Glendale school board rejects 'district of choice' designation

GLENDALE— Board members rejected plans to convert Glendale Unified into a district of choice, a designation that would have allowed students throughout the state to enroll in the district.
Higher enrollment means greater revenue. However, board members soured on the idea, saying the conversion would be more problematic than advantageous.

“I’d rather be collaborative with our neighboring districts,” Vice President Joylene Wagner said.
District of choice is a thorny issue, often pitting districts against each other.

Supt. Dick Sheehan asked the board to consider the idea, saying the program could help the popular Foreign Language Academy of Glendale. Many FLAG participants come from Los Angeles Unified or other neighboring districts.

Last year, Los Angeles Unified made waves when it took action to restrict the number of students leaving the district. The plan was ultimately put on hiatus, but is expected to be revisited this year, officials said.

“They have said they are willing to release the students. However they are making them go through several hurdles and one of our concerns is they go through these hurdles and we may lose some of these students,” Sheehan said. “They may get to the second or the third hurdle and say enough is enough.”

But board members said they weren’t convinced that district of choice was a solution. The inter-district transferring system created by state law requires receiving districts to admit out-of-district students through a random lottery. The district could not target certain students or attempt to avoid costly students, such as students with special needs.

“We are opening our district to take any student which may impact our budget in terms of how much money we need to spend,” board member Nayiri Nahabedian said.

Board members instructed staff to see if they could negotiate with nearby districts, and explore binding agreements about certain Glendale Unified programs.

Board member Mary Boger recommended staff develop tools and resources to help parents navigate the transfer system.

District officials had planned a potential Oct. 19 vote on whether to become a district of choice, but that decision is now off the agenda.

“What we will do is open up dialogue with surrounding districts,” Sheehan said. “Hopefully they understand our programs and [that] we are not trying to raid their students.”

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