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Spinning the Numbers

Schools Superintendent lambastes Style story, addresses administration's submission of false data to the state.



In a press release distributed earlier today, Richmond Schools Superintendent Yvonne Brandon accuses Style reporter Chris Dovi of reporting false information regarding the school system's student expulsions in a Street Talk published Oct. 14. Brandon also makes false accusations about Style and Dovi's reporting in the process. (Read the press release, here.)

“The information reported by Mr. Dovi in the article is ironically, incorrect,” Brandon writes in the release.

The Style article reports on the false expulsion data that the school system submitted to the state, namely that the school system inaccurately reported exactly one expulsion from 2004 through the 2008-09 school year. This is the thrust of the story, the accuracy of which Brandon doesn't contest.

The school system resubmitted its numbers to the Virginia Department of Education -- which turned out to be 190 expulsions in the last five years -- after being alerted to the problem by a former School Board member in July. The city school system's incorrect expulsion data went undetected for years, something that Brandon does not discuss in her press release.

Brandon also says in the release that it was after becoming superintendent and ordering an audit that she discovered the district's use of computer systems incompatible with the state, citing the old system as part of the reason for the initial submission of incorrect data. Before becoming superintendent earlier this year, Brandon served as Richmond's deputy superintendent for instruction and accountability where, among her duties, she oversaw data collection for the district.

In her statement, released Oct. 20, Brandon says Style reported inaccurate “revised” expulsion data, which the school system resubmitted to the state in August. The numbers initially reported were supplied by a state official Oct. 13, hours before Style went to press. Those numbers were off. Instead of 72 expulsions in 2007-08 and 53 expulsions in 2008-09, the numbers are 47 and 34 expulsions, respectively.

Brandon writes that she remains baffled as to “why Mr. Dovi would print the inaccurate data even when the VDOE clarified the difference in the data sets within the time frame for accurate reporting.”

This statement is inaccurate. The state official corrected the numbers a day after Style went to press. After being alerted to the number discrepancy, Style corrected the numbers on its Web site.

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