La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette has expressed doubt that a petition to transfer the Sagebrush territory — located in La Cañada Flintridge’s western-most corner — into the school district will be granted, and said the long-running controversy surrounding the matter is likely to continue, even if the effort succeeds.
Sinnette made the remarks during a recent meeting of a joint-use committee that includes members of the LCUSD Governing Board and the City Council. Though Sagebrush lies within La Cañada Flintridge city limits, it is part of the Glendale Unified School District.
In May 2017, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization gave preliminary approval to the transfer on a 8-1 vote. Sagebrush residents, with support of LCUSD, have sought such a transfer for more than 50 years. However, at its early October meeting, the committee seemed to temper expectations, stating that the 2017 vote was not an “approval” of the petition to transfer, only that it approved to continue discussion and environmental review of the matter.
LCUSD Governing Board member Dan Jeffries said he believes the L.A. County committee, in its meeting last month, tried to make that point clear.
“I think there really was a misunderstanding,” he said. “They weren’t saying they supported the concept overall. They were just saying they supported it enough to move on with the CEQA [environmental impact report]. So I think there was a lot of trying to reset expectations. … It’s still an open discussion. They still have to decide.”
In the October meeting, committee Chairman A.J. Willmer said the panel could take 60 days to make a decision on the petition. He said that “despite some impressions out there, there has been no binding vote by this committee,” and also said the panel will take into account a new environmental study, finished under the California Environmental Quality Act, and additional information.
As for the school district organization panel’s final decision, Sinnette said, “I don’t know how the vote will go. But either way, I know the [Sagebrush residents] would appeal and I’m fairly certain that Glendale would appeal. So I’m fairly certain we’re in this for the long haul.”
The most recent petition to transfer Sagebrush was almost denied more than a year ago after the committee deemed the transfer proposal had “not substantially met” one of the panel’s nine conditions, saying there would be a “significant increase in school housing costs” if LCUSD had to take on as many as 317 more students from the Sagebrush area.
Ultimately, after deliberation, the committee voted to preliminarily approve the petition to move forward. The next step was for a review under the CEQA that took about a year.
That study determined the proposed transfer would not have significant adverse impacts on the environment with the implementation of mitigation measures, according to the county’s notice of public hearing.
At the most recent committee meeting, more than 30 speakers — many in favor of the transfer — discussed the items at county Office of Education headquarters.
Last week, Sinnette noted that at the October meeting, LCUSD officials made clear there is no “classroom crisis” in adding extra students. The district currently has 213 Sagebrush students, with a maximum number set at 300 to 400, she said.
“Even if they all wanted to transfer, that number is manageable,” said Sinnette, adding the district “wouldn’t necessarily” require portable classrooms but if so, they would be temporary and not problematic.
The next Committee on School District Organization meeting to broach results of the CEQA and the Sagebrush transfer petition could be held as soon as Dec. 5, but Sinnette said it is likely to be pushed back until after the holidays.
A plan to fix the cracked surface of the Cornishon Avenue tennis courts, which are at least 25 years old, will depend on school district approval.
At the last joint-use committee meeting, members decided to go forward with the project if the LCUSD and City Council each agreed to pay half of the approximately $140,000 cost, said LCF Division Manager Arabo Parseghian.
The City Council approved its portion during its meeting last week and allowed staff members to seek more precise numbers on the project’s cost, but Parseghian said he was waiting on Governing Board approval of the project.
Mark Evans, assistant superintendent of administration and business services, said the item should be on the district’s Nov. 27 agenda.
Parseghian said if the bid for the resurfacing was too high, the project could be revisited.
The possibility of a fundraiser to help replace the La Cañada High School varsity baseball field is being discussed, officials said.
Coach Edgar Garcia approached city officials about replacing the infield and holding a fundraiser for that purpose, Parseghian said.
“The proposition is he’ll do all the work, he’ll do the fundraising for everything,” Parseghian said. “The city will help with the maintenance of the field and also the initial watering when the fields are in sod.”
Governing Board member Joe Radabaugh said a group called the Friends of La Cañada Baseball will generate a lot of funds for the project.
“They have higher expectations than I think base maintenance would call for, and that’s on them,” said Radabaugh, noting that Garcia had mentioned such features as an upgraded pitching mound. “We agreed to help them on that effort.”
Radabaugh added there was a “sense of urgency” to get the work completed during the Christmas break so the field can quickly be used again by the community and the high school team.
The fields are tentatively set to close on Dec. 21 and reopen on Jan. 8, Parseghian said.