Common Ground Board of Directors Minutes- April 2020

New Haven Ecology Project

Board Meeting Minutes 

April 27, 2020 (Conducted online by Zoom Meeting)

**Please click here for a link to the audio recording of this meeting**

Board Members Present: Wendy Battles, Errol Saunders, Monica Maccera-Filppu, Bob Parker, Beth Klingher, Michael Doolittle, Deloris Vaughn, Brian Springsteen, Babz Rawz-Ivy, Peter Ludwig, Charlie Negaro

Staff Members Present: Elena Augusewicz, Kimball Cartwright, Rebecca Holcombe, Betsy Sneath, Liz Cox, Deborah Greig, Joel Tolman 

I. Welcome 

A. Meeting called to order at 5:42 by Wendy Battles

II. Welcome of new board members 

A. Deloris Vaughn
B. Anthony Mitchell (ex-officio)
C. Christopher Albert (ex-officio)

III. Public Participation (5:40): No public participation

IV. Business Requiring Approval

A. Minutes of the March 23rd meeting (Secretary)
B. Kyeen moved to approve, Babz moved to second. Approved unanimously.
C. Peter, Deloris abstained
D. Invoices Needing Approval

        1. Wealth Engine for $5,000.
        2. Beth moved to approve, Errol moved to second. Approved unanimously.
        3. Approve bid to use DEEP grant funds ($25,220.00) to build retaining wall that will enable construction of permanent pavilion on upper campus. The work should be completed by the end of the fiscal year.
          a) Bob moved to approve, Errol seconds. Approved unanimously.

V. Update from the Board Chairs 

A. Wendy and Bob presented a powerpoint describing the current state of the organization, including that the New Haven Ecology Project is still on track to end this year with balanced budget, that the organization has applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, the uncertainties facing the organization in the short- and medium-term, and their assessments of the prudent courses of action that the board can and cannot engage in given those uncertainties.

        1. What we can do now:
          1. Models of possible future budget scenarios (until May 20th when the governor shares more information about the State’s situation). 
          2. Post open positions
          3. Select benefits plans that are budget neutral
          4. Spend restricted grant funds
        2. What we cannot do now:
          1. Pass a budget on the regular timeline
          2. Make offers to new and existing staff at this time because of the budget implications
          3. Spending unrestricted funds outside of our approved budget.

B. Clarifying questions:

  1. Brian – clarifying what it means for not making offers to new and existing staff – Monica clarified that we cannot send out new contracts before the budget is passed but we still need to pass a budget by June 30th.  
  2. Peter – Asking about new hires and what those restrictions mean. Monica said no new hires until a final budget is decided upon.
  3. Kyeen – had a question about whether we have some non-permanent staff who have been furloughed and how many of those people there are. Rebecca stated that 19 part-time environmental educators have been furloughed.
  4. Kyeen also wanted to say that the May 20th deadline from the state we shouldn’t expect full answers to a lot of our questions, more of a deadline for data and choosing a path forward. 

VI. Finance Committee Report 

A. Beth stated that we have been flat or close to budget without laying off any full time people. We are not far behind on creating the aspirational budget and we are working off of that to create a number of scenarios. The finance committee will present some of those to the board at the May meeting.

B. Monica stated that the reason we are flat is because some community programs families had paid in full for the year and if those had been automatically refunded we would not be flat. We may need to use the PPP funds to help handle refunds of that programming. 

  1. Peter – Are the PPP funds already incorporated into the budget. Monica stated that they are not in the current budget projections.

C. Q3 Budget vs Actuals with projections

D. Days of Cash on Hand Visual    

VII. Development Committee Report    

A. Charles said the key elements are to create much greater Board involvement with a goal of 100% board giving. We are looking to Feast sponsorships; Beth is in charge of that. We should, as a board, each recommend one business/company as a sponsor. We would like each board member to recommend a Transformational Donor who we could approach for a major donation. A. greater board involvement B. list format for us to take forward to begin to approach major donors to raise and additional 400,000 next year over our current budget

B. As the development committee asks for pledges from members, Kimball highlighted the timeline for giving throughout the year to help Board members decide when to give:

        1. Rock to Rock is still open 
        2. Spring Appeal to bring people to the Great Give on givegab website 
        3. Peer-to-peer fundraisers for the Great Give. 
        4. In May/June going after funding for Green Jobs Corps. 
        5. Confident we will have a Feast even if it is not traditional and social distancing is still in effect. 

C. Bob wanted to know what we’re looking for in a Feast sponsorships. Kimball will send out a list of sponsorship levels and associated benefits.                      

VIII. Organizational Update

A. Questions or Discussion of April Dashboard 

B. Monica wanted to start by saying how proud she is of all our staff members who have continued working so hard during this time and she asks you take a moment to celebrate our accomplishments

C. Michael was wondering if Liz could comment on how successful the distance learning has been?

        1. Liz said that we are engaging with students in many ways. Distance learning to varying degrees, some students totally on board, other less so, some students especially with high needs who are struggling. Try to remind ourselves that we are learning too as we go. All of the guidance we are getting from state level and experts in the field that this is not a situation to be grading students with traditional grades. Wil be using a Pass/Incomplete system with integrity. Nobody will fail but some may not pass. 

D. Kyeen had comments about our challenges in terms of development. Are we going to target the Yale Covid fund that has promised a 1mil match for local businesses in New Haven?

          1. Kimball said that we have received money from United Way Community Foundation to add purchases of food being distributed weekly to families. That will be enough for a few weeks of food distribution. After that we will contact the Yale fund, if needed. 

E. In regards to Feast, Kyeen said people may not want to sponsor if they don’t know the format of the event. Throwing ideas out there for how you get visibility: one thought would be the garden, harvest, chefs, restaurants deliver a box and provide an online cooking class. Hopefully we’re not impeded from getting sponsors

F. Deloris has a questions about the plan for graduating seniors, is there a team planning this process for the high school seniors

        1. Liz said that there is a planning team for celebrating seniors at the end of the school year including ideas such as virtual graduation, virtual prom, and sending senior care packages. We would have to check with public health officials at the time to do anything outdoors. Some involvement with students in this planning process

G. Errol was wondering if we are thinking of adjusted Feast plans as opportunities because of lower overhead. 

          1. Kimball said there are online tools that could help us make this unique but yes we will probably spend less overall.

IX. Update on school leader hiring 

A. Monica let the board know that we received 17 applications and interviewed 9 candidates last week. 18 interviewers including students, teachers, board members, and support educators. Smaller group of hiring committee will meet tomorrow to choose who will move to next phase and be asked to complete a performance task. Hoping to identify a final candidate or two by our next board meeting.

X. New Business

A. Proposal to change date of May board meeting to Tuesday, May 26th. Kyeen moved to approve moving the May meeting, Errol seconded. Approved unanimously.

XI. Executive Session (6:50)

A. Bob moved to go into Executive Session, Michael moved to approve. Approved Unanimously. The Board exited Executive Session at 7:28; no votes were taken during Executive Session. 

XXI. Adjourn (7:29) Moved by Charlie; Seconded by Babz.

Next Meeting: Tuesday, May 26, 2020 at 5:30pm via Zoom




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