As many as 90% of Lowell High School teachers, and perhaps a third of the student body, staged a sickout Wednesday over the still-faulty payroll system that is ironically called “EMPower.”

Even the crown jewel of the San Francisco Unified School District, Lowell High School, is not immune to the ongoing teacher payroll debacle that has now stunningly gone for nearly a year with little resolution. Teachers and staff not getting paid, or being underpaid, is affecting schools across the district, due to highly buggy rollout of a payroll system ironically called “EMPower.” But Lowell teachers took a drastic step Wednesday and staged a sickout in  protest of the ongoing payroll problems.

It’s unclear just how many teachers or students refused to show, but it was obviously a large majority. Mission Local estimated Wednesday morning that “Perhaps 80 percent of Lowell’s educators — some 120 out of 149 — are expected to be calling in sick today.” The Chronicle had updated numbers Wednesday afternoon where a district spokesperson “confirmed a preliminary count that 90% of Lowell’s staff of 183 had taken sick days Wednesday and 1,000 students, out of a student body of 2,700, had also stayed home.”

There was a previous sickout in early November that spanned multiplier schools district-wide.

Per the Chron, there was advance notice this was coming. Lowell principal Dr. Michael O. Jones informed parents in a letter that he expected 90% of the teachers to call in sick that day, and that there would not be enough substitutes. The Chronicle notes that parents were told students would “congregate in the main building for a day of educational activities.”

Teachers, meanwhile, went to district headquarters to confront new superintendent Dr. Matt Wayne, and they got their wish. “We had a long conversation. It was extremely frank and productive and I think we all gained a lot from doing it,” Lowell math teacher Elizabeth Statmore told the Chronicle. “This was 50 teachers from the Lowell faculty so we were able to give him more of a systemic understanding of the impact of the payroll management crisis than he has gotten before.”

It seems odd how the school board recall drama generated so much outrage, compared to so little outrage over this stunning, ongoing disaster. This payroll fiasco has now lasted nearly a year, has covered two superintendents, and effectively two different school boards. According to Mission Local, “More than 3,000 employees of the San Francisco Unified School District have been underpaid, unpaid or mispaid since the district switched to its new $16+ million EmPowerSF payroll and human resources program at the beginning of 2022.”

Related: SF Teachers Camp Outside School District Headquarters, Demanding Missed Paychecks [SFist]

Image: Robin Y. via Yelp