Bullis battle plays out in Los Altos school board race

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.

12 Comments

  1. There is no LONG TERM enrollment growth! The LASD has shown the 4 year start of a pattern of declining enrollment. There is almost no area in LASD that will see new construction and overall births have fallen by 20%. The little new construction will not make up for the overall fall off in the ages 0-4 who are waiting to get older and enter school. LASD’s need to anticpate enrollment growth turned out to be WRONG, and worse still, the data is showing this to them and they are not paying attention.

    • Please get your facts right first. There are current over 1000 apartments been built in NEC area with 2000 more over the next 5-10 years, LASD’s overall enrolment is at the peak that was last seen in the 1970s. BCS brags about its enrolment growth however these are the same students from our district.

      BCS has not focused on the education qualities over the past few years like other top public and private schools, instead, it plans to grow to 1200 students in 3 years time with no cap. It’s academic performance of proficient or advanced states standards has declined from 96%/97%/98% in 2014-15 to 48% in English/literacy, 37% math and 54% science in 2016-17 (according to BCS own data).

      It wants to be a mega school and demands the district to give them a single site for its unlimited growth, these are mutually exclusive. It runs a private school program and can fire teachers any time, yet rides along the public facilities and funding. It complains about no permanent campus yet refuses a brand new state of the art customised school, which is perfect for a large commuter school with 10% populations in NEC area – what makes them feel so entitled i wonder?

  2. The Bullis camel has long been wanting to put its nose into the LASD tent…and Ying appears to be their proxy for getting in.
    Residents of Los Altos that care about LASD, the public school system, and who recall the amity that prevailed before Bullis entered the scheme of things would do well to vote for Ivanovic, Johnson, or Sirkay.

  3. For those who are interested, the recent LASD meeting with public hearing is below:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maWK6wE_FdI

    What I found interesting is that the rhetorics are quite different in the meeting, comparing to the ones in online forum such as Facebook, or Town Crier comment board – where seemingly trolled by pro BCS people.

  4. Those comments are either against adding a site or pro using it for other than BCS. It’s the BCS position that the site shouldn’t be used for BCS either. The site is too small for BCS. The comments on the video linked here seem to be in agreement with the BCS statements from their board to the LASD board members who attended a BCS board meeting.

    There was that Sharon woman who told them not to decide yet what to do with the site but go ahead and buy it. That’s just irresponsible. Note that the MV council replied back at their next meeting with “tell us before we make the approval what you will do with the site.”

  5. According to the California Department of Education statistical archive, over the past 30 years LASD grew steadily from ~2800 students to ~5300 students, which is equal to filling between 3 or 4 campuses, but LASD has only opened one new campus during that period. “A Concerned LASD Resident” should be more concerned with historical accuracy and less concerned with birth rate, since birth rate is clearly a crude and inadequate method for estimating future student population in an area like Silicon Valley with move-ins and -outs.

  6. This thing about LASD growing from 2800 students in 30 years is very misleading. The previous district high in 1966 was 5900. The district shrank and had to close schools, so it did. When they reduced down to 8 schools they kept more than they needed, and that number of 2800 lasted for over ten years with no further changes in schools. Later the district had grown to 3900 students in 2000. At that point some remodeling was due and they almost opened a 9th school. But the district staff and school board said that with only 3900 students they could not afford more than 8 schools, so even though they had one idle, the stayed at 8 schools well past reaching 3900 students.

    So cherry picking that 2800 number is purposely misleading. LASD has been targeting 500-600 students per school ever since 2000. The only reason they are willing to accept smaller schools now is because they just don’t have the students any more. Enrollment has declined.

    Consider that TK is 73, K is 374 and grade 1 is 433 students. Contrast that to older kids grade 6 is at 463, grade 7 is at 525 and grade 8 is at 560. Clearly the smaller size will reach up through all the grades before too long. Enrollment is clearly shrinking and it MATCHES the birth decline numbers which are compelling indicator of school populations for each age group.

  7. Please get your facts right first. There are current over 1000 apartments been built in NEC area with 2000 more over the next 5-10 years, LASD’s overall enrolment is at the peak that was last seen in the 1970s. BCS brags about its enrolment growth however these are the same students from our district.

    BCS has not focused on the education qualities over the past few years like other top public and private schools, instead, it plans to grow to 1200 students in 3 years time with no cap. It’s academic performance of proficient or advanced states standards has declined from 96%/97%/98% in 2014-15 to 48% in English/literacy, 37% math and 54% science in 2016-17 (according to BCS own data).

    It wants to be a mega school and demands the district to give them a single site for its unlimited growth, these are mutually exclusive. It runs a private school program and can fire teachers any time, yet rides along the public facilities and funding. It complains about no permanent campus yet refuses a brand new state of the art customised school, which is perfect for a large commuter school with 10% populations in NEC area – what makes them feel so entitled i wonder?

  8. I’m a pround BCS parent and a proud LASD parent! I am happy I had the « chance and luck» to join the Bullis Charter School community, but would have happily sent my kids to Covington, my assigned district school, or any of the other schools. We live in a great area with all sorts of amazing schools, private, public & charter!! I feel we have an amazing community, highly educated people & high achieving kids. I embrace the choices we can make for ourselves in our school system. I will vote for a candidat that recognizes that and that recognizes that it’s time to move forward.

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