Glendale, La Cañada school officials continue Sagebrush talks

Glendale school officials are continuing negotiations with La Cañada officials regarding the Sagebrush territory.

In recent weeks, Glendale school officials have considered parents' concerns over the future of Mountain Avenue, the elementary school that could suffer an enrollment dip should Glendale gradually release the students who live in the Sagebrush area to La Cañada Unified.

Parents also said they were concerned that the campus would lose its park and bridge, and Glendale school board members Tuesday suggested removing the property from future discussions.

"It makes sense for us to do that, and then look specifically at other options that are on the table," said school board member Greg Krikorian.

Board member Armina Gharpetian said she favors Glendale having permanent access to the park and bridge.

"We can get money by selling it, but…at the end of the day, if we keep it, I'd be happier," she said.

Instead of selling the property, Glendale officials suggested that La Cañada Unified pay them a portion of the money Glendale would lose from the state for not serving Sagebrush students.

A total of 353 Sagebrush students attend Glendale schools, officials said, citing a recent demographics study. But the two districts disagree on the number of students, with La Cañada officials placing that number at 260.

Supt. Dick Sheehan said his La Cañada counterparts, however, stated early on that they did not want to compensate Glendale for the funding hit.

School board member Christine Walters suggested those funds return as a potential item to negotiate, and offered coming to an agreement with La Cañada by August.

If the two districts reach an agreement by then, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization would analyze the transfer and pave the way for both districts to adopt a phase-in plan that would take effect beginning in July 2015.

"That's sort of the timeline I had in mind, that we need to resolve this summer to make a decision, and that would be my preference, that we need to move forward," Walters said.

"We have something we can touch and feel now," Krikorian said. "We can see it...It would be prudent for both boards to have some type of direction by August, or some type of conclusion."

To recover anticipated enrollment loss at Mountain Avenue, Glendale officials would expand Monte Vista Elementary School's boundaries, and give parents a choice between the schools.

Tom Smith, the Sagebrush resident who resurrected the decades-old dispute over the territory — with heavy support of La Cañada city and school officials — returned to the Glendale school board meeting Tuesday.

He urged Glendale officials to come to a vote on the negotiations and thanked the board for their "very involved and very professional" discussions over recent months.

"That would be my encouragement to you, to take it to the next step, take it to the next level…and let's move this to a vote," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Glendale school board member Nayiri Nahabedian vouched for the importance of time in analyzing the territory still up for negotiation.

"This is something that will be a historic change that we will not be able to come back from," she said. "So let us be thoughtful and let us look at every option and be mindful of it."


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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