The Boulder Valley School District’s move to new business software, including a new payroll and recruiting system, proved challenging.
The new enterprise resource planning system, which went live at the end of March, is expected to modernize business services, human resources and information technology services systems while migrating data to the cloud.
But the new payroll system in particular isn’t working as well as expected, with “hundreds” of employees reporting being paid less than they should as a small regional team worked overtime to fix the problem.
Superintendent Rob Anderson sent a letter to staff this week apologizing for the issues and promising the district will continue to address them.
“While every ERP launch is difficult, BVSD launches are especially difficult,” he wrote. “We know this is a more difficult escalation than expected, and we recognize that this has had a huge impact on some of our employees. We also recognize that while we have processed thousands of tickets, some employees are still grappling with them today. question.”
The district created a help desk ticketing system to resolve the issue. In July, Anderson also directed staff to pay anyone who believes they are underpaid immediately, rather than waiting until the investigation is complete.
Lisa Larsen, president of the Boulder Valley Auxiliary Educators Association, an intensive special education officer, said hourly workers must log in and out using the system every day — and it doesn’t always work, Especially for those who work more than one job. Incorrect wages are also more challenging for hourly workers, she said.
Just this week, she said, she helped a disabled person whose income from her summer school program fell short of expectations and didn’t have enough money to pay her rent.
“We are the lowest earners in the region,” she said. “The impact of not getting a full checkup really creates a lot of difficulty in our day-to-day lives. When you’re alive to check it out, it’s pretty scary for people.”
She said district managers have been helpful and swiftly resolved when she called for the sharing of union members’ concerns. But, she said, employees had varying experiences after submitting help desk tickets, creating frustration.
“I knew from the school district that it wasn’t malicious,” she said. “It’s a matter of the system itself and its scale. It’s a complex system and it’s hard to change.”
More training sessions may also help address some of the issues with using the new system, she said. She noted that employees previously saw a breakdown of the extra pay they paid for longevity and education on the payslip, but now had to find it in the online system. The same goes for accrued vacation time.
“It’s a big shift,” she said.
Boulder Valley bus driver Sam Trueblood, secretary of the Boulder Valley Classified Employees Association, also shared issues with the system at a recent school board meeting. He said his union was concerned the system would not be able to handle all job classifications and demanded that it be thoroughly tested and staff trained before it was rolled out.
“It appears that these requests are rarely fulfilled,” he said. “When the system went live… the district wasn’t ready.”
Hundreds of hourly workers reported problems, he said.
“In many cases, it takes months to correct mistakes,” he said, adding that some employees had to tap their savings or take out loans to friends and family to pay bills while errors were investigated. “BVSD cares is a message that school districts often say, but from where we’re at, it doesn’t feel that way.”
Maria Wilson, an enterprise resource planning software program manager, said the district spent several years planning a new system, which was then tested in three rounds of six to eight weeks with more than 100 participants.
“We learned a lot after going live and realized that some things didn’t work out the way we expected,” she said. “Tickets are going down every month as people learn the system and we fix it. Our small team cares a lot.”
Chief information officer Frank Elmore added that the payroll system in the region is “very complex.” Some employees work more than one job for the district. Additionally, employees can earn additional compensation in a number of ways, including additional job compensation and additional compensation for longevity and education.
In total, the region has nearly 6,000 employees and nearly 200 different job categories.
District officials said they have been “going all out” to fix the problem and help employees navigate the new system.
“We’re committed to doing that,” Elmore said.