Teacher sickout at George Washington High in San Francisco

Teachers are calling in sick at George Washington High School in San Francisco on Wednesday in an effort to send a message to the district about recent pay issues.  

A letter sent out to students and parents on Tuesday from one of the teachers, said: "We love our students… but love doesn’t pay the rent."

Teachers’ pay has been an ongoing issue with the San Francisco Unified District for almost a year now. 

The district's new payroll system has been full of problems since it launched in January, where some teachers weren’t getting paid the correct amount and some weren’t getting paid at all. Many of the issues have been fixed, but teachers say some teachers are still receiving the wrong pay.

There were rallies and sit-ins, including three nights in March where dozens of teachers slept in the district building in protest.  

Andre Higginbotham, the teacher who wrote the letter to families at Washington High, said issues started even before the new system launched, and he hasn’t been paid at all for teaching an evening class for nearly the entire school year.

Chris Clauss, a special education teacher and member of the Union Building Committee at Washington High, has been trying to help her co-workers deal with the payroll issues each month. She said teachers are feeling tired, frustrated and demoralized.

Clauss said one employee's recent pay stub is especially shocking. 

"She's a really young teacher, so she's already not getting paid very much as it is. And she got a -$28,000 line on her pay stub that brought her gross pay to -$20,000. And this is the third time in four months that this has happened," said Clauss. "She came to school and it was heartbreaking. I share an office with her and that's the thing that has affected me personally, is there's nothing I can do."

Last week, the district launched a call center for staff to call for help with the payroll system, saying stabilizing the system is the district’s top priority. But Clauss said many educators who called reported that they were directed to submit additional online help tickets and that their issues were not resolved by the call center.

In September, the district got help from a consulting firm to try to clear the backlog of payroll issues.  

Clauss said of the about 160 staff at Washington High, about 50-60 staff members were planning on calling in sick Wednesday. 

A district spokesperson said: "We are monitoring the situation. Student safety is our priority, and we are actively working to ensure there is sufficient staffing. We will notify families immediately if there are changes to the school day."

The educators who called in sick will be joined by educators from other San Francisco schools at a rally outside the school district offices at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. 

There will also be a vigil for Eddy Alarcon. The long-time SFUSD paraeducator died in September. Clauss said he died of cancer after learning his health benefits had been cut for the second time in 2022.