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SDUHSD School Board increases administrators’ salaries instead of putting students first ... again.

** update May 28, 2018 -- on May 18, 2018 the SDUHSD validated that the information used from Transparent California is accurate - read here

The board continues to fund salary increases for administrators and district office personnel while school foundations plead for donations for curriculum, technology and other basic school needs due to budget shortfalls. More importantly, the board is approving raises even though this district has a multi-million dollar operational deficit and even though the staff receiving the raises are already under contract.Deficit spending continues to be the preferred practice and somehow there is always money for staff, just not for the school sites.

As noted in Marsha Sutton’s April 21, 2018 article in the Encinitas Advocate and Del Mar Times: “Crying poor when there’s extra money for top management is an insult to parents who buy the claim that the district has no spare revenue for classroom programs, supplies and student extra-curricular activities.”

Per the district's board packet, the district ended its fiscal year with a $2.9 million operational deficit. The district's first interim reported 12/14/17 projected $9.2 million operational deficit. But according to the 2016-2017 Annual Audit, the District's net position showed a "($12,155,578)" deficit (see financial table below).

{Updated financials from original post on May 1, 2018}

So why does this Board give yet another round of raises even though both the certificated, classified and administrators are all under existing and binding contracts? Why use more public funding towards salaries and/or benefits if valid contracts governing the staff's salaries and benefits are already in place? Shouldn't any extra or available funds instead be used towards the school sites and the students instead? Or maybe saved given the projected deficits?

The sites are where the resources are needed and should be directed. Yet the students continue to suffer. Some better ways of using the money? Just a few examples...

  • More school counselors SDA counselor Ann Nebolon sent out an email that the rate of anxiety at SDA has increased 36% the past 5 years (so maybe more counseling would be helpful?); School Counselor ratios remain too high at over 400 students to 1 counselor (the CA Dept. of Ed recommends 364:1 and the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250:1). Counselors provide a vital service on campus yet they are over taxed and unable to provide the needed attention to students.

  • Smaller Class Sizes Concerns have been raised by certain board members and members of the public about the increasing class sizes, which in some instances are over 40 students. Per recent teacher contract negotiations for the upcoming Master Contract teachers, teachers similarly believe that the class sizes are too large to manage. Student are not getting the needed academic support required to achieve optimal performance in a high performing District and too many families are having to hire tutors to help their student perform as needed;

  • Better Spec Ed Support To many of our students in special education track still do not have appropriate curriculum designed to prepare them for the workforce or independent living, adapted vocational course options to prepare them for entry to the job market after high school, or enough workforce training or appropriate work experience in general;

  • Better or more tutoring at our schools Schools such as Torrey Pines High School which was once a top performer in the District has shown a steady decline in achievement scores putting them in the average high school category. Many other areas are underperforming as well.

Yet, as Sutton alludes in her article, the lack of Governance, Accountability and Vision for our Students have created an extremely top heavy organization that seems to have no direct benefit to students and lacks the ability to move our students forward into a new era.

Where is the money going? Top heavy district administration, which has no direct connection with students, continues to be a big winner. (Remember, each school site already has its own administrative team of a principal, assistant principals, and others to manage site-related matters). Administrators at the district level typically have 4-year contracts so why give them a raise (or anyone for that matter) outside their current negotiated contracts?

Even though the district is still reeling from the $15 million salary and benefit increases a majority of the board gave in 2016 to certificated, classified and administrators (shortly before the 2016 Board election), the District Office continues to approve unneeded raises outside the parameters of the contracts and spend too much money on administrative staff.

Department heads in SDUHSD, for example, each apparently get their own assistant, which even large businesses often do not do. In the private sector, administrators often share assistants. According to a range for an executive assistant in our area is $66,000 to $82,000. As of 2016, per data provided by Transparent California, the total pay and benefits for the current Assistants to the District Office leaders is roughly $1,200,000 per year, with many of these public school district assistants making over $100,000 a year.

These administrative assistants were given the same 12.5% raise as teachers per January 2016 Board Meeting Item 18, a raise amount which is unheard of even in the for-profit private sector. If our publicly funded administrators shared assistants, the district could easily fund one more career counselor at each site.


Why is this Board giving additional raises when the Administrators are already under contract with set salaries and benefits; there is no justification. A little gift maybe? But wait, it couldn't be that because gifts aren't allowed under the Ed Code. Right?

How many administrators are there at the district level? Our District has no organization chart listing all the district's administrators in one place to help the public understand the chain of command or number of administrators our district has.

So, here is the list of the departments and the administrative heads at the District Office that Watchdog has prepared.

The numerous department heads alone cost the District over $2,100,000 per year, but the department heads do not present reports on how they personally have benefited the district and its customers, the students and their taxpaying families, but they still get raises... just because. The $2 million plus includes the Associate Superintendent of Administrative Services, which was created about 4 years ago. Wasn’t this district performing better before this expensive new position? If the School Board majority is just a rubber stamp for the administration, at what point does the school board majority become responsible for the self-dealing going on at the Administration level?


And why is this district “leaving the schools’ foundations to beg for donations,” as noted by Sutton in her article?

Foundations executive directors are just as culpable as the district's administration when it comes to taking advantage of the good nature of community members and families eager to answer the call for donations when told our schools and students need money. If this district were run better, would our families need to pay the millions they've paid? Ever wonder where the families’ money is going, on top of the taxes they're already paying?

Last year, numerous public comments at board meetings questioned the lack of transparency between the District and the Foundations.

  • March 2017, parents asked why $4,000,000 of program payouts in 2014-2015 to the districts by the foundations were never reported as Donations to the District.

  • October 2017, additional questions were raised about foundation funding paid to the district during 2015-2016 was not reported.

Other parents have also asked why the district fails to list the items the foundations currently pay for in its operational budget to reflect the true costs of operating the district's programs and meeting the sites' needs. The donations are "voluntary" right? What if they stopped? Is the district prepared to assume the approximately $4 million allegedly raised each year to help pay for costs of the curriculum, technology, reams of paper and other basic site needs if the "voluntary" donations stopped? Foundations assumed these costs during the fiscal downturn to avoid the layoffs of teachers but the district never reassumed the responsibility. What happens during the next economic downturn now that families are already tapped out? But back to where have the donations gone... A review of the 2016-2017 School Board Gift Logs (Item 11A) and the High School Foundations Financials fail to reflect where roughly $4 million of donations from the 4 high school foundations is going, if it is not being recognized as a donation by the District.

Going into year four of data review, our school site foundations, on behalf of the District, still tell parents the schools are poor and need money, yet roughly $12,000,0000 (yes million, or around $4 million a year) has not been reported by the District as being donated.

  • Where exactly has this money gone?

  • How are families’ donations being used?

  • What are the actual costs of our “free” public education?

  • And most importantly, why are parents still paying for so many items if our district has the funds to keep giving raises to staff who are already under contract with what should be set salaries and benefit costs?

As Marsha Sutton’s commentary astutely questions: Is our district putting students first when:

  1. Our School Board Majority demonstrates no vision, but does demonstrate the allowance of self-dealings of a disconnected top heavy administration.

  2. Foundations are swindled into crying poor by District Leadership even though the lack of governance, accountability or reporting has allowed approximately $12,000,000 in community donations to go unaccounted by the public.

  3. Student anxiety has increased significantly because they do not have the support systems needed by teenagers in a high performing District such as SDUHSD.

  4. Select private businesses have been allowed to use our public school facilities for free, when they should be paying our schools or district for such use according to district policy.

We always appreciate Marsh Suttons’ commentary. Someone has to keep an eye on the Public School System; the Board sure is not keeping up their part of the checks and balance system.


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