Schools

Task Force Predictably Chooses Charter School for Kohls 10th Site

Los Altos School District 10th site task force prepare to take a deciding vote
Facilitator Manny Barbera prepares task force to vote for their first and second choice options for the Kohls site
Written by lalahpolitico

It’s no surprise that the majority of the Los Altos School District’s most recent 10th site task force voted to recommend placing Bullis Charter School on the Kohls 10th site in Mountain View. The majority were known as Los Altos School District partisans.  The options under consideration had been 1) a neighborhood school, 2) a magnet school, 3) the charter, and 4) other.

[Read a selective transcript, download complete audio files, or stream the complete audio of the meeting below. ]

download part 1

download part 2



Over many months, the 10th site task force proceedings were so predictable.  Partisans were just making arguments familiar to many. The only breath of fresh air was Mountain View City Council Member Margaret Abe-Koga’s proposal that Egan Jr. High move to the Kohls 10th site campus, and that the charter occupy all of the Egan Campus.  That was the least popular option among task force members. The neighborhood school was a strong 2ndchoice.

After 2 months of being unable to schedule a meeting this summer, the 10th site Task Force held its final meeting August 27, 2018 with only Joe Seither absent.  It was a rush job because the District Board of Trustees had said they needed a final report for the board meeting of Sept. 10.  The Superintendent for Business, Randy Kenyon, has said publically that the Kohls deal contracts should/could be signed before the end of 2018.

Lalahpolitico: Perhaps the Kohls 10th site deal contracts can be signed as soon as a couple of weeks before the November 6 election? Wouldn’t it be fun for the Los Altos School District trustees to announce the close of the Kohls 10th site deal, — land it got for nearly free — AND the ‘lucky winner’ of the new campus – the charter — at the same time?  Those BCS partisans who have been hoping that the FPPC would find a conflict of interest in the MV Council vote 4 to 3 to not require a NEC school, can forget about it. According to an ex-elected official, the FPPC has apparetly ruled that the Los Altos School District land the MV council member Mc Alister has leased was totally unrelated to the Kohls land. So no conflict of interest. Apparently, the MV Council vote stands.


Los Altos School District 10th Site Taskforce slide with options for Kohls site

The choice was between 4 options – NEC neighborhood school, Bullis Charter School, move Egan Jr High to Kohls. The magnet school option was dropped because it had zero support and replaced with the Egan option.

Wheezing Off of Kevin

Kevin Forestieri at the MV Voice did a great job summarizing key ‘discussions’ at the meeting, especially from a City of MV angle. See his Aug. 28 article. https://www.mv-voice.com/news/2018/08/28/task-force-backs-plans-to-move-bullis-to-mountain-view

Here I have grabbed a few of Forestieri’s paragraphs–

QUOTE: Five of the eight task force members present, Lara Daetz, Raquel Matteroli, Sandra McGonagle, James Reilly and Tom McGovern, voted for moving Bullis to Mountain View as their first choice, which was largely seen as the least disruptive option for the district. It would avoid having to redraw attendance boundaries, would not necessitate the opening or closing of a district-run school and could theoretically house the charter school’s full enrollment all on one location — provided Bullis never grows beyond 900 students. Charter school board members have previously made clear they intend to increase enrollment to up to 1,200 students in the coming years, which district officials said would not be a possibility on the site.

In making the Monday vote, the majority of task force members also rejected a proposal by Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga to relocate Egan Junior High School to the new Mountain View school site, which she admitted was a little “out there” but could present a much-needed compromise in the debate between moving Bullis and creating a new neighborhood school. She said most of the feedback on her idea has been positive.




Crossings resident and task force member Anthony Shortland said Abe-Koga’s approach made the most sense purely from a numbers perspective, given that the charter school could grow to 1,200 students and the new campus has enough space to support Egan now and in the future.

“There really is only one solution, and that’s to put a consolidated charter school on the Egan site and move Egan to the new site,” he said.

Superintendent Jeff Baier told the Voice that the school board is slated to discuss the task force’s recommendations on Sept. 10, and is expected to weigh in with a final decision on the site’s usage in the next six to eight weeks.


Lalahpolitco Transcript Overview:

If you really want to grasp the tension and struggle between the opposing camps of, check out the below transcript of selected parts of the meeting.  Above there are the audio files of the PUBLIC group discussions, but not the small breakout groups


LASD 10th Site Task Force, Randy Kenyon review 10th site Kohls deal

Randy Kenyon reviewed 10th site Kohls deal. Now it is 9.5 acres not 9.6. Hetch Hetchy easement is outside of both the 9.5 acres and the 2.0 ‘park’ acres Greystar developers are buying in conjuction with their Safeway/Old Mill mixed use project.

First a Lalahpolitico Summary:

Randy Kenyon used the first hour of the meeting to present the Gelfand architects’ 3 site layout ‘concept’ plans. [Lalahpolitico will present and discuss these in another post.]

District enrollment trends were discussed. They are flat and/or declining. Kenyon reminded everyone that such things fluctuate. [See prior post about flat enrollment.] If the district moves to a middle school model, some elementaries look too small to keep open. Things fluctuate.

There was heated discussion of the alleged lack of ‘equity’ of a neighborhood school in NEC, lack of assessment scores data transparency, the alleged fallacy of basing local decisions on nationwide correlations of low test scores in schools with high percentages of non-english speaking – free lunch students, when actual local data is available to study that. [Lalahpolitico will present more about equity in another post.]


Los Altos School District Task Force voting members

Voting members seated at the table. Black shirt Anthony Shortland, Lara Daetz to his left, Raquel Matteroli in black, to her right, Sandra Mc Gonagle in yellow, Jill Jene in grey

There were Eight task force members present at the meeting

{The votes of the following five members are what made the BCS option the first choice of the task force}

*Lara Daetz, MV NEC resident, former District Parent

Raquel Matteroli, Almond Principal

Sandra McGonagle, Superintendent for Curriculum

*James Reilly, MV resident, Covington parent?

Tom McGovern, District parent

10th site Task Force members

Two task force voting members, right to left, Tom Mc Govern and James Reilley. Superintendent Jeff Baier in the background

*Margaret Abe-Koga, MV City Council

*Anthony Shortland, MV Crossings resident, Egan, BCS parent

*Jill Jene, BCS parent, recruited by BCS

 

Non-member attendees

Jeff Baier – Superintendent

*Randy Kenyon – Superintendent for Business

an Asterisk * indicates that this person spoke a lot during the meeting. The others, much less.


BEGIN EDITED TRANSCRIPT:

An ellipsis …. indicates words, sentences and whole conversation threads may be omitted. There was quite a lot of interrupting and people talking over each other, repetitions and other infelicities. These are omitted for clarity.

First Half audio file:

PUBLIC COMMENT. Six minutes into the meeting.

Almond Parent Kate:  I represent predominantly Almond parents.  We have 100 who have provided feedback…Through a google forum. … We are opposing putting Egan at the new school site. … We compare putting the charter there vs. moving Egan there. We can’t comment on a NEC school option.

We think middle school kids are the most vulnerable…because they travel to school alone….compared to young kids who are driven. …There are a lot of strangers there…So more Egan parent would drive their kids there… We bought our homes based on our neighborhood school [Lalahpolitico: ‘don’t trash my property value’]. We think the charter school parents are already driving their kids to school. Most of us are somewhat aware of the historical brawling.  We are aware that things have pretty calm for a few years.  But we also have read that the charter school is intending to increase its enrollment. Parents are concerned that the charter school might be able to unilaterally increase its numbers and thereby push Egan to the new site as the only option, because it works in terms of the numbers.

……….

Jill Jene: If you move to the middle school model, you end up with schools like Gardener having 250 kids, with Oak having 340-50, with Loyola having 340. So the two junior highs could up to 900, but the elementaries schools would range from 250 to 400 kids at each of the campuses.

Kenyon: It would be more than 400 at some of the larger ones, but at the smaller ones, Yes. Santa Rita and Almond would still be larger than others…Enrollments vary from time to time. BCS enrollment was 879 [in-district?] last year.

689 Los Altos School District students live in NEC area. 97 BCS students live in the NEC area.  196 BCS students live in MV [ NEC plus Gemello] – Kenyon

Lalahpolitico:
Jill Jene  argued that the District has simply asserted that a neighborhood school in that area would have “too many ELLs and free and reduced lunch FRL students” to succeed academically.  She does NOT AGREE this would be the case.

Within the District, 80% of the District students who are in the group – ELL or FRL – come from NEC. [Lalah: how many students is this?] Nationwide research data shows that ELL/FRL students do better on tests when they attend a school with a high percent of NON – ELL/FRL students. [How many of the 689 (district) + 97 (charter) = 786 NEC students are (ELL or FRL or (BCS lunch equivalent)?  Lalah would like to know. I have heard that looking at FRL numbers  alone is the better metric for understanding the number of underprivledged in the District, by School and in NEC. ]


Lasd staff – McGonagle (in photo) and Kenyon (not in photo) –  are very, very sure that underprivledged students would not do well at at NEC neighborhood school. They say NEC kids should stay split up across three k-6 schools as they are now.

Several persons, including Kenyon and Daetz asserted, they really don’t/shouldn’t have access to individual test scores in a way that allows seeing the demographic/academic composition of a potential NEC neighborhood school.  But Kenyon and McGonagle are sure the student body composition would be bad or least sub-optimal academically for the kids who would go there. [Lalah: but what about the social-emotional benefits?]

The facilitator Manny Barbera pointed out the District is now “a base revenue district” and is not dependent on enrollment for state revenue.  [Lalahpolitco: So the District’s shrinking enrollment does not press upon the planned budget?]

…..


 

2ndHalf of the Meeting after a break

….

ADVOCACY FOR ONE OPTION OR ANOTHER

Anthony Shortland:  I think the move of the 10thsite to Kohls from Safeway has a very positive traffic impact. Access is safer: The walking biking route along Showers, down to El Camino, then across on Jordan, and a right turn on Portola, has been a great way for MV Crossing’s resident students to get to Egan or Santa Rita. [It works in the reverse direction too.] This is great.

…..

Jill Jene: A neighborhood school has the highest safety impact…

…..

Lara Daetz: I worry about Graham {MVWhisman middle school} …It is not full of “apartment  people” yet.

Jill Jene – A question for Margaret.  There are two deals going down. The District buying from Federal Realty Trust for a school campus and  Greystar buying from Federal Realty Trust for parkland.  If the district deal is not preserved, does that Greystar deal for park acres go through?

Margaret Abe-Koga – [No] We’ve been told the Greystar purchase is part of the District deal.  My understanding is that Federal Realty is open to condemnation.  So they – FRT and Greystar would want the entire 12 acres condemned. The city would own the park 2 acres.


THE VOTING


Los Altos School District first vote tally at 10th site task force wrap up meeting

In the initial vote – Margaret Abe Koga – voted as requested by the majority of council. That is 1st choice for a NEC neighborhood school, and 2nd choice for her proposed ‘compromise’ solution of moving Egan Jr. High to Kohls and letting BCS occupy all of the Egan campus. Hers was the SOLE 1st choice vote for a NEC school.

 


Manny Barbera: OK, enough advocacy, now let’s vote. ….Vote twice, for your first option, and your second. Put your name on each post-it note.

PAUSE for voting

Manny Barbera: Please, your Comments,  Reactions to the voting results on the board?  What does it tell you?

Lalahpolitico: [ Nothing]

Margaret Abe-Koga said her first choice vote for a NEC school was because that was the MV council majority preference.  She introduced the Egan move option as a compromise. Hers was the SOLE VOTE FOR A NEC SCHOOL

She explained there was a 4-3 vote at Council to NOT require a NEC neighborhood school. “A council member may have conflict interest.  Then the council would be deadlocked.  I have been told it might take a month to resolve the investigation. “


About the BCS enrollment cap….

Jill Jene: The ‘5-year agreement’ cap expires at the end of this school year.  The BCS board did announce it intends to grow to 1200. 

Anthony Shortland: Randy, can one put 1200 students on the new site?

Randy Kenyon – From our perspective, we would not want to put 1200 there. I can envision that if BCS wanted to do that, if we negotiated some kind of long-term, peaceful agreement then maybe it’s possible.

Anthony Shortland:  So then it is in the realm of practical possibility to accommodate 1200 students at that site?

Kenyon – I can get 2000 students on that site. Audience Laughter. That would really save a lot of money.

……

Superintendent for Business Randy Kenyon quipped he could get 2000 students on that Kohls site. [Although LASD would not put more that 900 of its students on that site, he said.]

What will BCS think?

Anthony Shortland:   My first question was will the Bullis Board members – given that a majority of the task force have chosen BCS siting as their first choice – will this Kohls 10th site be well received?

Jill Jene:  I would say, given the fact that two BCS board members – as individuals – went to the Mountain View City Council meeting and proposed opening a new charter school for Mountain View residents. This would be separate from BCS. [The new school would go get its own charter, but would be based on the BCS program model]. I think the answer is, they would be interested in opening a NEW school, but not moving the current school. That’s the evidence we have.  I don’t know if the full BCS board has commented to you guys at the District???

It would be a collaboration between the City of Mountain View Council, Los Altos School District, and Bullis Charter.

It was called a trial ballon.

The motivation for the two individuals was that the feedback to MV council had been the District was not interested in running [operating] a new school at that site. So they made the offer to open one.

“ City of MV, if you want a neighborhood school in NEC, we [two individuals] are happy to create and run a school.  But it would be separate from the current one [BCS].” – two BCSers

 

……..

Manny – “Margaret Abe-Koga what would it take for you change your 1stchoice vote away from a NEC school?” [She switched her vote almost immediately, to first choice Egan, 2nd choice NEC.]

Lara Dietz – [interjects] Does MV council realize they get their requested amenities, no matter what kind of school is there? And why does MV Council even weigh in on this District [decision]?

Margaret Abe Koge volunteers for the LASD 10th site Task Force, Mountain View City Council

Margaret Abe-Koga developed what she thought was a compromise option – move Egan Jr. High to Kohls and give the entire old Egan site to BCS. There is room for the expansion to 1200 BCS enrollment.

Margaret Abe-Koga – Because our residents are asking for a neighborhood school. We are giving TDRs, moving development around, and also parkland funds, and the community is very vocal about this. Why can’t our kids have a neighborhood school to walk to?

Lara Dietz – I am a MV resident and voter.  I no longer have kids at Los Altos School District so I don’t care what the educational program is at a school if we’ve got a gym and track at that site for City residents.  I am wondering if 80 percent of MV residents around there actually have no children attending school?

Margaret Abe-Koga – [ grabbing the talking stick] there is an equity issue. This is the area where we have the most diversity. Let’s admit it, it’s low income, Latina kids. They have to trek over El Camino to get to school. Here’s the opportunity for them to have a school in their neighborhood they can walk to and still be seen as a community center.  I have heard from seniors they want a school.

James Reilly– I talked to the Mayor and he is having trouble finding low income people to talk to about it. Who are you hearing from?

Margaret Abe-Koga – I am hearing from a cross section.

James Reilly, Mountain View

Mr. Reilly said he has a political philosophy where his vote for school board trustees is more important than City of Mountain View’s money and elected representatives in deciding what kind of school to put on Kohls.

James Reilly – I have a philosophical problem with the City of Mountain View telling me what public school is available to my address. I don’t elect you for that. I elect other people for that. I don’t think they should sell that decision to you. And I don’t think you should buy that decision. Whether it is for $1 or $100M. Where do you get that authority?

Margaret Abe-Koga: We don’t determine the curriculum.  But this is about facilities. What happens in that facility at the Kohls 10th site  is up to the school board.

James Reilly : Yes, the City MV should push a hard bargain to get a great gym and a track, that the city MV community can use heavily.   But enrollment, who goes to that school, that’s not facilities. You are taking a half step too much.


District Bait and Switch

Margaret Abe-Koga: The genesis of this conversation was, “Oh MV you are building all these housing units, you are increasing enrollment in that part of the District, so we need a neighborhood school there.”  This has gradually been changed in other conversations. [bait n switch?]. Frankly, if you look at the numbers, I would question whether enrollment in NEC is going to go up because, the District is taking a lot of land that the city was supposed to build housing on, an oh, it’s going to be a school now. … We were told the neighborhood is growing and that’s why we need a site there. So if that is not what’s happening, then there is a whole different conversation.

James Reilley, I don’t know what you were told. That’s not my understanding of why the voters passed the 150M bond.  It was not to just build a NEC school. …

….

Margaret Abe-Koga: We are putting in the funding to buy the land at the Kohls 10th site. I am representing City Council preference.

Jill Jene: Is the district willing to forego the park funds?  The FPPC investigation is pending. Three MV seats are up for reelection. [The 4-3 vote to not require a particular school on the site could change.] If all those things – TDRs, park money — were contingent on a NEC neighborhood school, that would be nice to know.

Baier: That’s not what we heard from the City.


…….

Los Altos School District 10th site Task Force

At the urging of the facilitator, Margaret Abe Koga was the only member to change a vote. She moved her 1st choice from the NEC column to the Egan column. And her 2nd choice from the Egan column to the NEC column. You can see that the NEC option has the most votes – but they are all second choice.

 


This is when Margaret Abe-Koga changes her vote. The tally remains such that the Task Force recommendation will remain BCS is  1stchoice, neighborhood k-6 the second choice.

Anthony Shortland: will making BCS the primary choice just lead to an impasse  of Bullis not accepting that?

Jill Jene: I think that the Kohls 10th site would just be part of the solution. Bullis has said we are growing to 1200. And Randy has said we are not going to accommodate 1200 on that Kohls 10th site. Then you are still going to have Bullis in a split configuration. And you are still going to have Bullis existing at another site. So knowing that the Bullis option doesn’t solve the problem nice and neat does that change anyone’s mind?

Sandra McGonagle :  Maybe they will grow. Or  we heard maybe they will open a second school. It all seems very theoretical.

Jill Jene: No, not theoretical, the growth can happen.


Jill Jene – the BCS rep – asks… with just 250 kids on 10 acres at Gardner School  and 340-50 at Loyola School, then ON WHAT PLANET is 2000 kids on 10 acres “reasonably equivalent” under the Prop 39 facilities sharing law ??? Frowny Face!

Reasonably Equivalent/ Prop 39 again

Manny Barbera: Lets say thisKohls 10th site can handle 2000. Would that meet the Bullis interest?

Jill Jene: Manny, I don’t know what you are saying. For over 10 years now, we’ve had facilities that are not equitable. That’s why we kept going back to the annual Prop 39 process. If we are talking about a Loyola site that has about 10 acres and 250 kids, and you’ve got Gardner Bullis [LAH] that has 250 kids on almost 10 acres – on what planet is that [2000 on 10 acres] equitable?

Jill Jene: The reality is this [BCS on Kohls 10th site]  is not going to solve the problem.  It will spend all the money. You are still going to be left with a number of existing facilities that need to be improved. You are potentially moving to a middle school model and have to put money into the two junior high schools…

Baier:? I don’t think that answers Manny’s question though?

Manny: Are the numbers the big obstacle right now?


BCS will still be on 2 sites

Jill Jene: 1200 is the near term plan for BCS and that will happen. There are kids enough on the wait list, there is enough demand for two campuses of 900 kids…BCS could go to 1800.

Manny: But your point is that this site cannot handle that.

Jill Jene: I’m saying that Randy [Kenyon] is saying that Kohls 10th site can’t handle it. And if you think about equitable facilities, there is no way you can do the math to have it be equitable…





Lara Daetz: I have a growth question. Since the charter school has always been on two sites. [Wrong] Ok, recently.  The charter school hasn’t really had an opportunity to have all their students on together. If it’s is possible to have 900 students  together, and see what that is like on the Kohls 10th site , some [BCS or prospective ] families might really not want a really big school campus. And they might choose another school environment that houses a smaller school. …Is there any chance that the charter school wants to consolidate and see how that goes before they decide to continue to expand. ?

Jill Jene: That’s above my pay grade. [group laughter] . As the years tick by and there are more and more families on the waitlist there is this need to provide the best possible education, what the people think is best for their children, and to accommodate as many families as is possible. And we [BCS] haven’t been able to do that since the 5-year agreement since there has been a cap on enrollment artificially….Most of the 900 student growth has come mostly from kids being promoting up the grades. We haven’t been adding additional “strands.” [ Adding a strand means going from 4 entering kindergartens of 20 kids  to 5 or 6 classes of 20.] ….It’s been quite a few years since we added new strands.

Jim Reilley:  It would be really helpful if they {BCS} would communicate more clearly as a board. What is the downside, what is wrong, why would people [BCS parents and supporters?] oppose Bullis at the new site?

Jill Jene: Because the Kohls 10th site is not centrally located within the district. It requires a lot of commuting. The Kohls 10th site not as safe. Many of the family walk and bike. That would not be the case if it is in Mountain View.

Jim Reilly:  So the two site thing is a positive. Because neither BCS site now [ Egan and Blach] is centrally located right now.

Jill Jene: If the two sites had facilities that were equivalent to the rest of the schools, there are some programmatic challenges because we can’t have the whole school at one facility. We can’t have “all school” kinds of meetings.  [Even Santa Rita and Oak have that challenge….Multipurpose rooms that are too small]

James Reilly: So one site is good.?


In response to a query by Jill Jene, Superintendents Randy Kenyon and Jeff Baier said they do not have discussions with any BCS board members about the Kohls 10th site . Baier said some LASD trustees do have some dicussions though. They admitted none of the plans for a 900 student school had been put before BCS as of yet.

 


Jill Jene: I think that maybe Randy and Jeff, have you guys had any conversations with BCS? What the BCS board thinks about locating in Mountain View? Their preference for two sites with “equivalent facilities” vs. a single site with portables?

Baier: I’ve had no conversations.  Board members discuss things. We [staff] don’t.

Jill Jene: We can ask the Lasd board to ask BCS, if they want to be on this Kohls 10th site with this layout being discussed – “does it meet your education needs – or would you prefer to be two sites like you are now?”


Facilitator Wrap up

Manny:…I will represent this opinion about the Kohls 10th site to the board fairly in the report….I will get Joe Seither’s input…

Margaret Abe-Koga: Are we going to try to build consensus?

Manny: No…. ha ha.  Any final comments.

Jill Jene:  What are next steps… process… is this group the 10th site task force going forward…or are we done?

Manny: We will run the draft report by all of you. [ Then see what the board wants.] The board meeting is Sept. 10.  You will see something in a draft in a few days

About the author

lalahpolitico

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 several years.