By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
“We’ve set up a committee, along with union members, to help us redesign the pay stub — make it a more user-friendly, readable format,” says David Holmquist, LAUSD’s interim chief operating officer and the point man for fixing this mess.
Alzate says she’s so fearful that she now stays up until midnight each time her check is due to be deposited, just to be sure it arrived in the bank and is enough to cover the bills.
“Some nights I’m crying,” she says. “My husband says, ‘It’s the middle of the night.’ I’m not sleeping well, I’m not eating well, and I’m stressed. I end up tossing and turning the entire night.”
Alzate says she was assured that her problem had been resolved, and was promised that she would be sent a personal payment history that would set everything straight. The payment history arrived later that month with a cover letter.
“Unfortunately,” the letter read, “we believe your report still contains errors as a result of continuing errors . . .” It listed a mysterious $2,030 claim against her salary and said she owes LAUSD $358.
“If they knew it was wrong, why did they send it to me?” she asks. Next came her September check: $485.
“I cried on the phone for two hours,” Alzate recalls. “I’m not usually a crier. I cried. I was blubbering.” Her baby needs care, she told a school official. She can’t deal with these problems. “I shouldn’t have to live like this.”
Holmquist, who calls the mess the district’s most urgent priority, says the biggest underlying problem has been the complex conversion to a uniform pay calendar for teachers whose salaries often vary because of bonuses and extra assignments. He acknowledges that the district erred by not phasing in the new system gradually, while the old system was still functioning as a backup.
Holmquist was not involved in the switchover and declined to pin blame on the district, the German hardware vendor SAP or the consulting firm of Deloitte & Touche, which custom-tailored the off-the-shelf payroll system to LAUSD’s needs and is now getting an avalanche of bad press. Litigation is likely.
Holmquist concedes that about 3,800 people got faulty checks in September — and October may be even worse. He says most problems will be corrected by November, but admits there’s no guarantee.
Teachers, meanwhile, form a long roll call of the disenfranchised and disgusted. Jill Iger, who teaches first grade at Leo Politi Elementary in Koreatown, persuaded some humans down at district headquarters that she does not owe $8,000. “But they don’t know how to get it out of the [computer] system.” D’Ette Nogle, a teacher at Fairfax High, got a paycheck for $15.08. She and her husband, Mark Roeder, who teaches at Johnnie L. Cochran Middle School, claim to have racked up debts of over $9,900.
“They say I owe them $3,300,” says Rachel Bloch, who teaches at the International Studies Learning Center in South Gate and who bounced her car-insurance check. With a newborn daughter at home, her husband, Gabriel, is studying child development and plans to become a teacher, too.
“I’m advising him not to,” Bloch says. “‘No, no, no. You do something else.’”
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