Common Ground Board of Directors Minutes: March 22, 2021

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

March 22, 2021


Board Members Present: Bob Parker, Charles Negaro, Peter Ludwig,  Beth Klingher, Monica Maccera Filppu, Terri Snell, Deloris Vaughn, Ana Reyes, 

Staff Present: Kimball Cartwright, Elena Augusewicz, Deborah Greig, Rebecca Holcombe, Bev Greene, Emily Schmidt, Joel Tolman, Jeremy Stone

Bob Parker called the meeting to order at (5:36)


  • Welcome 
  • 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. No Public Comment


  • Business Requiring Approval (5:38)  
  • February 22, 2021 Meeting Minutes: Charles moved to approve the February 22 Minutes, Beth seconded. The February 22, 2021 Minutes were approved unanimously


      1. Healthy Food Certification: 
        1. Charles moved to approve the Healthy Food Certification, Peter seconded this. Healthy Food Certification was approved unanimously
          1. Board of directors voted “yes” to implement the healthy food option as indicated below.
            1. Healthy Food Option: Pursuant to C.G.S. Section 10-215f, the board of education or governing authority certifies that all food items offered for sale to students in the schools under its jurisdiction, and not exempted from the Connecticut Nutrition Standards published by the Connecticut State Page 3 of 6 | Connecticut State Department of Education Department of Education, will comply with the Connecticut Nutrition Standards during the period of July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021. This certification shall include all food offered for sale to students separately from reimbursable meals at all times and from all sources, including but not limited to school stores, vending machines, school cafeterias, culinary programs, and any fundraising activities on school premises sponsored by the school or non-school organizations and groups.
          2. The Board also voted “yes” to allow food and beverage exemptions, as indicated below.
            1. Exemption for Food Items: The board of education or governing authority will allow the sale to students of food items that do not meet the Connecticut Nutrition Standards provided that the following conditions are met: 1) the sale is in connection with an event occurring after the end of the regular school day or on the weekend; 2) the sale is at the location of the event; and 3) the food items are not sold from a vending machine or school store. An “event” is an occurrence that involves more than just a regularly scheduled practice, meeting, or extracurricular activity. For example, soccer games, school plays, and interscholastic debates are events but soccer practices, play rehearsals, and debate team meetings are not. The “regular school day” is the period from midnight before to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day. “Location” means where the event is being held, and must be the same place as the food sales.
            2. Exemption for Beverage Items: The board of education or governing authority will allow the sale to students of beverages not listed in Section 10-221q of the Connecticut General Statutes provided that the following conditions are met: 1) the sale is in connection with an event occurring after the end of the regular school day or on the weekend; 2) the sale is at the location of the event; and 3) the beverages are not sold from a vending machine or school store. An “event” is an occurrence that involves more than just a regularly scheduled practice, meeting or extracurricular activity. The “school day” is the period from midnight before to 30 minutes after the end of the official school day. “Location” means where the event is being held, and must be the same place as the beverage sales.


  • Invoices Needing Approval
  • The School Committee requested the approval of a $21,250.00 invoice to Edgility Consulting to assist us in hiring a new School Director. (see School Committee Report below for more information): Peter moved to approve this invoice, Beth seconded this invoice. The invoice was approved unanimously.
  • Executive Director Report (5:43) (Monica)
  • Proposal for Additional Classroom Spaces (Jeremy Stone): Jeremy Stone, Common Ground High School Educator,  presented the linked presentation through a screen share to the board. Monica stated that this proposal will not be voted on by the Board at this time. This is just a first look and the further plans will go out in detail to the board after they are reviewed and discussed by the Site Committee.  


Monica explained that we could use Corona Virus Relief funds for this project. There is a case for what the cost is to our academic program if we don’t address this issue. We will have approximately $350,000 in Corona Virus Relief funding coming in that was approved by the Trump administration. With the new bill approved by the Biden administration, we stand to receive another round of funds in addition to that. Both rounds of funding must be used over three years. We could use the $350,000 first and then split the additional funds over the following years. This facility expansion project is very aligned to those funding sources. This could be an opportunity to address this long term problem. We will not have access to these funds again in the future. 

Board members thanked Jeremy for his presentation and had some questions in regards to cost, layout and the steps that would need to be taken for permits and permission to build from the Parks Department. Jeremy estimates that each structure would cost about $50,000-60,000 depending on how creative we get with the design. If we keep the plans simple they could stay in the lower end of the estimate. Jeremy stated that the goal is to seat at least 20 people in each structure. Incidentally, both spots picked out on the map are already clear of trees. We will need permits and to comply with building codes but because there is no plumbing this should be straightforward. Jeremy hopes that a proposal of the minimally invasive building style will make the Parks Department open to this idea. 

Monica’s concluding point is that we are not taking a vote but we are moving forward with a Site Committee Meeting before next month’s Board Meeting so we can come back with an actual ask. If you or someone you know has expertise in this sort of work please let us know and we can include them in this process.


  • Update on Spring Hybrid Model Process: Monica wanted to update the board on our planned reopening using the hybrid model starting on April 19 (this is later than NHPS). We sent out surveys to get input from students, families and staff to see what we learned from the fall hybrid roll out. We also used data from student guidance group discussions. There was a working  group that included parents who highlighted that we should improve the quality of learning by reducing classrooms that run concurrently (with students both in person and virtual in the same class). Additional feedback was to increase the number of classes where both the students and the teacher are physically present at the same time. Families also wanted us to focus on personal connections and improving those relationships even for students who choose not to be in-person. We want students to connect to this place, our staff and each other. We have especially focused on this during “What You Need Wednesdays” and we will continue to do that. As long as there are social distancing expectations we can not have more than 100 students on campus. We are not in a position to bring everyone back, but we are in a position to improve engagement. These survey results will also be discussed at a staff meeting tomorrow to plan for hybrid reopening. 


Board members asked if we were using 6 or 3ft distancing guidelines and if we planned to have windows open during class time. Monica said that indoors, we will continue using the 6ft distancing measures. She also explained the HVAC upgrades, repairs, new air purifiers and new window installation have all been done in Hilltop. In Springside, the building has a top of the line air filtration system that works best when windows are shut. She also stated that our hybrid system will be very similar to the Fall with some improvements to encourage engagement.


  • Governance Committee Report (6:23) (Bob)
  • The Governance Committee met on 3/16 to discuss a board member covenant and board membership. Bob said that there are no further details at this time.
  • School Committee Report (6:24) (Monica)
  • Monica explained that the School Committee has met twice since the last board meeting to select a Talent Partner to design and execute an equitable, transparent and inclusive process to recruit and select the next CGHS School Director. Edgility Consulting was selected as the partner and we are asking the board to approve the first invoice of $21,250. The third ($10,625)  and fourth invoices ($10,625) are payable upon the achievement of certain benchmarks (finalists announced and offer letter signed). Funds for this contract will come from surplus in the personnel budget due to lower than expected health insurance and worker’s comp costs. 


After questions from board members about why a firm was being hired and how the Board will be involved, Monica stated that her and the School Committee has agreed that we want to ensure a thorough hiring process and Edgility has been highly recommended as an equity focused search firm. Monica feels that she is at maximum capacity to engage in this search (serving as both the Executive Director and the interim School Director) and this search firm will help to manage the process in a very professional,  detail oriented, and transparent way. The School Committee does have board members on it (Bob Parker and Errol Saunders). Bob added that part of Edgeility’s plan is to survey all constituents, including board members, on what we’re looking for in a Director and why. 


  • Finance Committee Report (6:45)
  • Budget vs Actuals as of February 28, 2021. Beth stated that the spreadsheet is similar to what you have seen in the past few months. We are above in revenue and underspending our expenses. Next month Monica and Betsy will present third quarter projections which will give us a better idea of how we will be closing out the year. 
  • Update on Budget Process and ESSER funds: Monica said that we are working with individual program managers to develop budget plans and key decision points with the goal of bringing the budget draft to the board in May. We will share with staff and community before the draft is finalized. We have not received clarity on the second batch of ESSER funds or when we will be receiving that. 
  • Beth said that we have created an Audit Committee which Deloris is heading up and former principal Liz Cox will join as well. They will be tasked with finding a new auditing company and overseeing the annual audit process. 
  • Kimball stated that we are hoping to raise $20,000 for Rock to Rock by April 24th. There are multiple length bike rides you can participate in. We currently have 12 folks riding on our team and would love to add more. He encouraged board members to set up their own fundraising page and profile. We are about $7,300 to our goal at this point. Charlie said that there is a combined $50,000 goal combining Rock to Rock and the Great Give which occurs about a week after Rock to Rock. Charlie said that there is a new pledge form which will be sent out to ask board members for a 2021 pledge. We are already working on raising money for next year’s goals through Feast sponsorships. The goal for next year’s Feast is to raise $100,000, primarily through sponsorships. That would be substantially more than this year’s Feast. Charlie asked board members to review the Feast sponsorship form to see if they know any potential sponsors or to add other potential sponsors. Please reach out to Charlie or Audrey for any prospects for Feast. 
  • New Business (6:39)


      1. There was no new business at this time.


  • Executive Session (6:40) 
  • Bob moved to move into executive session, Charlie seconded the move into Executive Session. The board returned from Executive session at 7:09 pm
  • Adjourn: Charles moved to adjourn the board meeting. Terry seconded the motion. Meeting adjourned at 7:10pm


Next Meeting:

Monday, April 26, 2021 (5:30 pm)

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, March 19th) and will close at 5:00 pm on the day of the meeting (Monday, March 22nd). 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  by 5:30 pm on the day of the meeting. All submitted documents will be included in the publicly shared meeting minutes.


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