Common ground Board of Directors Minutes: Dec. 16, 2019

Minutes of the Board of Directors

Dec. 16 2019


Meeting called to order by Bob Parker at 5:38. 


Board Members Present: Kyeen Andersson, Bob Parker, Michael Doolittle, Beth Klingher, Monica Maccera Filppu, Charles Negaro, Errol Saunders, Peter Ludwig, Brian Springsteen

Staff Present: Deborah Greig, Joel Tolman, Kimball Cartwright, Rebecca Holcombe, Liz Cox



Public Participation


There was no public participation. 



Business Requiring Approval


Approval of the Minutes of the November 25th Board Meeting was moved by Charlie Negaro and seconded by Michael Doolittle. The minutes were approved unanimously (with one abstention).  

Payment of an invoice from Thurston Foods ($7,879.72) was approved by the finance committee. 



Finance Committee Report


November Budget vs Actuals
Beth Klingher presented the finance committee’s report. Overall, revenue and costs are in line with budget. One area of concern is special education reimbursement. Monica shared the staff’s work to seek appropriate reimbursement from sending districts, based upon a predictive formula of real costs. There have been productive conversations, but do not yet have a signed MOU. As a result, we have not yet been able to invoice all sending districts. 

Beth Klingher explained that cafeteria expenses are the only area where the gap between budget and actual expenses is continuing to grow. This is the result in part of adult meals, in part as a result of using additional paper products because one member of our kitchen staff was on leave. 

Beth also presented that Common Ground currently has 22 Days of Cash on Hand. Beth shared that Common Ground currently has a line of credit for $250,000 that we tapped into last year at this time. We want to continue to watch this carefully to avoid needing to use that line of credit this year.



Organizational Update


Questions about the Program Dashboard
Charles Negaro asked about the nature of the staff turnover noted in the program dashboard. The reasons are varied: leaving for higher pay, growth opportunities, and personal reasons. Bob Parker reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to work on a three-year plan for improving salaries and compensation broadly. Monica is working on a 3-year budget based on that commitment. 

Peter Ludwig asked about the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the hiring process. Monica shared that this is a multi-year commitment, and Common Ground has implemented some new practices for performance tasks this year. 

Update on the Farm
As part of a new commitment to dedicate Board meetings to deeper updates on particular Common Ground programs, 

The Farm is a 3-member team, integral to every part of Common Ground’s work. There are three aspects of this: Access, Education, Community Engagement. 

Access: Making sure students, families, staff, community members feel welcomed on the farm, and have access to fresh, culturally relevant food. Deborah acknowledged that we are growing on land of the Golden Hill Paugussett People. Farm productivity is possible becauses of 3 staff, college interns, high school students working through Green Jobs Corps, and volunteers. We can’t grow successfully without investing in soil; our compost system is our major new investment in this. Since March, we have diverted 24,000 pounds of waste, including 8,000 pounds of food waste. Our food goes to (1) school cafeteria (28%), (2) farm share for families, (3) mobile market, (4) farmstand. Mobile Market is a major focus; we are focused on seniors, on partnerships with Hill Health Center, and on helping neighbors grow their own capacity. 

Education: We look at our education work through a food justice lens — we look at food through a lens of systems of oppression, and believe food can be a tool for liberation and undoing those systems.  In the high school, this includes credit-bearing internships, a new elective course, Green Jobs Corps, core courses etc. We also make the farm a venue for environmental education programs. Disha Patel, the Food Justice Education Coordinator, has been an incredible resource in this work. The 9th grade core’s unit on Feeding Ourselves is a strong example of this increased capacity. Cooking Club a collaboration between Disha and Mr. Melendez, one of our math teachers, is another example. Students decided to cook vegetarian food from around the world, by throwing a globe around and picking a place. They talked about the consequences of food choices, and also about food as ritual/celebration/etc.

Community Engagement: Our commitment is to build authentic relationships with people. Our Farm & Garden conferences, a collaboration between us and the schoolyards team, is a growing example of this. Another good example is volunteering — we rely on you! 

Kyeen noted that Common Ground’s mobile market prices are generally better than those at other New Haven markets. Deborah explained that CitySeed is helping farmers set prices that make their farms viable; Common Ground is not trying to compete with CitySeed’s prices, but to provide access to healthy, local, culturally appropriate food to those who would not ordinarily have access to it. We are working with CitySeed to double the value of public benefits at the mobile market. 

Charles described New Haven Farms’s move from a CSA model to a farmer’s market model, with two-tiered pricing for those who qualify for public benefits and those who don’t.

Beth asked about the capacity of our compost system. Our vision is to have a dropoff program for community residents, especially in the summer, when the cafeteria doesn’t generate as much waste. Our facility, and almost all facilities, do not have the capacity to compost. Our goal is a 3-month cycle on compost. 

Update on Charter Renewal
Monica reminded board members that we have shared proposed update to Board bylaws based upon the suggestions made by the State Board of Education during the charter renewal process. We are waiting for feedback on these proposed revisions. We continue to anticipate a decision on our charter renewal at a State Board of Education meeting in March. 



New Business


Welcome Peter Ludwig
The Board welcomed Peter Ludwig as our newest member of the Board of Directors. 



Executive Session


Beth moved, Kai Seconded. The Board entered executive session at 6:22pm.

The Board exited executive session at 6:47pm. No votes were taken during the executive session. 




Brian moved to adjourn; Beth seconded. The meeting adjourned at 6:48pm.


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