Nearly half of San Diego Unified employees are not regularly evaluated, according to a new school district report that found huge gaps in holding school workers accountable. The school district has rules on the books about how often workers should be assessed, but they haven’t been followed, the report says.

“It all somehow collapsed in the execution,” Superintendent Bill Kowba said. “We simply didn’t follow it.”

Deputy Superintendent Phil Stover presented the report to the school board this morning. He found that the school district has done a good job evaluating educators, the superintendent and its school police officers on schedule. However, the rules weren’t consistently followed for other groups of employees, including everyone from bus drivers and cafeteria workers to some of the top managers in the district, he said. That adds up to roughly half of the school district workforce.

His other findings included:

• There is no process to hold managers accountable when they overrun their budgets. Financial flubs have gotten the school district some bad press recently: An internal audit revealed preschool programs neglected to collect $3.2 million in funding.

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• The school district often pays people to leave the school district instead of firing them. Stover argued that this was an expensive way to handle problems. (How does this work? Check out our article about what happens when schools pay teachers not to teach. We’ve also seen payouts given to managers, such as the former labor relations director.)

• More than one fourth of San Diego Unified employees are never formally evaluated after their first 11 months on the job, when they are on probation. This is one of the few problems that comes down to the actual rules rather than just how the district follows them. Labor contracts for school secretaries and other office workers, along with bus drivers, janitors and other blue-collar workers, do not include any formal evaluations after they get through their probation.

• Managers are hesitant to deal with problem employees, fearing that their supervisors won’t support them or that they’ll be retaliated against if they discipline a worker. They lack training in how to give employees feedback — even when that feedback is positive.

The school board asked Kowba and Stover to come back with a plan on how to fix the problems. The tricky part, school board members admitted, is putting together a plan that won’t cost more money. But Kowba went ahead and made a pledge that things would change.

“When we get to June, everybody who could have or should have an evaluation will have an evaluation,” he said.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at

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Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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