Thursday, April 25, 2013

Considering Raynor Site

The Town Crier ran an article today discussing the recent District action to consider the Raynor site in Sunnyvale as a possible location for BCS.  (link to article)  Overall, the article did a pretty good job of explaining the situation.  In a nutshell, Sunnyvale has a parcel available for sale that was a school site back in the 1970's.  LASD is submitting a bid to acquire that site to use as a location for BCS.

Of course, any sentence that includes "LASD" and "BCS" is bound to generate controversy, and this one is no exception.  Before LASD even passed the resolution to do this, the lead BCS attorney threatened to get an injunction to block the action.  BCS has stated that they do not believe it would be legal for LASD to place BCS outside of the District boundaries.

I'd love to be able to say that all laws surrounding charter schools are crystal clear, and that there is no room for doubt or interpretation.  However, this area of the law is relatively new, and as such, the existing laws and regulation require some interpretation.  BCS sees the issue as very "black and white".  However, the District has a different view.  Indeed, even the SCCBOE acknowledges that there are circumstances under which a charter school can be placed outside of the District boundaries.  We received a letter from the county recently detailing their views, and we sent them back a letter in reply.  Both of these letters were mentioned in the comments section of the LATC article.  I'm attaching both the SCCBOE letter and the LASD reply here to dispel any debate about the content of those letters.  (I imagine many will still apply their own interpretation, but there's little I'm going to be able to do about that.)

LASD response to SCCBOE

Clearly there are different interpretations of the law here.
  • BCS contends that LASD cannot place them outside LASD borders
  • SCCBOE acknowledges that there are some instances in which LASD can place BCS outside LASD borders
  • LASD believes that those circumstances and other reasons make it legal for LASD to place BCS outside the LASD borders
So, when you find yourself with different opinions on a topic, what do you do?  First, you try to discuss the views.  We did try to engage BCS in a discussion about their view, but they declined to provide their legal reasoning why we shouldn't be allowed to do this.  I had an email exchange with a BCS Board Member where we gave them the opportunity to weigh in, and they declined to provide their thinking.

Failing getting their thoughts informally, the court system actually provides a mechanism to seek clarification of what the law permits.  That mechanism, called Declaratory Relief, is a simple way for LASD to seek clarification from the courts about the legal issues involved in placing BCS outside the District boundaries.  This process is normally fairly quick (~90 days) and LASD is very interested to hear from the courts on this topic.  We believe that BCS should also share that same interest, so we've asked them to agree to a speedy calendar for this motion.  We'll have to wait and see if BCS really believes in their viewpoint, or if they'd prefer to drag out the process.  Either way, this is a significant question on which we need to hear from the courts so that we can all be working from the same interpretation of the law.

Here's a copy of the request for Declaratory Relief

In closing, I'd observe that it didn't take long after the Town Crier article was posted before folks started weighing in with their views of the legality of this, and questioning the wisdom of the LASD Board in pursuing this option.  I can't speak for the rest of the Board, but I will share my own thoughts.

This controversy has dragged on for 8 years.  Over the past year, BCS has filed complaint after complaint with the court, and has exercised every conceivable legal maneuver to either delay the court's rulings or appeal decisions they've lost (multiple times).  Despite their public statements of "compromise" and collaboration, BCS has made it clear through the pace and tenor of the litigation that they won't rest until LASD has closed a site and handed the keys to BCS.  Any statements to the contrary fly in the face of a lengthy court record.

Given this backdrop, LASD needs to move as expeditiously as possible to secure a site for BCS so that we can prevent the disruption of the education of 4500 students who attend District schools.  Under these circumstances, we would be foolish - and I believe also derelict in our responsibilities - if we didn't consider every possible option for a site for BCS.  The Raynor site happens to be the first available site, so we are moving on that site.  If we had a different relationship with BCS- one based on cooperation instead of litigation- I could envision working closely together to evaluate sites and select one that is workable for the district and that is also appealing to BCS.  Under the current circumstances, though, we would be remiss if we didn't pursue every available option.  BCS can change this equation by dropping the litigation and working with LASD.  If they want to continue to pursue litigation, though, that's the clearest signal they can give that LASD has to find them a site- any site- as fast as we possibly can.