By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
The Glendale Unified School District board of education postponed a vote on the proposed territory transfer between GUSD and La Cañada Unified at its July 8 meeting.
Superintendent Richard Sheehan explained that the board did not want to feel “under the gun to vote.” He also added that they “don’t anticipate this slowing down the process.”
Though voting on the controversial issue was postponed, the board decided to continue discussions at the meeting.
The “Sagebrush” issue dominated the public communications portion of the meeting. Three La Cañada residents spoke in favor of the transfer, while three La Crescenta residents spoke against the transfer.
Don Davis, Sagebrush resident, advocated for a negotiated transfer noting that litigation and petition to the county level would be very costly for both districts.
Paula Brown, a parent of a sixth grader at Mountain Avenue Elementary School and a 10th grader at Crescenta Valley High School, claimed that Sagebrush residents not being a part of the greater La Cañada Flintridge community is a “ridiculous argument.”
She noted that La Cañada’s Mayor Michael Davitt, a member of the Planning Commission, and Tom Smith, leader of the citizens group advocating for the transfer, both of whom live in the Sagebrush area, appear to be very involved in the La Cañada community.
The board’s discussion seemed just as heated as the public communications. The board discussed the details of a possible six-year student phase-in plan and La Cañada Unified’s assumption of responsibility for the Sagebrush debt service on Measure S and Measure K bonds.
GUSD school board member Christine Walters characterized the potential transfer as a “hostile takeover.” The decision, she said, “comes down to how much it’s going to cost us versus how much it’s not going to cost us.” She explained that the process has taken so long because, according to her, “we are going to be the loser in this.”
Board member Nayiri Nahabedian, who video chatted into the meeting from Armenia, agreed with Walters.
“This [transfer] is being forced upon us,” she said adding that the transfer is “not my preference by any stretch of the imagination.”
Both Nahabedian and board member Greg Krikorian agreed with Walters’ earlier suggestion of having La Cañada split the cost of average daily attendance (ADA) revenue lost by Glendale Unified, though the amount of ADA received by the state for each district varies, with Glendale Unified receiving in excess of $1,000 more per student.
Board member Armina Gharapetian insisted that more community feedback on a potential Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two districts was needed before any further serious progress can be made.
Gharapetian said, “When this is all over I don’t want people pointing at each other.”
Board president Mary Boger, who resigned at the end of the meeting due to health complications, had the strongest words for La Cañada Unified.
She expressed her dislike of the manner of the negotiations, claiming that the issue “was not raised in a collegial manner.” She also stated that the discussion did not have to be on La Cañada’s timeline and that she is “troubled by the imposition of a false deadline.”