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‘We’re Teachers, Not Accountants’: SF School District Teachers Frustrated as Payroll Issues Persist

Written by Ida MojadadPublished May. 04, 2022 • 5:24pm
Madison Williams, an SFUSD teacher of AVID and Government/Economics creates a protest poster in front of San Francisco Public School’s payroll office on May 4, 2022. “They keep messing up my pay. I’ve been with their district for 4 years and have had problems almost every year, but this is definitely the worst. | Camille Cohen

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Increasingly frustrated over unresolved payroll problems, a contingent of educators stationed themselves outside a San Francisco Unified School District building on Wednesday to receive first-hand help. 

Outside the payroll office at 135 Van Ness Ave, about 30 educators chanted, “We’re teachers not accountants.” The group, largely from George Washington High School (GWHS), criticized the district for failing to be proactive on issues stemming from a new payroll system that led to a variety of compensation-related issues for more than one thousand teachers starting in January. 

Though recurring pay problems largely exist for teachers on leave or around benefits, some teachers are increasingly frustrated by responses to their help tickets. 

Sarita Lavin, an Ethnic Studies/US History teacher at George Washington High School, shares her story of payment issues to the crowd of teachers who are also experiencing missing or incomplete paychecks, on May 3, 2022. | Camille Cohen

Washington High School teacher David Ko said he has spent countless hours analyzing his paycheck, calling insurance companies after his wife lost coverage, emailing SFUSD about missing retirement contributions, and even held a workshop for his coworkers in March. Just this week, he found more than $2,000 in unknown deductions from his paychecks this year that he said payroll staff was not immediately able to explain. 

“It’s just an added mental toll that is unreasonable under any circumstances,” Ko said. “Our request is that the school district make efforts to not put the burden and onus on us in order to haphazardly do our best to catch all these issues.” 

In preparation for the action, SFUSD sent payroll staff to GWHS but teachers criticized the effort for the short notice, lost lunch and prep periods, long wait times and inability to solve many issues.

 In deleted tweets it later apologized for, San Francisco Parent Action Coalition criticized the walkout as “an unnecessary action that harms our students.”

Damien Tucker, an SFUSD payroll manager, speaks to teachers who are missing portions of or complete paychecks on May 3, 2022. | Camille Cohen

Chief Technology Officer Melissa Dodd and a payroll manager briefly addressed teachers, noting that the payroll team is down to a handful of people and in the dark about certain logistics from the payroll developer

“SFUSD deeply apologizes for the many unforeseen challenges that staff are navigating during the EMPowerSF transition,” said spokesperson Laura Dudnick in a statement. “Many team members at SFUSD are tirelessly working to stabilize our employees’ pay issues as quickly as possible. Every staff member in our district will be paid the money they are owed.”

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Ida Mojadad can be reached at [email protected]


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