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Group Seeks to Secede From Glendale Schools : Education: The neighborhood has been part of the district since 1936. Some residents are petitioning to transfer their children into the community in which they live.


A group of La Canada Flintridge residents whose neighborhood of 900 families falls within the Glendale Unified School District is seeking to break away from the district.

The group, calling itself the Sagebrush Committee, asked the Glendale school board recently to let their neighborhood in the northwest corner of the city merge with the La Canada Unified School District. If successful, the annexation could result in the transfer of 231 Glendale students to La Canada schools by the next academic year.

Glendale board members, who must vote on the request at a future meeting, have reacted negatively to it. By agreeing to a transfer, board members say, the Glendale district would forfeit nearly $700,000 in state funds and lower the enrollment of an elementary school to the point that it might have to close.

"I'm opposed to what they're seeking," board member Charles Whitesell said. "The primary reason being the impact on the remaining students at Mountain Avenue, which will be in danger of closing."

Anticipating rejection by the Glendale board, organizers of the secession move filed a separate action Nov. 6 with the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization and are circulating a petition calling for a special election.

If the group can gather the signatures of 25% of the registered voters living within the proposed secession area, the 11-member committee would vote on whether to call an election and, if so, what area to include. If the election measure carries, the County Board of Supervisors would implement the transfer. That decision could also be appealed by either side to the California Department of Education.

Organizers of the Sagebrush Committee are seeking secession for a 0.6-square-mile area bounded roughly by Foothill Boulevard on the south, Ocean View Drive and Pickens Canyon on the west, Highrim Drive on the north and Rosebank Drive on the east. The group derives its name from a bank of sagebrush that once separated the neighborhood from La Canada.

Originally in the defunct La Crescenta Unified School District, the area joined the Glendale Unified School District in 1936 and was not included when the La Canada Unified School District was formed in 1961, La Canada district officials said.

The sentiment to leave the Glendale school district goes back to 1976 when the city of La Canada Flintridge was incorporated, Sagebrush Committee members said.

"I live in La Canada and I work in La Canada," said James Graf, a Sagebrush Committee spokesman. "Why can't my child go to school in La Canada?"

"When the district boundary separates cul-de-sacs it's confusing" for children living at the opposite ends of the same street in the same city to attend different schools, said Maureen Burch, a member of the committee.

Leaders of the Sagebrush Committee have said they are not unhappy with the educational quality of the Glendale schools their children attend.

In fact, school officials say there is little difference in the two districts' schools in the area.

"Test scores are pretty comparable along the foothills, Glendale district spokesman Vic Pallos said.

Mountain Avenue and Rosemont Junior High have both qualified for the California Distinguished School Award, today called the Blue Ribbon award, and Rosemont also received the National Exemplary School award in 1984-1985.

Members of the committee said they organized less than three months ago after Rose McCoppin, the catalyst behind the movement, pulled her son Kevin from La Canada's Palm Crest Elementary School when the Glendale district canceled her request to renew his inter-district transfer permit. The district reversed its position later and issued a permit, but McCoppin had already enrolled her son in a private La Canada school.

"My problem was after-school care," McCoppin said. "I can't pick up my kid until 5 p.m., and the after-school care facilities at Mountain Avenue were limited. They bused the children to churches. I didn't want my kid to be bused.

"So I organized a party for my neighbors in October and about 15 people showed up," she added. "We found out what our rights were and started working."

The organization appeared before the Glendale board twice in November. About 50 La Canada residents attended a Nov. 19 meeting to show their support.

Board members expressed reservations based mainly on fiscal and organizational issues.

"A transfer would take so many students away from Mountain Avenue, a school we expressly built for that area," Glendale board member June Sweetnam said. "I feel the school is a community itself. A change would certainly destroy the camaraderie and loyalty of the children."

Sagebrush Committee organizers say the petition contains a grandfather clause allowing current students to remain in Glendale schools if they choose to, although new residents who settle in the area would be required to attend La Canada public schools.

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