Minneapolis teachers speak out about continuing payroll snafus

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A standing-room-only crowd of about 100 Minneapolis teachers packed Tuesday’s meeting of the Minneapolis School Board to voice concerns about continuing mix-ups resulting from a new payroll system implemented earlier this year

“Everyone knows this has been a nightmare,” said Brian Nutter, a Roosevelt High School shop teacher and member of Minneapolis Federation of Teachers Local 59. “Are we going to continue to throw millions of dollars at the [payroll] system and take those dollars out of my classroom?”

The new SAP payroll system, imposed by the District in January without any consultation with the teachers union, cost $8-$9 million to implement. Since then, teachers and other school district employees have reported missed paychecks, overpayments or underpayments, and thousands of dollars in unexplainable deductions from their checks.

To make matters worse, the new “paperless” system provides paychecks without traditional pay-stubs detailing the amounts paid.

“I could not decipher right from wrong on my paycheck,” Nutter said.

A parade of MFT Local 59 teachers told School Board members about their problems with the new payroll system.

“The last three weeks have been a nightmare for me,” said Tracy Land, a Folwell Middle School social studies teacher who returned from a leave of absence this fall. She did not receive a paycheck and instead received a notice that she owed the district $42,000. “I’m supposed to get a check on Friday,” she said. “I’m supposed to count on it. Something has to be done.”

“I can’t figure out what I’m being paid, I can’t figure out my taxes, I can’t figure out what’s going to my retirement,” said Joan Schoenecker, a science teacher at Southwest High School. Plus, she added, “every once in a while my husband and my daughter get dropped from my health insurance.”

“I don’t think anyone understands how time-consuming and demoralizing this system has been,” said Anita Rentz, a kindergarten teacher at Bryn Mawr.

Teachers face enough challenges in the classroom, teachers said, without having to worry about whether or not they will be paid on time and be paid the correct amount.

The new payroll system uses computer software from Siemens Business Systems, a German company. Siemens consultants have been working to address the software’s problems, said Dan Loewenson, interim executive director of human resources for the Minneapolis Schools.

“We’re going to need a little more time to fix the whole thing,” he told the School Board.

Some of the problems were “human errors,” Loewenson explained, while some problems resulted from transferring data from the old computerized payroll system to the new system.

“I don’t think a huge technological change like this would be without any problems,” said Joe Erickson, School Board chair.

Minneapolis Schools superintendent Bill Green announced that he has set Jan. 31, 2007, as a deadline for the problems to be fixed and for the new system to be working at maximum capacity and efficiency.

“This has been an incredibly frustrating process for everyone,” said School Board member Peggy Flanagan. “Jan. 31 is an opportunity for us to say to Siemens, ‘this isn’t working. We’ve got to hold you accountable.’”

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