Friday, January 25, 2013

BCS Accepts Split, Asks for More at Blach

In a Luncheon/PR event held this past Wednesday, BCS has stated that they will not seek to close down Covington this year, and are embracing the idea of a Blach/Egan split.  (Patch Article, Town Crier Article) I'm certainly pleased to see that they're internalizing what we've been saying- that closing a high performing neighborhood school isn't a viable option.  Now we have to figure out what comes next.

I was unable to attend the luncheon, as my invite arrived less than 48 hours before the event and I'd already made commitments to clients in my "other job".  I will be interested to see how this proposal meshes with the delivery of education to the students we already have on these campuses.  That will require quite a bit of analysis.

I've already been asked several times what I think of the proposal.  From a practical viewpoint, I really don't know.  Preparing the Preliminary Offer under Prop 39 is a time-consuming task.  We have staff analyzing multiple options already, and they're stretched beyond the breaking point just to get that work done.  The LASD Board gave instruction to staff on Jan 14 to analyze several configurations, and come back with their thoughts on those options.  This new wrinkle from BCS arrived on January 23rd, and it's not fully fleshed out yet.  Staff simply won't have time to add one more configuration to the options list and still complete their task for the Board meeting this Monday.  Any consideration of the BCS request will have to come after the preliminary offer due on February 1st.

One other positive development has come from this- BCS is embracing the requirement that all discussions be public.  I've been saying since October of last year that the process needs to be open and transparent.  I've rejected requests for private meetings, and have emphasized the need for transparency.  I do this for very practical reasons- I want parents on both sides to understand the balancing process.  When parents at Blach understand that there is likely to be increased encroachment on their campus next year, I want them to have seen that we didn't do it lightly.  Likewise, I want BCS parents to understand that we do have other considerations to balance, that this really is a "zero sum" situation.  The district has a fixed set of buildings, land, and money.  We can't just "add more" so we have to balance the needs of all students.  By having the process open to the public, hopefully everyone will understand the trade-offs we've chosen to make.

At our last Board Meeting, I suggested that we might want one or more study sessions with BCS to discuss the preliminary offer.  I still believe that is the right course, and I expect that I'll be taking that up with my colleagues on Monday at our Board meeting.  As always, the public is welcome to attend and see how things progress.

It is worth noting that the litigation train keeps moving too.  We were back at Court this week for a Case Management Conference, and we had discovery responses to deliver in answer to demands from BCS.  We are a comparatively small school district.  It shouldn't come as a surprise that the same people who work on the Prop 39 offer are also the ones who have to respond to discovery requests and sit through depositions.  I wish they had 72 hours in each of their days, but they don't- which means that the time they spend on litigation is time not spent exploring creating solutions.  I can't stress enough the need for BCS to dial down the litigation, so that we have bandwidth to explore other options for facilities.