Sagebrush cries foul over Glendale-produced informational document

Glendale News Press
July 29, 2014
By Kelly Corrigan and Sara Cardine

GUSD’s newly published Sagebrush information raises questions about omitted data.

Saying it underplays local support, Sagebrush residents are crying foul about an informational document posted by Glendale Unified regarding negotiations to transfer the area to La Cañada Unified.

The first draft of the question-and-answer document was approved by both La Cañada and Glendale Unified officials and posted online. Residents also received a copy prior to a March town hall meeting about the transfer.

A revised version was published in June with new information, including negotiations regarding the Mountain Avenue Elementary and an adjacent bridge.

But in early July, Glendale released a third version, which included that district’s version of disputed enrollment figures. The document states that of the 353 total number of Sagebrush students, 144 are high school students. La Cañada does not include the high school students on the theory that most, if not all, would not choose to change schools.

The July revision does not include the results of a survey commissioned by Glendale Unified showing 85% of polled residents would “definitely support” matching Sagebrush boundaries to La Cañada Unified. The survey reached 695 of the area’s 1,604 registered voters. The June version, however, did include this information.

In addition, the document did not include the fact that 400 people attended the March town hall meeting with a majority of speakers supporting the transfer.

For Tom Smith, chair of Unite LCF — the group that reignited a decades-long effort to transfer the territory in 2013 — the new document issued by Glendale school officials is “disconcerting.”

“It suddenly feels like there is a change in tone,” Smith said. “How could it be that that historical knowledge is no longer important to the discussion?”

But Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for Glendale Unified, said the most recent document issued by her department was revised to include information current to the Glendale school board’s July 8 discussion — the most recent one they’ve had.

“We needed to update it based on this current conversation,” she said.

The revision omits previously included dollar amounts La Cañada school officials had suggested giving Glendale Unified under the potential agreement. Those dollar figures, including a proposed $4.45-million payment to Glendale Unified for a portion of its bond debt tied to the Measure K and Measure S bonds, are still being negotiated, Lueck said.

While La Canada Unified officials would not comment directly about the changes, they did say their involvement was not solicited in the recent revision of the document.

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Amid Sagebrush talks, LCUSD revises student transfer process

La Cañada Valley Sun
7/18/14
by Sara Cardine

Some students in La Cañada’s Sagebrush area whose parents work in the city will be allowed to attend school in the La Cañada Unified School District this fall, after officials agreed Thursday to change how they accept transfer applications.

The district is seeking legal advice to ensure the geographical distinction does not constitute an “arbitrary designation” for acceptance, something the California Education Code prohibits it from doing. Pending approval, all Sagebrush applicants whose parents work in town will receive acceptance priority over students whose parents work in La Cañada but live elsewhere.

Still ahead of them in priority are the children of full-time employees of the school district, the siblings of continuing permit students already enrolled and the children of part-time La Cañada Unified employees, in that order. All approvals are contingent upon the number of available openings.

The board’s decision came during a special meeting held in response to a Sagebrush parent’s plea two days earlier that his 6-year-old daughter be allowed to start kindergarten in La Cañada Unified.

John Womack and his wife work in La Cañada and may currently request a transfer under the Allen Bill, a part of the Education Code that allows permit students whose parents work in a town to transfer out of their home districts, in this case Glendale Unified School District.

Before Thursday’s decision, the Womacks were lumped together with La Cañada employees living in cities much further away and selected by a lottery system to fill vacancies.

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LCUSD board meeting to consider Sagebrush transfer priorities

La Cañada Valley Sun
7/17/14

The La Cañada school board will hold a special meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss whether changes should be made to the process in which applications for transfer into the district are accepted.

Currently, LCUSD gives top priority to applications from children whose parents work full time and second priority to those who work part time for the district. Sagebrush families, those living in the westernmost portion of La Cañada, receive third priority, along with people who work in the city but aren’t residents.

The examination follows a request from a John Womack, a resident living in the Sagebrush area. Womack addressed the board Tuesday in a public comment.

He said that although he and his wife both work in La Cañada, his 6-year-old daughter would be forced to attend kindergarten at Glendale Unified School District’s Mountain Avenue Elementary School.

“If you work in La Cañada and you live in La Cañada, and you’re a member of this community, you’re way down at the bottom (of the list) with somebody who works here, but lives far away,” Womack said. “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t have priority.”

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Sagebrush talks continue

C V Weekly
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.”

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Demystifying Sagebrush debate

C V Weekly, 7/10/14
by Mary O’Keefe

The Sagebrush debate continued at Tuesday’s Glendale Unified School District board of education meeting. Sagebrush is the far western portion of La Cañada Flintridge whose students attend GUSD schools. Some La Cañada residents have been working to get Sagebrush area students permanently transferred to La Cañada Unified School District.

There are many factors that are being discussed regarding the issue; however, during Tuesday’s meeting there was made mention of how complicated bonds and ADA (Average Daily Attendance) are to the general public.

Here is some information to clarify these issues:

In order to raise capital, municipalities like school districts often issue bonds. These bonds help finance specific projects, mostly pertaining to the infrastructure of the facility like remodeling or constructing new buildings, or purchasing or upgrading technology. Bond measures are a way for the agency, like a school district, to borrow money over time. Bonds have been compared to a mortgage for a school district. The district offers the bond measure to voters and, if approved, will sell the bond to investors with the promise to pay back with interest. The payments are made with a portion of the property tax money designated for the bond measure.

For about the last 40 years, this is one of the ways districts have been able to raise funds. The California State Supreme Court ruled that the differences in school funding due to wealth differences in districts violated the state constitution. A per-pupil entitlement financed by property tax revenue and state aid was put into place. The Average Daily Attendance, (ADA) allots a certain amount of funding for “students in the chairs” to each district.

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Glendale school officials delay Sagebrush vote

La Cañada Valley Sun
by Kelly Corrigan

The Glendale school board postponed a vote regarding a controversial transfer of the Sagebrush territory to La Cañada Unified after Supt. Dick Sheehan asked for more time to negotiate with the affluent district’s leaders.

“We do not anticipate this slowing down the process,” he said, advocating the board remove the item from Tuesday’s agenda. “However, we just wanted to be able to have constructive dialogue on the potential for an MOU with La Cañada and the feeling that we’re under the gun to vote tonight did not feel fair.”

Had the Glendale school board voted Tuesday night to authorize the transfer, the item would still have returned to them for final approval at a later date. Now, Sheehan said both districts will be allowed more “open, strong dialogue,” before “getting a decision done” in August.

Glendale school board members have discussed the issue during public school board and town hall meetings for several months as district officials on both sides have negotiated terms.

The long-simmering debate reignited in May 2013 when Sagebrush residents — who are in La Cañada’s city limits but whose children are served by GUSD — asked La Cañada school and city officials to support their efforts.

“This would be — no personal offense to anyone in La Cañada — the equivalent of a hostile takeover,” said school board member Christine Walters. “What’s going to happen is, either we decide to negotiate something or La Cañada has already passed a resolution that they will go through the legal process to take this area. And if that happens, we lose a lot and we don’t have any input in the process.”

If talks break down, La Cañada officials have vowed to request the transfer through the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization. Similar requests have been submitted in the past, most recently in the 1990s when the committee ruled in favor of La Cañada. That decision, however, was overturned by state education officials.

to read the full article, click here.