SFUSD superintendent responds to inaccurate reporting by the SF Chronicle

Image of pencil with an eraser, and the word "Error"

In response to reporting in this SF Chronicle article from March 28 and editorial from March 30:

We understand there are many perspectives and that school district officials will sometimes differ with reporters and editors with regards to how a story is told. We respect that every journalist has a point of view and as a professional has to make decisions about what to include and what to leave out.

On rare occasions those familiar with the details see reporters from reputable media outlets get it completely wrong. Not just “it’s a matter of opinion” wrong but actually inaccurate, not-based-in-fact wrong. In these instances we usually send a request for a correction, but the damage is done once something inaccurate is posted online and printed in the paper.

Neither Ms. Lyons nor her editors verified claims made in recent coverage dedicated to the false premise that “school officials had consistently failed to intervene with [a] struggling student, costing him years of educational opportunity…” The very first principle in the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics is to “take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.”

During the initial reporting SFUSD officials were not given the name of the student who was the focus of the SF Chronicle article and subsequent editorial thereby making it impossible to research what actually transpired. Once the Chronicle reporter shared the name of the student with district officials, we were able to uncover years of attempted interventions.

Most glaring is that the student who the SF Chronicle reports the district neglected had a history of severe chronic absenteeism. In spite of numerous efforts by teachers, counselors, and administrators, family members continually failed to respond to requests and did not attend important meetings aimed at changing the academic trajectory of this student. In fact the guardians’ lack of response prompted the district to report them to the DA’s office - a last resort when parents can’t be reached and a child is persistently absent from school.

When a child is not in school and no one at home seems to care whether or not a child goes to school, even the best teachers and counselors have limited impact. This is a problem and it is one shared by our whole community. It is why the school district’s use of early warning indicators and its pervasive wellness centers and high numbers of social workers, attendance liaisons, and counselors are still sometimes insufficient.

The district has a lot in place to support our students, more than most school districts, and there is evidence that our support and interventions are getting a greater percentage of students to high school completion. The graduation rate for all groups of students has risen over the past decade and far exceeds national and state grad rates.


Dr. Vincent Matthews, San Francisco Superintendent of Schools


  1. Superintendent,
    Thank you for your response. I was a counselor at GWHS for 15 years and just retired this past June. I sent a "letter to the editor" but they did not print it. There were inaccuracies AND lies. I have worked with 5 counselors at GWHS and I knew immediately the article was not true. All the counselors at GWHS are excellent and would never let a student fall through the cracks like that. As a Superintendent of a major school district, you can write a letter responding to the article which is more than a "letter to the editor." It is true the damage is done, but the public only knows what the reporter wrote. The public should know the complete story. I wish you wrote all the interventions that were done. The more detail the better.
    Jay Kozak


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