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Payday is delayed for some teachers, staffers

L.A. Unified's new $95-million computer system has some glitches, district says.

February 07, 2007|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

Payday has left hundreds of employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District in the lurch, as the mammoth district's new payroll system has been roiled by glitches.

After 18 months of preparations to roll out the $95-million computer system, clerical errors and outdated employment data led to about 1,000 teachers and other staffers either not being paid or being paid too little, district officials said.

Don Davis, chief of staff to Supt. David L. Brewer, was quick to acknowledge the hardship and inconvenience but emphasized that in a district with roughly 100,000 employees, the number affected was relatively small.

"Any time you have employees who are not getting paid, it's a major problem," Davis said. "But the numbers are relatively small. We pretty much got it right."

Such words, however, rang hollow to several teachers and classified employees frustrated by what they said was the district's insufficient response to the debacle.

"My rent is due. It's as simple as that," said Karen Minter, a special education aide at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth. "We're getting more respect from the kids we teach than the people we work for."

Minter is one of roughly 28,000 classified employees, a category that incudes teacher aides and healthcare workers, who were to have been paid through the new system for the first time last Wednesday. Checks for the district's certificated workers, which include teachers, were supposed to have been issued Monday.

So far, the district has cut 963 emergency checks for staffers who have alerted officials to problems with their paychecks. The extent of the problem, however, is presumably greater, as many employees complained that they have not been able to get through on the district's overtaxed telephone hotline or had not been told of the office set up hastily in the lobby of the district's downtown headquarters to handle claims.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union, has received about 500 calls from frustrated teachers, a union spokeswoman said.

The problems have arisen not because of a failure of the computer system, said Anne Valenzuela-Smith, the district's deputy chief financial officer. Instead, errors by school clerks unfamiliar with how to enter the hours worked by staff into the new system are largely to blame, she said. Also a factor, she added, is inaccurate data about what jobs some employees hold that was transferred from the old system to the new.

District officials said they expected the number of problems to decrease significantly in coming months. Along with payroll, the new system will revamp the district's budget, human resources and procurement procedures when it is fully implemented.

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joel.rubin@latimes.com

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