Thursday, November 20, 2014

National Board Certified Teachers at BCS

Two of our teachers - David Belles (Music Specialist) and Sarah Lau (Middle School Math Teacher) just received confirmation that they are Nationally Board certified teachers!  Over 10% of our teachers at BCS are Nationally Board Certified, compared to less than 3% of all teachers in California.  
Ms. Lau and Mr. Belles recently became
National Board Certified Teachers!

National Board Certified Teachers (NBPTS) are an elite group of educators who must pass a rigorous certification process that includes in depth lesson planning and analysis, several tests based on pedagogy and content, videos of lessons, and student work samples that demonstrate growth and achievement.  

The entire process is tied to student learning and advancement in all aspects of the teaching profession, not just a single lesson or unit of study.

The National Board mission aligns so closely with our school’s vision that our staff has committed to making this distinguished certification an expected part of the role of a BCS educator.  Every staff member who is eligible to begin the process (teaching for 3 or more years) is supported with mentors, time, and equipment needed to succeed and become Board certified.

Congratulations to David, Sarah, and all of our teachers at BCS on their commitment to excellence in education!

BCS Choir Students Perform at CSU East Bay

Our seventh grade baritones had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Buddy James at the California State University East Bay Men’s Chorus Festival this week as part of a special opportunity for the BCS choirs.  

Mr. Belles and the group of students participated in workshops with other middle and high school students from around the Bay Area, before a joint performance in the afternoon - you can see more photos here!  

Keep up the great work Mr. Belles and our choir students!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Spooky Writing Contest Entries and Winners at BCS!

Congratulations to our many students who entered into the Los Altos Town Crier’s Halloween Story Contest - including all 21 first graders from Mrs. Lucero’s class!

And congratulations to fourth graders Kelly and Noah who had their stories published in the paper!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mr. Malpica Wins Award for Innovation

BCS FabLab Director David Malpica was recently honored for his innovative teaching at the "Cares and Shares" awards ceremony hosted by the Los Altos Community Foundation and Los Altos Courtyard by Marriott, who are generously donating $1000 to our school!

Congratulations, Mr. Malpica!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Intersessions are Underway at BCI!

Seventh and eighth graders started their first round of intersessions, and the excitement from the students is palpable on the BCI campus!  

Intersessions are a unique tenant of the middle school program at BCS -  regular instruction (with the exception of math) is suspended for three weeks, allowing students and staff to take a deep dive into a particular area of study.  

Students participate in three 3-week intersessions during the year, designed to engage students and maximize their learning in a real world environment.
Students plant bamboo at Panda Valley

Here’s a look at what the two grade levels are engaged in these next few weeks:

Seventh Grade: Engineering and Design Challenge
  • Students are tasked with solving a real world problems ranging from how to stop the crows from digging through trash cans near the lunch tables at BCI to designing a landing pod and lunar buggy for space exploration

  • Seventh graders are using the FabLab@BCS and guidance from our FabLab Director David Malpica and FabLab Assistant Nafiisah Renshaw to design, prototype, test and finalize their models


Seventh Grade: Cooking/Woodworking/Sewing
  • Students rotate through three workshop style classes in cooking, woodworking, and sewing,  throughout the day. These classes are led by experts in their respective fields

  • All students complete a finished product by the end of the intersession in each class, and students use these skills again at the end of the year when they put on a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which students are responsible for creating everything including the set design (woodworking) and costumes (sewing), and and refreshments (cooking)

Eighth Grade: Civic Responsibility, Animal Enrichment, Organic Gardening
  • Students began by participating in a design thinking challenge to create animal enrichment devices for moon bears - an endangered species in China that are often inhumanely treated and hunted for their body parts

  • Students traveling to China will take these designs to Animals Asia moon bear sanctuary and work with Animals Asia staff to implement them. Students will record the results and use their experiences to increase awareness about moon bears upon their return. They will work collaboratively with the students who studied animal enrichment at Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose.

  • Students also engaged in learning about organic gardening and sustainable agriculture practices by meeting with various groups in the community, and also taught BCS second graders about organic gardening

  • Students will regenerate the BCI garden with donations from Orchard Supply Hardware to be able to grow organic food to donate to Mountain View CSA
Eighth graders teach BCS second graders about organic gardening

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gaga Ball Pit at BCI!

6th graders learn the rules of Gaga Ball during
Physical Education class at BCI
Our middle school students have jumped right in and already love playing in our newly installed Gaga Ball Pit at the BCI campus.

Many of our middle schoolers had a chance to play Gaga during the class field trip to Walker Creek Outdoor Education camp - and because so many of them came back talking about how much they enjoyed it it, we thought it would be a great addition to our space at BCI.

The game has its roots in dodgeball, though the rules and strategy are quite a bit different.

The Gaga Ball Pit is a great way for our students to get some extra physical activity during the day and recharge during breaks and at lunchtime.

Mr. Stark has taught the rules to all of the students in his Physical Education classes, and he advises a team of middle schoolers who take on leadership roles as student referees to help keep the game safe and fun for everyone.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

BCS Receives Prestigious National Award for Educational Excellence

The U.S Department of Education designated Bullis Charter School a National Blue Ribbon School for the 2013-2014 school year.

For over 30 years, the NBRS Program has been recognizing exemplary schools from across the country in an ongoing effort to illuminate best practices in education. This year, BCS will be one of just 287 public schools throughout the country to receive this very prestigious award. 

This is a tremendous honor for our school that validates the strength of our programs, the dedication of our educators, and the tireless support of our parent community.  We are immensely proud of our teachers and students for this recognition of their hard work and love of learning — together, these bright young minds are helping set a new standard of academic excellence in public education.

BCS students and staff celebrate the National Blue Ribbon award
with a "Blue" Spirit Day!

Congratulations BCS Chess Team!

Please join us in congratulating our BCS Chess Team who won the United States Chess Federation Game 30 National Championship last weekend.  This was the first tournament for several of our players; they were joined by many “veteran” chess players from BCS and the team is lead by Lynn Reed, our MakerSpace Director.  

As a reminder, students who are interested can play chess in the MakerSpace room (Room 34) at lunch with Mrs. Reed on Tuesdays.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BCS is a National Blue Ribbon School!

By Wanny Hersey

Superintendent/Principal at Bullis Charter School

I am excited to announce that this morning, the U.S Department of Education designated Bullis Charter School a National Blue Ribbon School for the 2013-2014 school year.

For over 30 years, the NBRS Program has been recognizing exemplary schools from across the country in an ongoing effort to illuminate best practices in education. This year, BCS will be one of just 287 public schools throughout the country to receive this very prestigious award, and the only K-8 program in Los Altos to do so.

We greatly appreciate your support of our programs over the last 10 years.  I hope you will join me in celebrating our school and the wonderful community of students, teachers, staff and parents that have helped make BCS a shining example of all that is possible in public education. 

You can view US Secretary of State Arne Duncan's announcement here:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ms. Stone's Work on LearnZillion's "Dream Team"

Our 7th Grade ELA/History teacher Lisa Stone was featured this week in the Los Altos Town Crier for her work over the summer as one of 200 teachers on LearnZillion’s “Dream Team” - a start-up designed to provide high quality Common Core resources to teachers and students across the country.  

Keep up the great work, Ms. Stone!

BCS teacher works with online lesson plan resource

Photos Courtesy of Bullis Charter School 
Bullis Charter School seventh-grade teacher Lisa Stone, right, worked on LearnZillion’s Dream Team this summer to develop online Common Core-aligned lesson plans, left. 
Bullis Charter School has a new tool in its arsenal this year as it tackles the implementation of Common Core curriculum standards.
Seventh-grade teacher Lisa Stone was one of 200 chosen from among 4,000 applicants for the “Dream Team” assembled by the educational startup LearnZillion. Stone and the other members of the Dream Team worked to create online lesson plans for teachers that are Common Core-aligned.
LearnZillion, an online resource for teachers, offers a growing set of math and English resources for grades 2-12, developed by experienced teachers and connected directly with Common Core State Standards.
Stone spent the summer collaborating with four other teachers and a coach to dissect a Close Reading lesson for seventh-graders.
Her team was given a text selection and tasked with creating a five-day lesson plan around the text that would meet Common Core standards.
“Common Core now says that you need to put text in front of students that is really too hard for them to understand,” she said.
The final product instructs teachers on how to examine a piece of literature, identify what is complex about it and explain what to focus on with the students – step-by-step and at a determined pace.
The resource is valuable for teachers because it not only provides them with the lesson, but also offers real-time professional development, Stone said.
“It really teaches how to engage in metacognition,” she said. “It models for teachers how to teach these types of habits of mind.”
The lesson plans include instructional videos that teachers can use in the classroom or as part of their lesson preparation. The videos for each lesson are free and available to teachers, students and parents.
LearnZillion’s premium service provides details on how to build a unit around the Common Core concept. The end product of The Dream Team’s work is a textbooklike resource for schools and their districts that addresses the requirements of Common Core.
Common Core spells out the benchmarks and concepts that students need to learn, but leaves how to get there up to teachers. That’s where LearnZillion steps in.
“The focus of LearnZillion is on the metacognition – what are the building blocks you need to build up to the requirements of Common Core,” Stone said.
Because Stone served on LearnZillion’s Dream Team of teachers over the summer, Bullis Charter School benefits from the website’s premium service – equipping teachers with many different Common Core lessons to select and implement this school year.
“I think it is part of my job to help teachers become the best they can be,” she said. “Part of the reason why I chose to do this was because I need to go outside of my school and scale my impact.”
For more information, visit

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Teacher Spotlight - Emily Drew-Moyer, 4th Grade Teacher

Who or what inspired you to become a teacher?

Being a teacher is always something I was drawn to, even when I was a young child.  When I was seven years old, I remember my dad bringing home two wooden desks that came from a one-room schoolhouse nearby.  I used to set them up in the our backyard and made my younger sisters - who were only two and three years old at the time - act as my students.

I grew up in a small town, and when I left for college, everyone assumed that I was going to be a teacher!  Looking back, they were right, but at the time, it made me want to pursue something completely different.  My mom strongly encouraged me to take an education class my freshman year, which I did.  The course involved helping out in a first grade classroom, and from the first day I knew that this is what I wanted to do.  I was hooked!

What do you like most about being a teacher?

Helping students interact positively with one another is my favorite part of teaching. I believe the content we are teaching is extremely important, but helping students become confident, kind, independent learners and thinkers is the most rewarding for me. Watching students solve problems with each other and helping them to cooperate and teach each other is what makes me want to come to work every day.

How do you like to establish rapport with your students?

I like to establish rapport with students by having very clear expectations for how we treat each other in class. I have a Morning Meeting every morning, where students have time to greet one another, to listen to each other share things that are important, and to complete some kind of team building activity. I think this establishes safety and trust in the classroom and allows students to take risks and really be themselves.

When away from school, what interests and hobbies do you enjoy?

Away from school, I spend a lot of time with my dog. I like to take him to the park or on hikes. I also love going to the movies, reading books, and practicing yoga.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Houses and Kindergarten Buddies!

Tomorrow, students will have their first House meeting of the year!  

Houses are an opportunity for all of our students and staff to build community together and participate in fun activities like door decorating, relay races, and chalk murals.  All of our K-5 students are in mixed groups, so they have a chance to interact with other students and staff that they do not normally get to see during the school day.  

In preparation for tomorrow’s event, our fifth graders recently met their kindergarten buddies - you can tell from these photos just how excited they all were!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How Focused Learning Goals Lead to an Alcatraz Swim

Seventh grade student Joe Gallagher is featured this week in the Los Altos Town Crier for his impressive swim from Alcatraz to the San Francisco shore - a tremendous achievement that began with a Focused Learning Goal in fourth grade at BCS.  

Every year, each student at BCS develops Focused Learning Goals (FLGs) in the core subject areas, a social/emotional/behavioral goal, and a passion goal.  Last spring, the Distinguished School Site Validation Team observed this signature practice, and were struck by “the amount of student reflection and ownership or learning in each grade level.”

For Joe, he set his passion goal in swimming and water polo for the last several years, providing him practice in goal setting and perseverance.  The ambitious one and a half mile open water swim that Joe completed in the bay - with no wet suit! - aligns with our mission to help students reach their full potential.  

Please join us in congratulating Joe on this wonderful accomplishment!


No suit, no sweat

Courtesy of the Gallagher Family 
Joe Gallagher – a 12-year-old from Los Altos Hills – swims from near Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore. His uncle, Joe Locke, an accomplished open-water swimmer, accompanied him.
For his recent swim from just off Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore, Joe Gallagher had little choice but to brave the chilly bay wearing only a Speedo, goggles and a swim cap.
“I don’t have a wetsuit,” the 12-year-old said.
Before it was over, Gallagher didn’t have a swim cap, either – it was lost at sea – but that didn’t stop him from completing the nearly 1.5-mile swim in 60-degree water. The Los Altos Hills resident and his uncle, Joe Locke, managed to reach the beach at Aquatic Park in 45 minutes.
“It’s always really cold,” Gallagher said of the San Francisco Bay. “I was numb for a couple of seconds, then I was better.”
This wasn’t the seventh-grader’s first foray into the bay. Inspired by his uncle – an accomplished open-water swimmer – Gallagher began swimming at Aquatic Park in fourth grade.
The first time out, he swam for 30 minutes in 55-degree water, according to his mom, Anne Marie Gallagher.
Gallagher completed a longer swim at Aquatic Park the next year and by the end of sixth grade set his sights on Alcatraz.
“That was my goal,” he said.
Gallagher prepared for a month, mostly in the pool at Fremont Hills Country Club. The Bullis Charter School student estimated that he swam 40-45 laps every day by himself.
Five days before heading to Alcatraz, Gallagher journeyed to Aquatic Park with his uncle for a test swim.
“I did a training swim that was about the same distance (as departing from Alcatraz),” he said. “That helped me.”
Then on the morning of Aug. 16, the pair returned to San Francisco for the real deal.
Riding in a small vessel with room only for his parents, Anne Marie and Fred, and the boat captain, Gallagher and Locke slipped into the bay just a few hundred feet from Alcatraz at 6:15 a.m.
The swim started smoothly, according to Gallagher, but then they hit rough waters.
“Near the middle, the current got really strong,” he said.
So strong that the boat captain – who followed them closely – grew concerned for their safety.
“I sort of got swept away, and the boat captain thought we weren’t going to make it,” Gallagher said. “Then my uncle went to the left and I followed, and we were OK.”
At least they didn’t have to contend with sharks – Gallagher said the only sea life they encountered were seals.
When the duo touched shore at 7 a.m., Anne Marie said her son had “a huge grin on his face.” Gallagher didn’t have the energy for a celebration, however.
“It was really early – we were up at 4:30 a.m. – so we didn’t really celebrate,” he said.
There’s always next time. Gallagher, a former competitive swimmer who switched to water polo a year ago, said he is contemplating doing other ocean swims.
“I’ll probably do more,” he said. “But as of now, I haven’t decided.”
If Gallagher does, it’s a good bet his uncle will be swimming alongside him.
Gallagher probably couldn’t have found a better partner for the Alcatraz swim than Locke. The 45-year-old swam the English Channel three years ago and the Catalina Channel in 2009.
Last month, the Mill Valley resident became only the second person to swim from the Farallon Islands to the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge – and he did it in record time. Locke completed the approximately 30-mile swim in 14 hours. The water temperature dipped close to 53 degrees and he didn’t wear a wetsuit.
“His toughness and perseverance inspire us all,” Anne Marie said of her brother.
As the wetsuit-free swim from Alcatraz proves, Locke’s nephew is showing some of the same attributes.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Student Perspective: 6th Grade Survey Project

Written by Guest Blogger and 6th Grade Student Elena A.

On the last week of March, the sixth grade started a survey project. Even though it wasn’t a PBL, it was an add-on for one of our math units about statistics and graphs. Dr. Gross, Mr. Gross’s wife, is a former senior research director at GfK - a company who gave us the opportunity to send out a survey they had already invested money in. GfK is a survey company that surveys people from all over the US. The sixth grade was responsible for coming up with two topics to survey people on, then picking four subcategories for each overall topic.

After a whole grade discussion with Dr. Gross, we were able to brainstorm and pick main topics and sub-categories. After writing up all our ideas on the board, we started ruling out the ones that seemed impractical. Dr. Gross came to the decision that our survey itself would be in an entertainment category. The two main ideas we chose were movies and music. Our subcategories for music were frequency of listening, types of music, how you listen to music, and live music performances. Our underlying questions for movies were types of movies, frequency of watching, people you watch movies with, and how you watch movies.

Taking these sub topics, each class split into groups of around three people to make a survey question for each sub topic. After we finished that, Dr. Gross would check them and send them “into the field.” People that are on the survey list who didn’t receive a survey in March were sent one class’s survey questions. The people on the list range from 13 year-olds to 105 year-olds from different ethnic backgrounds.

We were successfully able to send them out, and once we got our survey answers back, all three classes were able to compare their data and come to conclusions about America’s music and movie culture.

Survey Results:

  • A total of 1085 respondents completed the survey
  • Most people watch action/adventure movies- about 25%
  • Most people watched movies with family or romantic partners- about 40%
  • Most people watched movies on their home TV- about 80%
  • Most people listen to pop or rock music- about 35%
  • Most  people have been to a live music performance (depends on definition)- about 80%
  • The number of Hispanics who responded to the survey was high- 45%
  • Mostly women responded to the survey - 70%
  • The answers were affected by how the question was written

Monday, June 2, 2014

Eighth Graders Reflect on BCS Experience

Eighth grade students at Bullis Charter School recently presented their Culmination Projects to a panel of community members and local elected officials who were invited to attend the event held at BCI.  

Students shared highlights from their education at BCS and reflected on past, current, and future goals.  

We are pleased to share this letter that one of the panelists sent to the Santa Clara County Board of Education after her experience listening to the presentations.

May 29, 2014

Dear Santa Clara County Board of Education,

I am a parent of a Bullis 7th grader and I recently spent time one-on-one with four 8th grade students at Bullis Charter School where I experienced their “culmination” presentations. It was simply amazing. I have worked with students of all ages as a volunteer for 15 years and have never seen students with such confidence and self awareness. Several students discussed areas in which they struggled academically. These students  took responsibility for not working diligently as they could in the past. Coming to Bullis each received the support and encouragement they needed to step up and master the subject despite their history. 

As another example, a student who had attended Almond school in Los Altos,  was always middle of  road so she didn’t get much attention from her teachers at Almond, but at Bullis she was encouraged to achieve her “personal best”. Each student spoke about their approach to improving their abilities regardless of having been at the bottom, at the top, or at the middle of their class before coming to Bullis. 

The students also spoke about their future career plans and their desire to make a difference in the world, not just plain ambition but a desire to move through life doing what they felt was important for their career satisfaction. This is something many of us spend years figuring out in our careers. To put some context around this, I have two kids who attended schools in the Los Altos Disctrict: Loyola school (K-6, K-4), Oak school (5-6), Blach intermediate (7-8), so I feel I have some ability to compare Bullis with the district schools. While my children have enjoyed the occasional great teacher what Bullis achieves is consistently top notch and remarkable. 

My son started at Bullis as a 7th grader this fall and I didn’t know what to expect but he still arrives home every day HAPPY to be in school. Challenged and working harder than he ever has, but happy. The atmosphere, true dedication to excellence, focus on the whole child is nothing short of remarkable. There are english learners in my son’s class, but they receive the attention they need. The dedicated teaching staff hold office hours after school, engages in interactive modes of teaching and find ways to help each child. I feel so fortunate to have tried Bullis Charter School. The level of education and focus is the best I have ever experienced after 12 years of classes in Los Altos schools.

While there is a never ending battle for facilities and fair treatment of Bullis school, let us not lose site of the quality of education and quality of citizenship that Bullis is bringing to our kids. That the teaching staff and leadership do this despite the bitter Los Altos School Board environment keeping their dedication and focus on the kids. I am grateful everyday that the charter school has worked hard to exist and provide these outstanding opportunities for our community. I am a long time supporter of public education and attended public school in the San Jose Unified district, public undergraduate school (UC Berkeley), and public graduate school (University of Arizona). 


Dr. Nina Bhatti