Following months of meetings and closed-door negotiations, Glendale Unified officials are seeking input from Sagebrush residents on whether the La Cañada area should be transferred to that city’s district.
The area has historically been served by Glendale Unified, although efforts on behalf of residents to transfer the territory to La Cañada Unified spans decades. A current proposal would allow for the transfer, but would allow parents to choose which district to send their children to during a six-year period.
Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said school officials are going to make a push to attract a large crowd at the town hall meeting, scheduled for March 25.
“We wanted to make sure we had a negotiated settlement that would not be influenced by the town hall meeting. But the whole decision hinges on the town hall meeting,” he said, adding that “If the community overwhelmingly says, ‘We want to stay in Glendale,’ I think we would fight it.”
But if residents speak in favor of joining La Cañada Unified, Sheehan said he believes the Glendale school board “will grant them their wishes.”
“This is where truly our board wants to hear what their residents have to say,” he said.
When La Cañada incorporated in 1976, La Cañada Unified was already 15 years old. For reasons unknown to school officials today, the new city’s boundary did not line up with the school district, and students living in the Sagebrush area attend Mountain Avenue Elementary, Rosemont Middle School and Crescenta Valley High.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Glendale school board member Greg Krikorian said officials have had their eye on “the bigger picture” as they’ve negotiated with La Cañada school officials.
“Sometimes, we’ve got to look for common ground,” he said.
The most recent push echoes one made by Sagebrush residents in 1991. That year, a group filed a petition with the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization, which voted to approve the transfer in 1992. Glendale Unified, however, filed an appeal with the California State Board of Education, which blocked the transfer.
Krikorian, who joined the Glendale school board in 2001, said former school board members told him about the divide that ensued.
“It broke up a lot of relationships in the neighborhoods. It caused a lot of hard feelings,” he said. “The key thing...being a leader in this role, is you look to crisis intervention, avoiding conflict. Sometimes conflicts are very costly even if you don’t go to court,” he said, adding that the ongoing issue would require a lot of time from both districts’ employees, and take from their focus on education.
“Now it’s time to hear the residents, and I want to take that and be very open,” he said.
During Tuesday’s La Cañada school board meeting, Supt. Wendy Sinette said she would speak at the town hall, and said discussions between the districts “have been positive with a strong spirit of cooperation.”
“Glendale has very real concerns, and we’ve worked to address those with regard to Measure K and Measure S. There is a proposal in place that would allow for financially based phase-in with regard to the bonds,” Sinette said.
Eva Lueck, who is chief business and financial officer for Glendale Unified, said the district is still “looking at how we might mitigate those impacts, should a transfer occur.”
In mid-February, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council met behind closed doors to negotiate with GUSD officials regarding the price of a parcel of land in the 4900 block of Oceanview Boulevard. The property, which leads to Mountain Avenue Elementary, is often used by students living in the Sagebrush area.
The city of La Cañada’s potential purchase of the property at a fair market value was first identified last fall as a potential bargaining chip.
Glendale Unified officials say 400 students living in La Cañada attend Glendale Unified schools, but La Cañada school officials have previously put that number at 260.
Glendale school board member Christine Walters said the school board has generally agreed that it wouldn’t keep students from attending Glendale schools if they wanted to.
“For me, it’s going to be very important to hear from the residents and the parents of that area to know how they feel about this and whether or not they want us to try to work something out or not,” she said.
Don Carp, a Sagebrush resident who sends his daughter to Mountain Avenue, said the transfer would make sense, and was pleased with Glendale school officials wanting to hear input from residents.
“As much as we support Mountain Avenue, it just seems to make so much more sense that we’re part of the La Cañada community. I just don’t feel that we have a voice in that big school district called Glendale. The Sagebrush area is such a small little sliver,” he said.
The town hall meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on March 25 in the auditorium of Crescenta Valley High School, located at 2900 Community Ave.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.
Michael Bruer contributed to this story.