By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
The debate over the territory transfer of Sagebrush, the westernmost region of the City of La Cañada Flintridge that falls within Glendale Unified School District boundaries, reached its highest point of civility thus far on Tuesday evening in the Crescenta Valley High School auditorium during a public forum about the future of the territory.
The forum was attended by approximately 350 residents including all five members of both the La Cañada Unified School District and the Glendale Unified District school boards, as well as three members of the La Cañada Flintridge City Council, members of the Crescenta Valley Town Council and other former and current elected and appointed officials from both cities and districts.
The principals of Mountain Avenue Elementary, Rosemont Middle, Crescenta Valley High and Palm Crest Elementary schools were also in attendance.
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and GUSD Superintendent Dick Sheehan moderated the forum. They opened with brief statements about the purpose of the event and the transfer process this time around.
“The purpose of tonight is to truly hear form the residents,” said Sheehan. “We realize this is a very emotional issue for some and for us.”
Sinnette gave a quick overview of the history of the 60-year conversation over the Sagebrush territory and noted, “The whole point is to keep the dollars out of the pockets of the attorneys and in our classrooms.”
In a message to non-Sagebrush resident parents with kids at Mountain Avenue Elementary, the GUSD school that would be most affected, Sinnette said, “I’m not your superintendent, but I know how closely wedded you are to the concept of a neighborhood school and how much you want to protect that.”
She also noted the similarity in demographics at Mountain Avenue and Palm Crest Elementary, the primary La Cañada school to be affected if the transfer were to take place.
La Crescenta parents were a part of a loud minority in the pool of about 50 resident speakers. Their primary concern was the programs currently at Mountain Avenue and the potentially significant loss of children who would be attending the school.
Superintendent Sheehan said in reply that GUSD is looking for a new program for Mountain Avenue and plans to permit some families at Monte Vista Elementary to move over to Mountain Avenue. Mountain Avenue will have a one-year period to chart a plan of action if the transfer goes into effect.
The City of La Cañada Flintridge and LCUSD have already passed resolutions in favor of the territory transfer. All progress in this effort now rests on the shoulders of the GUSD.
The GUSD board of education will have this item on three of its future agendas, two in April as a discussion item and once in May as an action-voting item.
If the GUSD board were to vote in favor of the transfer, a six-year phase-in process would be initiated in which students from one district would begin school at the other district starting Fall 2015 at “natural breaks.”
Superintendent Sheehan defined breaks as the transitions between elementary school and middle school and between middle school and high school, claiming these would be the optimal points for students to transition.
A majority of the resident and parent speakers were either Sagebrush or LCUSD residents, outfitted with “One City. One School District” yellow stickers, who spoke in favor of the transfer. Their message focused mostly on community unity for the children.
A 13-year phase-in has been proposed to handle the financial side of the potential transfer. In an FAQ packet handed out to residents, the proposal describes as “concurrent with the transfer of the Sagebrush tax base of approximately $505 million from GUSD, LCUSD would add $4.45 million of indebtedness to its tax rolls that would match the agreed-upon annual payments to GUSD for 13 years.”
A link to a FAQ packet is posted on the front page of lcusd.net.