Petition calls for transfer of Sagebrush territory from Glendale Unified to La Cañada Unified

A group looking to transfer 385 acres out of the Glendale Unified School District and into La Cañada Unified recently submitted a petition to have county officials weigh in on the issue.

The area known as the Sagebrush territory is part of the city of La Cañada Flintridge, but students living there have historically attended Glendale Unified schools.

In an effort to transfer the territory, residents who are part of a group called UniteLCF! began to canvass the Sagebrush area in February, after months of negotiations between Glendale and La Cañada school officials to swap the territory fell flat.

UniteLCF! needed to collect 25% of signatures from 1,606 registered voters who live in the Sagebrush area, and volunteers went on to gather 724 signatures, significantly more than the 402 signatures required, according to a statement released by UniteLCF! on Tuesday.

Volunteers with UniteLCF! submitted the petition and accompanying signatures in late June and announced Tuesday that the document has been certified by the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, according to their press release, meaning it reached the signature requirement and will move on to the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

County education officials plan to notify the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization during an upcoming meeting, which could take place in early September, according to UniteLCF!

The volunteer group was formed in 2013 by Tom Smith, who renewed efforts to transfer the territory following citizens' failed attempts in past years.

"Our efforts for a territory transfer are about empowering children and families who live in Sagebrush to be on equal footing with the rest of the La Cañada Flintridge community," Smith, the organization's chair, said in a statement. "Our goal is to provide them a greater sense of safety, educational parity, inclusiveness and belonging in their hometown."

For several months, elected officials from both school districts negotiated over the territory. However, by late 2014, Glendale officials proposed relinquishing the Sagebrush area if La Cañada Unified would pay $23 million for it over 12 years.

The price was too steep for La Cañada school officials, and in the months following that proposal, negotiations between the two groups lost momentum even as officials from both sides explored other legal options to swap the territory.

Now, Glendale school officials are not interested in reviving negotiations, and do "not plan to participate in any further negotiations that might result in moving students from the Sagebrush residential area out of the Glendale Unified School District, thereby harming the district and our students in the process," said Armina Gharpetian, Glendale school board president, in an email.

Glendale school officials said they will continue to respond to any requests from Sagebrush students who want to attend La Cañada schools.

"The schools serving the Sagebrush community are widely recognized as outstanding in quality, and in fact, each year, we have many students from the La Cañada School District request transfers into our school district," Gharpetian said.

"That said, as in the past, the family of any student residing in the Sagebrush residential area who wishes to transfer their children to the La Cañada School District will be granted that request from the GUSD," she added.

La Cañada Unified Supt. Wendy Sinnette could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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