County Committee Continues to Study Sagebrush Transfer Proposal

Supporters of a transfer of La Cañada Flintridge’s Sagebrush area into the local school district were on hand Wednesday when the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization took up the issue, which appeared to remain far from a resolution.
Sagebrush, located in the LCF’s western-most corner, is part of the Glendale Unified School District.
“The key takeaway is the staff is still conducting their review of the [California Environmental Quality Act] findings,” said Tom Smith, chair of UniteLCF, after the meeting. UniteLCF includes Sagebrush residents who want their neighborhood to be transferred. “They’re also reviewing various responses they’ve received, including us. … They’re still chewing their way through that.”
No additional information was given about when the petition would be discussed again, Smith said.
In October, committee Chairman A.J. Willmer said the panel could take 60 days to make a decision on the petition and that “there has been no binding vote by this committee.” He said then that the committee would take into account the CEQA study and additional information.
Sagebrush residents, with support of the La Cañada Unified School District, have sought a transfer for more than 50 years, and in May 2017 the county committee gave a preliminary approval. In October, however, the committee appeared to temper expectations and stated its previous 8-1 vote was not an approval of the transfer petition but of continued discussion and environmental review.
On Wednesday, the board reviewed additional documentation provided from a variety of sources including Nick Karapetian, a co-chief petitioner for the transfer.
Some of Karapetian’s comments included answering an earlier question about whether LCUSD had sufficient classroom capacity to accommodate transferring students. He believes it has, and also that capacity meant a self-imposed cap driven by target student-teacher ratios established by LCUSD that are more demanding than state targets.
Scott Tracy, a former LCUSD board member, said that the disputed Sagebrush territory represents less than 2% of the Glendale district, and that unlike in petitions from other school districts, no property or school facilities were involved. He added that “only about 150 Sagebrush students remain available to transfer.”
An email from an LCUSD parent and LCF resident, Joan Anderson, said that “financial gain is and has been the motive of Sagebrush (GUSD) residents to start a petition to become part of LCUSD” and included documentation about local real estate values.
The LCUSD Governing Board sent a Nov. 27 resolution in support of the transfer. The city of LCF sent a signed letter on Nov. 20 from Mayor Terry Walker and a copy of a November 2013 resolution in support of the transfer.
After the committee’s action in May 2017, the next step was a review under CEQA that took nearly a year. The study, according to the county’s notice of public hearing, determined the proposed transfer would not have significant adverse impacts on the environment with the implementation of mitigation measures.
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said at a Nov. 8 joint use committee meeting involving members of the school district and the LCF City Council that the district currently has 213 Sagebrush students, with a maximum number set at 300 to 400. The number is manageable even if all wanted to transfer, she said.
Smith said on Wednesday his problem with the whole process is that there’s no timeline for the process until the CEQA findings are adopted. Once the findings are adopted, the county committee has to make a decision within 120 days, Smith said.

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