The Portland Public School District has failed to pay some of its hourly employees on time in recent weeks and the district may have to cancel some bus routes, Superintendent Xavier Botana told the school board during a meeting Tuesday night.

Botana attributed both matters to staffing issues but provided few other details.

He said the concern about having to cancel bus routes is due to staff turnover and absences. Botana did not say what the turnover has been or how many school bus routes might have to be canceled and for how long or how frequently, but said that the school district is in a “precarious situation.”

He said that should the situation become severe enough to warrant it, the district might stagger school day start and end times to allow for fewer bus drivers to transport more students to and from school.

The struggle to pay hourly employees stems from a loss of three payroll staff over the past four months, Botana said. He said the staff currently managing payroll are not yet fully acquainted with some of the intricacies in the system and therefore the district has failed to get some hourly staff their paychecks on time.

This has been an issue over the past three pay periods, Botana said. He did not say how many staff have been impacted, but that most or all of the employees who have gone without paychecks are those who hold more than one position with different salaries, who are paid stipends on top of hourly pay or who otherwise are paid in a way that is complicated for payroll to manage. Botana did not say how long it took the district to pay those who did not get their paychecks on time.


Portland education technician union President Jennifer Cooper did not respond to a request for comment on this issue. Education technicians, bus drivers and custodians are paid hourly.

Botana last week sent an email to a number of hourly staff last week apologizing for not paying them on time.

“Dear PPS Staff member, I am writing to you tonight to first apologize for the delay in paying you. Our team has logged your concerns and has been working to correct them,” he wrote. “I am happy to let you know that today we issued a check with your name on it. Because we did not do that before banks closed and with the holiday looming, we printed hard checks. I have a check and will be in the Central Office tomorrow between 3:00 and 5:00 to hand it to you if that helps. Otherwise, we will bring it to your school/department on Monday. Again, please accept my apology and I hope to see you tomorrow (and if not, have a good long weekend).

Since the spring, the district has been working to partner with an outside company to manage payroll processing.

In a previous email conversation with board Chair Emily Figdor regarding payroll, Figdor said that the district is in the final stages of moving to a payroll processing company.

“Though we’re a big organization, and the transition takes time,” said Figdor.

Botana said he realized that this issue is placing the highest burden on some of the district’s lowest-paid staff and that he recognizes the issue is problematic but that most of the district’s 1,500 employees get paid without problems.

Botana said the district is working “tirelessly,” to address the problem and create long-term solutions.

“I apologize for this great inconvenience to our staff members,” he said.

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