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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5670.
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