Thor Boucher, the principal of Monroe Elementary, is accustomed to aiding his staff, but he has never done it in the form of helping them pay their rent.
In his own checkbook on Wednesday, Boucher put in the date, recipient, amount, and signature of check No. 159.
Yuri Dominguez, one of his second-grade teachers, received a $4,500 cheque from the principal’s bank account in an act of irritation and compassion.
In light of the school district’s continuing payroll disaster precipitated by a January move to a new online system, Dominguez was unable to pay her rent on Thursday since the district failed to pay her at all in April, making her one of hundreds of victims.
The San Francisco Unified School District’s teachers and other employees have had to deal with many payroll problems for more than four months. Disruptions persist despite pledges by the district to rectify them.
To make matters worse, there is a severe financial gap due to dwindling enrollment and the appointment of three new board members after a successful recall. The district is also looking for a new superintendent to replace the departing one. After two years of scandal and instability, school board members expressed optimism that they might rebuild community confidence, but the payroll mess has only heightened tensions.
Problems with paychecks include underpayment or nonpayment for a month’s worth of labor, as in Dominguez’s instance. She added she’s also still missing half of her January salary after multiple emails, phone calls and escalation up the management chain.
It’s “dehumanizing to not get paid for work performed, but it’s even more demoralizing when no one recognizes it,” Boucher said, adding that he contacted the district this week, only to hear a tape claiming the individual was out of the office. That must be a great deal of work,” I’m sure. Is it any surprise that no one has reached out to us personally with compassion?”
In an effort to find a solution, dozens of teachers skipped a day of work on Wednesday to gather at district offices and queue up to speak with personnel from the payroll department in turn.
Around twenty-one members of the George Washington High School staff joined the protest, which went on all day, according to special education teacher Chris Clauss. “This was organized by average educators in the SFUSD who feel they have exhausted the traditional and expected methods of resolution,” Clauss said.
The payroll department will be bolstered by more workers, according to district officials.
The district’s EMPowerSF payroll system, developed at a cost of roughly $14 million by a vendor, went live in early January. It’s been described as having a “extremely high learning curve” for payroll personnel and everyone else who uses it, according to officials.
A total of 9,100 “tickets” were opened in the first 11 weeks of the system’s operation.
Multiple agencies must work together to resolve many of the problems, according to Deputy Superintendent Gentle Blythe.
SFUSD “truly apologizes for the numerous unanticipated problems that employees are coping with throughout the EMPowerSF transition,” she stated. “All of our district’s employees will get their overdue wages.”
By signing a contract on March 17th, San Francisco Unified School District administrators and labor union leaders committed to resolve payroll concerns within three days if an employee followed correct procedures, or to pay interest on the remainder. In addition, any costs incurred as a result of missing payments, including as overdrafts, would be reimbursed.
There are at least several instances when it hasn’t been the case. According to the teachers’ union, the situation is hastening the exodus of qualified personnel.
San Francisco Unified School District has to “make things right,” a United Educators of San Francisco spokesperson said in a statement. “We will be attending the school board meeting on May 10th to hold them responsible,” Amanda Hart added.
Although a teacher just earned maternity leave, according to Boucher, she hasn’t had a child in two years. A third employee hasn’t received a salary since February, when the payroll system amalgamated her and another employee with the same name into one.
Teachers are suffering from mental anguish, which has a negative influence on their work, according to him.
It’s impossible for a teacher to provide his or her students the education they need if they don’t get paid and are unable to pay their expenses.
District authorities announced on Wednesday that a check for Dominguez’s past-due April and January wages had been cut and shipped to him the day before.
It’s not the first time he’s heard that a check is on its way, but it’s the first time he’s actually received the money.
As a bilingual Spanish immersion instructor who was due money for half of the month, Dominguez says she made a request in January.
“I was being patient. I was understanding,” she said.
Days passed into weeks, which turned into months. In February and March, Dominguez received his wages in full, but in April, he received nothing.
When she finally agreed to the loan, she said that she appreciated her principal’s support. The thought of owing him such a large sum of money will keep her up at night.
It’s Dominguez’s responsibility to pay the rent by tomorrow, he added. “I needs to pay my bills. It’s my pay. I worked. I’m entitled to it. I shouldn’t have to beg them to pay me.”