Between making his rounds at Ross/Woodward School, Darrell Barnes revved up his personal car, got on the highway, and drove 4.4 miles to the school board headquarters—all to deliver a piece of paper to ensure he gets paid.
Barnes (pictured), a security guard for the New Haven public schools, made that pilgrimage last Friday—just as he has every week for the past 10 years.
He’s not the only one: New Haven’s 74 school security guards make that trip every week as part of standard protocol, according to schools spokeswoman Abbe Smith. In addition, many part-time workers—such as teachers, teachers’ aides and speech pathologists—make the trek every two weeks.
Security guards are required to do so: If they don’t turn in their time sheets to headquarters every week by 8:30 a.m. Monday, they have to wait an extra week to get paid.
New Haven appears to be unusual in that regard: Officials at three nearby school districts said they do not make hourly-wage workers perform that trip; time sheets are bundled and sent by inter-office mail.
Will Clark, the school system’s chief operating officer, said security guards are required to do so to ensure the veracity of the time sheets and make sure they get in on time. He said the district is open to updating the system.
“If we could get these things to be more streamlined”—and use time clocks, for example—“I would be 100 percent in favor,” Clark said.
“There’s no great incentive to have people running around for no reason.”
The time-sheet requirement sent a stream of security guards driving through city streets Friday to 54 Meadow St., a private building that the school board rents for its main offices behind police headquarters.
Chris DeAngelo, a security guard at Nathan Hale, got into his Dodge Avenger and drove over the Tomlinson Bridge to deliver his time sheet. He said he has been making the weekly trip for 15 years.
“It’s a pain in the butt,” he said.
Security guards are allowed to make the trip during work hours. But finding the time can be tricky.
Greta Johnson (pictured) shot over to 54 Meadow St. between shifts at Strong School on Orchard Street and Augusta Lewis Troup School on Edgewood Avenue. The schools are just a few blocks away from each other. The errand added 2 1/2 miles to her trip.
“I could have gone straight there,” she said.
“If I didn’t have a car,” she added, “I’d be jacked up.”
The guards dropped their paper slips into a wooden box in the lobby of 54 Meadow St. The box (pictured at the top of this story) is decorated with little illustrations of school buses and headless cartoon security guards.
Johnson said some Fridays, amid her busy day of keeping kids safe at schools, she forgets to bring in her time sheet. If that happens, she has to rush in on a Monday morning before 8:30 a.m., when a staffer takes the time sheets away.
“It’s ridiculous. Like, really? It’s 2014. We have computers and phones and faxes. Why couldn’t we fax it in?”
Clark later replied that security guards are required to turn in the sheets by hand because there were some “issues” in the past with incorrect overtime figures that needed to be corrected after paychecks were already cut. He said the time sheets are required in general because security guards’ hours change so much. Some are “floaters” who move between several schools each week; others work overtime covering basketball games or other after-school activities.
Security guards make $16.97 per hour for the first 40 hours a week, then $25.24 for overtime hours, according to Lonnie Shealy (pictured), a security guard who sits on the executive board of his union, AFSCME Council 4 Local 884.
Shealy turned in his time sheet Friday between shifts at Hyde School in North Haven and King/Robinson in Newhallville. He said traffic on I-91 was “miserable. A mess.”
He said all security guards are “hating” the time-sheet requirement. “We burn our own gas to come over there.” And when they get to 54 Meadow, it can be “totally impossible” to find parking. The building has no public parking lot. It just has a row of metered spots outside the front entrance.
Shealy pulled into a metered handicapped parking spot Friday morning outside 54 Meadow, threw on the flashers in his Chevvy sedan, rushed in to drop off his sheet, and rushed back out. He said time sheets should not be required for workers who have regular shifts and don’t do overtime hours. Security guards check in anyway by radio, he said, so a supervisor knows if they showed up to work.
Security guards aren’t the only ones making the weekly trip.
Laquionna Kelley, a speech pathology assistant who works in several schools, arrived Friday afternoon to hand-deliver her time sheet.
“I have to physically come here on every other Friday,” she said. It’s inconvenient, she said, especially because she lives in Hamden.
Jose Lara (pictured), a part-time music teacher at Christopher Columbus School, drives every week from his school in Fair Haven to 54 Meadow to drop off his time sheet after his principal signs it. He said the trip has been difficult when the roads are congested due to snow.
“There could be a more efficient way to do it, but that’s what they require,” he said.
A quick survey of surrounding towns determined that other districts don’t require workers to personally schlep to their headquarters. In Bridgeport, most part-time and hourly-wage workers bundle their time sheets at their schools, where they are sent by inter-office mail, according to Maria Palumbo, who handles payroll support. She said part-time custodians fax theirs in. East Haven employs a courier to collect the time sheets from the schools, according to Lorraine Wentworth, a payroll account clerk. Hamden uses inter-office mail, too.
Clark said part-time staff have the option of using inter-office mail, too. A school board mailman named Pat Terrace (pictured) collects mail every day from all of the schools and brings it to 54 Meadow St. His pile of mail bins Friday included lots of time sheets, he said. Clark said some workers may choose not to use inter-office mail in order to guarantee delivery of the paper. Or they may have to physically go to 54 Meadow to get a supervisor’s signature, he said. (In Lara’s case, he said he gets his principal’s signature on his form before sending it in, and is required to bring the form directly to the music supervisor instead of using inter-office mail.)
Clark said the school district has made “great strides” in transitioning from paper to electronic systems. The permit programs, RFPs, budget reporting, accounts payable and purchase orders all recently went paperless, he said.
He said payroll for full-time school board employees is handled by the city; the school board handles paying part-time staff.
Asked why security guards can’t fax in their forms, Clark said not all security guards have access to fax machines, especially on weekends.
“I’m not suggesting there isn’t a better way to do it,” he said. “It may very well be that this is another area that is ripe for review and updating.”
Reached Thursday, Superintendent Garth Harries said he was not aware that staff were routinely bringing their time sheets in by hand.
Harries said the district is “trying to systematically go through” and streamline its bureaucratic processes. “Obviously we haven’t done that yet with the time sheets.”
“There could be a more efficient process,” he said.