Bullis Charter School’s bid to move into Whisman district gets frosty reception
Hundreds of Mountain View residents are urging a private charter school with a controversial history in Los Altos to think twice before expanding into the Whisman School District.
“We implore you to defer plans to open a school in Mountain View and instead collaborate with district staff, principals and parent leaders to determine how best to proceed,” reads a Nov. 29 letter sent to Bullis Charter School’s board of directors by Whisman parent leaders and signed by roughly 350 people, including Mayor Lenny Siegel.
“We believe that, without fully understanding the unique cultures, strengths and challenges that contribute to the fabric of our student community, your proposed plan would devastate Mountain View’s public schools.”
Bullis Charter School in mid-October submitted a proposal to the Whisman School District to operate a K-5 school within its boundaries.
Bullis wants to enroll 168 students in transitional
“We deeply value public education and we look forward to creating a school environment that showcases the diversity of the Mountain View community.”
— Jennifer Anderson-Rosse, Bullis administrator
kindergarten through second grade at one of the district’s facilities starting next fall and to eventually enroll 320 students in all grades by 2022. The district board held a public hearing on the school’s request Thursday night attended by about 45 people. The board is scheduled to consider approving or rejecting the request at its Dec. 20 meeting.
Sara Kopit-Olson, a parent leader at Mistral Elementary School, said Bullis’ plans came as a shock to parents because it wasn’t clear until October that it intended to open a local school. KopitOlson said there has been no broad public outreach or major study of the potential impacts, particularly to disadvantaged students. She said Bullis has held summer camps for disadvantaged families over the past several years but “beyond that, they haven’t had a presence in our schools.”
“I would like them to put the charter petition on hold and do a true needs assessment within the community to find out how and if these SED (socially-economically disadvantaged) families want and need to be helped, build trust in the community and build upon what we are already doing in our neighborhood schools,” Kopit-Olson said Thursday. “We would be willing to partner with them and talk about ways that they could help close the achievement gap … (but) we’re not sure we have a need for this charter school in the district. … Our slogan tonight is, ‘Yes to partners, no to charters.’ “
Bullis administrator Jennifer Anderson-Rosse said in an email to this news organization that the charter school has served hundreds of low-income families in Mountain View through its summer camp, “forging strong relationships” with them, conducting outreach and research into serving a diverse population and establishing a diverse leadership team.
“We deeply value public education and we look forward to creating a school environment that showcases the diversity of the Mountain View community,” Anderson-Rosse added. “We are hopeful to have a positive relationship with the District and community members and work together to narrow the achievement gap.”
The Whisman board must make a decision within 60 days of receiving the petition on Nov. 1. According to the California Education Code, the board can deny the request only if Bullis presents an unsound educational program or is “demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement” the program, or if the charter petition fails to fulfill all state requirements.
Mayor Siegel, who noted he signed the letter as an individual and not a council representative, said he’s concerned that the charter school could complicate a plan to create a new Whisman elementary school in the North Bayshore area
where Google plans to expand and 9,850 housing units could be built.
If the petition is approved, it could take Whisman years to find a campus for Bullis’ permanent campus, and that in turn could stall the district’s search for a site to accommodate a new public school.
“We’re committed to a neighborhood school and how do we do that if we don’t know where the charter school is going to go?” Siegel said.
This is the first time the Whisman board has received a charter petition.
Bullis has operated a K-8 charter school in the Los Altos School District since 2003, but the first several years there were rocky. Then in the summer of 2016, after years of acrimony and multimillion-dollar court battles, Bullis and the Los Altos School District agreed to drop their lawsuits and peaceably locate the charter school on two shared campuses.