Both Districts Resolute Before Sagebrush Hearings

Even before the first of two scheduled public hearings about the proposed Sagebrush territory transfer took place Wednesday evening at the La Cañada Unified School District, representatives on both sides of the matter dug in.
The LCUSD Governing Board on Monday voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to redistrict.
Glendale Unified School District Superintendent Winfred Roberson had previously issued a robocall and sent an email to all the families of students in his district, encouraging them to participate in the forthcoming hearings.
These hearings — the second of which will take place at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at Crescenta Valley High School — are a result of a petition put forth by UniteLCF, a citizens group composed of residents living in the 385-acre western La Cañada Flintridge. Nearly half of Sagebrush-area registered voters signed the petition to transfer.
UniteLCF is asking the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization to redraw boundaries so that students in their neighborhood will be sent to LCUSD schools instead of those in GUSD. The current transfer campaign, which started with discussions between the districts and the city of LCF almost four years ago, is the latest effort in a four-decade-long push to redraw the districts’ borders.
Through it all, Sagebrush has remained part of GUSD — which in November 2014 offered to relinquish the territory to LCUSD for up to $16 million over 12 years to make up for lost average daily attendance funding. LCUSD officials rejected that offer, saying it was significantly more than the district could afford.
On Oct. 19, GUSD families received messages from their superintendent about the imminent meetings, as well as an explanation of his district’s perspective on the proposal: “We are somewhat mystified by this petition given that GUSD has exceptional, award-winning schools — among the top in L.A. County — and any student residing in the Sagebrush area requesting a transfer to La Cañada Unified School District has received permission from us to do so.”
The correspondence continued: “If the L.A. County Committee on School District Organization approve this petition, it will not only be unsettling for students forced to change schools, it will have a devastating impact on our remaining students … due to lost ADA funding that could result in teacher layoffs and a reduction in financial resources used to provide students with technology, expanding programs and extracurricular activities.”
In a release following GUSD’s communications, UniteLCF identified the superintendent’s messages as being reminiscent of “scare tactics” in previous disputes over the issue. The group also wrote that if “any of the GUSD Board members is truly ‘mystified’ over our petition, we suspect they have not given this matter their full attention. The territory transfer petition now being proposed addresses all issues brought forth during extensive community outreach efforts, meetings with stakeholders, surveys, consultants, community forums and dozens of meetings and exchanges with all the GUSD Board members, past and present.”
In its meeting Monday, LCUSD board members proclaimed their ongoing support for the transfer because it unites the city’s community, since the Sagebrush neighborhood resides within the La Cañada Flintridge city borders. The board updated a resolution that read, in part, “research supports that community cohesiveness strengthens social capital and has been found to produce positive results for student achievement.”
Board members also discussed an addition to the resolution regarding a forthcoming feasibility plan in the event that the transfer takes place.
Board member Ellen Multari described a collaborative effort between the district, the city and UniteLCF, to develop a financial mitigation strategy that will relieve the potential impacts related to student housing, facilities and personnel.
“It’s important for our citizens to know we are being fiscally responsible,” board member Kaitzer Puglia said.

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