Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Next steps: BCS Offer Process

Last night the Board met in a regular meeting to discuss the BCS preliminary offer for 2013-14.  LASD Asst Supt. Randy Kenyon worked with a wide range of people within the district to evaluate 4 potential configurations for BCS.  That analysis can be found here: (link to presentation)

After Mr. Kenyon's presentation, we heard from the principals at Covington, Blach, and Egan.  Each of them expressed that they're willing to do whatever is necessary to accommodate BCS, but also expressed concern for their students and the impact that the BCS program continues to have on our own students.

We invited the BCS Board to participate, but they've chosen to wait until we have a preliminary offer to discuss in more detail.  We also invited the BCS PTA, and they did come and provide input.  We heard from the PTA presidents from Egan, Blach, and Covington, as well as ~50 community members. 

There appears to be wide support for a 10th site, but also an acknowledgement that it would be difficult to get a 10th site live by the end of this school year.  In the end, the Trustees decided that we don't believe there will be a 10th site in time for the start of school this fall, so that's not a viable option for this year.  However, we reaffirmed our desire to find a 10th site.

We also had considerable discussion about Covington.  That site has a thriving school community, and it simply isn't rational to close a high performing neighborhood school to accommodate BCS if there are other options available to us.  Additionally, it would cost in the neighborhood of $1m to relocate portables to redistribute those pupils to other parts of the district, so it's not exactly an economical option.  Perhaps most important, it would have a huge negative impact on the special needs students that come from all over the district to attend classes at Covington.  Those pupils are among our most vulnerable.  Asking them to change schools and to uproot their program and impact all of the progress they've made does not make sense.

We considered whether we would need to spread BCS across three sites instead of just two sites.  While this option does "share the pain", it creates additional issues for BCS and for LASD students.  So far we haven't been very successful in "getting along" at our shared facilities.  There have been a number of concerns and issues that keep cropping up.  Trying to make that work at a third site isn't attractive. It is worth noting that this was the least supported option during the community input throughout our process, including both last night and during the facilitated discussions in December.

That left the Board with the Egan/Blach split.  We have asked Staff to consider three possible scenarios: 

Egan: K-3, Blach 4-8
Egan K-4, Blach 5-8
Egan K-5, Blach 6-8

We are quite concerned about the total number of students BCS is projecting, and we're looking to balance the impact across the two campuses.  Part of that depends on the numbers of students, and part of the facilities they require.  We'll have to see what staff brings back to the Board at the end of the month.

Based on the discussion, I expect that we'll invite BCS to participate in some sort of study session in February.  Historically meetings between our respective Prop 39 teams have been relatively low key, and they were not publicly noticed meetings.  This year, I believe we will hold a formal study session, and the meeting will be open to the public to attend.  I feel very strongly that we need to be completely transparent with our process.  If we do hold this meeting as a study session, we will not accept public input during that portion of the meeting.  However, rest assured that we will continue to seek public input throughout the facilities process.

It's worth reminding folks that the study session will likely go through a litany of "wants" from BCS.  They'll raise concerns about various aspects of the offer.  For example, I heard from a reporter today who'd spoken with BCS about the current facilities offer (2012-13).  BCS apparently complained to her that the restrooms at Blach are too far away from their classrooms.  While we will carefully consider each issue BCS raises, it still is up to the discretion of the Board as to how to craft the final offer.  We will weigh the totality of the offer, not just look at each individual part.  The restrooms might not be exactly where they want, but they may have more classroom space than their peers at LASD.  They might not have first pick of when they get access to the science lab, but we might allow them to include their 6th graders in the PE space.  The standard used to evalute the offer is "reasonably equivalent", not "exactly as requested".  The LASD Board will be balancing the impact of the BCS request against the needs of the LASD students who attend our own schools.  BCS students represent about 10% of all students within our boundaries (not 20% as stated last night).  The needs of all 5000 students need to be balanced as we consider how we will meet our facilities obligations.

I would encourage the public to remain engaged in this discussion as we move forward.  At the Board meetings, we tend to see a large number of parents from a specific site.  One week it's Egan, the next week it's BCS, and then it's Covington or Santa Rita.  Maybe we've hit the right balance when we have an equal number of parents from all 10 schools showing up at the Board meetings?  Seems unlikely, but one can hope.  Until then, though, I appreciate those who came out, those who spoke, and particularly those who added to the discussion with positive suggestions. 

One final point:  Last night I talked about the need for BCS to step back from the litigation.  I believe it will be hard for the community to support a 10th site until we are able to work together.  The District Board is elected by the people of our community to oversee the schools and facilities.  If BCS would like to have more input to the process, and perhaps seek a solution other than those that are on the table right now, I'm open to that dialogue.  However, given the pace of the litigation, it seems impossible to contemplate slowing down on any viable option for a BCS location.  If that means we end up "solving" this with a site that BCS isn't thrilled with, it will be a direct result of their Board using the courts to drive home the urgency of solving the issue.  I'm willing to consider other options, but the message they are sending today is "close a school, and do it now", and that's not something I'm willing to do.  I look forward to working with BCS, including their new board member Joe Hurd, to address the needs of all students in our community.