A time machine from Hollywood Lost and Found

Bullis Charter School History – Timeline of the Genesis

A time machine from Hollywood Lost and Found

Timeline User Guide

What follows is a Bullis Charter School history that starts in 1999 and ends with the 2003 closure of Bullis Purissima, just before the charter forms. I will be working on the period from 2003, at the point the charter forms… to the 2008 full reopening of Bullis-Gardner in the near future. I am also researching public school curriculum innovation trends in the 1990s in the mid-peninsula area.

If you have other hard (or soft) information for the timeline, my school innovation research, or suggestions and corrections, please email me at nschroder@losaltospolitico.com

The timeline titles are MY summaries.

The body text is mainly all quotes from the original Los AltosTown Crier article.  I highly recommend reading all the original articles in their entirety if you have time.  My timeline is intended to make you interested in furthering your own research on the Los AltosTown Crier archives. Go Search. I understand the online archive goes back to 1995. Previous years are stored at the Los Altos History Museum.  Thank you Los Altos Town Crier for being a pillar of the community.


Editor-Norma Schroder


March 15, 1999 – LASD Board approves renovation schedule.
Bullis 1st Elementary on Renovation Schedule

Bullis-Purissima, slated for 2001 rennovation, is first among the operating elementary schools. Temporary camps of portable to be built in 1999 -2000 at Egan and Blach.

Source: Los Altos Town Crier, March 24, 1999

May 1999 – Superintendent Marge Gratiot chooses Dave McNulty

Oak Principal McNulty to fill the district’s position of construction manager.

Source: LATC June 2, 1999

June 2000 — Board redraws Attendance Areas

The Board approved redrawn attendance areas to accommodate the opening of Covington as an elementary school.

“Some parents of students who will attend the camp schools have raised the issue whether the move to the camp schools will disrupt the students’ education…Although I expected some bumps in the road, I was not anticipating the unpleasant outcomes of implementing the bond measure,” Gratiot said. “In particular, the discussions about boundaries, traffic and child care have sometimes been personal and petty – and even rude, with little consideration given to the educational reasons behind the initial proposals.”  Marge Gratiot

Source: LATC Jan 26, 2000

February 2000 – Wealthy Parent funds Santa Rita Amphitheater

Amount remains private.

Source: LATC Feb. 2, 2000

UPDATE Jan. 2015. Some time ago, a resident emailed me saying the amphitheater was just $500 of wood materials assembled by an Eagle Scout.  And that the parent was not “wealthy.” Google satellite view does seem to show a small grove of firs looking very rough and rustic.

March 2000 – Covington renovation timeline starts to slip

…Now to open in 2002, not 2001 school year

‘Dave McNulty, director of facilities construction for the district, cites uncertainty regarding the location of the district’s maintenance yard as the chief reason for the delay in construction.’

‘In a letter mailed to parents last Friday, Superintendent Marge Gratiot explained the original design plan for Covington as including “the construction of a new maintenance yard on the mini park and tennis courts, followed by modernization of the existing maintenance building for use by the district offices, followed by the renovation of the classrooms currently occupied by the district offices for use by Covington students.”‘

‘McNulty describes the delay as having a “domino effect.”

“I think that all of the board members plus staff will agree that the best thing for the kids is to postpone Covington’s opening,” Board President Victor Reid said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the staff recommending it, and the board maybe even voting 5-0 (in favor of postponing.)”

‘One repercussion of postponing Covington’s opening date is that the district’s most crowded schools, which Gratiot cites as Loyola and Springer elementary schools, would remain so for an additional year. Springer would have to add a classroom to accommodate its student population.’

Source: LATC March 22, 2000

April 2000 – LASD to spend $1.35 million on Bullis, not the original $7.5M

“It is not a good use of district resources to spend $7.5 million to build a minimally adequate campus, when for an increase to the budget of only 10 percent we can create a campus [sic Convington] that will be much better … because it is better-constructed, needs less maintenance, and lasts longer,” Gratiot wrote in the same memo.

Source: LATC March 22, 2000

June 2000 – Egan Bid $2.4 million Over Allotted — COC Has Formed

McNulty said the lowest Egan renovation bid  was $2.4 million over the $8.8 million allotted. … There is a newly formed Construction Oversight Committee.

Source: LATC June 28, 2000

August 2000 – New Bid on Scaled Down Egan

District gets new bid for scaled down Egan construction from Specific Engineering. Still over allocation, but closer.  Residents on Portola Ave. sue district in attempt to halt Egan construction

Source: LATC August 2, 2000

September 2000  – A Construction Project Manager has been Hired

The LATC writer compares the construction to “the complexity of a master chess game.”

The District now has a John McCormick as project manager in addition to Dave McNulty, who is now called  Facilities Manager.  A worry is inflationary prices in construction…

LALAHPOLITICO: Just to remind you, the district is worried about inflation…just as a recession is about to hit the Bay Area thanks to the March 2000 Crash of Tech/Web 1.0 stocks. Remember Webvan! This recession hit our area, but not the rest of the nation.

Source: LATC September 13, 2000

October 2000 – A New Building, a New Wing is added to the Covington Plan, While Facing $50M overrun

The School Board holds a special meeting Oct. 16. The unanimous decision is to bid Covington  with the east wing of a proposed new building as an add on.  [ sic is this the infamous offices upgrade?] .  A study reported at the meeting hopes that the total, all schools’  prospective $50 million cost overrun (above the $94M bond) is exaggerated or could be fixed by strong fund raising.

Source: LATC Oct 25, 2000

November 2000 – Jr. Highs Renovating, While All Elementary Plans Put on Hold

Work on Covington to proceed.  Egan Jr. High is under construction. Blach Jr. High design is almost complete. But all elementary design is stopped.  By Feb. 5 staff expects to have updated assessments of elementary school sites. This is described as fact finding.

Source: LATC Nov. 15, 2000

November 2000 – Did Adding Offices Up the Covington Cost Overrun?

‘The consensus of the Construction Oversight Committee was that the McNulty’s strategy was sound and the staff should “continue with immediate identification of a team to begin thorough school inspection and, in parallel, initiate the process of selecting one or two architects and general contractors,” Graham said.’

‘The final agenda item, Maintenance Facility Bids, exemplified district problems. The cost estimate when bids opened was $727,000. Only two bids were received: $1,040,000 and $1,180,000 – 43 percent and 62 percent over the estimate, respectively.’

‘An extended discussion introduced multiple possible causes: including offices raised code requirements; the possible use of the space for welding triggered additional codes and the lack of multiple bids permitted bidders to be less than competitive.’

Source: LATC Nov. 22, 2000

December 2000 – LASD finds $750,000 Operating Deficit – Must Fix

‘In order to bring the budget back into balance (including a 3 percent level of reserves), the district will need to find additional revenues and/or make program cuts equal to $750,000. Some one-time funds, such as special education mandated costs settlement monies, school site block grants and API performance incentives, which are not precisely defined as yet, will help with the budget imbalance this year.’ [sic Was doing Special Education a revenue enhancement back then?]

Source: LATC Dec. 6, 2000

December 2000 – COC Approves $11M for Covington, CONTINGENT on Having Funds for Other Schools

‘Construction Oversight Committee (COC) member Stephanie Moore disagreed that the proposed new construction [ at Covington]  should be included [in the approval]. “We discussed no new building under the revised plan,” Moore said. “If we go forward on this, what kind of commitment do we have that the money will be there for Springer, Oak, etc.?” ‘[sic Springer and Oak were still listed as the last schools in line for renovation]

Source: LATC DEC. 13, 2000 

February 2001 – Springer School moves to First

Springer School moves to first in line for renovation among the elementary schools.  Santa Rita parents ask to be last in line, so as not to go to camp school twice – when Phase II of the bond construction is to occur

Source: LATC Feb. 21, 2001

March 2001 – Blach Neighbors Protest Camp

Some Blach neighbors and parents protest construction of a camp school on Blach.

Source: LATC March 14, 2001

August 2001 – Need More than $94.7M to Fix all Six Elementary School

District says it needs to raise funding beyond the 1999 $94.7M tax measure to complete the desired renovation of their six operating elementary campuses.  At issue is how money for Phase II will be obtained.

‘For the elementaries, we are only going to have enough money to do the modernization work, which is just fixing up the existing buildings,” McNulty said. “Early this September, we should have a site plan for the remaining schools, and an estimation of costs for what is not now funded.”‘

Source:  LATC August 1, 2001

December 2001 – McNulty Asks, Please Hire a Construction Management Firm

At Dec. 10 LASD meeting, McNulty asked the board to get a construction management firm to keep the Covington renovation on track.  The planned Aug 2001 opening had slipped to October.  McNulty said, a controversy to preserve Covington murals and a subcontractor walking off the project were to blame. The district decided to explore what an “accelerated” contract with the prime contractor would cost.

Source: LATC Aug. 1, 2001

April 2002 – McNulty to Be Principal of Loyola

Director of Facilities, Dave McNulty, is to be principal of Loyola. Loyola principal is to get new principal job at new elementary coming to the  Covington junior high site.

Source: LATC April 10, 2002

May 2002 – LASD Deficit Projected at $4.4M

All of a sudden there is a projected deficit…$4.4 million. The article blames state funding. LASD is a revenue limit school.

There could be….’elimination of 38 teaching positions at the elementary school level and an equivalent of 9.4 full-time teaching positions at the junior high level. This would “save” $1,980,000 but result in classes with 30-34 students per teacher at every grade level, K-8.’

The online version of this article said the Board may not be opening  a 7th elementary school. Reportedly, the conversation was centered on [sic not ever opening] Covington elementary.  By not operating a seventh school, the district could save $350,000 in operational costs, said Superintendent Marge Gratiot.

The decision to use Covington as a camp school was discussed at the May 13 meeting, after the Town Crier went to press.

One problem with leaving any campus vacant is that it could be vulnerable for a possible takeover by a newly formed charter school. “State law says if you have an unused campus, a charter school that is in your district’s boundaries could use it; if you are trying to rent it out, a charter school has priority over that space,” Gratiot said. “Camp schools are not available since they are an adjunct campus.”

[Lalahpolitico:  Is Marge playing defense against a real adversary? Bullis Purissima is still not even considered for closing at this point in time.  Or is she blocking the contingent of parents who had been advocating for alternative curriculum all through the 1990’s.  Is she anti-charter? I can’t tell.]

‘There will be a vacancy for a principal at Bullis-Purissima School because current principal Patricia Boettcher is scheduled to replace the retiring Dick Liewer as assistant superintendent of curriculum. If Covington is not reopened, either Eckols or McNulty would fill Boettcher’s position, with the other serving as Loyola’s principal, Gratiot said’

Byline Sara Ballenger: ‘The Los Altos School District’s Board of Trustee’s voted at its May 13 meeting, after the Town Crier went to press for its May 15 issue, to delay the opening of Covington School for one year. The district decided that Springer School, which currently has 637 students will go to the Covington campus as a “camp school,” or temporary campus for one year, leaving the Blach Camp School unoccupied. It is not yet clear whether the district will leave the camp school vacant or attempt to rent it out for one year. Almond School will proceed to the Egan camp school as scheduled. Look for a complete story in our May 22 issue.’

Source: LATC May 15, 2002

December 2002 – Still Only Routine Concerns at Bullis-Purissima

40 parents volunteer to monitor the traffic at the school parking lot.

Source: LATC December 18, 2002

January 2003 – Bullis and Loyola fall to Bottom of the Fix List, Top of Newly Created Closure List

‘Among the district’s six elementary schools, Bullis and Loyola Elementary in Los Altos are at the bottom of the renovation schedule and at the top of the list for closure due to poor facilities.’

‘District enrollment is a big piece of the picture. The last study done on the district’s enrollment was in 1998 by the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee. The district’s demographer concluded K-6 enrollment in the district was expected to grow to 3,400 students by 2008.’

‘Enrollment projections were off for three major reasons, according to Gratiot: decreased state funding so the district can’t afford to operate seven elementary schools; the prediction that the district will become a Basic Aid district during the 2003-04 school year which would mean the district could no longer accept interdistrict transfers, resulting in 250 fewer students; and growth in the district slowing between now and 2008, resulting in 180 fewer students than were in the 1998 projection.’

‘ “Back in the 1998 election, when we pased the bond measure, our projected enrollment was 3,400 students. We thought we would need a seventh school,” said Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services. “We based our projections on past trends, but now we only have 3,000 students and less need for a seventh school.” ‘

Even if all six schools stayed in their current campuses, attendance boundaries would shift in order to balance the number of students at each school, Gratiot said.’

‘Bullis-Purissima School has the fewest students with 270 and Springer School seems to be bursting at the seams with 635.’

‘Who will get to call Covington their permanent home — if any school at all — has yet to be determined.’

“I am nuetral about each school, including Covington, as to whether it has or has not been renovated,” said Duane Roberts, board president. “My approach is to evaluate based on having sufficient funds to renovate all of the schools to the extent planned in the Revised Master Plan.”

I want to continue to use Covington as a permanent school site,” Board member Margot Harrigan said. “The district’s community has already committed significant money and effort to make this a superior school site; therefore, the children in the district should benefit, not unnamed potential renters.”

[Lalahpolitico: Please notice that as of this date, Mr. Roberts is leaving Covington on possible the closure list.  Ms. Harrigan is not. The Board was still divided at this point in time. But over the next 2 months…]

SOURCE: LATC January 22, 2003

February 10, 2003 – Board Closes Bullis Purissima

‘The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees unanimously decided Feb. 10 to close the elementary school in Los Altos Hills, based on financial and demographic criteria. The current 341 students at Bullis will be reassigned, if families choose, to Covington School, starting in the 2003-04 school year.’

‘With Bullis closing, the district will redraw its attendance boundaries to equalize the number of students at each school. The school board expects to finalize boundary decisions at its March 3 board meeting.’

‘Under this scenario, according to the district, 2,270 students would be within a mile of their school. Of those students, 491 would cross major streets — El Camino Real, San Antonio Road, Foothill Expressway, El Monte Avenue, Springer Road and Magdalena Avenue. Among a total of 2,911 students, 2,599 would remain with their original student body and 623 would change sites. The cost of portables to house all the students would be $434,000 at $7,000 per portable per year. There would also be $7,000 spent on classrooms for special education. There would be no additional teachers needed. The district estimates the total annual cost of this scenario at $441,000.’

‘In deciding what to do with the Bullis School site — five acres on Fremont Road, Los Altos Hills — the district must go through a process to declare a school a surplus property, said Randy Kenyon, associate superintendent of business services. The process is regulated by the state education code.’

‘”The board appoints an advisory committee to look at the school site and to make a recommendation to the board about what to do with the site,” Kenyon said. “If you dispose of a site by selling or leasing, there is a priority listing of who has first crack at the site. Generally, special education agencies, open space districts, parks and other public agencies have priority right before we can go out and sell or lease to the highest bidder. The board has indicated no interest in selling the property.”‘

‘Some Bullis parents and Los Altos Hills community members are interested in using the Bullis site to house a charter school. Look for a more in-depth story on the Bullis charter school proposal in the schools section of this issue [sic of the Los Altos Town Crier.’

Dave McNulty, Bullis principal, has been selected as the new principal of Covington School. McNulty said all teachers and staff will move to the Covington site, except two temporary teachers. The temporary teachers may be hired back by the end of the school year, depending on the state budget and district finances, he added.’

‘”My hope is that when this is all said and done, all of Bullis moves to Covington and we can work with the other new students and become a new grade school,” McNulty said. “I hope we can all put all of this behind us.”‘

Per the LATC:

  • Almond School: Some students would go to Springer and Covington, giving Almond a projection of 496 students.
  • Springer School: Some students would go to Covington, giving Springer a projection of 440 students.
  • Loyola School: Attendance boundaries would stay the same, with a projection of 519 students.
  • Bullis School: All [341] students would be invited to attend Covington.
  • Covington School: With students from Almond, Springer and Bullis, Covington would have a projection of 512 students.
  • Oak Avenue School: Attendance boundaries would stay the same, with a projection of 434 students.
[Lalapolitico:  Nothing happened to Santa Rita?]
Source: District Changes Ahead. LATC Feb. 19, 2003


 February 11, 2003 – Some Bullis Purissima Parents looking into starting a Charter School

‘A charter school is an independent public school supported by public funds and held accountable by public authority. Charter schools have a “charter,” or written legal agreement, with a sponsoring agency, which is usually a school district.’

‘In order for Bullis Charter School to become a reality, the proposal must first be approved by 50 percent of Bullis parents or teachers, then by the district or the California Board of Education.’

[Lalahpolitico: Actually the above 50% of Bullis Purrissima parents/teachers is for a converting an open running school to a charter.  My understanding is that BCS was formed using the process for a new charter school – 50% of parents of the expected students in the first year of operation where the minimum students to receive LASD facilities is 80 students.  My understanding is that there were parents of at least 40 students who signed commitments to attend the first year…as part of the charter application]


‘Lisa Corr, an attorney with Spector, Middleton, Young and Minney, the Sacramento law firm hired by Bullis Charter School, said that the decision on whether the charter school will occupy the Bullis campus will be made by the district and the charter school.’

The district can decide whether they want a charter school to use that facility, or it may offer other facilities,” Corr said. “It is up to the charter school to decide whether or not they want to accept those facilities.”

‘Corr said the Bullis Charter School group plans to present the charter to the district by Feb. 27.’


‘”The charter school issue has been somewhat divisive,” said Bullis Principal Dave McNulty. “It’s causing a division in the district. Parents are wondering why it’s happening and are concerned that it might affect other schools or impact the budget.”‘

‘”The residents of this district pay $597 in parcel taxes, and that will be money that the district doesn’t have to share with the charter school,” Jones said.’

‘The charter school would recruit teachers from within the district and elsewhere. District and union rules prohibit the majority of senior teachers from relocating to other schools.’

‘”We love our teachers,” Farrand said. “We just hope to start a charter school if Bullis is going to close. It’s not out of animosity; we just want to do the best thing for our children. I hope the district can work with us on that.”‘

[Lalahpolitico: FYI the application to start a charter is made first to the local district, then appealed to the county board of eduction, then appealed to the State of California Board of Education.  As of Feb. 2003 the original group of BCS parents were readying to apply to LASD.  The school was eventually chartered by Santa Clara County.]

Source: Bullis parents charting a course to a new school, LATC Feb. 2003


For Your Comparison…

See a Timeline from the LATC – written Wednesday May 3, 2006

‘It began on the heels of Los Altos School District voters passing a parcel tax increase [ sic $94.7M] and renovating Covington to reopen. Subsequent [sic state]  funding cuts and low enrollment at Bullis made the closing of Bullis-Purissima necessary, according to the district.

Former trustee Duane Roberts said that the district had planned to add Covington as a seventh, elementary school because “It was the dot-com era, everything was exploding.”

The district relied on inflated enrollment forecasts, which, coupled with unanticipated construction costs [sic including costs of an add-on building of offices to Covington…which was chosen, not unanticipated], forced the district board to revamp and reprioritize renovation plans. Bullis, with the lowest enrollment and greatest renovation needs, emerged as the campus targeted for closure.

Some Los Altos Hills residents who supported the parcel tax increase felt betrayed by the district’s decision and its subsequent lack of support for Bullis Charter School. Read more at the Town Crier archive.

Source: LATC May 3, 2006  see end of article, How We Got Here



Reference: Teaching Tools for Local History, Massachusetts Studies Project