Common Ground Board of Directors Meeting Minutes- Nov. 23, 2020

PLEASE NOTE: In order to comply with adjusted CT Open Meeting laws, this Zoom meeting will be recorded and posted on the Common Ground website

New Haven Ecology Project

Board Meeting Minutes

November 23, 2020

For a recording of this zoom meeting please CLICK HERE

Board Members Present: Babz Rawls Ivy, Bob Parker, Beth Klingher, Charlie Negaro, Monica Maccera Filppu (ex officio, non-voting), Errol Saunders, Kyeen Andersson, Ana Reyes, Peter Ludwig, Christopher Albert (departed at 6:00pm), Deloris Vaughn (arrived at 5:44pm), Terri Snell (arrived at 6:01pm)

Staff Present: Deborah Greig, Elena Augusewicz, Bev Greene, Rebecca Holcombe, Kimball Cartwright,

  1. Welcome (5:36)
    1. Babz Rawls Ivy welcomed everyone to the meeting.
  2. Public Comment (5:37) (two minutes per person for a total time limit of 30 minutes, or by email; see instructions below) Sign up for Public Participation HERE
    1. Babz called for public comment. Seeing none she moved to the next item of the agenda. 
  3. Business Requiring Approval (5:40)  
    1. Minutes of the October Meeting 
    2. Charles moved to approve the minutes, Bob seconded. The minutes were approved unanimously with no abstentions. 
  4. Invoices Needing Approval
    1. Peter moved to approve all three invoices at once; Beth seconded the motion. The motion was approved unanimously with no abstentions. 
      1. B&B Transportation $7,875, Buses for CGHS Students to be paid from Covid Relief Funds, Miscellaneous (Due Nov. 30)
      2. Performance Environmental, cleaning monthly fee, Oct: $5157.25 & Nov: $5157.25 
      3. Henry Raymond Thompson, financial audit 2020, $5000 
        1. Errol asked about how we came upon this firm for our audit, Beth explained that we have had them for a few years now. Errol suggested that we might shop around for an auditor to see if the rates are competitive and to keep open the possibility of having multiple eyes on our books. 
        2. Beth will make a note for the finance committee to look into shopping around for an auditor for next year’s audit.  
  5. Executive Director Report (5:43)
    1. Monica stated that Common Ground High School will be remaining in distance learning mode until community spread of Covid 19 declines substantially. We will be looking to continue in distance learning mode for the long term. To be clear CG was never closed, we chose to switch to distance learning but are occasionally offering some in-person volunteer experiences for students
    2. Monica introduced Bev Green, the new Common Ground director of operations, to the Board. She stated that we are successfully offering distance learning and our food delivery program for students is going well. 
      1. Babz Rawls Ivy asked about student disengagement in online learning. 
        1. Monica said that there are between 12-14 students who are chronically disengaged. 
        2. Attendance is not where we would like it to be but it is something that the staff is working on. There was a drop in attendance when students went from hybrid to virtual, even among students who were virtual from the beginning of the semester
        3. We are hearing that people are hurting for connections so we are putting out some ideas for more “fun” things students can do to stay engaged.
        4. Errol asked that Monica provide the board with a comparison of our attendance numbers with those of NHPS or other local schools so we can see how we are doing compared to others. 
        5. Monica explained that when you see the data on NHPS attendance they are only counting the students who are signed up for virtual instruction and these numbers may not be complete. Bev said that as of this week the state is only requesting information on if you are Hybrid or Remote, and what grades you serve. They are not recording how many students are actually logging on each day. Monica will provide the board with an attendance report at the December board meeting.
    3. Update on Community Programs (5:52)
      1. Rebecca, the Director of Community Programs, reported that she has 280 kids on campus every week, spread out across 6 days, Monday-Saturday. They are in separate, small groups and there have been ZERO covid-19 cases since the beginning of the year. There were two nature year groups here this weekend, there was a pop up farm stand, and there were Green Jobs Corps students also here working on the farm all in a very safe and socially distanced way. Rebecca said they conducted check-ins with new students’ families and there has been very positive feedback and families are happy to have their children outside all day. 
      2. Rebecca reported that she was able to offer every person who was furloughed over the Spring their jobs back for the Fall. Not every person was able to accept their positions back for various reasons, but every person was offered their old jobs back. That has opened up opportunities for others, including two Common Ground alums.
      3. School yards program, which historically has built gardens and provided outdoor educational resources to neighboring schools, has continued to provide educational resources and support to NHPS who participate in the program. 
      4. Rebecca commented on who we are not serving: (despite the record number of scholarships that were offered this year) there are still no tuition-free opportunities for the community right now and there are no field trips of public school students. However, Rebecca is thinking about how to give students access to the campus for community programs without having to pay tuition. 
    4. Deborah Greig, Farm Director, said that she’s at the end of their fall Farm and Garden workshop series. There was a hybrid workshop on Saturday with GJC Students and members of the public that was about making herbal remedies. Disha organizes these workshops and Deborah highly recommends them to members of the board.  
    5. The farm crew has been serving about 66 families per week with farm food boxes with support from different grant programs. Deborah explained that it is hard to distinguish what is emergence support and what will be the new normal. 
  6. School Committee Report (6:01) 
    1. Monica said that this committee has met twice (November 5th and 12th) since the last board meeting to discuss the challenge of replacing the teacher board member. At this time, the School Committee does not have a candidate to nominate to the board but we will discuss and strategize this more in the Executive Session later in this meeting. 
  7. Governance Committee Report (6:03)
    1. Bob reported that the Governance Committee met on November 17th and continued the discussion about adding an ex officio staff board member and additional community board members. They are also bringing up topics in the bylaws that may need some attention. They will continue to meet monthly to address this. 
  8. Finance Committee Report (6:04)
    1. Budget vs Actual as of 10/31/2020 
    2. Beth explained that we are doing well and about 33% through the year and are doing better than expected. We have gotten a few covid related grants to assist with increased costs.
    3. Monica said that we are on track to weathering the uncertainties of covid-19 in our budget. We should be stable through this period with support from grants and support from the government. We have stabilized revenue from community programs to cover our staff. Now we are focused on if we will reach our funding goals, based on our first quarter projections we are on track but will know better by our second quarter. Her and Kimball hope to share our progress out by January. She asked that the board focus on meeting our funding goals in order to sustain the growth goals we planned for in our budget. 
  9. Development Committee Report (~6:10)
    1. Charles asked Kimball to give an update on personal giving. Kimball pointed out the goals section of the attached committee report, we are lagging in government sources. Revenue from individuals, we are on par with last year but we would like to ramp up these gifts. Development has committed to weekly updates within the newsletter where we are with fundraising and meeting our $20,000 match goal. 
    2. Charles said that he thinks we may be overly optimistic because there are two funding streams: foundations and individual gifts. Last year we budgeted 50% less for individuals than we did for this year’s budget so we are not on target because of the increased budget. He commented that individual gifts are not the responsibility of not just the Development team, but also the Board. 
    3. Since the end of year appeal will be going out in about a week, Charles is asking the board to go through Kimball’s development solicitation list and let us know who you can write a personal note to, for Kimball to pick up on Dec. 3. Kimball has also asked board members to offer 10 new names to add to that list, they don’t have to be major donors but we can broaden this list for the end of year appeal. We do have a real match of $20,000 that requires us to raise $5,000 more than we raised in the end of year appeal last year. The Board’s job now is to show that donor that we are committed to exceeding our goals. 
    4. Beth would like to know where things stand with Ali Donovan, the consultant we received from JRA Associates, at this point. Kimball said that we finished our partnership with her at the end of September. We have a really good plan and we are now working on that. Beth also wanted to know if it was worthwhile working with Ali, and Kimball said that he’s seen a shift in the engagement with the board since the summer and meeting more people who could become prospective donors. We won’t see a financial return right away; it will take time and we have created a good launching off spot. Monica added that the coaching meeting she had with Ali helped her and Kimball come together on strategies. They got practice and a support system to work as a team for the same goals. 
  10. New Business (6:21)
    1. There was no new business for the Board to consider. 
  11. Executive Session (6:22)
    1. Bob moved that the Board enter into Executive Session to discuss personnel issues. Peter seconded that motion. The vote was unanimous to go into the Executive Session.
    2. The Board returned from Executive Session at 7:18. No votes were taken in the Executive Session.
  12. Adjourn (7:19)
    1. Beth moved to adjourn the meeting. Bob and Peter seconded. The Board voted unanimously to adjourn at 7:20pm. 

Next Meeting: Monday, December 21st 5:30pm – 7:30pm.

Public Comment: 

In order to comply with adjusted Connecticut Open Meeting laws, any member of the public wishing to participate in the meeting must sign up on the Public Participation Sign-up Document. Sign-ups for Public Participation will open at 5 pm on the last business day before the meeting (Friday, November 20th) and will close at 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting (Monday, November 23rd). Public Participation is limited to 2 minutes per person up to 30 total minutes. Anyone wishing to make a statement to the board can also submit testimony in writing to the Board Secretary: by 5:30 pm on the day of the meeting. All submitted documents will be included in the publicly shared meeting minutes.


Leave A Comment

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