifically, she questions BCS counsel whether he could cite any case law that would permit her to award them one of the 4 campuses, since that was really part of a larger negotiated agreement.  BCS stressed that she has great flexibility in deciding how to enforce compliance with the earlier judgement, and that she should consider this as the best way to solve the issue.

So that's the first 10 minutes of the hearing.  The next 90+ minutes were devoted to the question of "jurisdiction".  The judge questioned BCS counsel about whether it was appropriate for her to hear this motion, given that all of the facts are different than the ruling from the Court of Appeals (on which they relied to bring this motion).  Of course LASD has asserted all along that it is not appropriate for this 2012-13 litigation to be shoehorned into the 2009-10 case, but BCS was very determined to make a run at that.  Over the course of the hearing, I came to understand why they were so fixated on this.  After all, to me it seems like they could just file a new lawsuit and we would have been in the same place.

The reality, though, is much different.  It appears that if the case is adjudicated under the 2009-10 judgement, there's a very different standard applied to weighing the outcome.  If the case is heard anew, as it should be, the District is afforded more latitude and the discretion we apply as elected officials is viewed under a different set of standards, one more recognizes our role as the local representatives of the public.

The judge seemed to grasp the key issue, that the facts for the 2012-13 offer are much different from the 2009-10 judgement.  We've given BCS much more space- more acreage, more classrooms, etc.  It just isn't possible to review this as part of the 2009-10 suit.  The evidence should be heard, not just taken for granted.

There were certainly some interesting moments.  At one point, in an attempt to steer the discussion to focus on K-6, BCS counsel tried to tell the judge "you can just ignore the 7th and 8th grade students".  She asked "how can I just ignore those students?"  That was an interesting exchange to watch.

The comment that most stuck with me, though, was the BCS counsel's description of their campus.  He posted huge blown up photos for the court to consider.  One was of Loyola, and it was clearly taken to highlight the lawn and the front office.  He then showed a second photo that was shot between two portables at BCS.  Never mind the fact that he's manipulating the evidence- of course we have photos of the space behind and between portables at the LASD campuses too, and those photos aren't flattering either.  I just about fell over, though, to hear him describe the BCS campus as "a youth prison".  I can't quite reconcile that with the description that BCS uses when they recruit parents and their incoming students, or when they write about their facilities in their charter renewal.  Really? Your own lawyer said your campus is a "Youth prison"?  Wow- what parent would ever send their kid to such a place?

The reality is much different, as we all know.  The judge didn't seem to react to much of the theatrics from BCS.  After the jurisdiction arguments, Judge Lucas simply announced "we're done", and that was it.  We didn't argue any of the facts of the case, and didn't get into the question as to whether BCS is a public school or not.  We'll just need to wait for her ruling.

The big question is, what comes next.  I believe that the judge was very thoughtful today, and carefully considering the key questions for at least this first aspect of the case.  She has the ability to do several things from here.
  • She could rule that she doesn't have jurisdiction under the 2009-10 case to hear this new set of facts.  Then BCS would probably file a new action, which would start the process anew.  
  • She could decide she does have jurisdiction, and then go on to rule on the merits.  I'd note, though, that she did not ask for any arguments on the merits today.
  • She could also decide that she does have jurisdiction, and ask us to come back and argue the merits.
I'm not going to try to guess what Judge Lucas will do from here.  However, I will say that she was thoughtful and contemplative today, as she has been in the past.  When she asks a question, she makes sure the lawyers answer what she's asked, and they can't get away with some sort of sideshow distraction technique.  We will need to wait to see what she has to say about this jurisdiction question, and whether she want to proceed on the merits, or if we will be looking towards a new case from BCS.  As they say the jurist is out on this, and we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

BCS Further Amends Complaint

The Bullis Charter School has amended their motion to include two new issues:
  1. their dissatisfaction with the state of the facilities prior to the beginning of school
  2. their dissatisfaction with the District's resolution to the City Gym/MPR issue (see related blog post)

I have no idea what the judge will make of amendments filed less than 48 hours before the court date.  BCS Board members constantly remind us that we are all part of the same community, yet they run to the courts for recompense with every issue.  BCS was not the only school inconvenienced by construction that took longer than expected.  For example, the Egan music room was also not finished prior to the start of school.  Their teacher scrambled and made due for a few days, and fortunately I haven't received any notifications of lawsuits from an Egan parent yet.  It seems that BCS is using litigation as a strategy to wear down the District to try to  force the only outcome they deem acceptable.

Folks, this is the reality of construction, and the reality of living together in the same place.  It takes time, and occasionally, when you have 10 weeks to get something done, it doesn't finish on time.  I won't address every point they've raised in this latest set of documents, but suffice it to say that if you want peace, you can't come demanding it with an iron fist.

As always, though, here is the paperwork for public reading.

BCS Letter to Judge Lucas
BCS Amended Proposed Order
POS Amendment

L Stone Declaration
A Eyring 2nd Supp Decl
Eyring Exh 1
Eyring Exh 2
Eyring Exh 3
Eyring Exh 4
Eyring Exh 5
Eyring Exh 6
Eyring Exh 7
Eyring Exh 8
Eyring Exh 9
Eyring Exh 10

And they've requested to use PowerPoint at the hearing
Application to use PowerPoint
Proposed Order Granting Use of PowerPoint
POS PowerPoint

LA Times: Charter Schools Drawing from Private Schools

There's an interesting piece in the LA Times today, explaining that charter schools are drawing a significant chunk of their pupils from private schools, not from public schools. 

(Article link)

The article mentions that there may be some positives- for example, if the private school crowd puts pressure on Districts to innovate, that's not a bad thing. 

However, the article also notes that this change has placed a $1.8B additional burden on public education.  Yes, people who send their kids to private schools also pay taxes.  However, I don't think that is what the voters had in mind when they supported the charter school movement. 

And in case you don't think this is happening here, read the last quote in the Bloomberg article from last year:
During a break, Arash Baratloo, a Google Inc. software engineer and Bullis parent, said he considered the $5,000 donation requested every year by Bullis to be “money well spent.” He previously sent his child to a private school where tuition was about $25,000 a year.

Interesting reading...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

City Council Endorsements

It is that time of year again- election season.  One of the interesting bits about serving on the school board is that folks ask me which candidates I think should fill various offices.  I'm always flattered by this- come November, I'm just like everyone else- I get one vote, and that's it.  However, to the extent that my service on the School Board means that I interact with other elected officials, I'm willing to share my thoughts.

It is too early for me to have decided which candidates I will support for the City Council race in Los Altos.  In a strange twist of politics, though, I've started to hear that others are making statements about what it takes to get my endorsement.  For the record, such comments by anyone other than me are irresponsible, and folks should consider carefully whom the speaker is.  So far what I've heard has been a gross distortion of my views, and I'm disappointed that people in public life, or contemplating public office, would behave in such a manner.  Our community deserves better.

So, how will I be evaluating candidates?  It's a fair question.  Here's my current thinking. (Like everyone else, I may expand on this thinking before I cast my vote.  That's why candidate forums are so helpful!) 

I have tried to provide examples from my own background so that my perspective is more clear, but that isn't to say that my path is the best way- it's just for context.

Understanding of the Issues
Leading our city requires understanding of a complex set of issues- everything from budgets and long term revenues to zoning and land use.Candidates need to have a grasp of a wide range of issues, not just be focused on one specific thing.  That knowledge can come in many ways.  Some may rely on years of service through government commissions.  Others may have experience through community groups.  Regardless, show me that you have thought about the breadth and depth of what our community needs.

When I ran for school board, I had served on a number of committees in the District, and I'd been attending Board meetings for quite a while.  Sometimes candidates crop up who have a limited area of interest (like language immersion, or the BCS debate).  If you have a wider view, you'll be more effective on the many other decisions you'll need to make. 

Have a vision.  Be willing to execute on it.
Steve Jobs once famously said that if you asked members of a focus group about the design of an iPod, they would tell you that they are happy with their Walkman.  Government is not be a popularity contest.  This isn't to suggest that we disregard the will of the electorate.  Rather, it is to say that sometimes we need to have a bold vision, then work hard to build consensus to support that vision. 

One of the things I have wanted to accomplish is to establish a solution to the BCS issue.  The LASD Board has invested a lot of time in that issue recently, and we were willing to discuss with our community some pretty bold proposals to achieve that goal. 

Respect our history, but be willing to move forward.
This may be a variant on the prior point, but it's worth expanding.  Our community has a rich tradition- the town is celebrating a milestone birthday, and we are fortunate to have many community members who have been here for a significant portion of their lives.  We also have to look to the future, though.  Over 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers worked incredibly hard to create a framework for how our country should function.  Then the very next thing they did was design a process for amending the Constitution.  They recognized that societies change, and if we don't change with it, we will fail.  It always amazes me that we live in a place that is literally world famous for innovation, yet we seem to struggle with even the slightest change in our community.  I value our past (I live in a house built in 1909), but I also want us to think forward to what we need in the future.  We need to develop a strategy to keep Los Altos relevant in the coming decades.  A steadfast focus on preserving the status quo will only guarantee that we are a museum sitting in the midst of other vibrant communities.

Likewise, I have a strong interest in us challenging the status quo in our classrooms.  I've been highly supportive of the efforts of our administration and staff to truly innovate, to develop completely new ways of educating our students.  Under Superintendent Baier's leadership, we've pioneered programs that have literally become world famous.  We continue to consider what our next move is- how we should continue to evolve to inspire passion in our students for a lifetime of learning.  It would be easy to rest on our laurels, and appease the folks who want 4th grade to be just like it was when they attended school, but that's not how you stay on top. 

What about Hillview?
The elephant in this discussion is Hillview.  I've made no secret that I'd like to discuss the future plans for the community center.  That implies understanding what the current and future uses for the space might be, and discussing ways that we can meet those needs.  There may actually be more than one option- not just the plan drawn up already.

Some folks that I've talked to have said that they want us to find land in Mountain View, or Los Altos Hills.  We will certainly be pursuing that, but we have to look at Los Altos as well.  Addressing our city council, one community member said it very well:  "This is your brand.  It is the Los Altos School District."  If the city government does nothing but approve new housing units, but doesn't help to solve the growing school population, they're not considering the entire picture.

 I have no idea what the final solution might include.  It might be Hillview, but then it might be some other parcel of public or private land.  I'd like to work together with the City Council to find ways to help the growing number of students, and the families who move to Los Altos for our schools.  If I choose to endorse a candidate for City Council, it won't be because I've already stuck a deal with them- it will be because I believe they possess the skills necessary to serve all residents of our city, whether they are seniors, school children, or anyone else. 

I look forward to a healthy debate of the issues.

Have a Vision.  Lead.  Serve the community. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LASD and BCS Attorney Fee Filings

I promised I would post the LASD and BCS paperwork from the motion to change the date of the Attorney Fee hearing.

By way of a quick summary, a timeline:

February 2012:
BCS began threatening that they wanted to collect attorney fees.

March 2012-June 2012:
BCS requested delays in their filing deadline.  LASD was asked, and agreed to allow BCS to extend the time they had to file such a motion. 

July 2012:
BCS files actual demand for $1.3M in fees.

Aug 2012:
LASD filed discovery to understand the fee demands. BCS has refused to answer the discovery.  LASD asked for an extension of when we would respond, so that we can resolve the discovery issue and so that the fee motion doesn't coincide with the hearing on the 2012-13 case.  BCS is opposed the District request, which is why we went to court yesterday. 

22 Aug 2012:  
Judge Lucas grants LASD request for extension, and sets a teleconference to discuss discovery motion.

LASD Filings:
LASD Application to Extend Deadline
LASD Proposed Order

BCS Opposition
BCS Motion Opposing
Brickman Decl.
Brickman Decl Ex 1
Brickman Decl Ex 2
Brickman Decl Ex 3
Brickman Decl Ex 4
Brickman Decl Ex 5
BCS Proposed Order 

Court Response
Judge's Final Order

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

First Day Back + Attorney's Fees

First and foremost, WELCOME BACK!  Our students return this morning, and that is fantastic news.  One of our principals told me with great certainty this morning , “this is going to be a exceptional year.”  I have every confidence that she is correct.  Our staff is ready, we have exciting new programs in place, teachers have been trained, and we get to serve some of the finest students in the nation.   We are all very fortunate to be part of the Los Altos School District.  Many thanks to the staff, administration, and parents who make this the special place that it is.

(and in other news...)
There are so many moving parts in the litigation saga, sometimes it’s hard to keep them all straight.  The primary thread continues forward on schedule-  We have a hearing set for Aug 30 with Judge Lucas on the BCS motion disputing the 2012-13 facilities, and the District’s cross motion regarding the semi-private nature of the BCS program.  Separately (but in parallel) there is the fee motion that BCS has filed, demanding that the district pay their $1.3m legal bill.  (Link to original post here).   The schedules would have had these two hearings just one day apart, which was a logistical challenge for the District.  More importantly, though, LASD has served discovery on BCS, meaning we’re asking them various questions that pertain to how we will respond to their claim for fees.  BCS has so far refused to answer discovery, so we first need to have a hearing with Judge Lucas to compel them to answer the questions we’ve provided. 

All of this means that trying to hold the hearing for BCS attorney fees right now would be crazy.  Fortunately, this morning Judge Lucas agreed with the LASD attorneys and has postponed the attorney fee hearing.  We have a conference call with the judge schedule to resolve the question of whether BCS will be compelled to answer the discovery, so that will be our next step in this ordeal.

I will update this post later today to include both the LASD filings as well as the BCS filings with respect to the attorney fees.

Teacher Evaluations

I'm a very data-driven person, though, and I like using data to help improve outcomes.  In my professional life at a subscription billing company, we process over $2B/ year in credit card transactions.  One of the things my team does is deeply analyze that data to increase revenues for our clients.  I believe we should bring that same discipline to how we deliver education for students.

Let me start by saying that I think we have some incredibly talented and hardworking teachers.  I start there, because any time you talk about evaluations in public education, people think that the discussion is only about chasing out "bad teachers".  In our case, I'm most interested in recognizing what works.  Different teachers have different techniques.  Our district already analyzes test data to help improve instruction in this way.  To me, the next logical step is to use that same data as part of the evaluation process.  The primary function of a teacher is to help a student learn.  If we have data that shows they are doing this well, it seems only natural to me to use that data in the teacher's evaluatoin.

There is a bill in Sacramento right now, though, that is trying to make this whole process harder.  AB5 seeks to unwind the use of test data in teacher evaluations.  This flies against the national trend, and in my mind, flies against common sense.  There is a good editorial in the LA Times that discusses the issue.  Have a read, and if you are so inclined, reach out to Sacramento (Senator Joe Simitian, Assemblyman Rich Gordon) and let them know that this is a step backwards for our kids.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

BCS Facilities on Day 1

Well, it has finally arrived.  The beach towels are packed away, the camping gear neatly stowed, and backpacks and book bags have been brought out of storage.  The first day of school is upon us.

This summer hasn't been much of a break for District personnel.  Getting the new BCS facilities ready has been quite a journey.  We have been working at it all summer, determined to avoid last minute delays such as what we encountered last year.  Still, nothing is ever perfect, and there have been just a couple of last minute adjustments.

The Appellate Courts ruled last year that the District can't count the BCS Mutli towards our Prop 39 obligations.  The reasoning was that BCS had purchased the Multi at their expense, so it was considered unfair for LASD to consider that in our facilities offer.  This meant that the 2012-13 offer needed to include some sort of multi-use space for BCS.

The original plan was that we would share the City gym, and that the District would eventually build a new MPR for BCS in between the Egan Multi and the City Gym.  Indeed, we specifically drew the BCS map to include that space for that specific reason.  The interim plan was that BCS would use half of the city gym.

The LASD Board has to balance the needs of all students, however, not just the needs of BCS.  As we met with staff late this summer, we began to see that carving up the city gym would have a substantial negative impact on the Egan PE program.  Additionally, close followers of our budget would know that we only have about $100,000 in our capital fund right now- and we've received estimates from $300,000 to $750,000 for a new MPR.

Fortunately there is a solution.  Two years ago, LASD build a brand new music room (about 2000 sq ft) in between the city gym and Egan- exactly where we considered placing the BCS Multi.  By vacating that multi, we could provide that space to BCS.  That's part 1.

Part 2 has to do with space the District already provided, but BCS isn't using.  The Appellate ruling instructed LASD to provide BCS with child care facilities, similar to what we have on other district sites.  However, BCS did not respond when the District asked whether it would using the allocated child care space for that purpose.  That leaves us with another large building that can be used.  (One of the things we did win in the 2009-10 ruling was that we don't have to provide space for programs BCS doesn't intend to offer -- in that case, seventh grade).

It is important to note that BCS middle school students have access to all appropriate PE facilities.  They have use of the gym at Blach, along with tennis courts, track, and other specialized space.  The District is in no way impacting the PE program- but we are maximizing use of the various gymnasiums we own by allocating them for use by middle school students in each program. 

I attended the BCS board meeting last night, and was there when this news was delivered to the BCS Board.  (A copy of the letter is here.)  Audience members didn't have to be mind readers to know that the BCS board was unhappy with this latest development.  However, the LASD Board and Administration need to maximize the use of facilities for all students.  One might wonder if BCS intends to litigate over this change.  It will be interesting to see if they really intend to try to use the courts to force LASD to spend $300K that we don't have.  Hopefully calmer minds will prevail.  I recognize that the late timing of this news will cause last minute adjustments, and that is always a challenge.  For the inconvenience that this causes the BCS staff, I am truly sorry. However, we're all supposed to be the grown-ups.  Egan and Blach staff are also dealing with a number of last minute changes brought on by the sharing needs.  As the adults in the room, we all have to adjust and do our best to adapt to these types of situations.

I look forward to a successful school year for both LASD and for BCS.  Maybe with a little bit of luck, the waters will calm a bit and the storms can subside, allowing us all to focus on the children.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hearing Delayed

We received word from the court that the hearing on the motions has been delayed.  The new date is 30 August, at 1:30pm. 

This isn't entirely unexpected, given the volume of documents that have flooded the court over the past 10 days.  Frankly, I'm happier that the Judge is allowing herself enough time to digest all of the filings.  This is an important matter, and skipping over the nuances wouldn't serve anyone well.

Until the hearing, I'll continue to post any developments here- and I also look forward to getting back to the business of educating students.  Please see the post below for some exciting updates about our staff professional development.  Meanwhile, thanks to all for the support and positive thoughts around this issue.

Instructional Development: Doing it right!

Yes, I know the court hearing is tomorrow.  We had a great presentation last night, though, and I wanted to share some of it with you all. 

I once famously told an LASD Board member that LASD didn't offer a "world class education".  So she challenged me to do something about it, and here I am.  Serving on a school board isn't supposed to be all about litigation- it is supposed to be about finding ways to improve the program we offer to our students.  I'm very pleased to say that we are fulfilling that mission.

For students, summers are spent at camps, hanging out with friends, and visiting family.  Frankly, I'm pretty sure that if you asked 20 people in the street what teachers do over the summer, you'd get the same answer- hanging out, resting, etc.  This summer, our teachers have engaged in a tremendous amount of training.  Some of them never really took a break at all, but they are all looking forward to putting that training to use in teaching our children.

Last night at the Board meeting, Asst. Superintendent Gallagher detailed the extensive set of workshops and courses our teachers attended this summer.  Members of our staff were selected to attend workshops hosted by the Stanford d. School, the Nueva Design Institute, and the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference.  We also then hosted numerous workshops, where teachers shared what they'd learned at these conferences, as well as developed plans for the coming year, including the adoption of the Common Core Standards, Transitional Kindergarten, and iLearn, our in-house technology integration workshop.

I'm also excited about some of the new positions we've filled, including an Innovation Coach, our STEM Coach, and our Technology Coach.  I do not know of another district that is our size that is investing this heavily in professional development.

A special nod to our friends over at Google.  Not only did they host a Google Apps workshop that drew quite a number of our teachers (on their own time), but a member of their Education Team also helped facilitate our iLearn workshops.  Perhaps most generously, they also donated hundreds of ChromeBooks to the District.  Given the extremely high cost of Apple notebooks, this is a great way to help us deliver technology-based instruction to our students in a very different way.

I point all of this out, because I'm immensely proud of the work we are doing.  As the #1 school district in the State of California, it would be easy to leave things as they are.  Ms. Gallagher, though, has been leading the charge and challenging us to innovate.  They're hard at work setting up the metrics we need to measure the impact of these programs, and rolling them out to the students.

So this year, as you guide your young ones back into the classroom, take a moment to thank our staff for all the work they've been doing while our kids enjoyed their summer break.  The results this year promise to be very exciting!

Updated @1:45pm, 8/14/2012:  I forgot to mention that the District held 4 Innovation in Education events last year, and we are planning on 4 more this year.  During these events, we host educators from districts near and far (including attendees from as far away as Brazil and the UK).  These folks come to see what LASD is doing, and what makes our model so successful.  It is always nice to be recognized, but I'm especially proud of the way our staff is "walking the walk"- making it a core part of our mission not only to revolutionize learning for our students, but to share that knowledge with the rest of the education community.  Well done!

Monday, August 13, 2012

BCS Opposes Amicus Briefs

BCS has filed papers with the court opposing the Amicus briefs filed by the Huttlinger Alliance for Education, the California School Board Association, and the Association of California School Administratiors.  I've written previously welcoming these briefs. 

The Huttlinger Alliance is a newly formed group, and the add a perspective to this discussion that the District does not always bring. 

The CSBA and ACSA are both statewide bodies that are widely recognized as the leading organizations in their respective areas.  For BCS to suggest that their opinions are not relevant is foolish, and it diminishes the role of public school districts across the state.

I believe that the court should admit all of these briefs.  I would also note that BCS has sought amicus briefs from the California Charter Schools Association all along the way.  For BCS to now argue that amicus briefs are superfluous is very strange indeed.

As they say, "See you in court."

BCS Opp to Amicus
POS Opp to AC

Please note:  The post below detailing BCS demands for $1.3m legal fees is also new.  I don't usually post several in a row, but readers will want to take a moment with that information as well. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bullis Demands Even More

On Friday, Bullis attorneys file motions with the court seeking attorney fees from the 2019-10 lawsuit.
The basis of their motion is the "Private Attorney General Doctrine".  As I understand it, that law allows parties to a lawsuit to recover their costs in certain circumstances.

I'm not going to debate the merits of the suit here- again, I prefer that those arguments be made in front of a judge.  However, I will point out the foolishness of bringing such a motion.

Throughout the past several years, BCS has asserted that they want to be "accepted as part of the community".  I'm not sure how the BCS Board believes that demanding $1.3M from a public school district will endear them to our community.  To put this in perspective, $1.3M would pay for about a dozen teachers.  If BCS prevails in this effort, we'll be laying off a lot of teachers to pay for their demands.

BCS speaks proudly of their "values curriculum".**  I wonder what values this teaches their students?  One of their parents famously told the SCCBOE that they were "educating the future leaders"  What set of values is this instilling in them? 

Beyond the question of values, there's just good old common sense.  When I've spoken to their board about this in the past, they've simply asserted "well, it is our legal right."  Given that BCS spends more on their professional PR firm each year than we do in a whole decade, I can't imagine what they were thinking.  Demanding $1.3M from LASD might sit within the bounds of the law, but if you expect that the people of our community will "accept and welcome" you, well, you are not very good judges of human nature.

Bullis BPA ISO Legal Fees
Wallace Dec ISO Motion for Attorneys Fees
Wallace Dec Ex A
Proposed Order Awarding Attorneys Fees
POS re Attorneys Fee Motion

** I'm always somewhat annoyed when BCS hypes parts of their program that have existed within the LASD program for years, or even decades.  It's one thing to mimic our program and call it "new".  It is hypocritical to mimic us, call it unique, and then tell your kids what great values you're teaching them.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Court Date Approaches - Aug 15th

Because I've been pinged by a couple of community members, I thought I'd put a reminder out there about the upcoming court date.  On Wednesday, August 15th, 2012, we will be heard in Judge Lucas' courtroom (Department 2).  The hearing should begin at 9:00 am.

Please note that with the recent flurry of activity, it is possible that the court date will change.  I'll try to update here if I become aware of a change in schedule.

More docs from BCS

It seems that every day brings more documents from BCS.  In the spirit of transparency, I'm posting the latest round of BCS filings here.  Basically, they've objected to some of the things in our filings and have blanketed the court with additional documents.  I am anxious to get this discussion in front of Judge Lucas.

Bullis Objections to Evidence
Response to Objections
Reply ISO Motion to Compel
Gonzalez Decl ISO

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
 Mellela Decl w Sig Page
Mellela Decl Exhibit A

Supp Hersey Decl w Sig Page

Supp Moore Decl w Sig Page

Moore Supp Decl Exhibit A

Supp Eyring Decl w Sig Page
Eyring Supp Decl Exhibit A

Request for Judicial Notice

Proof of Service

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

CSBA weighs in too

Just the other day, I had a post discussing the fact that the ACSA had submitted an amicus brief in support of the District's position in the BCS litigation.  Today brings another submission, this time form the California School Board Association.

The CSBA advocates on behalf of school boards within the State of California.  In the brief they submitted today, they have asked the court to consider the impact of the BCS request.  They focus their discussion on the need to balance a charter school request with the impact on other students.  Specifically, they call out that (a) there is nothing in Prop 39 that guarantees a single site to a charter school, and (b) the impact of BCS's request to close a school would have significant impact on District students- an impact that can't just be ignored because BCS finds it inconvenient.

As with the other amicus briefs, I hope that the Court will admit this document.  They have examined this issue thoroughly, and understand that a ruling here could impact schools across California.  The voices of the 95% of California students not in charter schools should not be ignored.

CSBA Amicus Brief and related docs

Monday, August 6, 2012

ACSA Weighs into BCS Lawsuit

Recently another group has stepped forward to express their thoughts on the BCS lawsuit.  The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) has petitioned the court to add their amicus brief to the proceedings.  This is fairly unusual, in that the ACSA doesn't normally weigh in on cases at this level, but it appears that they felt this important enough to do here.

The ACSA brief reminds the court that the standard to be followed in Prop 39 is "reasonably equivalent".  It specifically calls out that BCS has attempted to reduce this to a mathematical formula, which was not the intent of Prop 39.  Several courts, including the trial court in our case and the appeals court in Ridgecrest, have been careful to explain that exact equivalence isn't possible, and that public officials must have some flexibility in their decision-making.  The brief also takes BCS to task for cherry-picking their metrics.  They point out that BCS picks and chooses which measurements they don't like, while ignoring the overall standard of "reasonably equivalent."

I hope that the court admits this brief- it highlights the difficult decision-making process we need to go through as we balance the needs of all public school students.

ACSA Amicus Brief
ACSA Application To Appear
Chatterjee Declaration
Proof of Service

Friday, August 3, 2012

BCS response

As you'll recall from my earlier post, BCS has an opportunity to respond to the documents we recently filed with the courts.  That document was received today, and I've posted it here for folks to read.

I found it interesting that BCS doesn't want to address the core of the issues raised in our cross-motion.  They've focused their argument on procedural questions, and have asked the judge to ignore our cross-complaint based on those procedural questions.  I'm not surprised by this- it's straight out of the playbook they followed with SCCBOE.  They push hard on "you must do it THIS way," and skip over the overarching issues raised by the community.  At least they are consistent.

I'm told that our procedure is correct, so I have every reason to believe that the judge will hear our cross-motion.  When we raised the cross-motion, we specifically said that we are doing so not because it's the best way to do it.  BCS has already abused the process by trying new facts under the old case.  As such, we've raised the cross-motion to preserve our ability to argue these facts.  Whether all of this proceeds under the existing set of motions or as new trials is entirely up to the judge.  We'll have to wait and see for certain what the judge decides to do, but I believe that this case is important, and that the voices of the District (speaking on behalf of the students), and the greater community need to be heard.

BCS Response

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Additional Voices in the BCS discussion

Recently a group of concerned citizens petitioned the court to file an amicus brief in the litigation BCS has brought against LASD.  I can't say that I agree with everything they have said in their papers, but it certainly is interesting to hear from them.  Over 200 people have already signed their petition, and in essence they are telling the courts "hey, there's a lot of folks out here affected by this decision". 

Many years ago, I sat with the prior superintendent of LASD, and sought answers to a questions about a decision made at my children's school.  The superintendent told me that I had "no interest" in the outcome of the decision.  Seeing that he was talking about the education of my children, I assured him that I had an extensive and lifelong interest in the outcome.  Thus began my involvement in LASD politics.

BCS Chair Ken Moore recently dismissed the amicus brief by saying "It’s really an opinion piece by folks who are not party to the case."  His choice of words are eerily reflective of the words that activated me years ago.  These papers were filed by community members, many of whom have children in the schools.  To suggest that they have no interest in the outcome, and that the court shouldn't care what they have to say- that shows a profound lack of understanding of just how involved in education our community really is.  Our students benefit from that involvement every day, and in this instance, I do understand why these people felt compelled to come forward and participate in the discussion.

The papers themselves are pretty interesting- some of their points are similar to things the District has said, and some points are new/ different.  I've posted a copy here for folks to read.  Having sifted through them, I believe that the court should hear from these people- they, too, have a huge stake in the outcome of this proceeding.

Application To Appear
Amicus Brief
Parent Testimony