The Boulder Valley School District’s switch to new business software, including new payroll and hiring systems, is proving challenging.
The new enterprise resource planning system, which the district began using at the end of March, is expected to modernize systems in business services, human resources and information technology services while moving data to the cloud.
But the new payroll system, especially, hasn’t worked as well as hoped, with “hundreds” of employees reporting they’ve been paid less than they’re owed as a small district team works extra hours to fix problems.
Superintendent Rob Anderson sent a letter to employees this week, apologizing for the problems and promising the district will continue addressing them.
“While every ERP launch is difficult, BVSD’s launch has been especially rough,” he wrote. “We know this has been a more difficult lift than expected and we recognize the tremendous impact this has had on some of our employees. We also recognize that while we have worked through thousands of tickets, some employees are still struggling with issues today.”
The district created a help desk ticket system to address concerns. In July, Anderson also directed staff members to pay anyone who thought their paycheck was short immediately, instead of waiting until an investigation was complete.
Lisa Larsen, an intensive special education para and president of the Boulder Valley Paraeducators Association, said hourly workers must use the system to log in and out daily — and the system doesn’t always work, especially for those working more than one job. Incorrect wages also can be more challenging for hourly workers, she said.
Just this week, she said, she helped a para who didn’t receive as much as expected for her summer school program work and didn’t have quite enough to pay rent.
“We’re the lowest paid people in the district,” she said. “The impact of not getting our full check really presents a lot of difficulties in our daily lives. When you’re living check to check, it has been very scary for people.”
She said district administrators have been helpful and quick to problem solve when she calls to share concerns of union members. But, she said, the experiences for employees after submitting help desk tickets have varied, creating frustration.
“I know from the district, this was not ill intent,” she said. “It’s an issue with the system itself and how large it is. It is a complicated system and change is hard.”
She said more training sessions also might help address some issues around using the new system. Employees previously saw a breakdown of their extra pay for longevity and education on their pay stub, she noted, but now must find it in the online system. The same was true for accrued time off.
“This is a big shift,” she said.
Boulder Valley bus driver Sam Trueblood, secretary for the Boulder Valley Classified Employees Association, also shared problems with the system at a recent school board meeting. He said his union was concerned the system couldn’t handle all the job classifications and asked that it be thoroughly tested and employees trained before it was rolled out.
“It appears a few of these requests were done,” he said. “When the system went live … the district was not prepared.”
He said hundreds of hourly employees reported problems.
“In many cases, it was taking months for corrections,” he said, adding some employees had to use money from savings or ask friends and families for loans to pay bills while the errors were investigated. “BVSD cares is a message the district often says, but it just doesn’t feel that way from where we’re standing.”
Maria Wilson, the enterprise resource planning software project manager, said the district spent several years planning for a new system, then tested it in three rounds, spending six to eight weeks each time and involving more than 100 people.
“We learned a lot more after going live and realizing some things didn’t work as well as we expected them to,” she said. “The tickets are going down each month as people learn the system and we make fixes. Our small team cares a lot.”
Chief Information Officer Frank Elmore added the district’s payroll system is “amazingly complex.” Some employees work more than one job for the district. Plus, there are multiple ways employees receive additional pay, including extra duty pay and additional pay for longevity and education.
Altogether, the district has close to 6,000 employees and almost 200 different job classifications.
District officials said it has been “all hands on deck” as they work to fix issues and help employees navigate the new systems.
“We’re dedicated to getting this right,” Elmore said.