Missing compensation for coaches, event sponsors is a ‘blow to finances, morale’ for some Shawnee Mission teachers

SM East band director Alex Toepfer said the paycheck error was a hit on morale for him and others affected.

An error accounting for supplemental contract compensation led to the paychecks of hundreds of Shawnee Mission School District employees being smaller than they should have been last week — and the issue has taken a toll on the morale of some district staff.

National Education Association-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck addressed the board of education about the error at its Monday meeting, saying that NEA-SM members who should have received additional pay for their work as coaches, activity sponsors and music directors noticed their checks were short when payroll went out September 20. It was the first paycheck under this school year’s contract calendar.

“They received no communication from the district to explain why they were not paid, and the only way employees learned about this was to examine their paychecks,” Sieck told the board.

Sieck estimates that around 300 supplemental contracts — about 25 percent of the total number of supplemental contracts issued in a given school year — were not processed in the Sept. 20 payroll.

“This is unacceptable,” Sieck told the board. “Teachers and other certified staff depend on the income from these positions. As a result of not receiving the supplemental, individuals may not be able to make scheduled payments, incurring late fees and interest through no fault of their own.”

SM East band director Alex Toepfer was among the district staff affected by the error. He told the board that the error had led to his paycheck being 20 percent smaller than it should have been, which forced him to make financial accommodations he wasn’t planning on.

“When I see my paycheck and I see I’m not being paid for the work that I’m doing, it hurts and it affects me personally,” Toepfer said. “It was kind of a blow to my finances, but also to my morale as a teacher. I get up every day very early with a smile on my face because I get to work in a district like this with such amazing students. I have been held to a very high level of performance and professionalism in my job. And I expect that from everybody that I work with.”

Superintendent Mike Fulton took ownership for the district’s error, apologizing to the teachers affected and saying that they were working to correct the issue “as quickly as possible.”

“I apologize that this happened,” he said. “It shouldn’t have occurred. But it did.”

Fulton said the district hoped to get communication out to the affected teachers in the coming days, including the proposed timeline for making up the unpaid compensation.

Toepfer and others have requested that the district make the affected employees whole with a single payment instead of spreading the unpaid supplemental installment that should have gone out Sept. 20 over a number of future paychecks.

Chief Communications Officer David Smith said after Monday’s meeting that the issue with correcting the error was a technical one, and not reflective of an inability to make the payments due to lack of funds. Payroll staff are working to figure out how to get all of the supplemental contracts accounted for in the system and how to process the missed payments once all the contracts have been entered.