I’ve previously written about my experience with Martha McClatchie, and why I find her an ideologically inappropriate candidate for LASD Trustee. Ideology aside, there are a number of actions she has taken as a pro-BCS, anti-LASD activist that more then give me pause:
- Political flip-flop on BCS facilities litigation
- Obscuring BCS legal and PR expenditures
- Organizing a media stunt to shame LASD (coming soon)
- Close ties to charter movement leadership (coming soon)
1. Political flip-flop on BCS facilities litigation
In October 2012, during the height of a wave of litigation brought by BCS against LASD over Prop 39 facilities offers, I met with Martha to discuss “bridge building” between the BCS and LASD communities and get a better sense of the nexus between the BCS parent community and BCS board pushing litigation. I suggested that ending the litigation campaign was going to be necessary if real reconciliation with LASD is what BCS wanted.
Martha felt very strongly that the BCS campus at Egan treated BCS students like second class citizens. Recall that Martha’s kids previously attended an LASD neighborhood campus, so she saw only the exclusive use of a newly renovated LASD campus as fulfilling the Prop 39 requirement of “reasonably equivalent” facilities for BCS.
This was the issue at the core of the ongoing litigation.
I asked Martha,
“If the judge comes back with a decision saying that the current 2012-13 facilities configuration is “reasonably equivalent” (satisfies Prop 39) and refuses to mandate that LASD hand over a campus, would you accept that outcome and support an end to the litigation?”
Martha paused briefly, then simply said,
“We want our own campus.”
She added that BCS wouldn’t stop litigating until they got an LASD campus of their own.
Martha quite simply wanted what she wanted, demanding more from LASD than they may have been obligated to offer BCS under Prop 39, which would have unfairly burdened LASD students. This is the perfect example of why a pro-BCS Trustee like Martha would be a problem in a “zero sum” allocation of limited district facilities.
About seven months later, in May 2013, an online petition was circulated through the LASD community by the Huttlinger Alliance for Education, of which I was a board member. The petition was a simple way for ordinary citizens in our community to register their support for an end to litigation and a return to a community-based approach to settling the dispute. The petition was intentionally drafted in a neutral voice to gain support from “both sides.” In about 10 days, 1,000-plus members of the community signed the petition.
Knowing that Martha was a leading voice among BCS parents and someone I had previously spoken and worked with, I reached out to her personally via email to ask that she add her name to the long list of signatories. ‘Martha the BCS Activist’ refused.
Imagine my surprise to see ‘Martha the LASD Candidate’ promoting mediation and an end to facilities litigation on her campaign website.
Maybe I’m just cynical, but I think this is an obvious flip-flop by a political candidate on a major community issue. Very few people know this back story, and I thought voters would find it material… so there it is. Martha promotes herself (and is promoted by others) as a peacemaker and a bridge-builder, but her record doesn’t always support this, for sure.
2. Obscuring BCS legal and PR expenditures
Bullis Charter School is supported financially by its Foundation, ostensibly a separate non-profit (except for common Board members, common agenda and common expenses).
REMEMBER: Martha is a career CPA campaigning as the fiscally responsible candidate who completed the 2012 BCS foundation tax return (Form 990) as its Treasurer. Much has already been made in this election about the importance of electing trustworthy LASD Trustees and transparency in the Board’s dealings. Martha the CPA seems qualified, right?
SOME HISTORY: In 2005, BCS (the school) enrolled about 250 students and was unhappy with the facilities they had been provided by the district and sued LASD unsuccessfully to gain possession of the former Bullis-Purissima campus in Los Altos Hills.
BCS (the foundation) ran a fundraising campaign for facilities and raised a $5 million ‘site fund’. BCS scoured the area for real estate suitable for a small school, but they were never able to secure a suitable property to build a 300-student campus. (Ahem… let alone a 900-student campus…!)
In 2009, with $6-7 million still in reserve—but still no campus of their own—BCS leaders authorized the use of their site fund for a wave of Prop 39 litigation against LASD in an attempt to secure through litigation what they could not otherwise get: an LASD campus.
BCS authorized the use of millions of dollars meant for facilities for litigation.
This is where the facade of separation between BCS (the school) and BCS (the foundation) begins to fall. Documents obtained through discovery in BCS litigation reveal that in January 2012 BCS (foundation) resolved to pay legal bills accrued by BCS (school).
Moreover, in November 2012, when BCS (school) wanted to run a costly PR campaign, presumably to improve its image in the community, it sought the services of Jay R. Reed of the Wheelhouse Strategy Group. It’s significant to learn, again through legal discovery, that BCS (school) wanted to avoid any discussion of a costly PR campaign in public school board meetings, as would normally be required under the Brown Act.
In order to avoid publicly disclosing a costly PR contract, BCS (school) simply had BCS (foundation) hire Jay R. Reed instead.
Fast forward to 2014 when the BCS (foundation) Form 990, completed and signed by Treasurer Martha McClatchie, is released for public viewing. Sure enough, it reports more than a million dollars of BCS (school) expenses paid by BCS (foundation).
Now I’m no attorney, and I’m no auditor, so I have no idea whether any of this behavior is technically out-of-bouds, but if this LASD Board of Trustee campaign is going to be about trust and transparency, then I think Martha’s role as Treasurer of the BCS Foundation at a time when the school and the foundation were coordinating to make their expenses more opaque raises some questions about how far she is willing to go, even under the banner of accounting professional, to serve her political and pro-charter ambitions.
I wonder how many people who’ve endorsed Martha or have her signs in their yards would’ve liked to know some of these details before now. I can’t fault them for NOT knowing, since they weren’t involved as I was. I’ve been closer than most people to some of these issues in the past few years, so I feel a duty to share what I know.
I think many people would be very disappointed if this stuff was NOT shared.
Still more to come in: Why not Martha? Her actions. (Part 2)