Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hearing Dates (tentative)

Today our attorneys informed us that we have some tentative dates for hearings in the various litigation threads going on.  I like to think that these dates are "committed", but in the past these have moved at the last minute.  Still, I'll share what we know.

2013-14 BCS Prop 39 Case
We have tentatively agreed to a hearing date on June 20th, 2013.  This will focus only on the first of the two issues, the legality of providing non-contiguous facilities to BCS.  (See my earlier blog posts that detail this thread).  This would be for oral arguments in that case.

Raynor Case (LASD motion, + separate BCS complaint)
In the District's efforts to acquire a site for BCS, we also have a thread of litigation.  Today, our attorneys successfully argued to the judge that the BCS case needs to be consolidated and heard at the same time as our request for declaratory relief.  (BCS opposed the consolidation, but the judge agreed that these cases deal with the same facts, and can be consolidated.)  That case will take a bit more work to prepare, so that hearing is currently set for July 22, 2013.  Again older blog posts contain the details as well as the court filings so far.

I look forward to having these cases heard.  Hopefully we can focus on the core issues, and avoid some of the iterations that have plagued the 2012-13 cases.

Community Discussion at Blach

This evening we held a community discussion at Blach.  The goal of the meeting was to have a forum where parents of both BCS and Blach could come forward and ask questions related to the logistics of sharing the site.  I'm pleased to say that the event was well attended by parents from both schools.  We also had a couple of BCS Board Members join us, at least one of their teachers, and of course their principal.   We even had a member of the Los Altos City Council come join us. 

Many of the questions ocvered things we'd considered in the final offer, but there were also questions raised that we know we still need to hash out.  The "Final Offer" is a document that sapecifies the space BCS can use, but it doesn't address the practical realities of life on the ground.  Blach Principal Sandra McGonacle will be discussing many of those issue with BCS Principal Wanny Hersey this summer.

I believe that the discussion was productive- parents raised questions about the sharing of facilities, and how that all will work.  We continued a dialogue, and are working to establish a cooperative culture between the schools.  That's a win in my book.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Scheduling a community meeting

Updated 5/20:  Due to a scheduling conflict (mentioned below), we've moved up the meeting by a day.  It will be held on May 22 @ 7pm at Blach.

Some folks may be aware, LASD has tried to schedule a comunity meeting to discuss the sharing arrangements at Blach for next year.  The sharing arrangements are new at Blach, and we were concernd that there might be questions or confusion.  Attendees of the Board meetings in March and April probably recall a discussion amonngst the Board and administration about the clear value of having this type of discussion. 

This week we sent out notices for a proposed meeting on May 23rd.  However, BCS replied and let us know that May 23rd is also the night of the BCS Open House.  As soon as we became aware, we reached out to reschedule.  We hope to have that worked out quickly, and to hold this meeting before the end of school.  Ms. McGonagle will send an updated notice when we fix a date. 

The meeting is primarily directed towards parents who have students on this campus next year, but of course anyone will be welcome.  This will not be a "legal" discussion- we're not aiming to talk about how the offer was constructed, or why we did "this" or "that" in the Final Offer.  Rather, the focus will be on logistics and getting along.  I hope that we will have a constructive discussion.

So much for compromise (BCS 2013-14 Litigtion)

2013-14 BCS Complaint, Part I

To borrow a phrase, "so much for compromise". 

The BCS litigation for the 2013-14 school year makes a complete mockery of their $300,000 PR campaign this spring.  They widely touted their willingness to "compromise", and not close an LASD school.  This week, their new attorneys filed a motion for judgement for the first of two causes of action.  The crux of the filing is to claim that the LASD offer is not compliant with Prop 39 because it offers them space on two locations.  They're demanding a contiguous site.  Since we don't have an empty site, that can only mean one thing- closing a high-performing neighborhood school to hand it over to BCS.

The current filing does not ask the courts to rule on part II, their CEQA complaint.  They've reserved that for later.

It's worth noting that the BCS action on this will be led by John Lemmo of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves, & Savitch, LLP.  How deeply involved Morrison & Forrester will be (and the impact of this change) remains to be seen. 

As is my custom, I'm not going to provide specific commentary on the legal aspects of the BCS argument.  The District will be filing a response in due course, and we'll be in front of the judge quickly.  I am trying to get some clarity on exact dates- I believe this might be in a courtroom in June.  I'll definitely keep folks posted.

Here are the documents.

Memorandum and Points (the actual argument)
Motion for Judgement
Declaration of John Lemmo  
Request for Judicial Notice
Proof of Service

Updated at 1:12pm - Having gotten through some additional emails, it appears that we will be in court on June 20 for this matter.  I'm looking forward to the chance to have the courts hear this issue. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Right On, Town Crier

There's a super editorial in the Town Crier this week.  I couldn't have said it better myself. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Coming Soon: Geometry

Over the past several board meetings, the trustees have heard from a number of parents interested in adding geometry to our curriculum.  You asked, we listened.  The board directed staff last night to begin the process of adding Geometry for 8th grade students in the 2014-15 school year. 

Students entering 7th grade this fall will have the opportunity to take Geometry as 8th graders in LASD.  This implies a couple of things.  First, those students will need to complete algebra in 7th grade, so they're going to have a busy 7th grade year.  In parallel, staff will be reviewing appropriate course materials, developing assessments, and working with our teachers to get read for the course offering in 2014-15.

We are still evaluating how we want to handle this for next year.  I received a large number of emails discussing the various issues for students in 8th grade in 2013-14.  Offering the course during the school day would mean many of those students would have to forgo a music course* or foreign language.  Offering it before or after school has schedule impacts too.  There are also serious content-related questions.  Solving geometry problems requires a solid grasp of algebra.  Our staff have expressed significant concern about the idea of "dual-tracking" students next year.  Doubling up on math classes creates some challenges.  Still, we have a few options to consider, and I look forward to the feedback from staff in two weeks.

There seems to be consensus that this will not be an "open enrollment" course.  Rather, students will need to be placed into it, based on their mastery of the foundational material.  We allow students to take any elective they'd like (there's no pre-test to take French I, for example).  However, math is a core class, and our staff feels that in order to offer this class well, we need to ensure that the students in the classroom have appropriate mastery of the prerequisites.  I think that is just sound educational policy.

I want to thank those folks who came forward and asked the District to make this change.  To borrow a phrase, "the process worked".  What I mean by this is that government isn't perfect.  We don't always "get it right the first time".  But the process works when people can bring forward their concerns, we listen to those concerns, and we take action to make things better.  I'm grateful to those parents who expressed their desires in a thoughtful and informed manner, so as to help us understand what was needed.
Many thanks to Alyssa Gallagher and the Jr High math staff who have worked hard to make all of this possible.  I look forward to seeing the results in the classroom.

*There is a high correlation between math and music.  Dropping music to take more math is likely not to achieve the goals folks have in the first place (mastery of math), and the student loses the richness of a balanced education in the process. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Deja vu. And "Hey, haven't I seen this before?"

BCS has filed two new legal actions this week.

On Monday, they filed a lawsuit that looks nearly identical to the District's request for Declaratory Relief.  This relates to the District's interest in acquiring the Raynor facility as a long-term location for BCS.  I'm not sure what the benefit is in creating a duplicate legal action.  Someone with a legal background is welcome to explain that to me.  It feels wasteful.  However, I remain interested to hear from the courts on how they view this issue, so we'll just wait for the hearing date.

BCS Lawsuit #1
Supporting Docs
Cover Sheet

They also filed a second action, in which they allege that the two-site solution is unlawful.  I'm puzzled by this, since they spent over $300,000 this spring publicizing their willingness to "Compromise" and operate at Blach and Egan.  I'm also dumbfounded that they suggest this solution isn't reasonably equivalent, since this solution is virtually identical to how LASD operates our own schools, right down to sharing time with BCS in the specialized teaching space at Blach.  In addition to challenging the 2-site solution, it also challenges the CEQA study the district conducted this past year.  This spring, they said they'd "heard the community", and they weren't asking to close an LASD school.  That seems to be out the window now.  When BCS challenges the site split and the CEQA, it leaves little doubt what they are requesting.

BCS Lawsuit #2

I am again deeply disappointed in the actions of the BCS Board.  They fail to demonstrate a serious willingness to work together.  Some folks have asked if, now that the final offer is complete, will we have time for joint meetings with the BCS board.  I'd point those people to our agenda for this Monday's closed session, which lists 5 open lawsuits to discuss.  BCS seems to be doing all of their talking through their lawyers, and it doesn't look like that is going to change any time soon.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

LASD holds strategy meeting: Public excluded

Next week, LASD will hold a meeting of their Blueprint Committee.   This group gathers periodically to consider the LASD mission, and how best to fulfill it.  We consider progress against existing goals, set new targets, and generally discuss how we'd like to move forward.  The public will not be permitted to attend this meeting.

Outraged?  Of course you are.  Well, you would be if it were true.  LASD is a public school district, and we conduct our business in the public eye.  We invite the public to everything from our Board Meetings to Budget Review Committee, to District Curriculum Council, to the Superintendent's Task Force on Enrollment Growth.  Yes, the public even attends our Blueprint Committee meetings.

Imagine my surprise, then (ok, well, at least my disappointment) that BCS is once again holding meetings to which they specifically have excluded the general public. 

Last night and tonight, May 1 and May 2, BCS will be holding a two part meeting to discuss their school culture, and how to preserve that culture across the Blach-Egan split-site configuration.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to listen to BCS parents discuss their school.  There's a lot to learn here, and I'm interested in hearing the dialogue.  Sadly, BCS has once again excluded the public.  I reached out to a BCS Board member to let him know I was planning to attend.  He informed me that I was not welcome.

This is in direct violation of the various laws that apply to public schools.  For quite some time, it appeared that the meeting would be *at* BCS, but I believe they moved the meeting at the last minute in response to at least some of the issues I raised.  However, the change in venue doesn't address the fundamental fact that a public entity cannot hold meetings and choose which part of the public it invites.  If you've invited all BCS parents, then the rest of the public is equally entitled to attend.

I have raised my concerns to the County Board, although I don't believe they will be taking direct action on this issue.  In that message, I also copied my emails to the BCS Board Member.  However, he has specifically requested that I not publish his replies, so I won't be posting those here.  [Note added 5/7/2013:  I've been asked by folks about the response I received from BCS.  I can confirm that the reply I received from them did nothing to suggest that the venue was anyplace other than the BCS campus.] 

Letter to the County Board
My letter requesting to attend meeting
My reply upon being denied

And in case you're thinking "gee, this sounds like  a repeat of his earlier blog post.  Perhaps he's just wiring in more detail."  I'm not- this has now happened twice in the space of a couple of weeks.  I remain convinced that the BCS organization just doesn't understand what it means to be a public school.

[please note:  There is no LASD Blueprint meeting next week.  Not a public one, and certainly not a private one.  it was for example purposes only.  When we have them, though, the community is definitely welcome to attend.]