The lone new face on the San Diego city school board next year will belong to San Diego County Sheriff's Capt. Jim Roache, who squeaked out a 903-vote victory over homemaker Sue Braun in one of the tightest local races of 1986.
Roache won the right to replace retiring Trustee Larry Lester despite being outspent about 2 to 1 by Braun, who was trying to overcome a name-recognition advantage enjoyed by Roache. Roache's wife, Jeannette, ran an unsuccessful race for the City Council last year.
"I worked hard from the very first day I announced my candidacy to the day the polls closed," Roache said Wednesday. "As evidenced by the close margin, it was the kind of race where you couldn't take anything for granted."
In the only other school board race, heavily favored incumbent Kay Davis easily beat teacher John deBeck, winning 62.1% of the more than 190,000 votes cast.
"I'm very pleased. It's always hard to run as an incumbent because you've made tough decisions" that create opposition, Davis said.
But voters apparently chose Davis' record of accomplishments--including the founding of the district's Adopt-a-School program and visits to all 155 schools--over DeBeck's criticism of her support for a plan to lease closed school sites to developers.
Residents of District B--which stretches from Mira Mesa to San Carlos--probably will not notice too much difference between their new representative, Roache, and the man retiring to give more time to his family and his career as a stockbroker.
Both are staunch and outspoken conservatives (though Lester endorsed Roache's more moderate opponent, Braun). Both are workaholics. Both pay close attention to every penny spent--Lester on the school board, and Roache as head of the County Jail downtown. Both say schools are not the place to address every social problem a child brings from home.
Roache said Wednesday that he is less of an ideologue than Lester, that he probably will be more willing to compromise principles that sometimes left Lester as the lone dissenter from school board decisions.
"On occasion, (Lester) tends to be very ideological on his stands," Roache said. "I think you have to look at what we're trying to accomplish and how much am I willing to compromise."
For example, Roache said, he has a more positive view than Lester of the district's magnet school integration program and would have voted for a "nuclear age" education program that Lester opposed.
With money from Sacramento drying up after three years of big budget increases, it will be a difficult year to start a career on the school board.
"It's probably going to be a tough year to come on (the board) because money is so tight," Davis said. "It'll be cutting things that we liked, that we held onto when we were cutting because of Proposition 13. Plus, we have our teachers' contract coming up.
"It's going to be instant stress."
Roache said that he thrives on work, and is prepared to listen a lot before making his first moves.
"I don't delude myself that Jim Roache will be the salvation of public education in the City of San Diego," he said. "I'll be one member of a five-member board."
Still, Roache has an agenda he will bring to the board. As inheritor of some of the school district's most crowded schools in Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch, he wants administrators to consider his plan to set up a temporary annex on vacant land in Scripps Ranch to relieve overcrowding at Mira Mesa High School.
"We've got to do something now," he said. "We can't wait three to five years when the funds for construction are available. We've got to take some interim measures."