HAYWARD -- Stanley Dobbs, Hayward's new interim superintendent, has a plan -- Plan 32, to be exact.
It refers to the 32 percent of Hayward's seniors who did not walk across the stage at graduation last year. Dobbs, who previously served as Hayward's assistant superintendent for business, thinks his plan can change that.
"While serving overseas in the United States Navy, I would have never thought of leaving 32 percent of my sailors behind on any mission," Dobbs, a 26-year Navy veteran, told the school board at a recent meeting. "That would have been unimaginable."
Dobbs, 47, is known for a data-driven approach. He picked up the nickname "Data" during his time in the Navy, where he was in charge of data quality for all naval logistics.
"Data was my military call sign," said Dobbs, who retired as a commander in 2009. "It's based on my using data to come up with solutions to solve problems."
Plan 32 coordinates existing programs to focus on making sure students graduate. In middle school, referred students are assessed to see if problems outside of the classroom are affecting academic performance. In high school, Plan 32 includes Rising Academy, a summer program that acclimates incoming freshmen; CAHSEE Prep Academy, which helps students pass the high school exit exam; and Cyber High, an online summer course makeup program.
Dobbs has the backing of many who see him as someone who can energize Hayward schools, now tied with Oakland for the lowest Academic Performance Index test scores in Alameda County.
Dobbs' data crunching already has shown that students attending the district's after-school Youth Enrichment Program score higher on standardized tests and have higher attendance rates than their peers, said Rick Hart, a Hayward parent.
"This is data I had never seen before," he said. "Stan provides quantitative and qualitative data: Where are we improving, how are we improving and how do we know that?"
Dobbs said his interest in education began while he was in the military, when he taught and was a guest lecturer at universities and military bases. "I have been an educator, even in uniform," he said.
He added jokingly, "Being in the military, I was already used to acronyms, so education and its acronyms were a natural fit."
He began his education career as chief financial officer in the Coalinga school district. He first came to Hayward as assistant superintendent in 2011, leaving in December to take a position as chief financial officer for San Diego schools.
In San Diego, Dobbs was able to get a low interest rate for a bond sale. "I was in San Diego to accomplish a task, to assure the fiscal solvency of the school district with a long-term plan, which included no layoffs. I closed a $92 million fiscal gap, avoiding the potential layoff of 1,500 teachers," he said.
Dobbs returned to Hayward in July after Superintendent Donald Evans left to take over at Berkeley schools.
All the while, he has continued his own education. For the thesis for one of his two master's degrees, he was assigned to come up with a plan to make the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District fiscally solvent. The district had been hit hard when Fort Ord closed.
"That master's thesis prepared me to come to Hayward and look at things from a different perspective so the district becomes both fiscally and educationally solvent," he said. He is working now on his doctoral dissertation.
Dobbs already has begun to encourage pride in Hayward schools with a "Made in Hayward" branding campaign, featuring T-shirts and testimonials of former Hayward students who went on to become successes. "Living in Hayward and attending Hayward schools, they were able to establish their dreams," he said. "I want people to understand that success is possible in Hayward."
He pointed out that, including colleges, various trade and private schools, and preschools, more than 60,000 people are educated daily in the city.
Dobbs and his family have moved to Hayward, and his 5-year-old is a student in a district school. "I'm not just a superintendent, I'm a parent. I'm proud to have my son attend school in Hayward," he said.
On the first day of school, Dobbs took his son to one school, then rushed across town to take part in a Million Father March event at another school.
Brian Schott, a local businessman and civic leader, said Dobbs' business background -- and his military experience -- were evident when Schott worked with him while serving on a Hayward bond oversight committee.
"Stan understands how to get things done -- if he has the support of the board to let him do what he was hired to do," Schott said. "He's very engaged with the community. His military background was one that you had to wear a lot of hats and deal with a wide variety of people."
Mayor Michael Sweeney, a frequent critic of city schools, said the district "needs some shaking up. We're hopeful that Stan will be able to make the changes that are needed."
But the mayor said Dobbs must deal with the Hayward school board, in the past known for squabbling and personal animosity between some members.
"The (school) board bears a lot of responsibility for the condition of the schools," Sweeney said. "While it's important to expect a lot from the superintendent, it's also important to expect more from the board."
Dobbs said it's premature to speculate whether he'll be considered as permanent superintendent when his interim year is up.
"If it turns into a long-term relationship, that's a blessing and a challenge," he said. "If not, I plan to institute benefits to the community that will be sustainable."