In the wake of a payroll sorting error that impacted 110 Spring ISD employees, the district addressed teachers’ concerns and announced the resignation of its human resources chief March 29.

What happened: Some SISD teachers who received a $2,000-$5,000 stipend based on years of experience during the 2022-23 school year were either overpaid by $1,500 or $3,000 in October due to a payroll sorting error. Out of 364 teachers who received a Teacher Effectiveness Incentive stipend, 110 were overpaid or underpaid, Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said.

Teachers who were underpaid have now received the full amount, according to SISD officials. Over 19 paychecks, teachers who were overpaid are being asked to pay back the surplus by December.

The impact: SISD employee Tabitha Lett was one of three teachers to address administrators and trustees during a March 29 special meeting.

“As a dedicated educator, I will continue to do my best to support my students, but I no longer believe that SISD will do their best to support me,” Lett said.

Lett said she received notice she had to begin paying back the Teacher Effectiveness Incentive overpayment March 25, but this was not the first time payroll had mishandled her paycheck; Lett said her wages have been garnished since October due to another payroll error, which left her struggling to pay mortgage, utilities, groceries and medical care.

What they’re saying: The over and underpayments were made due to a processing error, according to SISD. State law requires the district to recover the funds that were incorrectly paid out, Westbrooks said.

“The district cannot gift public funds, and ... as stewards of taxpayer dollars, we're operating with public funds. We have to recoup any funds that were incorrectly paid to employees,” Westbrooks said.

What's next: Julie Hill has resigned as SISD’s chief of human resources, with her last day being March 24, according to the district.
  • SISD began accepting applications for a new HR chief March 29, and leaders are now looking for someone who “not only has experience in education, but also experience in the personnel side" according to SISD Superintendent Lupita Hinojosa.
  • In the interim, the district’s HR department will be under the leadership of Westbrooks.
Quote of note: “I'm sorry, to our teachers, that we made a mistake,” Hinojosa said. “As humans, as employees, whether we're in the central office or out in the schools, we are doing our very best to ensure that every teacher that deserves their incentive is getting it. Nothing was done intentionally.”

Major takeaways: If teachers cannot afford to pay back the stipend overpayments by December, they can:
  • Reach out to SISD’s payroll department to discuss options and/or;
  • File for a 0% interest loan through the district’s SAFE Loan program.
As of March 29, SISD leaders said that four employees had reached out asking for more time to pay back the stipend error.