By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
A decision may be made soon on the contentious “Sagebrush” territory transfer issue. The Glendale Unified School District Governing Board continued discussions on the possible transfer at its June 17 board meeting.
Tuesday’s 50-minute discussion on the issue made clear negotiations with La Cañada Unified School District have progressed successfully towards a happy middle ground. But despite the progress, many factors still remain unclear and several options remain on the table.
The discussion began after closed session at 7:30 p.m. with a presentation from Chief Business and Financial Officer Eva Lueck.
Her report addressed questions that went unanswered from GUSD’s last board meeting about the bridge and park area, payment of the Measure S and Measure K bonds and enrollment at Mountain Avenue and Monte Vista elementary schools.
A majority of the board agreed that making the park non-negotiable would be a good idea. Board member Christine Walters said the park is the number one issue for La Crescenta residents.
“If we take the park out of [the negotiations], it makes a big difference,” said Walters.
It was made clear that Glendale Unified is allowed to own property in another district, in this case La Canada Unified.
GUSD board member Greg Krikorian added, in agreement with Walters, “This will save time for all of us if we take [the park] off the table.”
GUSD Superintendent Dick Sheehan confirmed that the City of La Cañada Flintridge does not want anything to do with the bridge.
In the case that negotiations between the districts are unsuccessful and the County Commission rules in favor of La Cañada Unified regarding the transfer, both the ownership of the bridge and park will go to LCUSD, while the cost of Measures S and K will transfer to La Cañada property owners for 25 years.
If negotiations are successful, payments on the bonds may be paid differently depending on the final proposal. The methods of payments for the two Glendale bonds are crucial as this determines how Glendale would be allowed to spend that revenue.
Were the method of payment through La Cañada homeowners’ property taxes, GUSD could only use the generated revenue to pay down their outstanding bond debt.
Perhaps the most important factor for students and their families is the enrollment issue. GUSD has conducted extensive research to determine a rectangular permissible zone, with edges at Rosemont Avenue, Los Amigos Street, Briggs and Olive avenues, in which the 103 K-6 students living in that zone could attend either Monte Vista or Mountain Avenue.
GUSD is considering this option, as well as the option of “enhancing the Mountain Avenue academic program and offerings,” according to Assistant Superintendent Kelly King’s report, to compensate for the loss of 353 K-12 students living in Sagebrush.
Board member Armina Gharapetian did express concern over the latter option of introducing new programs to Mountain Avenue.
“It’s not the right thing to do to have a program that attracts out-of-district students to Mountain Avenue,” said Gharapetian, emphasizing the importance of keeping Mountain Avenue a neighborhood school.
Board member Nayiri Nahabedian expressed concern about the fast pace of the negotiations, stating that she would prefer a start date of July 2016.
Superintendent Sheehan mentioned that students who chose to transfer to Mountain Avenue who live within the permissible zone would be phased in by grade starting July 1, 2015, as long as a deal is struck between the two districts by August of this year. Until everything is sorted out, Sheehan said, all transfer permits are on hold.