Friday, November 30, 2012

Open Letter to BCS Parents

Note:  I have sent this letter to BCS Board Chair Ken Moore and asked him to share it with his parent community.  It has also been sent to LASD parents.  I copy it here for those community members who may also be interested. 

Unfortunately,the hyperlinks to various documents were not converted into the PDF document that went out, but perhaps folks will find those links here.

 30 November 2012

Dear BCS Parents:

Yesterday you received a letter from Ken Moore, laying out his views relating to the BCS-LASD litigation and inviting BCS parents to contact LASD Board President Mark Goines. Given Mr. Moore’s invitation for improved dialogue, I thought I would reach out to you to further explain the litigation developments, including certain points that Mr. Moore did not accurately recount.

The District is not asking to close down BCS.
Mr. Moore alleges that LASD is trying to shut down BCS. This is flat-out wrong. LASD’s relationship with BCS is very simple- we provide facilities as required under Prop 39. We have no say in BCS operations or other practices. Responsibility for BCS operations and oversight lies with the SCCBOE, not with LASD.

LASD has filed a cross-complaint in the current round of litigation. In that complaint, we do call out certain issues that concern us about BCS recruiting practices, pupil management, fund raising, and other aspects of the operation that seem to be inconsistent with the concept of a public school and equality among public schools within a district. We did so after a number of parents, some of whom had applied to and/or enrolled children at BCS, came forward with troubling allegations and assertions that we believed merited raising with the Court. We have been very specific in what we requested of the Court in our cross-complaint. We do not ask for the Court to "shut down" BCS, or even ask them to order a specific change in BCS behavior. Rather, we have asked the Court to clarify LASD's legal obligations- nothing more. I understand that folks may doubt me on this, but I’d invite you to read the actual filings with the court.

On the issues BCS deemed most important to their 2012-13 complaint, they've lost all three complaints.
Mr. Moore’s recent letter fails to acknowledge that LASD allocated BCS more than 11 acres this year- far more than they had in 2009-10. BCS is apparently choosing to run their program on a subset of that space, but that's a decision made by the administration and the BCS Board. Mr. Moore also complains about LASD "withholding" facilities, but of course does not acknowledge that the District exercised reasonable discretion to provide comparable space to BCS. (I wrote about this back in August, and my explanation lined up pretty much exactly with what the court eventually ruled.) It's not that LASD is acting illegally- it's just not what the BCS Board wanted to happen.

LASD acted in good faith throughout the mediation process. The parties have differing views of the outcome of the mediation. Before we even entered mediation, LASD said that any deal reached had to reflect community input and have the support of the community so that we could pass a bond. That required community input. Upon drafting a framework for discussion, LASD held a series of meetings, both large and small, to collect community input. One of the biggest surprises in that input was that the LASD parent community was willing to work very hard to pass a bond to build a new school for BCS- as long as it also meant that they might be able to keep their own school. Frankly, this is different from what I expected going into the mediation, and it was a change to the content of a possible agreement, but we explained it to the BCS Board and invited them to work with us to resolve it. The BCS Board wanted “site certainty”, meaning that a possible new campus location was not something they were willing to consider. That was not supported by the broader parent community, meaning we would not be able to pass a bond. BCS wasn’t willing to consider the community input, so the mediated framework fell apart.

The BCS Board has said often that they are “willing to go back to the mediated agreement”, and accused LASD of reneging on that agreement. It is meaningless, though, to offer to go back to something that both parties hadn’t yet agreed to. When retelling the story these days, the District’s requirement to solicit and incorporate public input is being ignored. One vocal group of people seem to think the LASD Board should force through an agreement that doesn’t reflect the community’s wishes. The current LASD Board has openly acknowledged that prior Boards failed when they ignored the wishes of the community (in closing Bullis Purissima). To have some of those same people ask us today to once again ignore the wishes of the community is frustrating. The logical conclusion of that action would be that parents at Almond, Covington, Gardner, or Santa Rita would then be the ones forming the next charter school and suing the district again. They would complain that we’ve put the interests of BCS ahead of the interests of their students- something the law specifically prohibits us from doing.

In his thoughtful op-Ed piece recently published in the town Crier, BCS Board Member John Phelps noted that “[u]sing a global perspective to teach about the interconnectedness of communities and their environments, the Bullis Charter School program nurtures mutual respect, civic responsibility, and a lifelong love of learning.” It is simply inconsistent with that stated mission for BCS to fail to consider the community’s views.

The recent court rulings should be a wake-up call to the BCS Board.
Over the past 2 1/2 months, BCS has lost a series of court appearances- the Aug 30 motion, all three parts of the Oct 30 complaint, the fight over discovery (including sanctions for behavior the court deemed unreasonable), and a slew of procedural efforts designed to do little more than increase the cost of litigation for LASD. In response, the BCS attorney has insulted the judge, threatened to defy the order to pay sanctions, and the BCS Board has plans to appeal all three of the rulings they don't like. For all of the millions –literally, millions-of dollars spent on legal fees, the courts have ruled that the District’s behavior has been correct on nearly all counts. As a result of the District’s one loss at the Court of Appeal, the District changed our methodology of calculation and is in compliance with the court requirements. But Mr. Moore's suggestion that the Court of Appeal will be the salvation is unfounded, and it ignores the different facts now on the table. The ongoing litigation war waged by the BCS Board has forced LASD to be extremely careful and thorough in analyzing and applying the law. At this point, the courts have repeatedly held that we are meeting our obligations. The facts of these new cases are different, and chasing every loss to the Appellate Court is a waste of taxpayer resources and is divisive to the community.

Suing the District for exercising what the courts recognize as an exercise of our reasonable discretion as elected representatives is not a winning strategy. It will never bring healing to our community, and it won't achieve what BCS wants. BCS parents need to reach out to their Board and ask them to work cooperatively with LASD. The District needs to balance the needs of ALL students, including the 4500 that attend LASD schools. If the BCS Board can approach the discussion with that idea in mind, with an appreciation for the need to educate all public school students in our community, we'll all be much happier with the results.

I don’t expect that this letter will suddenly make each of you into LASD supporters. However, Mr. Moore’s letter invited parents to become informed about the facts and to dialog with the District Board about them. Clearly we have different views of the facts. How we choose to resolve those differences- in court rooms, or by working cooperatively in our community—will impact the quality of life in our community for decades to come. The LASD Board has many upcoming meetings to discuss these issues, and I encourage you to come and participate, particularly if you can do so with a mind toward working together to solve these problems. I would also urge each of you to contact Mr. Moore and the rest of the BCS Board and ask them to cease the needless litigation, and work with the LASD Board of Trustees to find solutions that our entire community can support.

My email address is, and I welcome all constructive comments and suggestions for a path forward.


Doug Smith
Vice President, LASD Board of Trustees