LONG BEACH - "It really breaks my heart to leave. I've spent a lot of time in public service and nothing compares to the feeling of giving something to the community," said Jim Sayce last week when asked about his having to give up his seat on the Ocean Beach School District Board of Directors.

Sayce had to leave his seat after moving from the north end of the Peninsula, where he was that area's representative on the board, to Long Beach last year after getting married. Marilyn Sheldon will be taking over for Sayce at the next school board meeting on Dec. 8.

When looking back at his tenure on the board, which lasted four years, Sayce said he was proud of what he and the other board members were able to accomplish, but also had a list of things he would still like to see happen as well.

"That was damn near a miracle to pass a bond," he said. "We don't view it like we did it ourselves, rather that every board member that ever served did."

Areas that Sayce would like to see the school board move toward all-day kindergarten and a better remedial reading program in order to ensure that all students read at grade level.

"The public might be surprised," he said. "You're going to have to test them and keep the pressure on to ensure that by the time they graduate they are all reading at a 12th grade level. It is really the cornerstone of everything else.

"There is a day of reckoning coming when the board is going to have to make trade-offs in funding, to focus that limited funding they do have on the areas where they need the biggest improvement."

He said he could envision more cuts to the co- and extra-curricular budgets to make that happen.

Sayce also said he feels that the WASL test scores that get such a big deal made about them aren't necessarily the best way to gauge the students.

"I view the WASL as a necessary tool to understand the benchmarks we set for our students - but it's not the only tool." he said. "I wouldn't worry about them. The board really believes that there are much higher benchmarks, like reading at grade level - that blows any WASL goals out of the water."

He said he would also like to see more encouragement at home for students in terms of education.

"It might sound trite, but the greatest resource we'll ever have is these students," he said. "In Pacific County we've lost so much of our natural resource base - timber, fishing - the children are the last holdout, and they need to be nurtured and pushed towards education."

Sayce had compliments for the school board members and district personnel he has had the opportunity to work with during his tenure.

"I've never worked with a finer bunch of people," he said.

Sayce said he was proud of Ed Guelfi and the fact that he has grown into the leader that the chairman of the board has to be. He said he also holds superintendent Tom Lockyer in high regard as well.

"Tom is critical to the future of the district, bringing a sense of stability to the administrative team," Sayce said. "It's easy to drift off when you're feeling good - Tom keeps them on point."

Sayce said he was a little disappointed that he had to leave the board at a time when things were really starting to get going on the elementary school construction projects - something that Sayce has a lot of experience with.

"The board is going to have to stay on top of the construction schedule," he said, "it's an enormous undertaking. They're really going to have to keep their feet to the fire."

However, Sayce will be involved in another capacity with two of the projects - as part of his job as the director of community development for the city of Long Beach he will be reviewing the building plans for both Hilltop and Long Beach School's.

As for his replacement, he said he felt that Sheldon would do a good job on the board.

"She's smart," he said. "She won't mince words. She'll challenge the other directors and that's what you want."

As for himself, he said wouldn't rule out the idea of running for a seat on the board again when one comes open in his area.

"I've really enjoyed it. Really, really enjoyed it," he said.

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