Baby steps

Petitioners in Altadena submit more than 7,000 signatures favoring secession from PUSD

By Andre Coleman and Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 9/30/2010

After four years of fits and starts, plans for Altadena forming its own school district are now in the hands of Los Angeles County officials.
Daniel Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization (CSDO) confirmed 7,073 signed petitions — 782 more than required — have been turned in to his office by Altadena residents. 
If 6,291 petitions — or 25 percent of the population of the unincorporated mountainside community north of Pasadena — are deemed valid, CSDO, which has 30 days to verify signatures, will hold a meeting Nov. 3 to begin the review process. 
Pasadena Board of Education President Bob Harrison was skeptical of the secession effort.
“I think the group is earnest and is looking out for the kids,” said Harrison, who lives in Altadena. But, he said, “They are trying to come up with a new vehicle and I think they would face the same financial issues our district is facing. It’s probably not going to be feasible.” 
“I admire their diligence,” said Board member Renatta Cooper. 
Three Altadena residents — Bruce Wasson, Maurice Morse and Shirlee Smith — submitted a request to the county to get the petition process underway in early 2006. Morse and Smith, a columnist with the Pasadena Star-News who once wrote a column for this paper, have since backed away from the effort. Wasson did not return phone calls.
After the signatures are verified, a public hearing will be held in Altadena and a comprehensive feasibility study will be conducted by the county. The study — which will look at student enrollment, housing and provide a comprehensive financial overview of creating a new school district — aims to determine how much the Pasadena Unified School District and Altadena will be impacted by the creation of another school district. 

Reporter Justin Chapman contributed to this story. In the spirit of full disclosure, Chapman recommended in late 2005 studying the idea of seceding from the PUSD while serving as a member of the Altadena Town Council. Chapman stopped serving on the board while attending UC Berkeley and has not been active in the school secession issue.