Local Elections : Stark Contrast Marks Races for Two Seats on Board of Education

Times Staff Writer

Two very different primary races are drawing to a close in the San Diego Unified School District, where voters Tuesday will choose four finalists for the $18,000-a-year seats on the school board.

In District B, which includes the city’s northern communities from Mira Mesa to San Carlos, eight candidates are battling for the seat being vacated by Larry Lester in a wide-open race that has no acknowledged favorite.

In District C, which runs from Point Loma east to Linda Vista, well-financed incumbent Kay Davis faces challenges from a career educator who has the backing of the city’s teachers’ union, a computer consultant and an unemployed writer.

The top two finishers in each district will face each other in districtwide runoff elections in November for four-year terms on the school board, which supervises the state’s second-largest school system.

Campaigin Spending

If spending is the key to victory for the newcomers in District B, community activist Sue Braun and record producer Steve Vaus hold the upper hand. Each has spent nearly $15,000 during the primary campaign.


But three other candidates also have spent sizable amounts. Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jim Roache has invested more than $8,000. Al Korobkin, a supervising deputy attorney general for California, has spent more than $6,000. Lawyer Mark Pollick has spent more than $5,000.

SDSU music professor Jack Sheldon, reading teacher Rosemarie Duke and community activist Sandra Sparks also are running for the seat.

In District C, John de Beck, a business teacher at Garfield Independent Learning Center and a former negotiator for the San Diego Teachers Assn., brings the union’s endorsement into his contest with Davis.

Though Davis has raised more than $16,000 for the primary race, she had spent only $7,100 of it by May 18. De Beck has raised $7,400 and spent about $6,200. Two other candidates for the seat, computer consultant Dave Guthrie and writer John Primavera, lag far behind De Beck and Davis in fund raising.

Acknowledging Davis’ strong position, De Beck said he is hoping to win 20% of the district vote and place second in the primary. He would like to see Davis get less than 50% of the vote.

Though her five-year term on the school board and her ability to raise money make her the favorite, Davis has been at the center of some of the district’s most controversial issues. She supports school administrators’ plan to raise money for school construction by offering developers a 99-year lease on a school site in her district--the former Dana Junior High School in Point Loma. The move outraged neighbors of the school and prompted a lawsuit to block the lease. The suit is still pending.

Davis contends that she must make decisions that affect all schoolchildren, and the so-called property management plan is one of the city schools’ only methods of raising money to build schools that are critically needed in other parts of the city.

“I just cannot give in to the selfish interests of the people in my community who want (the Dana school site) as a park, when we already have more parks than probably any community in San Diego,” she said.

Davis also could find herself as the deciding vote in the school district’s decision over whether to establish a campus-based health clinic that would distribute contraceptives to high school students. The clinic proposal has created more public reaction--most of it opposed to the facility--than any other issue in Davis’ five years on the board, she said.

Possible Scenario

If Davis wins a spot in the runoff election and a task force now studying the issue recommends establishing a clinic, Davis will have to take her stand July 8--and then face voters in November.

Davis has also been criticized for sending her daughters to private school during their junior high school years.

District B candidates are:

- Sue Braun, a Del Cerro resident, is running with Lester’s endorsement. Braun believes that the district’s large pupil-teacher ratio is “the root cause of most of our other problems,” including student drug use and low teacher morale.

Braun wants the school board to respond better to parents’ desires when deciding such issues as the health center and the leases of school sites, and has called on parents to be more involved in the schools.

She has taken no stand on the health clinic issue, but supported the formation of a task force to look into it. She wants more vocational courses taught and more skilled guidance counselors hired.

- Rosemarie Duke, a Mira Mesa resident, stresses curriculum reform and teacher training as important future tasks for schools.

“We don’t actually teach (students) how to think critically and creatively. We don’t actually teach them how to use the information that we give them,” she said.

Classroom Overcrowding

Duke also sees reducing classroom overcrowding as a top issue. “Until the classes are small enough or we have more assistance in the classroom . . . not a heck of a lot of learning will go on,” she said.

- Al Korobkin, a Tierrasanta resident who puts elimination of drugs in city schools and improving the quality of teachers among his top priorities.

“I think teachers who motivate the children should be properly rewarded,” Korobkin said. “But those few teacher who are incompetent should be dismissed.”

Korobkin also wants to lessen what he called “the current hostility that exists between the board and the teachers--and actually all employees.” He also promises to lobby in Sacramento for the money needed to build schools for the city’s growing population.

- Mark Pollick, a San Carlos resident, is running with the endorsement of the San Diego County Democratic Party. Pollick believes the schools need a “tough, consistent enforcement policy to get drug pushers off campus and to deal with users on campuses.”

Pollick proposed to raise money to eliminate classroom overcrowding by eliminating waste in the district and lobbying in the Legislature.

He supports the establishment of a health clinic to treat student health concerns, but has taken no position on whether the clinic should dispense contraception.

- Jim Roache, a Mira Mesa resident, strongly opposes placement of health care clinics on school campuses if the facilities dispense birth-control devices or provide abortion-referral services.

Roache specified that he would favor the creation of privately financed clinics to meet “legitimate health care needs” among poor students, so long as the health centers do not provide students with contraceptives or counsel teen-age girls about abortions without their parents’ knowledge.

“If they get into those areas, I wouldn’t support the clinics in any way, shape or form,” Roache said.

To meet expanding enrollment demands, closed school buildings might be moved to areas that need new schools, Roache says. “If we can move houses miles, we can also move schools,” he said. “We need to study the engineering feasibility of doing that.”

Curriculum reforms also are needed to better prepare students for society, Roache said. “If a child needs two or three classes of English to improve and retain his skills, then he should be able to get that,” he said.

- Jack Sheldon, a Del Cerro resident, wants more art and vocational education courses in the school curriculum.

Sheldon also wants teachers treated with more professionalism. “They’re not, at this point, consulted or given any consideration or listened to by administrators,” he said.

Sheldon said the district should have schools within walking distance of most students’ homes.

- Sandra Sparks, a Mira Mesa resident, is stressing the reduction of classroom overcrowding, combating drug and alcohol abuse, and safe campuses.

The school board’s primary task will be coming up with the money needed to deal with the problems, she said.

Sparks said she is concerned about the health of district students at all levels, and favors a task force to study the concept of a health clinic. But she said she is against the distribution of contraceptives in schools.

- Steve Vaus, a Scripps Ranch resident, is running with the endorsement of the San Diego Police Officers Assn. Vaus proposes to tackle the class size issue by raising revenue to build more schools.

To do that, he wants to boost attendance--which would produce higher state payments--by offering children incentives such as free trips to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo for good attendance records.

Vaus is opposed to a health clinic, has been working on campaigns to teach children to refuse drugs, and wants schools to focus more attention on teaching fundamentals.

In District C, the candidates are:

- Kay Davis, a Point Loma homemaker, labels classroom overcrowding and the need for more facilities as the district’s most pressing needs. “We’ve got more kids coming and we don’t have the space right now, and we don’t have the financing ability to (build) additions or new schools,” she said.

Davis wants new measures to rid the schools of drugs, and says special attention needs to be paid to junior high school-aged students.

She lists the founding of the district’s “Adopt-a-School” program--under which businesses and community groups provide money and service to their “adopted” schools--and a program honoring excellence in teachers among her accomplishments.

- John de Beck, a Bay Park resident, has taught in San Diego for 32 years. De Beck said he is running because he is “dissatisfied” with the leadership of Thomas Payzant, the superintendent of schools.

He wants Payzant and his staff to show more sensitivity to community concerns, and is opposed to the use of former school sites for housing.

De Beck opposes establishment of a health clinic, maintaining that school nurses should be put in every school to provide health services. He believes the schools should not be in the business of disseminating contraceptives and birth control information.

- Dave Guthrie, an Ocean Beach resident, wants the school board to concern itself with the “deterioration” of schools and the dramatic growth that will occur by the turn of the century.

He is against the plan to lease school sites because, he says, the community was not adequately consulted. He believes that school officials must lobby legislators more effectively for funds.

Guthrie wants the district to try to relieve teachers burdened by overcrowded classrooms by employing top students to teach other students and using computers to teach some lessons.

- John Primavera, a Mission Hills resident, wants to “stem the tide of dropouts” in the district.

He called for special attention to students doing poorly academically.

Primavera believes that more information from parents is needed on subjects such as the health clinic proposal and the property management plan. He accused the school board of making decisions “in a vacuum.”