Unified School Board Member Speaks Out on Payroll Debacle

Unified School Board Member Speaks Out on Payroll Debacle

Missing paychecks are upsetting a lot of teachers. Unified school district administrators continue to scramble for ways to help employees transition to a new payroll system.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Missing paychecks are upsetting a lot of teachers. Unified school district administrators continue to scramble for ways to help employees transition to a new payroll system.

"It would be foolish to act as if though everything is hunky dory when it's not. I mean this is a very serious matter when you're messing with people's money. Everybody needs their money," said Unified School Board member Kenneth Whalum.

Kenneth Whalum said he understands why Shelby County school employees are upset over a missing paycheck. Unified school district administrators are trying to combine Memphis and Shelby county payroll schedules. Their plan would eliminate the practice of paying Shelby county employees in advance, and that would cause them to miss a paycheck.

"I do not blame my suburban colleagues for being so forceful in their reaction to this," said Whalum.

Many of the upset teachers and other employees say they can't afford to miss a check. In a letter to school board members, Interim Superintendent Dorsey Hopson, says county employees were paid in advance, sometimes for days they didn't work, which is a practice he wants to eliminate.

Hopson also says the payroll issue and other technical decisions were "bottlenecked" because of disagreements between former Superintendents Kriner Cash and John Aitken. Hopson says the responsibility is now his to make sure decisions are properly made and implemented.

Through all of this, Whalum questions the whereabouts of Special Master Rick Masson.

"I will say that if the Special Master would intervene as he has the authority to intervene, if he had intervened earlier, I am certain we could have avoided this. I'm certain we could have," said Kenneth Whalum.

For now letters have been sent informing employees of different options. The first option: spreading out their July checks over three pay periods to receive a check on August 2nd. The second: not receiving a check on August 2nd but getting one August 16th; this would be the first check from the unified district.

"I truly think that the superintendent and the staff and the teachers and the administrators and the parents are doing the very best they possibly can do, but you can't make chicken salad out of chicken… I mean, it just is what it is, and I mean it's a terribly unfortunate situation," said Whalum.

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