By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
About 110 people filled the auditorium of Mountain Avenue Elementary School on Tuesday evening to listen to a presentation by Glendale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan regarding the proposed territory transfer. In attendance were Mountain Avenue parents, who represented a majority of the crowd, Mountain Avenue Principal Rebecca Witt, PTA President Liz Blake, a scattering of pro-transfer Sagebrush residents, four members of the GUSD board of education and two members of the Crescenta Valley Town Council.
Sheehan and his staff distributed small blue question cards to the audience at the beginning of the meeting. The cards gave attendees the opportunity to write out their questions. GUSD staff collected the audience’s questions and will provide answers in a future FAQ document.
Sheehan made clear from the beginning that the purpose of this informational meeting was to provide parents with an update of GUSD’s status on the territory transfer and dispel rumors.
GUSD board vice president Greg Krikorian said the meeting was “specifically to help inform the Mountain Avenue students and families about where [we are in the process.”
During the 30-minute meeting Sheehan presented a timeline of the proposed Sagebrush territory transfer, starting on June 3, 2013 when GUSD first spoke to their legal council and ending with the Aug. 12, 2014 board meeting when the district again consulted with their lawyers in closed session.
At the GUSD board’s upcoming Sept. 2 meeting, it will decide in open session on an appointment process to fill the vacancy left by outgoing board president Mary Boger.
“That has an impact on everything,” Sheehan noted. “That alone will slow down the process a bit.”
During closed session at their Sept. 2 meeting, Sheehan confirmed the board will discuss Sagebrush again after having digested the new information from the August meeting.
To reassure the audience that a transfer would be a transparent and open process, Sheehan said, “Any potential decision one way or another will be discussed in open session.”
He also added that an automatic phone call would go out to every household affected by the transfer, including families at Fremont and Monte Vista Elementary schools who could be affected by permissible boundary changes within current GUSD boundaries. The call would inform them of opportunities for public comment on the issue.
Sheehan clarified that with the passing of the Los Angeles County Office of Education August deadline any territory transfer phase-in period would not begin until the 2016-17 school year, assuming an agreement is reached between La Cañada Unified and GUSD by August 2015.
When Sheehan reached the Oct. 8, 2013 slide of his presentation, the slide about the first parent meeting on Sagebrush at Mountain Avenue, he said, “I learned from that. Mountain Avenue does not want dual immersion.”
As parents applauded his statement he mentioned that a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program is still an option. CV Town Council president Robbyn Battles was firmly opposed to the prospect of bringing such a program to Mountain Avenue Elementary. Though she applauded Sheehan’s insights, she noted that Mountain Avenue’s infrastructure wouldn’t be able to handle the influx.
Throughout the meeting Sheehan shared many facts and figures, all of which were shared in GUSD board discussion reports at prior board meetings. For example, he pointed out that Sagebrush makes up 1.86% of GUSD’s tax base. Another data point, this one related to enrollment, was that Monte Vista is expected to have enrollment of over 800 students for two years in the near future. The overflow of Monte Vista students can be used to “backfill students potentially lost to transfer,” according to Sheehan.
GUSD is experiencing a dip in enrollment in grades eight to 10, but an increase in enrollment at its elementary schools. This, Sheehan said, could mean that there may be closer to 400 students in the Sagebrush area, instead of the current 353 students, by the time of the potential transfer.
After Sheehan’s presentation, in a more informal Q&A session, the audience approached GUSD board members and staff to ask questions.