Superintendent Apologizes for ‘Several Factual Errors’ in CFO Interview

Superintendent Apologizes for ‘Several Factual Errors’ in CFO Interview

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Bill Kowba

 

San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Bill Kowba sent over a lengthy written response to our explosive interview last week with the district’s new chief financial officer, Stan Dobbs.

The letter states that Dobbs made “several factual errors and misrepresentations that need corrections” in his interview.

The key inaccuracies, according to Kowba:

• Teachers at the district do not make an average of $92,000 a year plus benefits, as Dobbs said. Kowba writes that the $92,000 figure includes health and other benefits costs. “A classroom teacher’s average salary is in the $65-$70,000 range with starting teachers beginning at about $40,000,” the statement says.

• The district doesn’t have “hundreds of excess teachers,” as Dobbs claimed. “In fact, all of our teaching staff are assigned to classrooms and educational programs and all of our classified staff are serving students in critical support positions,” Kowba writes.

• Dobbs is incorrect that class sizes do not affect student achievement. There is a “body of research supporting smaller class sizes,” Kowba writes.

• The district does have a grant-writing program, contrary to Dobbs’ assertion that it doesn’t. “While we do not have a grant writer on staff, the district does in fact continue to apply for numerous grants each year and has received millions in grant funding in recent years for many programs that support our schools.”

You can read the full statement here.

We still plan to fact-check at least two of Dobbs’ statements: the average teacher salary and the assertion that no research has proven that larger class sizes hamper student learning.

Prior to publishing the interview with Dobbs Friday, we reached out to the district asking for data that would show the average teacher salary. The latest union contract we could find pegs the highest salary for a 179-day a year teacher at just over $78,000 and a quick analysis of data provided by the Sacramento Bee puts the average teacher salary in the district at about $65,000.

Until the district can provide the data to show salary averages, however, we’re not going to render a final verdict on Dobbs’ statement.

Kowba’s letter goes beyond pointing out inaccuracies.

The superintendent states that he welcomes Dobbs’ viewpoint as part of the district’s senior management team:

I value having a range of viewpoints as part of our decision making process. Stan has brought new insights to our team and offers frank and direct assessments as we strive to develop a workable fiscal strategy for our difficult budget challenges.

And Kowba acknowledges that the district has a lot of work to do to right its fiscal ship:

The concerns that Stan expressed in his interview about the high ratio of personnel costs to the overall budget are valid, but this is a trend faced by many other districts in the state and is the result of budget reductions of non-personnel programs that were necessary to protect acceptable class sizes.

Overall, however, the tone of the letter is simple: Stan “Data” Dobbs hasn’t been here long enough to understand the data, and he doesn’t know our district well enough yet.

I’ve reached out to Dobbs for further comment. No word yet.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless

Will Carless is the former head of investigations at Voice of San Diego. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he is a freelance foreign correspondent and occasional contributor to VOSD. You can reach him at will.carless.work@gmail.com.

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83 comments
mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

Bottom line is Dobbs isn't the only blowhard that didn't bother to do his homework. Just because that's what you believe and want to be true doesn't make it a fact. No matter how often you repeat it.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

Bottom line is Dobbs isn't the only blowhard that didn't bother to do his homework. Just because that's what you believe and want to be true doesn't make it a fact. No matter how often you repeat it.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

The numbers are WRONG for compensation too.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

The numbers are WRONG for compensation too.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

If you want to compare teachers, average them against CPAs or architects or lawyers.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

If you want to compare teachers, average them against CPAs or architects or lawyers.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

If you're not a teacher and you're not classified staff, you are an administrator of some kind.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

If you're not a teacher and you're not classified staff, you are an administrator of some kind.

Rhoda Stephens-Yoder
Rhoda Stephens-Yoder subscriber

I witnessed this first hand ten years ago when I was newly hired by SDUSD. That year a young lady was doing her student teaching. Within two years she had left the classroom to move into a position in the Literacy Department, where she stayed for about four years before applying for the position of Vice Principal at my school. Just imagine, a whopping two years classroom experience before moving into administration. Something here is really wrong.

teacherrsy
teacherrsy

I witnessed this first hand ten years ago when I was newly hired by SDUSD. That year a young lady was doing her student teaching. Within two years she had left the classroom to move into a position in the Literacy Department, where she stayed for about four years before applying for the position of Vice Principal at my school. Just imagine, a whopping two years classroom experience before moving into administration. Something here is really wrong.

Rhoda Stephens-Yoder
Rhoda Stephens-Yoder subscriber

Please rework your math and give the details of specific jobs that you use for comparison.

teacherrsy
teacherrsy

Please rework your math and give the details of specific jobs that you use for comparison.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

You can't have it both ways. Well, you can by union purchased politicians and controlling the narrative, but logically either teachers are failing, or teachers can't make a difference and are overpaid for their insignificance.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

You can't have it both ways. Well, you can by union purchased politicians and controlling the narrative, but logically either teachers are failing, or teachers can't make a difference and are overpaid for their insignificance.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

If Dobbs is still on probation, this isn't going to bode well to his contract becoming permanent. Especially if he sticks his other foot in his mouth.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

If Dobbs is still on probation, this isn't going to bode well to his contract becoming permanent. Especially if he sticks his other foot in his mouth.

Catherine Hockmuth
Catherine Hockmuth subscriber

so you can student teach, hope you get a job and don't get fired or assigned to a new school every year, and start out making less than $45K a year.

Catherine
Catherine

so you can student teach, hope you get a job and don't get fired or assigned to a new school every year, and start out making less than $45K a year.

Stuart Morse
Stuart Morse subscriber

Juke, since you seem to be relatively new to the forum, let me just say that it is really no use in attempting to engage Jim Jones. Jim Jones once said, to paraphrase, anyone who sends their kids to schools south of I-8 is committing child abuse. Check the comments history for yourself.

smorse
smorse

Juke, since you seem to be relatively new to the forum, let me just say that it is really no use in attempting to engage Jim Jones. Jim Jones once said, to paraphrase, anyone who sends their kids to schools south of I-8 is committing child abuse. Check the comments history for yourself.

Daniel James
Daniel James subscriber

I guess my 45k plus benefits is being overpaid. Come spend a day with me.. You won't be singing that tune anymore.

catcherman2222
catcherman2222

I guess my 45k plus benefits is being overpaid. Come spend a day with me.. You won't be singing that tune anymore.

Jeremy Merrill
Jeremy Merrill subscriber

Rather than assuming that shortcomings in education are the fault of teachers, perhaps you should bother to find out WHY student achievement is "low" in California. You'd rather not do that though, because to do so would be to admit that teachers have very little to do with low-performing schools.

JukeBox
JukeBox

Rather than assuming that shortcomings in education are the fault of teachers, perhaps you should bother to find out WHY student achievement is "low" in California. You'd rather not do that though, because to do so would be to admit that teachers have very little to do with low-performing schools.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

And I thank my luck that a large part of my K-12 was in another country, where they view education as being for the benefit of the kids rather than for the teachers.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

And I thank my luck that a large part of my K-12 was in another country, where they view education as being for the benefit of the kids rather than for the teachers.

Jeremy Merrill
Jeremy Merrill subscriber

So, I eagerly await a front & center retraction of the article that was apparently never fact-checked before going "to print."

JukeBox
JukeBox

So, I eagerly await a front & center retraction of the article that was apparently never fact-checked before going "to print."

Deana Louise
Deana Louise subscriber

It is most likely that he was referring to compensation, not salary. Compensation includes intersession pay, workshop pay, Classroom Assistant, Substitute, summer school, etc. Many teachers work in hourly positions during the summer months and so for one that works through the summer, you should expect that their salary according to the schedule you all veiwed is only 75% of their compensation.

dnabug
dnabug

It is most likely that he was referring to compensation, not salary. Compensation includes intersession pay, workshop pay, Classroom Assistant, Substitute, summer school, etc. Many teachers work in hourly positions during the summer months and so for one that works through the summer, you should expect that their salary according to the schedule you all veiwed is only 75% of their compensation.

Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart subscriber

Yes you are indeed naive if you think it's greedy teachers that are ruining the education system.

EStewart
EStewart

Yes you are indeed naive if you think it's greedy teachers that are ruining the education system.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

We all know how the district likes Kabuki

mgland
mgland

We all know how the district likes Kabuki

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Hope VOSD gets to the bottom of this. Hopefully Mr. Dobbs can back up the assertions because the district sure isn't forthcoming

mgland
mgland

Hope VOSD gets to the bottom of this. Hopefully Mr. Dobbs can back up the assertions because the district sure isn't forthcoming

Jeremy Merrill
Jeremy Merrill subscriber

Maybe education shouldn't be his beat any more if he can't keep his personal views from tainting his journalistic credibility. VOSD's response will be very telling. Do they care more about the credibility of their operations, or the pushing of slanted viewpoints? Only time will tell.

JukeBox
JukeBox

Maybe education shouldn't be his beat any more if he can't keep his personal views from tainting his journalistic credibility. VOSD's response will be very telling. Do they care more about the credibility of their operations, or the pushing of slanted viewpoints? Only time will tell.

Jeremy Merrill
Jeremy Merrill subscriber

John...perhaps you should do your math again.

JukeBox
JukeBox

John...perhaps you should do your math again.

David Tiffany
David Tiffany subscriber

Bill Kowba appears in public? Is Stan Dobbs in trouble for waking him up from his long nap?

dtiffany
dtiffany

Bill Kowba appears in public? Is Stan Dobbs in trouble for waking him up from his long nap?

Craig Nelson
Craig Nelson subscribermember

Maybe Kowba could use one of those $1,500 ipads to calculeat it for us?

Craig Nelson
Craig Nelson

Maybe Kowba could use one of those $1,500 ipads to calculeat it for us?

Bob Sanche
Bob Sanche subscriber

More than half of San Diego Unified teachers have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and an additional 90 units of post-secondary education

Jewel
Jewel

More than half of San Diego Unified teachers have a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and an additional 90 units of post-secondary education