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SF Teachers Occupy District Headquarters Overnight to Protest Missed Paychecks and Payroll Glitches

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A group of people, some holding signs, stand in front of a microphone, with an entrance to a building behind them.
United Educators of San Francisco President Cassondra Curiel leads a protest in front of San Francisco Unified School District headquarters on March 14, 2022, demanding officials immediately compensate hundreds of teachers who have been shortchanged because of payroll glitches. San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin (third from left) is among the group's supporters. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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.”

UESF President Cassondra Curiel brings a box of complaints to SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews
United Educators of San Francisco President Cassondra Curiel with a box of complaint letters, which she delivered to SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews, on March 14, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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.

Several people put down sleeping bags on the floor of an office.
San Francisco teachers lay out sleeping bags on the floor of the district's headquarters on March 14, 2022, to protest a botched payroll system that left many staff underpaid. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The turmoil comes as the district and school board leadership are under intense scrutiny for their inability to successfully manage finances.

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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.

A man in with a face mask talks to a small group of people.
SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews apologizes to teachers at district headquarters on March 14, 2022, during a protest over payroll glitches, that left hundreds of staff without full compensation. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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.

Protestors hold signs on a street, demanding payment.
San Francisco teachers and their supporters gather in front of district headquarters on March 14, 2022, to protest the district's mismanaged payroll system. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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.

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