Sunday, August 28, 2016

Taking a Hit






These are not just random numbers. These are dollar amounts that Howard County teachers were missing out of their paychecks this week because of an accounting error in the HCPSS payroll department. Would you be able to cover a loss this big without adequate warning? Most Howard County teachers don't earn enough to be able to take that kind of a hit.

Howard County Times covers this briefly, but read the comments, too, to get a clearer picture of what actually occurred.

It is the job of the people who handle HCPSS payroll to manage two different pay schedules: one that pays over ten months, and one that pays over twelve months. Most school systems throughout the country offer both options as a way of responding to teachers' need to have a steady paycheck year round. If you are in the business of making payroll decisions, you should have the ability to work out things like the length of the teacher contract, the dates that the school year begins and ends.

This is basic payroll stuff.

A truly good hr/payroll department prides itself on doing the best possible work for employees. And for many years it has been handled without difficulty by the HCPSS payroll department. But not this year.

Somebody somewhere screwed up. And instead of owning their mistake and trying to make it right, Central Office is trying to throw blame anywhere rather than acknowledge it. The lack of transparency in how all this went down is mind-boggling. In a comment from the HoCoTimes article, a teacher states:

I would like to clarify a part of this article that I think is very important. It is stated that teachers were notified that their paychecks would be smaller on August 12th. This is a misleading statement. On August 12th, teachers received an email that their pay would be effected, but if they were enrolled in benefits, the fact that teachers do no pay for healthcare over the summer would offset the deficit. The school system even included a graphic that showed an experienced teacher who was enrolled in benefits would receive a paycheck of $100 more than the school year, NOT LESS. It was not until around noon on the August 26th payday that another email was sent out with a REVISED graphic that showed a paycheck of about $300 less. This new updated graphic contained no further explanation about the sudden decrease in pay. So NO TEACHER in Howard county knew that their pay would be cut this much for TWO paychecks. Please update your article to reflect the accurate communication that occurred.

We are about to begin the school year. Teachers have been working long hours to prepare classrooms and lessons, often well-beyond contracted hours. Many have been purchasing materials out of their own money because HCPSS has cut their Materials of Instruction budgets. What message are we sending our teachers as they undertake the most important work in our investment in the future of our community?

You don't matter.

Your work has no value.

You are not worthy of respect.

Would you do this to an employee? Would you want it to happen to you?

The people in charge of the Howard County Schools are stripping our school system of value like slumlords. The money we pay in taxes is being misdirected away from schools, students, and teachers, and the overly top-heavy Central Office staff has seemingly lost a sense of responsibility to those they are meant to serve.

This year's school board election is a referendum on whether we, as a community, are going to continue to allow that to happen.


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