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Glendale Unified interim superintendent looks to steady ship during rocky times

Glendale Unified interim superintendent looks to steady ship during rocky times
Glendale Unified veteran Kelly King smiles during her first meeting as interim superintendent at district headquarters on Feb. 5. (Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

When the Glendale Unified school board dismissed Supt. Winfred B. Roberson Jr., during a special meeting on Jan. 29, the move set off a chain of events.

One of the changes was to temporarily name longtime district stalwart employee Kelly King as interim superintendent, replacing Roberson, who helmed Davis Unified School District before coming to Glendale three years ago.

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While Glendale Unified officials set a June 1 deadline to hire a new superintendent, King has been asked to lead the district through a few tumultuous months.

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The former district teacher, teacher specialist and assistant superintendent has been with Glendale Unified since 1990 and recently spoke to the News-Press about her short-term plans for long-term issues.

Sagebrush issue

One immediate issue King will likely confront will be the potential transfer of the Sagebrush territory of La Cañada Flintridge, currently under Glendale Unified control, to La Cañada Unified.

In May 2017, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization conducted a nonbinding straw vote, as described by Keith Crafton, LACOE director of business advisory services, that preliminarily approved the petition so a California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, review could be conducted.

The study’s results were released this past October and a vote on the matter, which was supposed to have been taken within 60 days, may be held in March.

“We continue to assert that this is our community,” King said. “The GUSD community includes that territory. We have no intention of losing a portion of what’s been part of the GUSD community. We have so many strengths and contributors from that territory, and we’re not going to take a stand that’s going to hurt the district, as a whole, and it’s our opinion that losing that territory hurts GUSD.”

Cooperation with the Glendale City Council

During the LACOE meeting in October, the La Cañada breakaway group UniteLCF! and its supporters dominated the public-comment portion of the meeting and were backed by La Cañada Unified Supt. Wendy Sinnette and members of the La Cañada City Council, including Mayor Terry Walker.

Glendale Unified’s board, which has been at odds with the Glendale City Council due to a failed property transfer proposal for new administrative offices for the school district, did not receive any in-person support that day from the council.

“We’ve always had discussions of getting the City Council involved,” King said. “We have letters of support from Mayor [Zareh] Sinanyan. We have letters of support from council member [Vartan] Gharpetian. I think that they value GUSD schools. While we might disagree on the property exchange, it doesn’t mean that they’re not in support of GUSD.”

Glendale Unified property exchange proposal

Five years of planning were shot down in one evening in December for the Glendale Unified school board, which saw a property exchange proposal, facilitated by developer Carmel Partners, voted down by the City Council, 3-1.

Glendale had proposed to swap its current headquarters, located at 223 N. Jackson St., for a larger and newer building with more parking, located at 425 E. Colorado St.

Glendale’s old headquarters would have been converted into a 207-unit residential development that some council members thought would have overfilled an already-tight residential neighborhood.

With that proposal rejected, King said she isn’t sure what district officials will do next.

“We just really need to see where the developer is,” she said. “It’s not in our hands, at the moment. Is the developer moving forward or not with the city? That’s really discussions between them.”

She added, “I don’t want to give up hope, but you know if it doesn’t go through, I think we’ll be frustrated and heartbroken, but then we’ll really have to look and see what we’re going to have to do with the old building that we’re in.”

Potential budget cuts

Operating with a $6.13-million deficit, Glendale Unified staff members have proposed cuts totaling $6.83 million that call for the elimination of some vacant positions and other reduction efforts over the next two school years.

District officials are trying to avoid any layoffs, but they may be needed after filing a qualified budget in December and seeing Glendale Unified’s student enrollment decline again.

“With the proposal that we have moving forward, with some cuts that are away from classrooms, away from school sites, I’m confident that we’ll be able to present a positive certification for the county,” King said. “But it does not mean that we don’t have some tough decisions in front of us.”

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