Scores of angry D.C. summer school employees crowded the payroll offices of school headquarters for hours yesterday complaining that their paychecks were either missing, or short hundreds of dollars.
School officials scurried to recheck records and--where possible--issue new checks. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman ordered sandwiches for the teachers, social workers and aides and stopped by between meetings to check on them. But the employees, most of whom were expecting lump-sum payments for the six-week summer school session, were not placated.
"I feel like it's a slap in the face," said Byron Nichols, a teacher at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School near Union Station, who calculated that his $2,600 paycheck was about $700 short. "I work hard with my students. My efforts in the classroom are not being affirmed."
Brenda Arrington, a social worker who worked with special education students at three schools, could find no trace of the check she was hoping to use to repair her car, take a short vacation and buy school clothes and supplies for her son.
"I guess those things won't get done," Arrington said. "Or we'll borrow money, or whatever we have to do."
Ackerman said paychecks for some teachers who had transferred to new schools were mistakenly sent to their old schools. Other teachers were improperly registered in payroll computers. Many said they were paid for too few hours, or taxed more than they should have been.
"People are upset, and you can understand how they would be," Ackerman said. "But nobody's not going to get paid."
School officials said 175 to 200 people reported problems yesterday, while about 3,000 were paid correctly. Eighty employees who hadn't been paid were cut checks on the spot, but some were told it would take time for them to be fully reimbursed.
Such payroll problems have long plagued the District school system. Although they lessened somewhat this past school year, many teachers are still awaiting resolution of longtime pay disputes.
Adding to teacher frustrations is the fact that their pay raise, retroactive to October, took weeks to work its way through the school system's various oversight entities before winning final approval last month from the D.C. financial control board.
In a separate matter, Ackerman yesterday staved off a court challenge by agreeing to inform all principals in the 146-school system that students living with D.C. residents who are not their legal guardians are still eligible for enrollment.
Attorneys had planned to seek a temporary restraining order in D.C. Superior Court to force the school system to allow two women to enroll their grandchildren in school. The grandmothers are caring for the children but do not have legal custody of them.
Court papers said that 1990 census figures show about 27,000 D.C. children being reared by people other than their parents, many without a formal legal arrangement. After the school system toughened its proof-of-residency requirements last year, attorneys for the two grandmothers said, some principals turned such families away. The attorneys have sought a resolution with the school system for months.
Just before the hearing was to begin, Ackerman agreed to tell principals that any caregivers who cannot prove legal guardianship should be sent to school headquarters to enroll students. She said she would recommend a new policy as soon as possible for approval by the control board.