Bullis Charter School History
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How Bullis Charter School Started
The entire history of Bullis Charter School starts at a single event in time: the closing of a local neighborhood public school in 2003 known as Bullis Purissima School in Los Altos Hills (for outsiders: the "rich part" of our relatively rich area).
The community passed an LASD bond issue to renovate ALL of the schools in the District with widespread support including residents of Los Altos Hills, as they assumed this would help their local neighborhood public school return. With the bond issue passed, LASD proceeded to renovate one school at a time, which required each school to be closed for one year and its students to be moved to a camp school.
As there was the Housing Bubble--unprecedented in the history of our Country--the costs of construction skyrocketed unexpectedly. This caused the schedule for the new campus at the Gardner Bullis site to change. Instead of immediately re-opening Bullis Purissima School, the project was delayed for several years--although at no time had the District ever not planned to return a neighborhood public school to that site.
The school finally re-opened in 2008 as Gardner Bullis School (and since then Bullis Charter School has worked very hard to shut this school down).
In reaction to this situation, many citizens where disappointed but understanding that these events were decided upon democratically, and democracy is not always perfect. They ultimately moved on, until the new school reopened on a delayed schedule.
Some residents--of very notable means, financially--were not tolerant of the delay in re-opening their local neighborhood public school and generally did not accept the decisions of the duly elected school district leadership. They instead sought every means necessary to override the will of the majority of the community through legal loopholes and vast amounts of money.
(One part of this story should be called out as telling of the character of the BCS founders: A large contingent of families that were among the most angry were those from not in the Los Altos School District and were rather in the Palo Alto School District. Due to changes in State funding and the lack of an agreement with the Palo Alto district as there is today, the District was forced to ask students there to leave their local neighborhood public school. As such, parents from outside of LASD were among the "angry few" who started BCS. This reveals the character of the BCS founders as today, one of the primary unfair attacks on our School District by BCS supporters is that they accept PAUSD students. This shows how cynical BCS supporters will say anything that helps their cause no matter how ironic).
What these people did is almost unbelievable to tell it now.
Very angry they did not get their local neighborhood
public school back now now now despite the practical details, these
millionaires and billionaires worked to create a new school immediately.
Because the situation was so personally charged at that time between the District leadership and this contingent of rich parents, a simple solution such as starting a private school was not an option.
Instead the BCS founders chose the most spiteful and divisive path their high-paid lawyers could dream up, which was to start a "charter school". They chose to use their own children and those of the community's as martyrs for their angry cause.
Normally a set of laws used for "disadvantaged" communities with problematic schools, these ingenious lawyers figured out how to "buy a Ferrari with Food Stamps" by opening a Charter School in one of the richest communities in the country.
Many rational, honest parents considered the re-opening of Gardner Bullis School a victory for local neighborhood public schools in this area. The residents of Los Altos Hills ultimately won as their closed public school is now open again --a school now boasting an attendance of almost 300 happy kids in kindergarten through sixth grade.
But the existence of Gardner Bullis School gives BCS no more objective reason to exist. The rationale behind the school has now been nullified. However BCS lives on, ironically seeking to close Gardner Bullis School so it can once again have a reason to exist.
Over the years this school has cost our community millions of dollars in legal fees to stave off their constant lawsuits. Remember that the school was started by billionaires with an infinite legal budget. Money is not the issue here per se--it's about pride and revenge and spite. To lose this "battle" against our community means they "lose face" against a group of District board members who are no longer even here. Hence, they fight on, snatching at every imaginable argument that comes their way which will detract from our top-ranked public schools. Today BCS is a school filled with zealots who are trained to hate public schools.
This is the legacy of a certain group of millionaires and billionaires. They didn't get what they wanted, when they wanted it--and they refused to simply pay their own way out of it as any rational people of these means would do. Now our entire community is under attack and exists in a "war zone".
All because some millionaires and billionaires got mad.
Bullis Charter School's Strategy of Intentional Growth in Order to Close a School
The original charter for Bullis Charter School was written expressly to replace the closed school and it was explicitly stated that it would be exactly the same as the local district schools. That charter was laughingly rejected by chartering authorities as it was a flagrant misuse of the charter laws.
BCS lawyers then modified the charter to make it sound more differentiated as required by law. It's worth noting here that one of the original stated goals of the school was to remain a small school of perhaps no more than 200 students, which would be consistent with it's financial model which required a large annual "tuition" of $5000/student--an amount only a small part of the population could afford.
As their "promised land" campus reopened and became very successful, however, they knew they had to devise a different plan in order to secure this campus and close the re-opened school there. This strategy consisted of inviting many more students to their school in order to swell their enrollment numbers. Although this strategy was very risky, financially speaking--inviting a broader audience meant fewer who could afford the full $5000 tuition--the super-wealthy backers of the school didn't care (it's only money after all).
Growth of the school, it should be noted, was not hard for them. First, the school district never offered any sort of "competition" in terms of marketing, and BCS was free to make ridiculous smears against our local public schools in order to discredit them. They also engaged in professional corporate-style marketing of the sort no public school would ever engage in.
At root, BCS's lavish program is a give-away by rich people. The super-rich founders of the school would underwrite a private-school-like program which would be out of reach for the new broader audience, or provide a great discount over private schools. In short, the super-rich BCS founders essentially bought themselves a whole bunch of new students in order to accomplish a certain goal.
What goal? Based on the structure of the newly minted Prop 39 law, the BCS lawyers probably theorized that if they grew much bigger than the school now residing on their "promised land" campus, the District would be legally forced (after much litigating and millions in legal fees) to hand over that campus and close the re-opened school that made their own school redundant.
This strategy was not only cruel--using innocent parents and children as pawns in their wider strategy--but was also an extreme long-shot for a number of reasons, and risked their school's financial well-being. This shows that the BCS leadership is not only unfeeling but also foolish and impulsive.
Bullis Charter School is probably the first school in the history of our country who has attempted to used growth in their enrollment as a weapon against the will of the local community.
Bullis Charter School's Vengeful and Deceitful Opposition to Measure E
Bullis Charter School supporters opposed a new movement to help public schools called Measure E. It entailed a $193 parcel tax for houses within the area of LASD, with exceptions for older residents. To put this into perspective, the property tax on an average house in our area--well over $1M in price--hovers around $10,000 per year. This Measure proposed to add another 1-2% to people's yearly tax bill to support schools in a very difficult time for schools.
Bullis Charter School supporters did everything they could to fool the voters into voting against Measure E. In particular, they bought thousands of signs stating, "STOP THE $793 TAX--NO ON E". This was not even a distortion--it was a lie. The tax was $193, not $793--a 400% distortion of the facts.
The Bullis Charter School principal also sent out a message to all Bullis Charter parents urging them to vote no and to help defeat the Measure (although presumably in lawyer-approved language to make sure they narrowly stayed within the laws against using public school funds to further a political campaign).
Why would alleged supporters of a kids and education oppose more funding for schools? Because their motives have nothing to do with kids and education.
Since the additional funds went first to LASD--and not BCS--they did everything they could to stop the Measure.
Since BCS is chartered by the County and not the local school District, a parcel tax for the District legally cannot flow to a country-charter school like BCS. Further, since LASD funds things like facilities (which BCS makes use of as well) and incurs expenses that BCS does not such as educating special-needs kids and paying for legal obligations such as teacher retirement, the money for the parcel tax does not make up for the difference in revenue to BCS.
As such, this Measure would not harm BCS in any way. In fact, as there is more money for the District who supports them, it actually helps the school.
But they still opposed it and worked very hard and lied through their teeth to get it to fail. That thousands of kids in LASD would be harmed was no concern of theirs. They opposed the Measure because of spite and revenge.
Fortunately the voters of Los Altos and Hills are a little smarter than that. The Measure was passed by its required 2/3 majority.
That the voters of Los Altos and Hills passed this Measure despite the best efforts of a bunch of billionaires should show you that we are not powerless to stop them. All we need to do is spread the truth and voters will take care of the rest.
Bullis Charter School's Purchase of County Politicians
Many people in our community must be wondering: why would the Santa Clara County Board of Education (SCCBOE) do this to us? As is the case so often these days, the answer is: money.
This section is still a work in progress as details are difficult to track down for this subject. Any help with campaign data would be appreciated.
However, our friends at VoteSmart.com did chronicle the contributions of
Anna Song in 2008 (who, to be fair,
bravely voted against renewing the Charter this year but this is old data--presumably Bullis Charter's
dirty money didn't change her opinion).
(Update: a new rumor is that BCS is now actively funding a puppet candidate to run against Anna Song in her reelection to the SCCBOE. We cannot confirm this rumor at this time. We urge readers, however, to support Anna Song in her current and future endeavours).
In short, over half of one SCCBOE member's total contributions were from Bullis Charter School board members and supporters. This is a clear indication of BCS's willingness to buy politicians.
Bullis Charter School's Undermining of Democracy
The Mercury News published this story about Bullis Charter School and its involvement in what can be characterized as "political dirty tricks". In short, one of the more impartial and courageous members of the SCCBOE (Anna Song) is now the subject of an attack by BCS as retaliation for "not playing ball" and rubber-stamping the BCS Charter renewal like most of the other Board Members did.
As the story above states, Josh Newman, founder of EdTec--a company that receives yearly plum contracts from Bullis Charter School--was heavily involved in the redistricting effort by the County which could tear apart the districts of, surprise surprise, the two members of the Board who voted against BCS in the most recent renewal by the County.
This once again shows that BCS is not interested in what the "majority" of what honest citizens think--which makes sense since the entire premise of their "school" is to remove power from a democratically elected body and hand it to themselves, accountable to nobody.