School Superintendent Apologizes for Pandemic Fund Stipends

The district received nearly $850,000 in federal funds at the start of the pandemic

A Vermont school superintendent is apologizing to his school board for authorizing $2,000 payments to all district employees with unused pandemic relief money.

Members of the St. Johnsbury School board say they’re OK with the payments, but felt they should have been informed. The payments were approved by the Vermont Agency of Education.

The Caledonian Record reports Superintendent Brian Ricca said he made a mistake by not informing the board of the payments from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund and he is sorry.

“I did not follow a process that was inclusive of the board and that was my mistake. I thought to inform the board, but forgot to do it…It was my mistake and one that I will not make again…I am sorry,” he said in a statement he read to the board and public last week.

The district received nearly $850,000 in federal funds at the start of the pandemic. More than half the money was spent on emergency purchases such as masks, thermometers, thermo-scanners, cleaning equipment, Chromebooks for students, laptops for adults, software and pay for substitute teachers since March 2020.

Ricca said the decision to pay the stipends was an effort to retain employees and improve morale.

“Schools are struggling to fill open positions and failing to meet their commitment to students because of the absence of staff,” he said. “I wanted to find a way to materially improve morale, keep employees and use ESSER funds in a way that was lawful.”

Editor's note (Dec. 15, 2021, 2:31 p.m.): An earlier version of this article included an image of an unrelated institution.

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