Common Ground Board of Directors Minutes- June 2019

June 24, 2019 Common Ground Board of Directors Minutes


Present: Wendy Battles, Beth Klingher, Michael Doolittle, Jane Lee, Brian Springsteen, Errol Saunders, Kerry Lord, Charles Negaro, Terri Snell


Regrets: Bob Parker, Kyeen Anderson, Ilene Crawford, Babz Rawls-Ivy


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


Public Participation: Monica Maccera Filppu


Wendy called the meeting to order at 5:34

Wendy Introduced Monica as our new Executive Director. Monica said that she’s looking forward to starting on July 15th. She shared her vision for her onboarding period July 15-Oct. 15 with the board. 


Business Requiring Approval                                     

Minutes – May 20, 2019

Michael move to approve

Charles Second

Kerry Abstained



Perf. Envi Service $5,052

Beth moved to approve

Jane seconds



Berkley Net

Beth moved to approve

Jane seconds



Limited English Proficiency Program policy

This is a new policy that did not exist during the last renewal. If 20+ students have the same home language who tested and met criteria of English Learner we would need to provide a formal english learner program with certified staff.

Eroll moved to approve

Kerry Seconds



Individualized Education Program, Special Education Program policies

Policy 6171 in SPED final paragraph is new and states that we do this work collaboratively with other districts. 

 Parents are now provided with resources about IEPS as soon as their child is identified. The school needs to

 be able to meet with interested applicants and provide the results of assessments. Conduct meetings with 

parent/guardian consent via teleconferences. For students with disabilities defined as hearing impaierd, their

 IEP must include a communication plan. 

Errol moved to approve

Jane seconds



Background Check and Fingerprinting Policy

We’re required to conduct background checks on all school employees that comes in contact with students.

They must do fingerprints that are checked through state and federal law enforcement and they must go 

through a DCF check. All employees who have worked in another educational institution must provide a record

 of where they worked, permission to contact that employer, and their previous employer must provide a 

statement that they did not commit a crime. The other new part is that any info that comes back from 

fingerprinting must be kept in a secure location and access to that location must be restricted. 

Michael moved to approve

Beth seconds


Finance Committee                                                   

Budget review and vote

Jane stated that we do have a balanced budget. We are looking for board approval tonight so that we have a budget for the new fiscal year. Betsy sent out an email in advance, she will discuss tonight.

Betsy said that we got to the balanced budget by reviewing expenses with Management Team. We did not expand any programs and are avoiding new hiring. The payroll expense is the greatest increase over last year because it includes a 12 month Executive Director. Betsy negotiated with our insurance provider to keep health insurance to a 7% increase. The minimum wage is going up to $11.00 in Oct so we have had to make adjustments to wages for that. Inter-organization transfers for next year are the same number in revenue as you have in expenses. These transfers are for the services NHEP provided to CGHS and the services CGHS provides to NHEP. They do cancel each other out. The rest of variances are explained in the notes on this document. Site and Facilities projections had included the bathrooms and compost building construction which will not be in next year. We did not include money for new projectors, additional new laptops or Farm improvements/equipment. If anything came up in those areas it would be vulnerable. Betsy handed out a sheet that explained inter-org transfers in more detail. 

Kimball said 25% of revenue comes from philanthropy and competitive government grant sources. Individual Giving, event income, private funding, etc. contain philanthropy and is spread across multiple areas. Transferred net assets are, like PCLB $350,000, where the support is sent upfront but it’s for activities that take place in the following fiscal year. In each of the lines we’re budgeting a slight increase, with the exception of government grants. We’re being as conservative as possible, anticipating roughly the same amount of money we received this year to come in next year. This last year has been difficult with staff turnover, we went 3 months without  a Development Associate. We also planned to hire a grant writer in May 2018 but actually hired in Oct. 2018. We’ve now more than doubled the grant proposals going out since Cindy joined the team but there is a lag time to hear back from those applications. We also have not had an Executive Director and now we have one who will be taking on some of that Dev responsibility and building relationships with donors. The new development team will be more up to speed over the course of the new fiscal year. 

Charles was wondering if we had the flexibility of hiring a CFO or financial advisement. He also was wondering if we do multi-year projections, he’s troubled that teacher salaries are not up to par with NHV teacher salaries and we could use a plan or budget to get us there over time. He also asked if Rock to Rock an income generator?

Joel said R2R is net positive around $30,000. Kimball stressed that is not primarily fundraiser, its a community building event. 

Jane stated that we did do a longer term review when we build the new building but a 5 year plan could be a good idea when Monica is on board. 

Michael stressed that a 5 year budget is especially difficult because of the state budget and the fact that we don’t know if/when we’ll get additional student seats. He also reminded the board that not just the teacher salaries are low, our other program and administrative staff are also below neighboring districts.

Wendy suggested that if we want to increase salaries for teachers and other staff we may need to increase the role the board plays in fundraising 

Jane moved to approve budget

Charles seconds



HR Report  

In addition to Monica joining us in July. Liz has hired Joseph Melendez as a math teacher (to replace Larry Dome, who retired). Lisa Labarces has resigned and we hired Heather Nielsen. We have posted a long term Enlish substitute for a teacher who will be out on maternity leave. We are also hiring a full time social worker (to replace Joe Lesiak, who retired) and hiring a school nurse (our former school nurse resigned). 


Rebecca said there has been some unexpected turnover for environmental education instructors. Two full time NY teachers left with very little notice. We have filled those vacancies for summer camp but will need other positions filled by September. Today was the first day of summer camp staff training.                                                                


Organizational Updates


Program Dashboard            

Joel reported that we had some great graduation speakers this year and we have print versions of all their speeches. Liz said some of this years graduates overcame some significant hurdles. One student missed graduation due to national track meet race. 


Executive Director Search  

Wendy wanted to thank the search committee for all of their hard work. We are excited to bring Monica on in July.                                


Old Business

Charter Renewal

Bob sent an email out to the board a couple weeks ago. We will need a special board meeting in August in order to approve up to 10 more Board/Business policies related to the Charter Renewal process. Liz said the plan is to work on those over the summer and try to get them all approved before Aug. 2 for submission to the Dept. of Education. The policies will be sent out in advance of the Aug. meeting so you can review. There is also a site visit on Sept. 24th and a subset of the board will need to be present to meet with them. 

Monica is looking forward to developing a governance committee. Ilene and Kyeen had discussed being a part of this, Errol would also available this Summer

Liz would like to get letters of support and people out to the public hearing regarding Charter Renewal, waiting on dates past Sept. 24th. Biggest concern is test scores. We need a solid corrective action plan, we need to speak and produce documents to show improvement and proof of results. Summer planning institute started today and this was front and center. Need board talking points that can be developed over the summer. 


New Business

Brian reported that the Teacher Leadership Council met with Liz on  May 29th to discuss their list of priorities. He passed out this list to the board so that they are aware of the discussion. Maintaining security was a priority and was reflected in the current budget. They are also requesting the expansion of SPED support and ELL support. It was a challenge not having ELL support this year. The incoming freshman class has a large number of IEPs and we need to figure out how to address that. Teachers have also requested compensation of class coverage if teachers use their prep time to cover. The TLC has also requested that teacher salaries be brought closer to parity with other districts and they would like an increase in sick time. A rollover of paid time off or a buy-back system has also been requested, we currently have a “use it or lose it” system. New Haven Public Schools allow rollover of sick days. 

Errol suggested passing a board resolution stating that we will research the financials of this TLC proposal and what our goals are once we know the costs. 

Jane wanted to ask about a strategic priority group and maybe the board should look at that as well. That committee completed their work and was waiting for the new ED to come on board. Whole section of that plan related to our “people” and some of the requests made by the TLC. 

Liz said that when she had the conversation with the TLC regarding sick time she reiterated that research around teacher sick time shows that if a teacher is out of a classroom for more than 10 day there are negative impacts on student achievement. Liz stated that she liked the idea of the buy-back option which is pretty standard in CT. 

Kimball said that Feast tickets will go on sale in July. There are new chefs on board and some returning favorites. When Monica arrives on July 15th that whole week House of Naan will be contributing 25% of profits to CG’s Mobile Market and have secured us a spot on WTNH. This is a fun way to introduce people to monica and a great way to invite our supporters. People also love meeting board members so this is a good opportunity to make those connections. More info will be going out on that soon.            

Wendy called the meeting to a close at 7:13pm

Next Meeting: August 26, 2019, 5:30 PM

Mark Your Calendars – Feast from the Fields – Saturday, September 14



Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.