BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Bullis Charter School announced yesterday that it would not expand into the Mountain View Whisman School District this fall as planned, claiming that the district had changed Bullis’ plans “intentionally to hinder our success.”
Bullis has had a tense, litigious relationship with the Los Altos school district since its founding. The school submitted a petition to expand into the Mountain View Whisman district in October.
In December, the district accepted the petition but added conditions that Bullis says are unreasonable and contrary to state law.
Specifically, the district insisted that Bullis guarantee that it enroll the same percentage of low-income students as the average district school.
“We understand that enrolling a diverse student body requires active engagement to target families who may not be aware of all of their public school options, may not speak English fluently or may be misinformed about what charter schools are and their requirement to serve all students,” Bullis Mountain View’s head of school Jennifer Anderson-Rosse said in a statement. “But state law prohibits us from imposing quotas for certain student subgroups.”
She noted that Bullis plans to offer priority enrollment to students who receive free-and-reduced lunch and wants to set an enrollment target for those students.
Like other charter schools in California, Bullis has to remain open to all students and admit them through a lottery system if there is more demand than availability, Anderson-Rosse said.
Preference for siblings of other students
The district also doesn’t want to give siblings preference for admission, which Bullis officials said was an attempt to “separate families and undermine the success of BMV (Bullis Mountain View).”
“Most importantly, we believe in keeping families together, so our first preference in our petition is for siblings,” Anderson-Rosse said. “If the district had engaged us in any conversation about these conditions, rather than posting them several days before the board meeting with no engagement, we surely could have worked toward a resolution that would have been a win-win for everyone.”
Lastly, the district mandated that Bullis follow the district’s internal assessment process and curriculum, rather than letting the charter school “innovate” on district models, Anderson-Rosse said.
The district required that Bullis outperform each student subgroup each year by 5% while refusing to allow Bullis to join the assessment committee, according to Bullis.
“Students and teachers would have been required to outperform their peers in the district but were in the dark about what was being assessed,” Anderson-Rosse said. “Most adults would be distraught if they were required to sit for a test that assessed mastery of something neither they nor their teachers could identify.”
The district and Bullis had planned to meet today (March 22). District officials didn’t know that Bullis was postponing its plans until yesterday afternoon and said it came as a “complete shock.”
“We had an all-day meeting planned for tomorrow, which both parties agreed to attend, that we hoped would be the first of many positive steps to ensure BMV could move forward to open a quality school for all of our students,” district spokeswoman Shelly Hausman told the Post.
Hausman said the district would continue to “work with” Bullis Mountain View to make sure they’re prepared for a successful opening, while holding Bullis to the parameters consistent with their charter position and the district’s approval.