LASD Superintendent Task Force – Deliverable is an Approach, not a Plan

Written by lalahpolitico
This 2011 study outlined a structure for "Solutions"

This 2011 study outlined a structure for “Solutions”

The LASD Superintendent Task Force is looking like nothing more than a sequel to Pablo Luther’s facility committee study from 2011, before he was elected to the Board. Clearly being on one of these facility committees is a way to advance to the Board of Trustees! [Kidding. Ok, actually Luther was on finance too. Seriously, let’s remember to thank all the folks who volunteer to serve on school boards]


The early part of this Jan. 15, 2013 Task Force meeting included a discussion of what information was missing. What questions still needed to be asked? Is there any available land?

A key one – “Is there any available land, what is like, what does it cost?”
Most of the Task Force had been thinking there would be a list of possible sites,
maybe a bus tour even?

But the task force will NOT be looking at any particular sites. According to Superintendent Baier there is subcommittee already doing that. He says that the  Task Force should just consider land categories – raw, commercial, previous school, eminent domain, tbd. A member asked that a location category be created — so as to recminimize commute time and gas guzzling.

The task force will NOT be looking at any particular sites..,
it will just consider land categories
– raw, commercial, previous school, eminent domain

Baier continued on to say that developing a plan for specific sites or a specific solution “may “ be beyond the scope and timeframe of this group. So instead of a “plan” or a “solution, ” the Task Force deliverable is to be an “approach” with “options”

 the Task Force deliverable is to be an “approach” with “options”
… NOT a solution or a specific plan

LALAHPOLITICO: I felt this came as more than a bit of a surprise to the Task Force members. With some prompting from one member, Baier offered the rationale for not disclosing the land “list” — the district needs to hold its cards close to its chest for price negotiation reasons. Lalahpolitico’s understanding is that the site search sub-committee is still made up of trustees Tamara Logan and Steve Taglio and also the Los Altos School District’s realtor, Tom Campbell.

This is the motley crew sub-committee that comes up with site ideas like in Sunnyvale, San Jose, and on the Moon. I hope the taxpayers are not picking up the gas expense as they drive around to useless sites at unworkable distances! Wait, I take it back. With Elon Musk’s Space X reusable space shuttles now available, maybe the moon isn’t too far.


The LASD Superintendent's task force at work on Jan. 15

Some of the 13 member LASD Superintendent’s task force at work on Jan. 15


MISSING INFO – whither BCS growth



Lalahpolitico errroneously inferred that BCS planned to take about 6 years to grow from about 600 students next year to 900. A BCS source has clarified that BCS board member Peter Evans presented a scenario, not a plan, to the LASD board last November. Peter Evans stated at that November LASD board meeting that BCS may try to grow to 900 eventually. BCS says it wants to meet the perceived demand.

BCS presented a scenario of how many years it might take to grow to 900.  But that was a scenario, not a promise to try to get to 900 in 2 years or 8 years. I have not found the presentation on either school web site.

David Roode and a BCS parent have pointed out that to get to 900 eventually, BCS will have to add at least one more strand. [Beyond the 4 strands of k-3 = 80 students being added for 2013-2014 per the Prop 39 request]. If that were another K strand of 20 students, that would constitute 100 kindergarten students in that year.  If nothing else happened, over 8 years of grade progression enrollment would cap at 900.  Or as Mr. Roode speculates, a strand or two could be inserted in the middle grades by BCS to get to 900 faster.


There was a lack of knowledge about BCS growth ambitions. “How big do they say they expect to get?” asked one member.  Fortunately one Los Altos School District parent who is a member attends BCS board meetings. He was at the one where BCS voted on its growth strategy. Over six or so years enrollment will grow to 900.

To be specific, BCS is adding one K class of 20 slots, one 1st grade class of 20, one 2nd grade class of almost 20, and one 3rd grade class of almost 20. With grade progression, a few slots through the grades for siblings and the almost 80 new slots, total enrollment rises from 517 this year to 644 next year [BCS Nov. 1, 2012 Facilities Request to Jeff Baier, p. 6] Peter Evans presented the forecast to the Los Altos School District Board on November 8, 2012. Lalahpolitico has not been able to find those slides showing the enrollment progressing over six years to 900 at either school website. [See CORRECTION above]


Table 1. Compare LASD vs. BCS Version of 2020 Enrollment

[table cols=”Entity Enrollment, LASD forecast 2020, BCS forecast 2020″ data=”LASD, 4312, 4000, BCS, 568, ~880, Total, 4880, 4880″][/table]

Source: Demographer’s report – forecast based on 2011 actuals, p. 3 of report.

Table 1 assumes that the demographer’s medium high forecast of total enrollment of 4880 students is correct.  The only issue is how to divide it between LASD and BCS.  The demographer was told by LASD staff to assume that the charter might break up or at least stop growing as the founders’ kid graduated.  Accordingly,  the report caps BCS k-6 at 468 students  in 2013 and keeps it a horizontal line.  Similarly the report caps BCS 7-8 at 100 students in 2015 and keeps it a flat line. Both these assumptions are updated in Table 1 by Lalahpolitico using BCSs 2013-14 Nov. 1 Facilities Request Document data.

Bottom line:

880 – 568 = 312 kids apart. The difference in their versions of the future by 2020 is a whole small school.  


Deciding how to Decide. Can community input help the Task Force make better recommendations?

Deciding how to Decide. Can community input help the Task Force make better recommendations?




Question: Will higher jurisdictions intervene in any way?

Lalahpolitico: Is this the hope that courts, high or low, might rule BCS doesn’t deserve Prop 39 facilities? Then the problem goes away. Yeah, but only part of the problem. If such a ruling were made, it would likely affect enrollment shares between Los Altos School District, BCS and private schools in ways we can’t predict. In addition, the district still has all that growth from N of El Camino. There are enough students there for their own school.


Question, how will we know if an approach will create “a reasonably equivalent site” because we don’t know how the legality of equivalence is determined?

Lalahpolitico: Is the task force aiming for minimum legal compliance? If that is the “approach” to the BCS part of the facilities conundrum, it will be years before the litigation appeals stop. On the other hand, if the task force wants the litigation to stop, they should offer BCS something better than testing how low the bar of legal compliance can go. Just because it is legal, doesn’t mean the community thinks it’s right and just. An offer should meeting community values of fair share.

if the task force wants the litigation to stop, they should offer BCS something better than testing how low the bar of legal compliance can go

Lalahpolitico: Most people in the community probably “feel” that the facilities BCS now uses are NOT reasonable. At least THEY wouldn’t use them. And most of the most “feel” that other people and kids could share more. It’s hard to imagine a bond passing in support of something as vague as an “approach.”

Just because it is legal, doesn’t mean the community thinks it’s right and just.


The construction industry "make ready" process is a lot like the tech industry's "waterfall" product development process

The construction industry “make ready” process is a lot like the tech industry’s “waterfall” product development process

DISCUSSION OF PROCESS – Waterfall vs. Agile approach

The facilitator sold the group on a process metaphor from the construction industry.  At each step: foundation, framing, roof, plumbing, sheetrock, the previous crew signs off that they are complete and have “made ready” for the next crew, the next step.

Many MBA thought leader careers have been made by renouncing this approach, instead holding up Japan’s continuous improvement model.  All of us tech people recognize “make ready” as the good old Waterfall approach to product development–throw it over the wall, don’t go back.  These days the Agile approach is favored, especially in software.  The team builds a preliminary version, runs it through the development steps, finds the deficiencies, and ITERATES again.  Around and around. Development is even more of a continuous refinement for web software.

One of the Task Force members detected the logical conflict between following a “make ready” approach, but also accepting public input and comments about the recommended approach.  Wouldn’t people be mad if their input was just ignored?  [This was the math teacher of course.]

Lalahpolitico:  I felt this inconsistency was left unresolved by the group.  See the next section.


The Task Force deliverable will be a recommended approach with options, not a solutions or a plan. The Task Force will not evaluate specific sites and costs.

The Task Force deliverable will be a recommended approach with options, not a solutions or a plan. The Task Force will not evaluate specific sites and costs.



Months ago the City Council of Los Altos was adamant that the Task Force needed to let the public provide comment on the preliminary deliverables … or else it was just show trial.

Four Task Force members were absent, including John Swan and Fred Gallagher – the Town of LAH and BCS picks. Those two were among the members most keen on having a strong public feedback loop. Lalahpolitico supposes, this public input step will get more refinement at the next meeting.

[info]LALAHPOLITICO CORRECTION: I believe I misidentified the absent member from Los Altos Hills. It is John Swan, not Dave or David Snow.   List of Task Force Members from the Town Crier.[/info]

At first it sounded to me like the group did not have any idea what community input is. Barry Groves, Superintedent of MVLA High School District, finally got the ball rolling when he offered some concrete suggestions. “Have a meeting and let people speak for a minute or two.” Nancy Gill thought “online technology” might be helpful – people are too busy to come to a meeting . She said the guest ideas for Los Altos School District facilities solutions are useful. [You can find a menu of links to all these ideas on the home page, left hand side.]

It sounded to Lalahpolitico that most of the group found more negatives than positives about public input. First, there had already been a lot of it – the Dec. 8 Los Altos School District mediated session for example. Second, sometimes there is too much of it – the Jan. 14 Los Altos School District meeting “where too many BCS parents spoke” out. Third, if there is input, the task force might have to loop back and redo earlier decisions. Fourth, the task force is assumed to be a representative body and therefore they should just go ahead and represent.

the task force is assumed to be a representative body
and therefore they should just go ahead and represent


The positives of public input were 1) the Task Force would make a better decision with the wisdom of crowds, 2) it would be a pre-test of the political climate for the recommended “approach” 3) public input makes people “FEEL” like they were part of a process even though they weren’t.

public input is pre-test of the political climate for recommended “approach”


The group facilitator decided to practice taking public input at this meeting. He invited the group of us 10 or so observers to suggest any Approach Criteria that we felt were missing. A couple more were added or refined as suggested by the public.

Who pays how much for what

Who pays how much for what



Here’s my summary of the draft criteria the Task Force developed. No surprises here. A big yawn. See the Pablo Luther  powerpoint…

COST – what can we afford with and without passing a bond or parcel tax?

TIMEFRAME – how long does it take to produce this approach?

TRAFFIC – auto, bikes, pedestrians, safety, commute time?

WHAT ARE THE COMMUNITY VALUES about SIZE — for class size, school size, cohort size?


TIME SPAN – does this solution last?

DISRUPTION – of families, of neighbors, of seniors, of other groups ( boundary redraw)?

STUDENT WELFARE – how are kids affected academically or socially or emotionally?

EQUALITY – Does this approach make our socio economic inequalities within our schools and as compared to other districts better, worse, or the same?

CONFLICT RESOLUTION – does this approach fix BCS vs. Los Altos School District?

GROWTH ACCOMODATION – does this solve the N of El Camino growth problem?

COMMUNITY BENEFITS – Are there any? For example more asset sharing with the general public?

PROCESS PROBLEMS – Are there any? For example 2 schools on a single campus or splitting a school across 2 or more campuses.

POLITICAL FEASIBILITY – Nimbyism, groups who would oppose are they small or large, is there a majority of public acceptance, can PR work?

FLEXIBILITY vis a vis ENROLLMENT – Does this approach work through the range of low to high enrollment of the Task Force’s forecast?


Unfortunately, the BCS facilities issue remains top of mind, even though the North of El Camino growth is as pressing and difficult.  Thought it is less difficult politically.

At the Task Force, the BCS facilities issue remains top of mind, even though the North of El Camino growth is at least as pressing and difficult. But NEC it is less difficult politically – why not start there?





About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.


  • The BCS growth vector towards 900 is based on having 100 at each grade level and was discussed in the BCS board meeting where they decided to fill in K-3 to match 4-8 as of next year. Previously they had target 3 classes for each grade level with 20 each K-3 and 25 each 4-8. They hadn’t reached the goal in 6-8 as of that point. The different class sizes meant that each year they admitted 15 new students in grade 4 who had not attended K-3. It’s that simple.

    Now with 4 classes in K-3 and 3 classes in 4-8, you have 80 students in grade 3 needing to advance to grade 4 and fit in 75 spaces, so it’s not an ideal situation. But 5 lower grade classes matches up evenly with 4 upper grade classes, so that yields the 100 at each grade level. They considered starting a 5th K class next year but decided to wait. But year after next, they could add the extra classes at whatever grades they decide, perhaps both K and 4, for example. Then it will take just 4 years to reach 875. Maybe they will add them at K, 3 and 6. Then it just takes 3 years to hit 900.

  • David, Interesting. Do see my correction to the article. It is not known how quickly or slowly BCS might grow to 900. Just that Peter Evans presented that 900 cap in a scenario at a Nov. LASD board meeting. Also that BCS discussed paths to 900 at a BCS board meeting.

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