By Louise Scott
It was Friday the 13th and time to get paid, but employees at the Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) were hit with bad luck. They left work without a paycheck and were forced to wait for days without being compensated.
GCSC President Antuwan Clemons said the district did not make payroll last Friday, but employees should not have been surprised. He said the district warned everyone at least a year in advance. “We knew this day was going to come.”
Clemons went on to say when he was elected to the school board many predicted there would be payroll problems, but they made it this far anyway.
“There was an outside auditor that said there was no way possible that we could make payroll, but we did everything possible to make it. We did everything from closing buildings to reducing the administration and staff tremendously. If you look at the layoffs we just made, currently there are only three people running the district. They are the superintendent, the assistant superintendent and the executive director of student services. Those three people have the responsibility of running a district the size of 5,500 students. We were warned that this was coming.”
When the payroll problem grew imminent, Clemons stated the community and media organizations were warned about employees not being paid on time. He said, “In the last pay period, there was a letter in an envelope where we told the staff that if monies weren’t available that they would miss this payroll and would receive it on Monday. We gave them a two-week notice. No one got paid. Not a board member, not the superintendent. No paychecks were cut on Friday.”
Payroll for the school district is approximately $1.6 million every two weeks. Clemons said this month was hard because there were three pay periods in the month of May. He was not sure how much they were short in making payroll.
Clemons mentioned that the district’s monthly state distribution was used to be able to make payroll on Monday. He said because of the situation, he did not hear complaints from employees about the delayed paychecks; however, some employees called the week that warning letters were sent out.
“We’ve been very open with the Teacher’s Union president and the staff. At a board meeting, a question came up from some of the maintenance staff about outsourcing, but I went public and said we have to do what we have to do right now because we have no money. I get a call from the superintendent and Jack Martin, the state-appointed financial adviser, every two weeks saying that we may not make payroll. Those calls did not go unwarranted,” said Clemons.