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Sagebrush transfer decision postponed until May

Mountain Ave. School students arrive for class at the La Cañada Flintridge elementary on Wedn
Some Mountain Avenue Elementary School students may switch districts if the Sagebrush transfer is approved.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

A decision on the potential territory transfer of the 380-acre Sagebrush area of La Cañada Flintridge from the Glendale public school system to La Cañada Unified will be postponed another two months.

Officials with both school districts requested the delay during Wednesday morning’s meeting of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization and was approved on a 5-1 vote.

Glendale asked for a one-month postponement so its interim superintendent, Kelly King, can become more familiar with the matter.

King took over her current post after Glendale Unified’s board voted Jan. 29 to dismiss Winfred B. Roberson Jr. from the superintendent’s position.

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La Cañada petitioners asked the committee to hold off from making any decision during its April 3 meeting because the district would be on spring break.

After hearing the requests, the committee voted to postpone any decision until a May 1 meeting.

The 56-day delay comes after committee member AJ Willmer said he suspected a decision “60 days from now” when the group reviewed a transfer California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, study in October.

The formal petition process began in June 2016 when the Los Angeles County Office of Education received a transfer petition from Sagebrush area property owner Tom Smith, who has since been replaced on the group of petitioners by Nick Karapetian and Nalini Lasiewicz.

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The county committee gave preliminary approval to the petition in May of 2017, but only, according to committee secretary Keith Crafton, as a means to conduct a CEQA study.

As for the 66-page CEQA report, it noted a few issues should the territory transfer be approved.

One item was the matter of the many students who would be transferred from Glendale Unified’s Mountain Avenue Elementary School, Rosemont Middle School and Crescenta Valley High School to La Cañada Unified’s Palm Crest Elementary and La Cañada High.

Glendale’s interim superintendent King pointed to a potentially negative impact for some of those students.

She noted Rosemont and Crescenta Valley were honored under the 2019 California Distinguished Program on Feb. 25. La Cañada Unified had no schools lauded this year.

“Achieving this recognition with the new state accountability system is truly exceptional and was unique to Glendale Unified School District in comparison to our surrounding school districts,” King said.

The CEQA study utilized a figure of 356 students, as provided by Glendale Unified, which equals a loss of roughly $2.7 million in state funding.

La Cañada has argued the total is closer to 151 students.

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“It must be said that Glendale’s assertion of $2.7 million revenue loss is grossly exaggerated since it ignores the fact that 215 territory students are already enrolled in La Cañada schools,” former La Cañada school board president Scott Tracy said on Wednesday.

A couple of committee members spoke of delays to the process, including Frank Ogaz, who indicated he may not consider “boilerplate letters” or form letters submitted that did not include names, signatures or addresses.

“You can sit down in front of a liquor store and say, ‘hey, sign this thing’ and send … a bunch of letters,” Ogaz said. “You don’t even know where they live.”

Allison Deegan, LACOE’s regionalized business services coordinator, said her staff has received “maybe hundreds of these types of letters” and has forwarded them to the committee.

Committee member Frank Bostrom said the constant influx of new material from both sides has been overwhelming.

“We’ve never received this much volume of information on any board item,” he said. “We’re all drowning.”

Bostrom added the committee couldn’t make a decision until the information spigot was turned off.

“Everybody wants to ‘hear the matter, hear the matter,’ but we can’t hear the matter because they keep submitting information,” he said. “So if you stop submitting information, we can make a decision.”

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andrew.campa@latimes.com

Twitter: @campadresports


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