Everett Middle School. Photo by Lydia Chavez

Some 70 staffers at Everett Middle School sent a “desperate plea for help” in March to the San Francisco Unified School District that outlined frequent outbreaks of disorder and violence on campus — and begged for reinforcements ASAP for a staff stretched beyond its capacity. 

“This past year has seen multiple major incidents at Everett involving guns, knives, pepper spray, intruders on campus, and multiple violent fights almost every day,” reads the letter, sent to top SFUSD officials, including Superintendent Vincent Matthews, with the subject line “Requesting onsite support ASAP at Everett Middle School.”  

“The recent shooting at the Safeway on the corner of Market St. and Church St. included our students and could have ended with a much worse outcome,” the letter continued. “Our site administration has frequently needed to call the SFPD to assist with student arrival and dismissal, often due to the possibility of violence from outsiders against our students. Multiple staff have also been attacked and even injured by students this year, some with pepper spray that resulted in student expulsion.” 

That March 10 letter came more than six weeks before a pair of Mission Local articles chronicling the tumultuous and violent conditions at Everett, including a pair of on-the-record allegations from former teachers that they were assaulted by students. And it came more than seven weeks before an Everett student was beaten severely enough during an on-campus fight that he was hospitalized with “life-threatening injuries.”

“…we now find ourselves questioning our ability to even keep our students and staff safe during the school day and are writing to you in a desperate plea for help.”

From a letter from Everett teachers and staff to the school district sent on March 10, 2022

Just how thoroughly the district has addressed the situation that induced a clear and heated  SOS from the school’s beleaguered staffers remains a point of contention. When asked about its actions at the school, the district sent a 1,000-word statement. Among other steps, the district emphasized that it had hired an additional security guard, worked to increase substitute coverage, implemented a no-cell-phone policy, increased the “Social Emotional lessons,” and secured private funds for “a reimagined and restructured outdoor space.” 

Numerous parents, however, have told Mission Local that they have not noticed these policy changes. They added that their queries to the district or site administration have not been addressed, or that the responses they did receive have been banal, defensive or lacked detail. And the district hasn’t begun to quell staff’s fears and concerns. 

“I think it’s impossible for anyone to claim that the district’s response to our staff’s demand for immediate onsite support at Everett has been anywhere near enough,” said Cris Garza, a literacy coach and the school’s union building representative. 

“To claim otherwise is merely an attempt to minimize the media fallout and continue to avoid solving the very real crises we’ve been experiencing on a daily basis. This is not to say that they have done nothing — some district staff have been sent here for limited amounts of time and it’s been quite helpful to have them with us. But I think it’s fair to say that their response to our plea for help has been inadequate at best, and complicit at worst,” Garza said.

By late March, Han Phung, the SFUSD assistant superintendent of middle schools had visited Everett and shared with teachers an initial plan to address issues on-site. Among other steps, the plan called for more on-campus presence from central office personnel and for Street Violence Intervention Program (SVIP) personnel to be on campus daily. 

While rotating SVIP personnel do visit the school, sources within the district tell Mission Local that, as of last week, the permanent on-site SVIP worker mentioned in Phung’s letter had not yet been hired.  

For district officials who’ve been pushing for more interventions at Everett and communicating with the SFUSD higher-ups ostensibly overseeing this school, it was an exasperating moment.

“People are willing to help,” said a district source familiar with the situation. “It’s frustrating.” 

When Mission Local published its initial story on Everett on April 21, “We had been talking about this for a while. These complaints had been coming for a long time,” they continued. “This story didn’t need to happen, because these things didn’t need to still be true.” 

Fifty-three Everett staffers signed a public letter on April 29 criticizing Mission Local’s article about the chaotic and violent conditions at their school. 

They described the story as “clickbait” and “gossip.”

Forty-nine of these teachers also signed the March letter to the district, in which conditions at the school were described in more incendiary terms than in our articles — and in which they stated that “we now find ourselves questioning our ability to even keep our students and staff safe during the school day and are writing to you in a desperate plea for help.”

Respectfully to the staffers, who have been through a lot, the real problem here is not the coverage. 

Simply put, the claims that the conditions at Everett are being overblown — that similar articles could be written about any San Francisco middle school — feel diversionary and do not ring true. 

The March 10 plea from Everett staffers noted that eight teachers had resigned mid-year (a tally that has only grown). Even a privately funded health and wellness grant Everett received, which was supposed to provide extra workers, has apparently not provided the extra workers. 

Requesting Onsite Support A… by MissionLocal

There simply aren’t enough adults in the building to do education the way education was done prior to the pandemic. This is the root cause of nearly all of Everett’s problems. And this is not a unique situation. 

Staff at other schools serving junior high-aged kids told Mission Local of administrators pulled out of their offices and forced to cover dozens of classes in the course of a week — in the cafeteria — with nary a sub to call. We were told of upticks in fighting and unpleasant behavior, with young people texting “blims” — disappearing text messages with a title derived from “subliminal” — to coordinate gatherings that may devolve into brawls.

Children now in sixth grade haven’t been in a classroom since fourth grade. “They do goofy things,” summed up a veteran administrator. “Their social development has been interrupted.” 

So, that’s all true. But, so far as we can tell, three score and 10 staffers at other schools aren’t writing detailed pleas to the central office for intervention. So far as we can tell, teachers aren’t being beaten at other schools. 

Every school is suffering, but Everett is suffering more. And that should come as a surprise to nobody. Just as a tsunami is more of a problem for people on the coast than for people in the hills, the privations of the pandemic are going to be most damaging at a “tier 3” school like Everett. 

“Tier 3” is the district’s designation for a school serving the most needy and vulnerable students: 20 percent of Everett’s students require special education support, 44 percent are English learners, 62 percent are “socio-economically disadvantaged,” 30 percent met grade level standards in 2019.

The pain is not spread evenly across the district, nor even within Everett: Much of the violence and chaos is most keenly affecting the school’s Latinx students, and Everett is 70 percent Latinx. The fight this month that put a boy in the hospital was described to Mission Local by Cheeko Wells, a Violence Intervention Program supervisor, as a confrontation that spiraled out of control between a “newcomer Latino kid and an Americanized Latino kid.” 

(Wells told Mission Local that the victim suffered from head trauma, and the fight may have deliberately taken place in a stairwell corner out of view of school cameras. Internal emails between Everett administrators show seven students were suspended for between two and five days). 

The hardest-up schools are suffering the most, and the hardest-up students at the hardest-up schools have it worst of all. This, again, should not come as a surprise. 

And this is why the district owes it to Everett to prioritize its needs. If SFUSD is going to group high-need students into high-need schools, it must address those needs. The consequences of the failure to do so are now on full display. 

The district owes it to Everett teachers and families to lay out a coherent plan and carry it out. And no plan will succeed without an adequate number of adults in the building.

And, here, there are challenges. The failure to address problems at Everett, and those problems coming into full public view, have made it harder to convince staffers to come work here. 

It was announced on Thursday that Matt Wayne will be the new superintendent, and the district’s top-three higher-ups will be new next year. Everett will have a new principal and, Mission Local has learned, an assistant principal is also resigning and must be replaced. The risk of this school becoming an orphan is real. As is the risk of an even more acute staffing shortage at the onset of the next school year.

“To keep our students safe, we need the exact same thing we demanded in March: onsite support from district management and it needs to happen all day and every day,” says Garza. “The only response that makes a difference in this scenario is having more competent adults in our building — and only the district can provide those adults.” 

Whatever happens, the district’s actions will continue to be on full display. We are watching now.  

$
$
$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Follow Us

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

Join the Conversation

25 Comments

  1. Flynn Elementary is much the same, except the students are smaller and can’t do the same harm. I also don’t remember weapons. But teachers and students are assaulted regularly.

    Bulletin boards get ripped down if someone bothers to decorate the hallway. A student not in my class came in and ripped down my posters and kicked me and the admin suggested that I lock my doors.

    I haven’t been there since the pandemic, but I can’t imagine it’s gotten better.

    1. Your obviously a teacher who like most others have zero professional skills beyond mabey simply regurgitating same info and same lessons ending in same tests. But being professional is more than clapping out erasers and includes supporting your product and those in charge of delivering that product. How does it help promote your product to go into media and blame your own system for anything? What comes after this san fran system installs the amount of ” adults” teachers feel appropriate and nothing changes or even gets worse? Union would jump back up on soapbox and slam their own system yet again criticizing evry possible angle they could think of that didn’t involve tarnishing their own stature. I wonder if these same teachers joined together as one to denounce police union and their presence in schools.
      Perfect example of zero professionalism is teacher union blowing off work days and then trashing their own system for lack of qualified fill ins. It’s a joke

      1. It’s easy to sit at home and watch Fox news.

        Let’s see you show up for the children every day.

        1. I am a fully credentialed special education teacher at another non SF middle school. I work many hours after and before school. I used to work at a non public school that was dangerous. Sounds like I am really needed at Everett Middle. I might apply to work there. But would I survive working there? I don’t run fast. And I am older.

      2. Has “Weir” ever had a child in SFUSD? I have my doubts about that.
        (Edison traffic boy ’67, James Lick Honor Society ’70, through Lowell ’73, and CCSF ’78 dropout. Much better times!)

      3. Bob, I was a teacher for over thirty years. Both of my parents were teachers, I asked my sons to promise me one thing – Don’t become teachers! Now, Bob, I would be willing to bet that you have never spent a day in a classroom as a teacher. The number of dedicated teachers who come in before school and stay after school to prepare lessons for their students is staggering. It is easy for someone like yourself to post a blanket criticism over teachers. You have no idea how much effort teachers put into their jobs. Did you know, Bob, that across the United States that there are over 228,000 assaults on teachers by their students reported annually? There are 380,000 teachers verbally threatened with violence by their students! Bob, those are just the “reported” ones. The teachers in these schools in San Francisco, as well as, the students have very real concerns. These need to be addressed. Study after study has shown that if a teacher feels like the administrator has his or her back, this might send a signal—teachers might feel more protected, cared for, and enabled by the school administration. Furthermore, the students who victimize teachers or other students might think, ‘Oh, I can’t get away with this.’ It might be a deterrent. In the meantime, Bob, polish up your spelling, capitalization, punctuation and usage, and sign up to go be a substitute there!

        On the flip side, if teachers and students see that a principal won’t back up a teacher when a student misbehaves, “that might weaken the teacher and it might embolden the student at the same time,” Huang said.

    2. That a ridiculous claim, that teachers and students are assaulted regularly at Flynn Elementary. I’ve got 2 kids there and have been part of the community for 5 years. Before the pandemic I spent a fair bit of time in the school and talked with a lot of parents and never saw or heard anything like what we’re hearing about Everett. My older kid says there is some fighting among some older kids (which honestly surprises me) who are particularly problematic but it’s not frequent and the staff reacts quickly. The teachers and staff at Flynn are awesome and have a good connection with all the kids; the “problem” kids are not running amuck there – they’re getting attention and help and leaning and are not disrupting the rest of the school.

      Everett sounds like a very different story, and not just because it’s middle school and not elementary (although that makes a huge difference). Something else is going on and these articles have been exposing it. Whether it’s lack of adults, too many kids with issues, no real discipline, or Covid (or all of those things), that school needs some real work fast.

      That said, as much of an outlier as Everett is right now, I am worried that kind of situation is going to develop at other schools, whether middle or high or elementary. We’re only just starting to see the real negative effects of the long term closure of our schools; more, and probably worse, is coming.

    3. At least Flynn admin at time was lucid and actually tried to be effective with these kids. Admin at Sanchez would cry white tears in staff meetings. Some classrooms got support some got ignored. Then we would do professional development on anti racism as if it was real for them. Omg. There is a cohort of admin who stick together and do this stuff. They split staff and play them against each other to enable this behavior. See how half staff at Everett are against and some for admin? This happens in all of the most rotten institutions and mind you it doesn’t happen elsewhere in district. Not at all. My Latinx coworkers would be beyond disappointed at what this system does to their community. One coworker said “We raise kids like this, and they’ll be six feet under”.

  2. Pay attention to your kids. It’s not as hard as you think. Stop making excuses. Pay attention to your kids.

    1. Stop lying on my kid because if she ever did have those weapons why haven’t I seen them? And about the intruders, why I haven’t seen the video? Yes it leaded to expulsion 1 that never should have happened. N she didn’t pepper spray nobody point the finger at the kid who sprayed staff. Tell the district that. Stop pointing the finger at her because I have an organization that is a witness to all this. So do I need to bring them out to speak again. You can’t give the parent any info but you can exploit a minor to the public on false accusations with no proof but saying you asked for help.

    2. We do, but the District doesn’t let parents be in the buildings. Unions and the District are extremely corrupt and criminals.

  3. Not excuses …yes it’s very easy trying to stay housed and meet the basic essentials in this city and navigate the systems that are said to support me and my kid. It’s hard when I’m battling not only the real life realty but also the virtual reality that my kid is being influenced by…. It’s takes a village .. it so easy that you can sign up to volunteer and support this school or any school…

  4. This is why I just laugh when people bemoan the rise of charter schools. I’ll take a charter over ANY SFUSD school any day.

  5. Call the police when assaulted. Every time. No exceptions. Do not call the office, call the police. I worked in HUSD and had an assaulter in my room. I told him with certainty that I was under my husband’s orders to call the police FIRST. That and good management strategies prevented my being put in danger.

  6. Perhaps they can secure funding by saying they are Ukranian refugees so they can ride the 500 million aid bandwagon Congress wants to pass.

  7. 1 of 7,887
    Here’s answer to problems at Everett
    Inbox

    h brown
    Thu, May 12, 10:58 PM (9 hours ago)
    to Joe, Bulldog, Tim, me, Rich

    Campers,

    Just posted couple of photos of what’s left of a successful program that John Voorhees and I built at Potrero Middle School about a quarter century ago.

    There are 32 monitor badges spread out on my floor.

    Over 300 of the school’s 500 students joined the Monitor Force.

    They wanted the halls clear and peaceful.

    I taught Severely Disturbed which meant they were the toughest kids in the schools.

    I put red rimmed post-it notes from the Vice Principal/s office on a half dozen of my kids and put them in the halls with little clip boards and tickets to give students out of class w/out a pass.

    Other students were frightened of my students so they behaved.

    John registered all of the mainstream students to vote and drafted them into Jury Duty in my old converted shop on first floor.

    We had attorneys for accused and School prosecutors.

    All, along with judge, played by students.

    They dressed to the Nines for the trials !!

    Nobel Prize winner from Cal came over to observe.

    District dumped me for driving around town in the Cohens’ old Ford F-100 pickup …

    Put a bunch of kids in open bed of pick-up and picked up art supplies for the murals they did on side of building w/money from jar in teachers lounge.

    I had a student store selling potato chips and knock-off soda between classes so all my kids went home from school with buck or two in their pocket.

    Formed student news bureau and interviewed Willie Brown (kids did) when he came to visit the computer program next door where my kids installed modems for a buck apiece.

    Key is having bigger stronger kids they respect in the halls with those orange vests and clip boards.

    I don’t think the entire program cost me over a hundred bucks.

    Only thing District bought was some orange vests and they were so late I’d already bought a dozen on my own.

    Hell, use high schools to start.

    Ones they know and respect who used to go to Everett !

    After an initial period of showing the flag with first all muscle up front, mix muscle with regular mainstream volunteers and then you just rotate thru the volunteers so everyone gets a chance to write tickets in the hall and serve on jury duty.

    See what the district says after 25 years ??

    Go Giants !!

    h.

  8. I work at Francisco Middle School and we are seeing similar behaviors that I believe to be consequential of the pandemic — students with high and special needs assaulting school staff, brandishing weapons against each other and staff, student fights, cyber bullying/harassment against staff and students, gender-based harassment of teachers and other students, and death threats against staff and other students. Although these behaviors and incidents sound awful in aggregate — and they are — I do believe them to be a consequence of the pandemic and a lack of essential resources in a community that badly needs more, not less. We are not like Everett in that these incidents have not been published in the local paper, and our teachers are not organizing to get more help from the district in an explicit abs unified way. I sort of wished these things were happening though, despite the unfortunate consequence of such media attention — the scapegoating and discrimination against an already marginalized community — because if we did get that attention, that would mean things would change for the better. I hope Mission Local and other local publications like the Chronicle could take the time to do some deeper investigative journalism on what’s happening in our schools across the district and in our country, at large instead on focusing on one school. Everett is the middle school that I first tutored at when I moved to the city, and it’s the school that propelled me into the teacher profession. It’s a very special and strong community that will not be tarnished by poor journalism. When you write about schools, you’re writing about kids and the communities they thrive in. Be careful how you conduct your research and interviews, and how you choose your words. They have real impact. Our public schools are suffering and we need help, not sensational journalism that drives more people away from our schools and makes those who are in them feel less than.

  9. To, ‘Another teacher’ …

    Just implement my program there.

    You put 6 monitors with orange vests on before school, between classes and after school til the building is cleared.

    They carry clipboards and give tickets which they keep copy of and go before student court w/jurors chosen as w/adults.

    Just read my post.

    It works.

    The court trials are a hoot too.

    I volunteered to do all of the detention after and before school too and the place quieted down.

    I was an SED teacher.

    Go Warriors !

    h.

  10. I support keeping YGC (Youth Guidance Center) open for DECADES to come, and more funding for it. When SFUSD are allowed to run amok like this without consequences, this is what happens. Reinforce discipline, call the police on any form of harassment to teachers/staff, and haul their young asses off to the YGC: no excuses! Let them spend a few days/weeks locked up, until they straighten up and fly right. If the parents won’t correct the behavior at home, then some hard time on someone else’s rules certainly will. Under no circumstances should youth be threatening SFUSD staff, and bringing weapons on-campus.

Leave a comment
Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published.