When Stephen Rosen squeaked into second place in the school board race this June, he only had to win over voters in a small district that stretches from Scripps Ranch to City Heights. The businessman and dad bought magnetic signs, spoke up at debates and cut his raucous hair, trading his Jerry Garcia look for something more staid.
But now Rosen is gearing up for a much bigger campaign, a general election battle that spans the entire San Diego Unified school district. He loaned himself $90,000 to get through the race. He stopped coaching Little League to free up time.
“I am overwhelmed,” Rosen said. “Running the campaign is virtually a full-time job.”
And all this for a supposedly part-time job that pays just $18,000 a year. It is a tough race for a tough job that has gotten even tougher as schools battle budget cuts handed down by the state.
“You spend maybe 30 hours a week for what is essentially a poverty wage,” said consultant Bob Nelson. “I try to talk people out of it. I think it’s a lousy job.”
The unusual way that San Diego Unified elects and treats its school board members is under the microscope this year. A school board member who is suing to stay in the race argues that the June elections disenfranchise the majority. On the flip side, civil rights activists believe that having the November election open to the whole district dilutes the voice of blacks, Latinos and other minorities.