San Francisco Unified School District teachers said on Monday the district has failed to pay them and other staff members, with some awaiting payment since January.
The payroll glitch comes as the district sends out hundreds of layoff notices this week.
During a rally held outside SFUSD headquarters, the teachers called on district officials to fix the issue, which has affected employees' livelihoods, as many are unable to pay rent and other bills.
The payment issues come as the district and the San Francisco Board of Education are mulling laying off hundreds of teachers to balance the budget for the upcoming school year as the district faces a $125 million projected budget shortfall.
The approved cuts include 151 teachers, counselors and social workers; 51 top-level managers; and 62 additional staff members.
SFUSD officials have admitted that hundreds of teachers and other staff members have not been paid since January but attributed the error to a recent change by the district to a new payroll system. Previously, the district had used the same system for the last 17 years.
“We have hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers, paraeducators, counselors, social workers, nurses, and other staff who are owed thousands of dollars. Retirement accounts, health benefits, bank fees, eviction notices, mortgages, have all been impacted," SFUSD social worker and United Educators San Francisco secretary Leslie Hu said during the rally.
UESF is the labor union representing teachers and other staff.
“We can't live like this," UESF President Cassondra Curiel said. "This problem is not the computers. This is not a software issue. This is the problem of decisions that were made from the very top management and continue to persist into March. We have a payroll date coming up, and the rest of us teachers are waiting around. We have exhausted our patience."
She added, "It is absolutely obscene the kind of negligence we have seen and we aren't taking it anymore."
During the rally, dozens of teachers showed up, chanting "Pay us now."
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Supervisor Myrna Melgar also showed up to the rally to support the SFUSD teachers and staff.
During the rally, several UESF members entered SFUSD headquarters and went to the third-floor administration office, demanding to speak with Superintendent Vincent Matthews. The group said they were prepared to stay the night unless Matthews agreed to pay them the money owed.
In a statement, Matthews said the district is working diligently on correcting the issue, including adding at least ten more staff members to its payroll department to help investigate and solve the issue.
"In spite of a lot of preparation, there are serious payroll related issues that have arisen since transitioning to a new employee information system. This is inexcusable and should not have happened," he said. "It is SFUSD's responsibility to pay its employees accurately and on time. We deeply apologize to every employee who has experienced a delay in payment. I have asked our chief technology officer to move to this project 100 percent until further notice. We are committed to resolving this emergency as quickly as possible. Every staff member will be paid the money they are owed."
SFUSD Chief Technology Officer Melissa Dodd said, "By increasing the staffing resources we dedicate to this issue and further streamlining our approach, we are hopeful we will see these critical payroll related issues resolved in the near future. We wish we could move even faster but it takes time for new people to get trained on the systems and processes that need to be understood to correct for any payroll issues."
SFUSD officials said the while hundreds of staff members have been affected, the majority of the district's more than 10,000 employees have been paid correctly.
District officials also said employees who've been affected appear to have leaves and varying work schedules or multiple positions, which possibly caused confusion when integrating the new payment system.
To help the staff members owed money, the district has set up a ticketing system in order for them to submit claims via email and phone. Additionally, the district will host in-person clinics so that the affected employees can meet with a payroll specialist.
UESF officials have said they plan to file a lawsuit if the payment issue isn't remedied.