Friday, October 26, 2007

Education Week- 10/24/2007

National news!

Published Online: October 22, 2007
Published in Print: October 24, 2007

Heat on L.A. Schools to Fix Payroll Errors Still Riling Teachers
By Andrew Trotter

The Los Angeles school district is still under fire for its difficulties in paying teachers accurately, after thousands of teachers were overpaid or underpaid for the first two months of the 2007-08 school year.
But district officials believe the school year’s third payroll, on Nov. 5, will have far fewer problems, if the latest fix to the computerized payroll system works. Those modifications are to be tested Oct. 27.
The payroll problem began last January, with the launch of a new, corporate-style system to handle the payroll for the district’s 110,000 full- and part-time employees. It became a public spectacle on June 5, when more than 32,000 district employees received incorrect pay statements. ("Glitches in Los Angeles Payroll System Spark Furor," June 20, 2007.)
After trying to work out the kinks over the summer, officials of the 708,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District admit the problems will likely continue until the end of 2007. They have attributed the errors to hasty implementation of the system, software glitches, and inadequate training of pay clerks at schools.
On Oct. 5, the latest monthly payday, 6,239 certified employees received wrong pay amounts because of software glitches, said David Holmquist, the district’s interim chief operating officer, in an interview last week.
But for the first time since the problem began, Mr. Holmquist said, all of the mistakes due to system errors were overpayments, with no underpayments. He noted that underpayments did occur for other reasons, such as late filings by school-based pay clerks.
New Expert Hired
Superintendent David L. Brewer III has said further improvements, based on simplifications of the district’s complex teacher-pay structure, can be made by next July.
But the local teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angeles, sees that timeline as unacceptable.
On Oct. 11, Mr. Brewer appointed Anthony Tortorice to be the district’s chief information officer. Mr. Tortorice served as chief information office for the region’s Los Angeles Community College District, which consists of nine colleges with about 5,000 full- and part-time employees, according to the school district.
“Notably, Tortorice led the successful implementation of a human-resources payroll system using the same technology as LAUSD’s new payroll system,” the district said in a statement. “Tortorice’s expertise in developing and implementing this technology will be a great asset as the district seeks to stabilize its payroll system by the end of 2007.”
Teacher Daniel Barnhart speaks outside the Los Angeles school district’s headquarters as part of a Sept. 25 demonstration staged by United Teachers Los Angeles to protest errors in employees’ paychecks that have persisted since January’s launch of new computer software for payroll.
—Richard Lui/AP
And last month, the district hired EPI-USE America Inc., an Atlanta-based company that specializes in the brand of software used in the new system, under a one-year contract of up to $9.8 million.
The payroll problem has become a cloud over Mr. Brewer’s tenure in Los Angeles, even though the system was selected and developed under his predecessor, Roy Romer.
Salary overpayments, which must be repaid to the district, disrupt teachers’ lives, said Marla Eby, a spokeswoman for United Teachers Los Angeles, an affiliate of the both American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. And all teachers have suffered from the uncertainty over whether their next pay deposits will be correct, she said.
“Teachers used to look forward to payday; now they dread it,” Ms. Eby said.
The union has kept up a drumbeat of criticism about the problems since January and has used a smattering of tactics to pressure the district, including boycotts of faculty meetings, a short-lived lawsuit, and leafleting.
In a protest dubbed “Camp Beaudry,” seven union officials camped out for three days starting Oct. 5, the latest payday, and tended to teachers as they went to and from the district headquarters on Beaudry Avenue to resolve errors in their pay statements, Ms. Eby said. “We gave them food; the district only gives them $3 food vouchers” for the headquarters’ cafeteria, she said.
In another tactic, which Ms. Eby said was not union-led, teachers have posted videos on the Internet service YouTube featuring teachers and their students testifying to the hardships engendered by the payroll problems. In one video presented by “Jill,” evidently a teacher, a 4th grader named Ricardo says that if the problem is not solved soon, his former 1st grade teacher will “be in the street, no clothes, no food, no rent”; he asks viewers to contact Mr. Brewer.
Companies’ Role
Union officials have spotlighted the two companies behind the payroll system—SAP AG, a German company, which created the software, and Deloitte Consulting LLP, based in New York City, which customized it for the district—and said they have not been held to account for their roles.
Mr. Holmquist declined comment on the two companies except to say that an ongoing district investigation includes an examination of their roles and whether the software was appropriately chosen and effectively tailored to the district’s needs.
He said the district aims to have errors “below 1 percent of any given payroll” by the end of 2007.
PHOTO: Teacher Daniel Barnhart speaks outside the Los Angeles school district’s headquarters as part of a Sept. 25 demonstration staged by United Teachers Los Angeles to protest errors in employees’ paychecks that have persisted since January’s launch of new computer software for payroll.
—Richard Lui/AP
Vol. 27, Issue 09, Page 7

Thursday, October 11, 2007

LA Weekly Article-10/11/07

Will Teach for Food
A payroll disaster at LAUSD ruins educators’ finances, with no fix in sight
By David Ferrell
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 - 8:00 pm

Jordana Alzate with baby Enzo: “Some nights I’m crying.” (Photo by Orly Oliver)
Jordana Alzate’s year was tough enough, what with her youngest child, Enzo, being born prematurely and nearly dying of liver and gastrointestinal problems before the tiny child slowly recovered.“Then,” the second-grade teacher and mother of four said ruefully, “I got hit with this.”The back end of the double whammy was one of the biggest computer payroll problems in state history — a disaster that has blind-sided some 40,000 Los Angeles Unified School District employees and has now lasted nearly as long as Alzate’s pregnancy. It was January when the district’s new, $95 million payroll system started spewing out erroneous checks, underpaying some people, overpaying others, and creating such chaos that administrators now pay special counselors to deal with the psychological trauma.The blunders persist despite $37.5 million in fix-it cash, and teachers are ratcheting up the pressure by boycotting faculty meetings and holding rallies. They marched on September 25 outside the LAUSD offices — “We won’t take it no more!” hundreds chanted — and, two days later, state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D–East Los Angeles) conducted a hearing to try to determine who is at fault and why it is taking so inexplicably long to correct.A surfeit of angry rhetoric and finger-pointing has largely overshadowed the personal stories of teachers like Alzate, forced to cope for months with checks that have no connection whatsoever to what they actually earn. Except in a few egregious cases, most shortchanged teachers have managed to pay their bills, often using emergency loans and credit cards. Some have bounced checks; others have drained their savings. But the financial hardships are made far more painful by the frustration of haggling with a bureaucracy that just can’t get its act together.“I don’t get it. It makes no sense to me,” says Alzate, who last received a correct paycheck in February. Sitting at her kitchen table one recent afternoon in Granada Hills, Alzate spread out several months of pay stubs and showed how impossible it is to make sense of the seemingly random figures. The smallest of her checks was for total earnings of $181 — a fraction of what she was really owed for a month’s work — and net pay of $297, more than her gross.“It’s like they’re just making up these numbers,” she says. “Every month that it goes on, I feel like I’m losing track of what they owe me.”Alzate, whose husband, Ivan, coaches soccer for a nonprofit organization, has borrowed money from her parents and used emergency loans and credit cards to pay bills and buy food. Like so many teachers swept up in the morass, she has fought to get money that is owed to her, only to see the problem get worse and worse.“It’s a joke,” she says. “It seems like such simple math to me. Every check is off by at least $1,000 now.”Los Angeles teachers receive one paycheck a month. Alzate’s first botched check was directly deposited into her bank account in March. It was about $800 higher than normal. Assuming that it reflected a 6 percent retroactive pay raise, and preoccupied with taking her sickly newborn to medical specialists, she did nothing until her April check showed up $1,400 short. “I was completely shocked,” she says. “I called downtown. I was told they were working on it. The next month, May, I did not get a check at all.”By then, the district was issuing thousands of emergency checks to employees who were underpaid. Alzate, who has taught for eight years at Topeka Drive Elementary School in Northridge, joined the throngs who spent hours in line and got a check for $1,400 — about $1,000 less than normal take-home pay.The trouble with these emergency checks is that they are “advances” against future pay. Most teachers who have accepted emergency checks are now in a Looking Glass world where they get paid less than they are due, but are on the books as “owing” the district. And this absurdity quickly compounds itself: Almost invariably, the district collects on these supposed debts by deducting them from the next, often equally mangled, paycheck. So now, many teachers are receiving deduction-riddled, truly minuscule paychecks, sending them right back in line for more emergency checks — and putting them even further in debt. Little surprise, then, that a recurring tide of angry employees is descending upon the district’s “pay centers,” feeding an ever-worsening accounting nightmare. Some teachers, like Sandra Leon, from Chester W. Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park, have been sickened to find they “owe” more than $10,000 after being underpaid for months. “I’m working for free,” Leon says with disdain. Alzate’s “debts” are not as bad as Leon’s, but in September she was told she owed $3,700. She’s baffled over that, especially since the newfangled pay stubs do not bother to say how many hours she has worked or what she now earns per hour.The pay stubs — filled with code numbers — are so complicated that the school district has produced a video to help teachers and other workers decipher them. And in true LAUSD style, a new effort is under way to redesign the pay stubs — by committee. “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.’”

Possible National Coverage of LAUSD Payroll Problems

I received this promising email today from a producer at CBS. Please post your story so that we can get the much needed national media coverage. If you are interested in sharing your story on the news let me know and I will pass your information along.


I am a producer with the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and I'm working on the LAUSD teacher paycheck story. Marla Eby from UTLA gave me your e-mail address. We're looking to profile a teacher with a particularly acute personal financial crisis as a result of the paycheck mess. In your filming for your youtube posts, have you come across anyone that fits the bill (so to speak)? Or, do you know of any blogs where teachers are venting about the situation? My contact information is below. Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to provide.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Channel 4- The word is out!!!

Back from the District Office

District Office
8:45 a.m. arrival
9:19 a.m. sign in
1:11 p.m. leave the district office

I just got back and, unfortunately, without any money. This time the district says that too much was taken out for federal taxes and retirement. Since they had given me two emergency paychecks, they needed to take extra money out for taxes and retirement. Now this is what I ask myself, "What happened to the 30% of each of the two of my emergency paychecks that they were keeping for this purpose?" I certainly should not be taxed in a higher tax bracket. Or am I being taxed in a higher tax bracket because I was supposedly overpaid by the district? These questions were not answered. I was told that they would be figuring it out and I would get the money back at the end of the year. This is all I can hope for. The media was present today and teachers were finally being interviewed and LISTENED to. Thank goodness!

I did hear some good news today regarding my personal situation. I was told that I no longer owe the district money that they claimed that I owed them. The woman from payroll told me that this had been "washed" from the system. I don't know how they can do this. Maybe the other 30% of my paycheck was washed away too!

Yet another month of problems!

I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and the first thing that came to mind was, "I wonder if got paid?" I checked my bank account and did receive a deposit; however, it was $1600 short! So again, I ready myself for the frustrating, never-ending wait at the district office to beg someone for my paycheck. I am out of the classroom yet another day to try to get my paycheck. I am now going on 3 months of no pay and serious under payment. Ludicrous. I find myself singing the chorus from Black Swan all too often these days.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Deloitte & Touche - 10 years of trouble in Ireland

On September 19, LAUSD announced that it had hired another firm to help fix accuracy problems in the system. School officials declared their willingness to pay at least another $37 million to rectify the thousands of problems that have plagued the system from the start.
The problems can be traced back to 2005, when LAUSD contracted Deloitte Consulting LLP, a branch of Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, to install software in its payroll system. The parent firm, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, boasts on its web site of its “excellence in providing professional services and advice, focused on client service through a global strategy executed locally in nearly 140 countries.”
What Deloitte provided is a monumental disaster. Beginning last February—after Deloitte had already received $55 million for its services—the glitches began and they have yet to end.
Deloitte & Touche’s record of installing ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems is riddled with cost overruns, bugs and other problems. Deloitte & Touche’s long list of snafus goes back to at least 1995, when it was hired by the Irish Health Service to install an ERP system for $10.7 million, to be completed in three years. Ten years and $180 million later, the project was abandoned. Similar horror stories have been reported from the city of San Antonio, LA Community College, the San Bernardino and Minneapolis school districts, and W.L. Gore and Associates, which sued PeopleSoft Inc., Deloitte & Touche LLP and Deloitte Consulting over their poor job of installing an expensive ERP system.



Please help us by contacting any of the following:

Deloitte & Touche
Two California Plaza
350 S. Grand Ave.Suite 200
Los Angeles, California 90071-3462
Phone Number: 213-688-0800
Fax Number: 213-688-0100,1036,sid%253D2755,00.html

David Brewer 111-Superintendent 213 241-7000

Monica Garcia-President of the board 213 241-6180

Richard Vladovic-member of the board 213 241-6385

Senator Gloria Romero 323 881-0100

Mayor Villaraigosa 213 978-0600

Governor Schwarzenegger 916 445-2841

A.J. Duffy


My problems with LAUSD payroll

My name is Jill Iger and I am teacher in LAUSD. My problems with payroll began this July on the first day of school. On July 5th, 2007, much to my surprise, I didn’t receive my direct deposit from LAUSD in my checking account. Luckily, a colleague asked me if I had received my deposit, otherwise, I would not have had a chance to electronically transfer all of my money from my savings account into my checking account so that my rent and other checks that had already been sent out would not bounce.

I felt especially upset by this since I had just spent the previous four days (the last days of vacation) moving my classroom by myself from a downstairs classroom to an upstairs room. On top of this, I had been staying at work until around 7pm each night setting up my classroom so that my students would have a great first day of school. I wish I could say that LAUSD wanted the same for me on my first day of school! Not being paid without warning is a horrifying feeling. When I found out that my money wasn’t in my account I became incredibly worried. I was extremely concerned during the day wondering what had happened while still maintaining composure and enthusiasm to finish teaching the first day. Immediately after dismissal at 2:30 p.m. I went to the district office only to wait until 9:30 p.m. that night to get 70% of my check! That was an exhausting seven hours of waiting, questioning and worrying. The first day of school is exhausting enough without having to deal with this absurdity. When I was able to speak with someone from the district and asked why I had not received my check, I was told that I owed the district money. According to them, I had been overpaid since January. I told them that I live paycheck to paycheck and know that I have not been overpaid. If, by some chance I was, it had to have been such a measly amount that I didn’t notice. They said that I was overpaid by $7,000 and that they would lend me 70% of my paycheck until they verified that I did indeed owe them money. When that was confirmed, they would then take that 70% back that they had just given me as well as the remainder of the $7,000 that I owed them. They said that they would take it out over the next two months. I was in shock when they told me this since this would be the equivalent of over two months of my salary taken, leaving me with nothing for those two months. I was told I would receive something in the mail with the exact calculations. I left that night drained emotionally, physically and financially. It was certainly difficult to go back to work the next day feeling respected and appreciated. I had no idea it would get worse.

A few weeks passed and I received a PPH (Personal Payroll History) from the district that was supposed to clarify everything. It didn’t. It only caused more confusion and stress. I now owed $8,155.55. The letter said that they would be sending me my repayment options in one week. They didn’t even give me a chance to question this amount. The only option was to REPAY! I spoke with my SAA and collected my pay stubs and went over them with a fine tooth comb. Neither of us found any overpayments. In fact, the amount that they said I had earned didn’t even equal my salary listed on the LAUSD pay scale.

I tried to call and speak to someone countless times but no one neither answered nor returned the messages that I had left. I was so stressed out that I called my parents to ask them if I could borrow money because I was going to have to come up with a huge amount of money. Talk about humiliation for me and unnecessary stress on my poor parents! I waited for the letter to arrive in the mail explaining the repayment options, but it never came. So all I had was time to think and wonder and worry how and when they were going to take this money from me. I had to be extremely careful with my money, not spending an extra penny on anything for fear that I would need it later. Also, since no money was taken out for taxes, I had to set aside what I could manage to deal with that sure-to-be chaos next April.
August 5th came and this time I got my direct deposit as expected. I checked the total gross with the amount listed on the pay scale and it matched. I assumed that the previous check still had problems because it was the last one of the prior school year. Unfortunately, my assumption was incorrect.

On September 4th, at 7:13 p.m. I received a call from the district. I missed the call and the woman left me a message saying that I would not be receiving my regular direct deposit that night and if I wanted to pick up an emergency check (70% of my gross without withholdings for taxes and retirement) the next day, I needed to speak to someone in their office by noon, otherwise they would be mailing it out. I immediately called back only to reach the answering machine informing me that business hours were from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Again I was disgusted and felt helpless. It was past business hours so there was no way to get any funds into my account. It was also too late to stop payment on my bills through bill pay because they were already pending. Since I teach during the district’s business hours, it was going to be impossible for me to call them to tell them to hold a check for me so that I could immediately deposit it into my account. That was absolutely absurd! I am a teacher. Did they expect me to tell my 6 year-old students to teach themselves while I waited for hours on hold in order to reach them before noon? The only way I could do this was to miss work. I did not want to do this but was left with no other choice. I had to frantically call substitutes and make lesson plans at the last minute. I was so frazzled that when I spoke to one of my regular subs and he asked if I was ok, I started to cry. Obviously, saying that this situation is stressful, is a huge understatement.

The next day I went to the district office and, of course, the paychecks were not ready and waiting to be “picked up” as they had mentioned on the message. Many hadn’t even been processed so I don’t know how many days I would have had to wait to get my 70 % had I not gone down there that day. I waited another 4 hours to receive another emergency check. I asked them why I didn’t receive a check this time since they said that the computer wouldn’t accept my hours this month. I was told to wait again while they printed my check. When another woman came to speak with me, I told her that I was upset about missing work and that I also insisted on her telling me why they say that I owe $8155. I was told that this was not their “top priority”. It is not their top priority because they don’t have to lie in bed night after night thinking about how they will pay their bills. It isn’t affecting their livelihood. I waited to receive my check and when I did I asked yet another LAUSD employee if she knew why I owed the money and if this was the reason why I didn’t get my check again. She said “Oh honey, don’t worry about the PPH, that isn’t even correct.” If the PPH isn’t correct, then why on Earth torment us by not informing us? It certainly would have been considerate, not to mention easy to send out a memo to inform us of this and at least give us a few peaceful nights sleep without worrying about the thousands and thousands of dollars that we supposedly owe. LAUSD does not seem to care how this is affecting every waking moment of our lives.

Payday used to be something to look forward to; now it is something that we dread. October 5th is only days away and already I am preparing myself for the very strong likelihood that I will have to go down again to the district office to beg for my money. I have reached the point where this is becoming overwhelming. You can see it on the teachers’ faces and in their body language. Teacher morale is definitely down. Work is not a happy place anymore. We don’t feel like we matter. We obviously don’t. We are being taken advantage of and this is because of our altruistic ways. Everybody knows that teachers don’t do their job for the money. But for goodness sake, we do have to eat, pay rent and live just like anyone else. We are not being paid but we go to work anyway. This is because we don’t want to hurt the children. This is who pays for all of this in the long run. By missing work, we don’t hurt the district, we hurt our students. We can’t concentrate on teaching because we are worried all the time. We miss school to get only a part of our hard earned paycheck. When we are not at work we have to make calls or go wait at the district office when we could be doing extra stuff for our students or taking care of ourselves and our families!! It is truly sad. In no other profession would someone go to work without being paid. It absolutely would NEVER happen. So why has this torture for LAUSD teachers been allowed to go on for nine months? ! When I think that I may have to wait until July of 2008, I feel frustrated and dismayed. What is this teaching our students? A former student of mine told his mother that he didn’t want to be a teacher when he grows up because he wouldn’t be able to take care of himself. This is heartbreaking. I know there are many teachers that have been more adversely affected than I have and I am here today to speak for them and to let you know that we matter and we deserve to be treated as human beings. Someone needs to speak out and I hope that someone will not only listen but do something to help us! You would not wish this to happen to any of your family, friends or loved ones. We shouldn’t have to wait any longer to get what we have earned. LAUSD needs to keep the good teachers it has and also attract new innovative ones. This will never happen if we continue this abuse. I already know of good teachers that are talking about leaving the district due to this payroll fiasco. I urge LAUSD to please do something NOW to wake us up from this nightmare.