Special Reports

Potentially Earthquake-Unsafe Residential Buildings — a (Very Rough) List

Noah Arroyo, SF Public Press — Jan 14 2013 - 1:51pm

This story appeared in the Winter 2012-2013 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection has kept a preliminary list of potentially dangerous soft-story buildings since 2009, but inspectors say it has not been verified by actual building inspections, and was never intended for public consumption. Some of the addresses the city generated might be wrong. The Public Press is publishing the list so that residents who might possibly be at risk in their homes can participate in the debate over how best to retrofit thousands of properties in coming years.

Earthquake Retrofit Delays Leave Thousands at Risk

Noah Arroyo and Barbara Grady, SF Public Press — Jan 7 2013 - 6:38pm

It will take at least 7 years to secure older wood buildings dangerously perched above windows or garages

This story appeared in the Winter 2012-2013 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

One in 14 San Franciscans lives in an old building with a first floor that city inspectors say could be vulnerable to collapse if not retrofitted soon to withstand a major earthquake.While officials have had a preliminary list of nearly 3,000 suspect properties for more than three years, they have not told landlords, leaving the estimated 58,000 residents who live there ignorant that their buildings could be unstable.

Poor Record Keeping Hinders Analysis of Domestic Violence Policing Practices

Kevin Stark, SF Public Press — Sep 26 2012 - 9:01am

As statistics go from tick marks to laptops, police struggle to make sense of trends

The San Francisco Police Department cannot precisely measure the number of domestic violence cases it handled before 2011, because investigators in the Special Victims Unit hand-tallied monthly records, and used changing and inconsistently understood categories of crimes. This story appeared as part of a special report on domestic violence in the Fall 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

San Francisco Trails Bay Area in Domestic Violence Prosecutions

Christopher Peak, SF Public Press — Sep 24 2012 - 11:48am

Far fewer charged than across the region, even with strongly worded ‘no-drop’ guidelines

Though San Francisco’s so-called “no-drop” policy requires pressing domestic violence charges when evidence is sufficient to convict, the District Attorney’s Office pursued just 28 percent of cases through to trial or plea bargaining over the last 6 years. This story appeared as part of a special report on domestic violence in the Fall 2012 print edition of the San Francisco Public Press.

How Fundraising and Cuts Increase Inequities in S.F. Schools: Jeremy Adam Smith on KALW's "Crosscurrents"

Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Mar 28 2014 - 3:46pm

Jeremy Adam Smith spoke with host Hana Baba on KALW’s “Crosscurrents” about the disparity that parent fundraising creates between elementary schools in San Francisco, which he covered at length in a recent investigation for the San Francisco Public Press.

10 Solutions to Inequality in Elementary School Fundraising

Jeremy Adam Smith, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2014 - 4:58pm

PTA fundraising at public elementary schools in San Francisco is wildly uneven, with only a small number of schools raising enough money in recent years to avoid the worst effects of state budget cuts. Based on Public Press research and conversations with experts in the field, here are some options for addressing uneven access to funding for San Francisco’s public elementary schools.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Albany School District Levels Parent Fundraising Playing Field

Emilie Raguso, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2014 - 4:58pm

Concerned about equity, 3 elementary school PTAs pool money for daytime enrichment

The tiny Albany Unified School District in the East Bay was, until 2011, like many others in the state: Schools with the best parent fundraising were able to reap all the benefits for their own kids. Superintendent Marla Stephenson said the disparities had been immediately apparent when she began working for the district in 2008. Three years later she led the switch to a single annual campaign for all three schools — one that could provide an example for San Francisco and other districts struggling with inequities made worse by parent fundraising.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Two PTA Presidents, Two Realities

Jeremy Adam Smith, Luke Thomas and Tearsa Joy Hammock, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 13 2014 - 4:57pm

Photo essay: Ana Hernandez, Junipero Serra Elementary; and Barry Schmell, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy

Today, after five years of severe budget cuts in the San Francisco Unified School District, PTAs are being asked to pay for teachers, reading specialists, social workers and school psychologists, computers, basic school supplies, staff training and more. But not all PTAs can afford those things. Parents at just 10 elementary schools raise more than half the PTA money that all 71 elementary schools in the district take in. Many of the rest raise nothing, or almost nothing.

Ana Hernandez and Barry Schmell come from very different backgrounds, but they have at least one thing in common: They both lead their schools’ parent-teacher associations

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

Infographics: School Fundraising in S.F. by the Numbers

Jeffrey Thorsby, Jason Winshell, Tom Guffey and Justin Slaughter, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 6 2014 - 5:10pm

The San Francisco Unified School District aims to spend its funds equitably, not necessarily equally. That means giving more to schools with the highest needs, based on a complex formula. But in the past decade, parents at some schools have developed sophisticated fundraising operations to make up for years of tight districtwide budgets. The result: parents at a few schools are able to significantly supplement their children’s education, while most are not.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

How Budget Cuts and PTA Fundraising Undermined Equity in San Francisco Public Schools

Jeremy Adam Smith, San Francisco Public Press — Feb 3 2014 - 5:09pm

PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE MONEY: Parent fundraising for elementary education in S.F. skyrocketed 800 percent in 10 years. The largesse saved some classroom programs, but widened the gap between rich and poor.

In an era of shrinking public investment in schools, parents have struggled to hold the line one school at a time. Since the pre-recession year 2007, elementary school PTAs in San Francisco collectively managed to more than quadruple their spending on schools. 

With this money, some schools have been able to pay teachers and staff, buy computers and school supplies, and underwrite class outings and enrichment activities. These expenses, previously covered by the taxpayers, are increasingly the responsibility of parents.

But school district finance data, PTA tax records and demographic profiles reveal an unintended byproduct of parents’ heroic efforts: The growing reliance on private dollars has widened inequities between the impoverished majority and the small number of schools where affluent parents cluster.

Part of a special report on education inequality in San Francisco. A version of this story ran in the winter 2014 print edition.

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