Common Ground Board of Directors- Minutes June 2017

Board of Directors Meeting 6/26/17

Present: Melissa Spear, Jane Lee, Frank Mitchell, Wendy Battles, Michael Doolittle, Kerry Lord, Monique Frasier

Staff: Betsy Sneath, Elena Augusewicz, Joel Tolman, Kimball Cartwright, Rebecca Holcomb

Guests: Cornell Wright

Public Participation: n/a

Regrets: Bob Parker, Beth Klingher, Claudia Merson, Babz Rawls, John Jessen

Wendy called the meeting to order at 5:35

Business Requiring Approval:

Michael moved approval of the Minutes of the May 22, 2017 Board Meeting. Kerry seconded

Invoice for Corporate Systems Consulting- $6,000.00 for Managed Broadband Services for the 2016-2017 school year.
Invoice for Corporate Systems Consulting- $10,667.00 for the meraki Network 3 year lease (year 3 of 3 for the 2017-2018 school year)

Final Rock to Rock 2017 Partner Payments:
Cityseed $14,161.92
Massaro Farm $18,791.50
New Haven leon Sister City Project $11,591.76
New Haven Park Commission $11,192.58
New Haven Urban Resources Initiative $29,235.04
Eco Works Inc. $6,859.47
New Haven Farms $11,769.59

Wendy moved approval of all above payments.
Monique seconded.

2018 Budget:

Melissa handed out an analysis of the the previous fiscal year (2017) and projections for the upcoming fiscal year (2018). She stated that the the 2017-2018 budget that is up for approval is basically a balanced budget with earnings before depreciation of $117 for NHEP and $1047 for CGHS.
Melissa stressed that this is not going to be the final budget and we’ll have to review it again in September along with the first quarter forecast. We are hoping to know more from the State regarding their funding and budgets in September. Melissa also stated that we have multiple plans in place for the various outcomes of budget decisions and that we are already strategizing and trying to come up with creative ways of dealing with deficits as they arise.

Melissa is hopeful that we’ll get 205 student seats (we currently have 198), If we do not get all the seats we requested there will be a deficit.

There is $75,000 in unidentified funds included in the 2017-2018 budget. PCLB is willing to offer an extension to us regarding repayment of the $100,000 loan, this will offset some risk. The Community Foundation was asked for $60,000 and we are hoping that will be received.

There were some additional cost savings; the commercial insurance was less than anticipated. Currently we are receiving estimates from other Health Insurance providers. Our renewal date for our current plan is Sept. 1, 2017 and we’re projecting an increase but that may be avoided if we join a consortium we’re looking into.

The last 3 columns of the handout show the differences between last year and the current projected budget. There will be payroll increases due to two new full time Nature Year educators, the CEIO funded Farm Educator, and for the Student Organizer on the CGHS side. Wages have gone up significantly because of size and number or children’s programs

Regarding the $75,000 of unidentified funds, Kimball stated that we’ve got good granular estimates for specifics but some go over and some go under. If we get the full amount asked of the community foundation we’ll have $60000 but we have only projected $20000 into the budget in case other groups end up giving less. Kimball has already asked for some extra funds for development to fund some research and find out how they can be more successful. He does not feel next year’s potential deficits are insurmountable.

Cornell inquired if there were milestones set so that we may know when to make certain budget decisions. Melissa answered that the State may not have a budget by July 19 when we find out how many student seats we will have, we’re hoping the state budget will be finalized by Sept. 1.

Kerry moved approval of the budget with acknowledgement that it will need to be reviewed when more details from the State are released
Jane seconded

Executive Director’s Report:

The Executive Director stated that the new bathroom bids came in around $100,000 but our grant was only for $30,000. Because the grant money is federal we need to comply with the Davis Bacon Wage Act which raised costs dramatically. We applied for, and received, approval on a year extension to hold the grant funds and allow more time to plan for this financially.

Betsy is preparing an audit on last years financials that will occur in july.

All of our Community Programs and the Graduation Ceremony went very well.

Finance Report:

Jane stated that nothing needed to be discussed beyond the budget approval.

Programs Report:

Rebecca discussed ongoing Summer Camp preparation; 320 campers per week and 1500 total registration spaces. Other than camp, she is working on Nature Year while other programs are mostly on hold for the summer. Suzannah’s SGRC crew is working part time through summer.

Nature Year is requiring a lot of administration work right now. 106 seats are open for NY next year. She is trying to balance enrollment based on age, race, and gender. She is also working hard to make positive hiring decisions for the new Nature Year teachers coming on board.

The Commissioner of Education and The Deputy Director of the Board of Ed. both visited and had a positive things to say about the Nature Year program.The Commissioner will be writing an article to share information about unique learning programs.

Common Ground High School:

Liz was not be present for the meeting, however, Joel discussed designing the 9th grade curriculum for the upcoming school year. There have been multiple public forums and a strong team of teachers working on four interdisciplinary units. Curriculum development and schedule changes are at the center the of this year’s Summer Institute which is going on this week.

All classes going through an audit and trimming process. A third of the minutes are being trimmed to create 8 period days.

Monique is actively engaged in this scheduling work. She said that she is feeling nervous but also really excited for the new configuration.

Wendy was curious how success of the new curriculum and schedule will be evaluated. Joel said that there will definitely be evaluation. One goal is to put together a critical friends group to observe classes and provide feedback in an auditing capacity. Advisors from Teaching Our Cities may be called upon to aid in this work.


Deborah was not present at this meeting, however, her updates can be read in the Monthly Dashboard

Melissa said that the new Coolbot (walk in refrigeration for produce storage) is in the testing phase

Impact and Engagement Report:

Joel stated that Common Ground Made $26,000.00 on this year’s Rock to Rock. The Budget Net was $20,000 which was better than anticipated. The costs were lower than originally projected. Each organizing partner receives an equal share.

Joel stated that the exposure is one of main benefits of being involved. Next year’s 10th anniversary will bring some different dynamics.

Development Report:

Kimball was happy to announce that Sekou was able to surpass his fundraising goal and will be getting his teacher’s certification, Sekou is very excited and has been very appreciative. Stefan and Win are also enrolled in this program.

Common Sense was a successful event and let us make some good connections with donors we may not always get to see. This proved to be a good reminder than many people still prefer getting invites/notification the mail over the email forms.

Looking forward; because this is the 25th anniversary we want to think about acknowledging this milestone. We want to celebrate our persistence as an organization in actualizing our vision. Kimball said that he is open to suggestions on how best to present and celebrate this occasion

Joan Gillette’s Event raised over $21,000.00 for student awards. This event showed us that there are people out there who feel the need to connect their stories to us. Kate will be following up with early founders to collect additional stories and we’ll let you know about that when more info is available.

Old Business:

Wendy was curious if anyone had any thoughts or impressions regarding the Board Retreat that occurred about two months ago.

Melissa stated that some type of report or evaluation was supposed to come from Isabel based on info we had given during the retreat. Kerry stated that a strategy map that describes the board’s work outside of policy and finance should also be developed.

Melissa then passed out a Strategic Priority packet that outlines exactly what our plans are. She has been asking staff to look over this info and add their input.

Monique felt that, as a teacher, the big thing was how we were going to sustain our priorities and what they would look like. We keeping bringing back this packet and adding information but at some point we have to stop, build it, and move on

Wendy concluded that we need to follow up with Isabel for her thoughts.

Business for Next Meeting:

Wendy stated that over next few weeks she will be talking to Bob and others about potential board nominations and the need for more members. We need new ideas, different perspectives, roles, and skills to fill in gaps. We would like to work on that over summer break and present candidates for discussion in the fall. It will start with us getting together to see if we know anyone who might be interested and figuring out the specifics. Melissa and Kerry indicated an interest in joining the discussion of board development/nominations over the summer.

Cornell added that we are also hoping to have more student representatives in the fall. He, and other board members, will be working with Deamonte and creating a small group to mentor students and help them through the election process.

Monique would like to talk about setting board term limits. She has enjoyed serving but because staff is growing there should be more/new teachers joining in. All teachers should be given an equal opportunity.

Melissa thinks there should be more definitions around the roles of the Staff Representative and the Parent Representative.

Kerry hopes that bringing in some younger people will offer a different way of looking at things, especially innovative programs and more creative development techniques.

Wendy adjourned the meeting at 7:00

Next board meeting: September 26, 2017, 5:30pm


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