Fond Farewells and Warm Welcomes

By Melissa Spear
Executive Director

Hello good people of Common Ground,

Common Ground is in full swing on this hot, rainy day in August. Soaked summer camp staff are coming down off of West Rock Ridge with their very game campers. Teachers are in the new building beginning to prepare for the new school year which is just 3 weeks away! The old school building is swarming with construction workers who are feverishly finishing up renovations. It has been a very busy start to our new fiscal year!

In the midst of it all Common Ground is bringing a number of new staff on board, and wishing the best for a number of staff who are leaving us to undertake new endeavors. Here is the full scope of changes in staffing that Common Ground is anticipating this fiscal year:

We are celebrating and honoring the excellent work that the following staff have done for Common Ground as they move on to a new chapter in their lives:DepartingStaff

  • Shannon Raider-Ginsberg left Common Ground July 30th after 6 productive growing seasons with us. She plans to enjoy hanging out with her young son Lev until she decides on what comes next.
  • Sarah Tracy-Wanck (TW) left her position as Environmental Leadership Coordinator in July to take a position leading young adults conducting studies in Brazil, India and South Africa during a semester abroad.
  • Kerry Ellington, a teaching assistant at Common Ground High School who was has left to join Conect – Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut – an organization devoted to advocating and organizing around issues of social justice. Find out more about them here:
  • Meredith Odinak worked in student support, has left CGHS to pursue her MSW.
  • Jesse Snyder, a teaching assistant at CGHS, has also decided to return to school.
  • Dave Edgeworth is retiring to spend more time with family and fishing after 12 years as a science teacher at CGHS.
  • Mike Horbachuk, a beloved Chemistry Teacher at CGHS, is going to try his hand at teaching adults.
  • Jennifer Quaye, CGHS College and Career, has joined Families for Excellent Schools, an advocacy organization that works to pass educational policies promoting excellence in education.
  • Mike Lockett returned to civilian life after stepping in to assist our Special Education team last year.

We give special recognition to TW, Kerry, Meredith, and Jen for their dedicated work and leadership in Common Ground’s creation of a just, equitable and inclusive organization. They have been powerful advocates for dismantling systems of oppression, and strong voices for social justice work.

That was a lot of saying goodbye for all of us here at Common Ground and there have been tears shed. We will always consider every one of these folks a part of the Common Ground family and look forward to hearing all about the new adventures they have all embarked on.

But with endings there are also new beginnings and new opportunities. These changes have allowed existing staff to step into new challenging roles, and created openings for new staff to join the Common Ground team. Please help welcome the following existing staff into new positions:

  • Jill Herbstwho has led our School Garden Program for the past 3 years, will be reducing her hours to 20 per week starting on September 1st. Her 20 hours will be dedicated to developing and implementing Professional Development for the School Garden Resource Center (to be renamed the Schoolyards Program) as well as continuing to assist with PD for all of Common Ground’s Environmental Educators.
  • Jesse Delia has moved from Adult and Family Programs Coordinator within Community Programs to the Environmental Leadership Coordinator at CGHS.
  • Diane Litwin, who is our Field Trips Program Coordinator, has taken on the role of Interim Farm Manager to run the farm through the end of the season when we hope to have hired a new permanent Farm Director.
  • Brian Kelahanformerly a Social Studies teacher at CGHS, has moved into the role of College and Career Readiness Teacher.
  • Dan DeCamillo and Alexa Fiszer are both moving from part-time Environmental Educator positions to full-time Lead Environmental Educator Positions.

We also are thrilled to welcome the following new hires to the Common Ground family.

Joining the Common Ground High School staff are:

  • Emily Schmidt, teacher certified in both chemistry and physics;
  • Kevin Sinusas, teacher certified in biology
  • Amy Larkin Gelbach, history and social studies teacher
  • Maite Aguirre, Special Education Teaching Assistant and STEM after-school programmer
  • Victor Rios, Student Support and Homework Center Coordinator
  • Sekou Kovugi and Stefan Christenson will both be moving from part time to full time Teaching Assistants

Joining the Community Programs staff will be:

  • Suzannah Holsenbeck, School Yards Program Manager with responsibility for Common Ground’s School Gardens and School Yard Habitats

Bios for our newest staff coming soon!

Finally, the following new and unfilled positions will be posted and filled over the next 3 – 4 months:

  • A Part Time Administrative Assistant serving the Executive Director and the Director of Business and Administration;
  • A permanent full time Farm Director will be hired to take over the work of the farm; and,
  • A full time Farm Program Coordinator position will be posted once the new Farm Director is hired.

Please refer anyone who you think might be interested in these positions to Common Ground’s Join Our Staff page where they will be posted.

I am looking forward to seeing what new energy, ideas and approaches all of the new staff we are welcoming to Common Ground will bring, and how they will challenge us to become even better at what we do.
As always, feel free to contact me ( or comment below) with any questions or comments you have about any of these changes. I would love to hear from you.


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