Common Ground Board of Directors – Minutes November 28, 2016

Present: Wendy Battles, Mike Doolittle, Beth Klingher, Kerry Lord, Frank Mitchell, Bob Parker, Melissa Spear. Staff: Kimball Cartwright, Liz Cox, Rebecca Holcombe, Betsy Sneath, Joel Tolman. Guest: Cornell Wright

Wendy called the meeting to order at 5:40 PM


Melissa reported that our budget is tighter than normal for this time in the year. We had bad news on the revenue side; we were not successful with either the Graustein Memorial Fund or the Community Foundation grant applications, but Melissa feels there are no major alarms at this time.

The draft Audit Statement is in and needs committee review followed by Board approval at our next meeting. There were two findings in the statement: 1) on the high school side regarding the construction funds and the state reimbursement schedule, and 2) auditors felt that the dollars used for the security system upgrade should have been capitalized.

Bob reported that Jane Lee has taken on chairing the Finance Committee, which will also act as the audit review committee. Mike, and perhaps Beth, will help her on that committee.

Executive Director’s Report

Melissa reported that she will meet with representatives of New Haven Farms, New Haven Land Trust and City Seed at a retreat on January 19 and 20, 2017. This group has been awarded $10,000 to facilitate their discussions on how best to collaborate in the best use of what we all offer the community. She asked if there was any interest on the part of a Board member to accompany her and other staff to that retreat.

We have not received the final commissioning report on the new building so Melissa is not able to finalize the CT State Department of Education construction grant.

Melissa reported that a new Farm Director has been hired. An announcement will be made when negotiations have been finalized.

School Report

Liz pointed out the data in the dashboard regarding new data on college enrollment from the National Student Clearinghouse. She reported that Brian Kelahan has been doing an excellent job in his new role of College and Career advisor, working on finding the best way to approach alumni/ae and how to support this work.

The day after the election was awful. Students and staff needed lots of support.

Mix It Up Day was a big success, with many of the workshops led or co-led by students.

Liz noted that this year’s Freshmen and Seniors were in particular need of support.

Community Programs Report

Rebecca reported that the crew has been busy helping to clean up school gardens and school habitats. She has decided not to take on any new partners in the School Garden program to ensure that the team can adequately support the current partners. She reported that Jill and Suzannah will attend a Life Lab conference and plan to bring back their learning to share at an in-house retreat in mid-December.

Rebecca noted her problems with staff turnover and her plans for finding/retaining good replacements.


There was a request to seek solutions for the sense of isolation in the farm staff. Melissa praised Diane Litwin’s work as Interim Farm Director, and noted that the arrival of the new Farm Director might offer the opportunity for a staff retreat to seek solutions. It was noted that the addition of a Farm Educator position might help with integration of the farm staff into other programs.

There was a general discussion about the ongoing problem of turnover in part-time/seasonal staff (farm and community programs) and of diversity in the staff generally.

Development Report

Kimball reported that we had been successful matching a $10,000 challenge offered by Newman’s Own in the current Giving Tuesday campaign. He mentioned an added $3,000 match, as well.

Kimball presented board members who had been helpful with the building campaign with beautiful carving boards created from trees felled to make way for the new building.

Kimball noted that year-to-date revenue does not match our goal, but that we beat our goal for Feast from the Fields and were on track to beat the current Giving Tuesday goal. He noted that more grants come in the Spring and around Rock-to-Rock. There was a question whether Giving Tuesday was a problematic conflict with our Annual Appeal. Kimball replied that data shows that it actually results in more giving.

CEIO Report

Kerry presented the draft of the CEIO Work Plan/Strategic Priorities document for board discussion. There were questions about how/when to adopt this document. We will wait for a final document to consider since there are implications for real work required of this board in the plan.

Melissa pointed out a Claudia Merson’s concern that the CEIO Work Plan is very inward looking, and asked that we continue to consider how this work will affect/benefit our various constituencies.

Our next meeting will be December 19, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Meeting adjourned at 7:10 PM


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