The Boulder Valley School District’s transition to new business software, including new payroll and hiring systems, is proving to be challenging.
The new enterprise resource planning system, which the district began using in late March, is expected to modernize business services, human resources and information technology services systems while moving data to the cloud.
But the new payroll system, in particular, hasn’t worked as well as hoped, with “hundreds” of employees saying they’ve been paid less than they’re owed as a small district team works overtime to problem solving.
Superintendent Rob Anderson sent a letter to employees this week, apologizing for the problems and promising the district will continue to address them.
“While every ERP release is difficult, the BVSD release has been particularly tough,” he wrote. “We know it’s been a more difficult climb than expected and we recognize the huge impact it’s had on some of our employees. We also recognize that even though we’ve worked through thousands of tickets, some employees are still struggling Nowadays”.
The district created a help desk ticket system to resolve issues. In July, Anderson also directed staff members to immediately pay anyone who believed their pay was short, rather than waiting until the investigation was complete.
Lisa Larsen, an intensive special education paramedic and president of the Boulder Valley Paraeducator Association, said hourly workers must use the system to log in and out daily, and the system does not it always works, especially for those who work more than one job. Incorrect wages can also be more difficult for hourly workers, he said.
This week, he said, he helped out at a stall that didn’t get paid as much as he expected for his work from the summer school program and didn’t have enough to pay the rent.
“We’re the shortest people in the district,” he said. “The impact of not getting our full check really presents a lot of hardship in our daily lives. When you’re living check to check, it’s been really scary for people.”
He said district administrators have been helpful and quick to resolve issues when he calls to share union members’ concerns. But, he said, employees’ experiences after submitting help desk tickets have varied, creating frustration.
“I know from the district that this was not a bad intention,” he said. “It’s a problem with the system itself and how big it is. It’s a complicated system and change is difficult.”
He said more training sessions could also help resolve some issues related to using the new system. Employees previously saw a breakdown of their longevity and education bonus pay on their pay stub, he noted, but now they have to find it in the online system. The same thing happened with accrued free time.
“This is a big change,” he said.
Boulder Valley bus driver Sam Trueblood, secretary of 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 could not handle all job classifications and called for it to be thoroughly tested and for employees to be trained before it was rolled out.
“It appears that few of these requests were made,” he said. “When the system went live … the district was not ready.”
He said hundreds of hourly employees reported problems.
“In many cases, it took months to make the corrections,” he said, adding that some employees had to use savings or borrow from friends and family to pay bills while the errors were investigated. “BVSD cares is a message the district says often, but it just doesn’t feel that way from where we are.”
Maria Wilson, the enterprise resource planning software project manager, said the district spent several years planning a new system, then tested it in three rounds, lasting six to eight weeks each time and involving more than 100 people
“We learned a lot more after going live and realizing that some things weren’t working as well as we expected,” he said. “The tickets are going down every month as people learn the system and we make fixes. Our small team cares a lot.”
Chief Information Officer Frank Elmore added that the district’s payroll system is “incredibly complex.” Some employees work more than one job for the district. In addition, there are several ways that employees receive additional pay, including bonus pay and longevity and education bonus pay.
In total, the district has nearly 6,000 employees and nearly 200 different job classifications.
District officials said it has been “all hands on deck” as they work to fix problems and help employees navigate the new systems.
“We’re dedicated to getting it right,” Elmore said.