Recent headlines from various sources have raised concerns about the San Diego Unified School District's (SDUSD) timekeeping and absence tracking procedures. On one hand, the district faces criticism in the aftermath of an internal audit revealing thousands of hours that employees were paid without supporting documentation, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Meanwhile, a federal investigation found that the school district failed to recognize requests for family or medical leave that were protected by law, according to a separate San Diego Union-Tribune article. These issues have surfaced amid allegations of time card fraud involving a sergeant in the district's school police department.
The findings of the timekeeping audit, which focused on the 2021-2022 school year, showed over 3,000 absence hours and almost 500 work hours lacking necessary documentation across 12 schools and 10 departments within SDUSD. Members of the district's audit and finance committee called the timekeeping system inefficient and "ripe for fraud," according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
At the same time, a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor discovered that SDUSD had misclassified some employees' absences as leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). As a result, the district has since reformed its policies and procedures to comply with the law, as reported by San Diego Union-Tribune.
Beyond timekeeping matters, the San Diego Unified School District is also working on expanding its community schools initiative, aiming to transform schools to better support students by offering on-site services like healthcare, food pantries, and more, according to a recent inewsource report. The goal of this initiative is to improve attendance and enrollment, addressing issues such as poverty and food insecurity, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the audit findings, federal investigation, and community school concerns converge, questions remain about the San Diego Unified School District's ability to solve these problems while maintaining financial stability and providing quality education services for its students. The district has pledged to sustain the community schools initiatives even if funding expires, despite currently projecting significant deficits for the coming years, per an inewsource article.
For now, it seems that SDUSD is taking steps to address its timekeeping and leave policy issues while working to improve and expand its community schools program. With a new module being piloted to address timekeeping problems, a revised FMLA policy, and efforts to roll out more community schools in the district, SDUSD is demonstrating a commitment to rectifying these issues. However, only time will tell if these measures will be enough to solve the district's problems and restore faith in its operations.