Gardiner Area School Board votes to approve $250 gift cards for district employees

GARDINER — Principals of Maine School Administrative District 11 voted unanimously Thursday night to approve a memorandum of understanding for all district employees to receive 15 days of COVID-19-related sick leave, a half-day for employees on certain days of early release and a $250 gift card.

The agreement, also known as a memorandum of understanding, includes all district employees, union and non-union, and was developed through the negotiation process at the December 11 MSAD business meeting. At that time, the Memorandum of Understanding had not yet been completed, but the Board unanimously expressed support for the document and gave Superintendent Pat Hopkins approval to move forward so that can be finished before the winter holidays.

The MOU was created for two reasons – to show the District that the Board of Directors recognizes and appreciates how staff have gone “above and beyond” over the past two years of the pandemic and also because a state law that granted school district employees 15 COVID-19 related sick leave expired in October. The memorandum of understanding would replenish sick days for employees to use this school year until June 30.

Employee gift cards totaled $94,000 and staff received a prepaid Hannaford, Amazon, Walmart or VISA gift card before leaving for winter break on December 22.

Hopkins included board members among the recipients of the $250 gift cards, but according to the district attorney, board members were later asked to return their gift cards. Hopkins said Thursday night that a few have already and those that haven’t are working on payments through the end of this fiscal year to give the money back to the district.

“I recommended to Becky (Fles, board chair) that each board member be given a $250 gift card in recognition of your countless (board) hours,” Hopkins said. “You don’t get paid for the many hours, you get paid for regular board meetings, but not for committee work and overtime, and God knows how many meetings there have been over the years. last two years.”

Hopkins said the attorney advised the council to return the gift cards due to the specificity of the state statue for council members receiving compensation. According to state law, school board members are paid between $10 and $25 for regular board meetings and if board members recommend increasing their pay, “they will submit their recommendation to the electors of the district.” for approval”, then it would have to be voted on by the municipalities of the district.

Approval of the Memorandum of Understanding for District Employees has been placed on the agenda for the February 3 Board meeting to formally approve the Memorandum of Understanding and to be transparent to the public, according to Hopkins. Board members were not included in this motion.

At the Feb. 3 meeting, which was held virtually, no members of the public spoke out against gift cards, but Hopkins said she received two emails from community members about it.

“I want to make sure it’s clear what we’re doing and everyone knows it and it wasn’t done underhandedly,” she said.

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