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Disgruntled SF Teachers Refuse To Leave District Headquarters; 'Last Night Was Just The Beginning'

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Nearly two dozen San Francisco teachers remained entrenched inside the public school district headquarters Tuesday, pledging not to leave until a computer glitch that has led to missing or partial paychecks is corrected.

The teachers, armed with sleeping bags and food, moved into the San Francisco Unified Districts offices last night. Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews eventually showed up and began with an apology.

"There is no way that any of you should have had to come down here with sleeping bags to say 'pay us,' that just shouldn't happen," Matthews said.

But when UESF union president Cassondra Curiel demanded the problems be fixed by the Wednesday pay period, Matthews replied in was a work in progress.

"To hear that the system is getting fixed, there is just so much trust lost in the system itself and how it operates that it's just one of those situations that you're only going to believe it when you see it," Curiel said. "But, we can't rely on that - we can't wait to believe our paycheck is going to come."

The teachers then settled in for the night, unrolling their sleeping bags and awoke Tuesday determined to continue their 'sleep in.'

"Last night was just the beginning," Curiel said in a news release. "We will stay as long as it takes for SFUSD to pay every educator what they are owed...In the new year, educators and other district workers have been unpaid and underpaid as well as benefits and other pay-related issues. Yet we still show up to work because we care for our students and love our communities."

Teacher Frank Lara echoed those sentiments.

"Apologies don't pay the rent," Lara said. "So, we are continuing the occupation because there hasn't been a set deadline to meet our demands."

Among the protesters was first grade teacher Cari Cymanski.

"I teach my students to stand up for themselves, and that's what I'm doing here, standing up for myself and hundreds of other educators who are not being paid," she said. "I have to be here because no one in this office is taking accountability."

The issues with paychecks began when the district transitioned to a new payroll system in January. Matthews said 15 extra district employees were now trying to get teachers paid and sort out the computer system mess. District officials have cut over 800 off-cycle checks, but there were still more waiting on payment.

"As we heard last night from management, it's always tomorrow sometime soon," Cymanski said. "We're here to say it's not tomorrow anymore it's today."

Anger over the paycheck issue was being further inflamed by notices of future layoffs also being issued by the district. In the wake of anticipated financial shortfalls next year, layoff notices went out Tuesday to 151 teachers, counselors and social workers, as well as 51 top-level managers and 62 other staffers.

"There people not getting paid, who are getting layoff notices at the same time," said special education teacher Chris Clauss. "Can you just imagine how frustrating it is to not only be worried about your paycheck next year but also what's going to be your paycheck this year."

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