Sagebrush residents embark on own path to transfer school territory

Frustrated by stalled negotiations between La Cañada and Glendale school officials over a possible transfer of students living in western La Cañada into LCUSD boundaries, a citizens group has decided to begin pursuing a "second path" to resolution.

Unite LCF, a group of residents living in the contested "Sagebrush" area, announced it will move ahead with plans to collect signatures from residents in a petition that could eventually be submitted to the L.A. County Office of Education for a legal decision on the matter.

Unite LCF Chair Tom Smith, who established the group in 2013, said members felt it was time to move forward with preparations, since the school districts have failed to reach consensus after two years of talks.

"It seemed like we were on the cusp of what would have been a historic negotiated landmark settlement," Smith said Wednesday. "And (now) that seems to have totally gone off track."

In November 2014, GUSD offered to accept $23 million in exchange for losing potentially hundreds of students and the attendance-based funding they generate. LCUSD called that offer "untenable."

A Sacramento consultant was brought into discussions in June, at a cost of $15,000, but a May announcement that GUSD Supt. Dick Sheehan was resigning from the district left the fate of negotiations up in the air.

Smith estimated it could take Unite LCF two to three months, after verifying petition language with the county, to collect signatures from a required 25% of some 1,600 Sagebrush voters. Ultimately, the group hopes for a transfer of students to begin by the 2017-18 school year.

"We feel like we need to move forward," Smith said. "And if, in the meantime, the two districts come to a negotiated settlement, wonderful."


Sara Cardine,

Twitter: @SaraCardine