About 20 San Francisco Unified School District teachers and staff camped out with sleeping bags in district offices Monday night, demanding administrators fix payroll system glitches that have caused major paycheck delays for hundreds of educators.
“We have exhausted our patience,” said Cassondra Curiel, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, the union representing district teachers. “Folks like to say teachers are heroes and angels. We are people. We are parents. We are renters. We are roommates and we are workers. We are professionals. And we must be paid.”
Following a larger rally outside the district’s Franklin Street headquarters, Curiel led the small group into the building and delivered a box of letters from teachers to Superintendent Vincent Matthews, excoriating the district’s handling of the payroll issue.
As many as 1,500 educators in the San Francisco school district may not have received their full paychecks or haven’t been paid at all over the last month, according to the union, which represents some 6,500 educators. The problem stems from the district switching to a new accounting system, but may also speak to deeper troubles in its finance department.
The turmoil comes as the district and school board leadership are under intense scrutiny for their inability to successfully manage finances.
Inside district headquarters Monday evening, Matthews spoke with the teacher delegation for roughly 20 minutes, repeatedly apologizing for the disastrous rollout of the new payroll system.
“We have failed you,” Matthews said. “There is no way that any of you should have had to come down here with sleeping bags to say, ‘Pay us.’ That just shouldn’t happen.”
Matthews said district Chief Technology Officer Melissa Dodd is now overseeing the new payroll system, replacing Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh, who had been leading the rollout effort.
And he has quadrupled the number of staff in the payroll department, from five to 20, he said.
The district’s top priority now is issuing back pay to teachers, he added, promising a full accounting of what went wrong.
“The answer to that question will lead to much more accountability and people being held accountable,” he said.
But that mea culpa is unlikely to appease the union, which has threatened a class-action lawsuit against the district.
“You can’t take an apology to the bank,” said Stewart Weinberg, an attorney for the union.