SFUSD educators hold 'sleep-in' inside school district offices to demand payment

Twenty San Francisco Unified School District educators slept inside the district's offices on Monday night to demand that the district pay them, as hundreds of teachers and other staff members have gone unpaid or only received partial paychecks since January.

The group and dozens of their supporters -- all members of the labor union United Educators of San Francisco -- held a rally on Monday afternoon demanding the district issue their paychecks immediately.   The educators have said because of the payment issue, they've been unable to pay rent, medical bills, and other necessities.

During a Tuesday morning briefing held inside the district headquarters' third floor administration offices, the group said that although they were able to meet with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on Monday evening, the educators have still not been paid.

"What is happening in the underpayment, nonpayment of our staff is completely unacceptable, and I will fully commit to working with the superintendent until every person, every staff member is completely paid," SFUSD Board of Education president Jenny Lam said at the briefing. "This is just inexcusable and we must resolve this now."

Teacher and UESF member Frank Lara, one of the 20 who spent the night inside the offices, acknowledged Matthews' dedication to fixing the issue, but said, "Apologies don't pay the rent. So, we are continuing the occupation because there hasn't been a set deadline to meet our demands."

In addition, the group said it will take over the Board of Education's chambers on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to hold a "People's Board of Education" meeting.   Several city officials have shown support for the unpaid educators, including multiple city supervisors, Board of Education commissioners, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

SFUSD officials have admitted that hundreds of teachers and other staff members have not gotten paid since January but attributed the error to a recent change by the district to a new payroll system. Previously, the district had used the same system for the last 17 years.

Matthews said in a statement on Monday the district is working diligently on correcting the issue, including adding at least ten more staff members to its payroll department to help investigate and solve the issue.

"In spite of a lot of preparation, there are serious payroll related issues that have arisen since transitioning to a new employee information system. This is inexcusable and should not have happened," he said. "It is SFUSD's responsibility to pay its employees accurately and on time. We deeply apologize to every employee who has experienced a delay in payment. I have asked our chief technology officer to move to this project 100 percent until further notice. We are committed to resolving this emergency as quickly as possible. Every staff member will be paid the money they are owed."

The payment issues come as the district and the San Francisco Board of Education are mulling laying off hundreds of teachers and other staff to balance the budget for the upcoming school year as the district faces a $125 projected budget shortfall.

SFUSD officials said the while hundreds of staff members have been affected, the majority of the district's more than 10,000 employees have been paid correctly.

UESF officials have said they plan to file a lawsuit if the payment issue isn't remedied.