BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
The battle over Bullis Charter School rages on in the Los Altos School District, where two newcomers are challenging two incumbents next month for their seats on the school board.
The district is in the process of purchasing 9.6 acres of land at Showers Drive and California Street in Mountain View and will soon have to decide whether to open a new neighborhood elementary school there, or to move Egan Junior High or Bullis Charter
School there. Bullis is currently housed on two campuses shared with Egan and Blach Intermediate schools.
Vladimir Ivanovic, who is running for his second term and is board president this year, wants to see a neighborhood school open at the site. He’s also raised concerns about the cost of educating students at Bullis Charter School.
Last month, he estimated in an email to challenger Ying Liu that it costs the district about $4,000 a year to educate Bullis students, because the district pays Bullis $10,000 per student, many of whom he speculated wouldn’t attend district schools if Bullis didn’t exist.
In a postscript, Ivanovic corrected a grammatical error in Liu’s email signature, which identifies her as a school board candidate and a “Parent of Los Altos School District.” “In your signature, you probably mean, ‘Parent in the Los Altos School District,’ but that’s technically incorrect,” Ivanovic wrote. “You reside in the Los Altos School District, but you would — I’m guessing — rather die than send your children to LASD schools.”
Ivanovic, a 67-year-old retired, stay-at-home dad, said that which school should go to the Mountain View site would “depend on factors that we simply don’t know yet.”
Despite Ivanovic’s preference for a neighborhood school, he sees “scenarios where putting all or part of Bullis Charter there, permanently or temporarily, makes sense.”
Ivanovic served on the district’s financial advisory committee for two years before being elected to the board in 2014 and touted his success passing a parcel tax, starting the acquisition of the new school site and focusing on identifying and reaching children who are struggling.
Ying Liu, a 45-year-old part-time startup advisor and mother, said she should be elected because she’s the only candidate who is demanding a detailed plan on the $150 million plan for the Measure N school bond.
“I am the only candidate who is willing to explore alternatives after personally meeting with the BCS and LASD board members, as well as hundreds of parents, to understand their perspectives and ideas,” Liu said.
Liu said she wants the board to present a detailed cost plan for the new school site land and construction. She also said the board hadn’t clearly stated why they wanted the new site: to serve kids in the booming North of El Camino neighborhood, or to serve Bullis Charter School, which is a lottery-based school.
Bryan Johnson, 44 and a decade into retirement from software development, is running for his first full term after serving a two-year partial term. He touted his work partnering with the city of Mountain View to develop the plan to buy the new school site, and he said he increased communication with parents through regular board member office hours and provided teachers with more training opportunities.
Johnson said any district would need to explore the question of whether students living in the San Antonio neighborhood would be better served in their current schools or by a neighborhood school that, in the short term, would “have the drawback of heavily concentrating our socioeconomically disadvantaged students and our English learners in a single school.”
Vaishali “Shali” Sirkay, a 45-year-old community relations specialist at El Camino Hospital and associate director at the Center for Age-Friendly Excellence, said she supports opening a neighborhood school on the new school site.
“Our board should prioritize finding long-term solutions to enrollment growth in our district,” Sirkay siad. “I will address enrollment growth in a way that is inclusive and focuses on the current and future needs of our community.”
Sirkay has served as the president of the Los Altos Mountain View PTA Council and co-chaired district campaigns that led to Measure N’s passage, as well as Measure GG, the $2.8 million parcel tax in 2016, and Measure E, the $295 million Mountain View Los Altos school district bond.