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

The agreement, also called an MOU, includes all employees in the district, union or not, and was developed through the negotiation process at the December MSAD 11 business meeting. At that time, the MOU had not yet been completed, but the board unanimously voiced its support for the document and gave Superintendent Pat Hopkins approval to move forward with it so it could be completed before winter break.

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

The gift cards given out to employees totaled $94,000 and staff received either a Hannaford, Amazon, Walmart or a prepaid VISA gift card before they left for winter break Dec. 22. 

Hopkins included members of the Board of Directors as recipients of the $250 gift cards, but per the district’s attorney, the board members were later told to give their gift cards back. Hopkins on Thursday night said a few have already done so and those who have not are working on payments through the end of this fiscal year to give back the money to the district.

“I recommended to Becky (Fles, board chair) that each board member receive a $250 gift card in recognition for your (the board’s) countless hours,” Hopkins said. “You are not paid for the many hours, you are paid for the regular board meetings, but not paid for committee work and extra time, and lord knows how many meetings there have been in the past two years.”


Hopkins said the attorney advised the board to give the gift cards back because of how specific the state statue is for board members receiving compensation. Per state law, school board members are paid between $10 and $25 for the regular board meetings and if board members recommend their compensation to be increased, “they shall submit their recommendation to the district voters for approval,” then, it would have to be voted on by the municipalities within the district.

Approval for the MOU for district employees was put on the agenda for the Feb. 3 board meeting to formally approve the MOU 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 the gift cards, but Hopkins said she had received two emails from community members over it.

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

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