Sagebrush Petition Certified by County

The clock has started for county officials to make a determination about the decades-long tug-of-war over the students living in the Sagebrush area of La Cañada Flintridge.
The petition requesting a territory transfer of the 385 acres in westernmost La Cañada Flintridge from Glendale Unified School District to La Cañada Unified was certified Monday by the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office, according to the UniteLCF citizens committee advocating for the move.
After kicking off the petition drive in February, the group on June 29 submitted 724 signatures — nearly 50% of the registered voters in the Sagebrush area. Only 402 signatures (25%) were required for the petition to be certified.
“It just demonstrates the level of support that people in the Sagebrush area have for this,” said Tom Smith, chair of UniteLCF. “If we could get people to open their door, they supported the petition and signed it.
“We’re excited to be at this point and we look forward to moving ahead.”
Now, staff at the Los Angeles County Office of Education will formally notify the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization that the petition has been certified. After that, the committee will have 60 days to conduct a pair of public meetings in each school district’s area, where comments will be collected from stakeholders.
“We’ll certainly have a good turnout for those meetings,” Smith said. “And we look forward to working with the county Office of Education’s staff to clarify whatever questions they have.”
Then, committee officials have as long as 120 days to complete their evaluation, Smith said.
There also will be a California Environmental Quality Act study, Smith said. That part of the process doesn’t have a specific timetable, but Smith said he expects it could take about six months, judging by similar studies done with other school districts in the state.
UniteLCF reintroduced residents’ desire to redraw district boundaries three years ago, and the city of LCF signed off on a resolution in support of it, arguing that if Sagebrush-area students were automatically enrolled in LCF schools, it would improve community cohesion.
In response, GUSD officials expressed concerns about what the abrupt loss of students — there are said to be about 400 living in the territory, 71 of which will be permitted to attend LCUSD schools this upcoming school year — would mean to their district.
The debate, which has been contentious in the past, has been going on for 50-plus years.
The boundaries can be traced back to 1950, when Glendale was annexing blocks of the Crescenta Valley, and residents living in the 45 or so homes in the Sagebrush area wanted to avoid being swallowed up by Glendale, so they successfully petitioned for their post office address to be changed from Montrose to La Cañada Flintridge. No one then thought to consider school boundaries, so the few students living in the handful of homes in what would become Sagebrush went to Glendale schools.
Then, when in 1960 GUSD declined to accept La Cañada schools into its district because it was overburdened with building space and transportation problems, residents in the La Cañada and Flintridge areas approved a measure that established a K-12 school district. But it did not include the Sagebrush territory.
Almost immediately, the first of four citizens petitions — in addition to three failed legislative proposals — arose requesting that Sagebrush students be allowed to attend LCUSD campuses. So far, of course, GUSD has managed to hold onto the territory.
Those who signed the latest petition are hoping for a different result this time.
“Our goal is to provide them a greater sense of safety, educational parity, inclusiveness and belonging in their hometown,” Smith said in UniteLCF’s news release. “We are determined to be successful.”

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