Mountain Avenue School

Mountain Avenue School, on Mountain Ave., in La Crescenta on Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / October 31, 2013)

The majority of residents support transferring Sagebrush from Glendale to La Cañada Unified, Jewel City school officials announced this week.

Of 1,604 registered voters living in the Sagebrush area of La Cañada, 43% of them responded to a survey on potentially transferring the territory.

In all, 695 people responded by phone or online, with 85% of them saying they would "definitely support" the boundary change.

Meanwhile, 7% said they would "definitely oppose" it, Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for Glendale Unified said during a school board meeting Tuesday.

When asked whether the districts should pursue an open enrollment option, or change boundaries, 79% of responders supported making their homes part of La Cañada Unified, while 16% opted for open enrollment.

For months, the Glendale and La Cañada school officials have considered a six-year phase-in plan that would give some parents the choice of where to send their children. At the conclusion of the plan, all students would attend La Cañada schools.

The Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization will ultimately decide if the transfer should occur, but the Glendale board has been mulling over whether they will come to a negotiated agreement with La Cañada Unified.

Tom Smith, a Sagebrush resident who established Unite LCF last year, reigniting a decades-long effort to transfer the territory, said the survey results "truly show just how much in favor of the transfer people are in this area."

But in their discussion of the results, some Glendale school officials reiterated the idea to transfer the territory was not sought by them.

"We're not necessarily a willing participant," Supt. Richard Sheehan said. "This is something that another city, another school district, has brought to us. It's not something, as I've said before, we've sought out. I do not want to lose sight of that."

School board President Mary Boger supported an open enrollment plan, and in a written statement she read aloud, said it is the responsibility of the Glendale school board to maintain "the integrity of our boundaries."

"It has been said that this issue has been raised again and again…and each time Glendale Unified has prevailed. It has been stated that it would cost money for us to fight this blatant land grab…Well, if we have to spend to protect ourselves, then so be it," she said.

Under the school board's direction, Sheehan said he suggested again this week to La Cañada Unified Supt. Wendy Sinnette making the area an open enrollment one instead of changing the boundaries.

"I did offer the open enrollment again and was told that that is not an option in their eyes," Sheehan said.

On Wednesday, Sinnette said in an email that the transfer initiative stems "from the desire to unify the community and strengthen its cohesiveness, social capital, school safety, school-community alignment and ties between families" to foster civic engagement and students' academic achievement.

"Being part of a community means sharing in the costs as well as the benefits and this option would create a lack of parity with other LCF residents and cause a rift among residents rather than serve to unify," she said of the open enrollment suggestion.

Sinnette also said Sagebrush residents under such a plan would not be able to vote on La Cañada Unified matters, including board elections, causing further "disenfranchisement" among Sagebrush residents.

Glendale school board member Nayiri Nahabedian said that while the Sagebrush discussions have been something "we've been forced to deal with," she was "serious about negotiating this and moving forward in a reasonable way."

Fellow member Greg Krikorian supported the negotiated phase-in plan, along with Christine Walters, who anticipates the issue would turn into "a long drawn out process if we choose not to negotiate," she said.

Board member Armina Gharpetian said open enrollment was the best solution, but vouched for more time before voting on the issue.

"The negative impact of the transfer is on us, on GUSD," she said. "If we need more time, we need more time," she added. "The ball is in our hand."

The Glendale school board originally planned to vote on the matter in June, but the board may now vote on the transfer later this summer.

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Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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